First rendezvous with the largest object in the asteroid belt separating Mars from Jupiter will reveal what Ceres is made of Nasa scientists are making final preparations for a spacecraft to begin the first orbits around a dwarf planet in the planetary rubble on the far side of Mars. Almost eight years after blasting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and travelling 3bn miles (4.8bn km),
A pair of docking ports will fly up later this year, followed by crew capsules commissioned by Nasa, with astronauts aboard in 2017Spacewalking astronauts ventured out for the third time in just over a week Sunday to complete an extensive, tricky cable job at the International Space Station.The advance work – involving nearly 800ft of cable over three spacewalks – is needed for new crew ca
The Hubble telescope, launched 25 years ago next month, is unrivalled in its breathtaking and compelling visions of the cosmos• 25 years of the Hubble telescope – in picturesIt has captured images of stars coalescing out of glowing clouds of dust, peered back more than 10bn years to study the early universe, pinpointed the remnants of supernovae explosions and helped physicists uncover some of
Forty thousand years ago in Europe our ancestors formed a crucial and lasting alliance that enabled us to finish off our evolutionary cousins, the NeanderthalsDogs are humanity’s oldest friends, renowned for their loyalty and abilities to guard, hunt and chase. But modern humans may owe even more to them than we previously realised. We may have to thank them for helping us eradicate our caveman
As we harvest ever more human genomes one fact remains unshakeable: race does not existBarely a week goes by without some dispiriting tale of racism seeping into the public consciousness: the endless stream of Ukip supporters expressing some ill-conceived and unimaginative hate; football hooligans pushing a black man from a train. I am partly of Indian descent, a bit swarthy, and my first exper
The Hubble telescope was launched in April 1990. Ever since, it has been providing astronomers with breathtaking images of the cosmos*Hubble at 25: the wonder of the universe laid bareTHE CARINA NEBULA Continue reading...
If we have neglected to prepare for the solar eclipse on the morning of 20 March, there should still be time. It is probably too late, though, to find accommodation on the Faroe Islands or Svalbard which have the only land on the path of totality, from which the Moon obscures the Sun completely. Britain, and particularly Scotland, is well placed to enjoy a deep partial eclipse with 87% of the Su
Fields medal winner Cédric Villani is an impassioned advocate for mathematics, as Carole Cadwalladr discoversThe second time I meet Cédric Villani is when I bump into him in the Eurostar terminal in Paris. But then how could I miss him? There are crowds of milling businessmen and weekending couples but there, amid the Sunday-night chaos of the Gare du Nord, is a figure who looks like he’s someh
Key DNA strand propels neuron growth in brain’s region central to reasoning, language and sensory perceptionA strand of DNA that lies at the heart of what makes humans unique in the animal kingdom has been identified by researchers in Germany.Scientists in Dresden found a gene that drives the expansion of the human brain and helps to make it the most complex structure in the universe. Co
An optical illusion has proved divisive on social media. But our varying perceptions mean we will find it hard to come to an agreementIt is rare, other than on Oscars night, that the world holds its collective breath discussing dresses and their colours. But, if social media is to be believed, the optical illusion of a multicoloured dress divides us sharply into those who can only see gold-and-
*Approval for base was related to controversial economic and trade accord*Installation would be first outside of China’s bordersAmid the barren and windswept Andes foothills of Argentina’s southern Neuquén province, a large billboard signals in English the entrance to the China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General (CLTC) – China’s first space installation outside its own borders.
Images from Dawn spacecraft reveal a pair of bright spots which scientists believe may be primordial ice reflecting sunlightA Nasa probe that is speeding towards the largest object in the asteroid belt has spotted two mysterious shiny patches on the otherwise dark and cratered body.The latest images from Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft reveal a pair of bright spots on Ceres, a 590-mile-wide dwarf p
What does the mathematical model of accuracy of research papers say and is CIA studying climate control as a potential weapon? Ian Sample reports from the AAAS meeting in San Jose Continue reading...
Manmade warming in past decade has likely been offset by cooling from natural cycles in the Pacific and Atlantic - but effect will reverse in coming decadesManmade global warming over the past decade has probably been partly offset by the cooling effect of natural variability in the Earth’s climate system, a team of climate researchers have concluded.The finding could help explain the slow
Scientists name new ‘object’ SDSS J0100+2802 and say it is 12.8bn light years from Earth and was formed just 900m years after the Big Bang A monster black hole powering “the brightest lighthouse in the distant universe” has been discovered that is 12bn times more massive than the sun, scientists have revealed.The extraordinary object is at the centre of a quasar - an intensely powerful gal
Moscow assures it will continue funding the International Space Station until 2024 but will then disconnect its modules to build a national baseThe Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has revealed plans to build an orbiting outpost and land cosmonauts on the moon once the International Space Station (ISS) is mothballed next decade.In an official statement, Roscosmos pledged its suppor
One-fifth kicked the habit before giving birth when receiving financial incentives in a Cambridge university study, more than twice the rate using traditional services Pregnant women are more likely to stop smoking if they are given shopping vouchers as a financial incentive, according to scientists. The study found that one-fifth of women in the scheme had stopped smoking by the time they
Science and technology committee damns EU rules on authorisations for genentically-modified crops as politicised and unscientificThe UK should be handed the regulatory power to green light genetically-modified crops because the EU’s GM rules are politicised and unscientific, an influential committee of MPs have said.A new report from the committee is damning of regulatory delays caused by
Doctor plans to graft a living person’s head on to a donor body using procedures he believes will soon be readyA surgeon says full-body transplants could become a reality in just two years.Sergio Canavero, a doctor in Turin, Italy, has drawn up plans to graft a living person’s head on to a donor body and claims the procedures needed to carry out the operation are not far off. Continue rea
A book that beautifully explores the astonishing variety and complexity of life iterated across the species in an attempt to answer the biggest question of all: why is life the way it is?This is a book that addresses fabulous and life-enhancing themes. It is written beautifully enough to take your breath away, even as its author writes about trying not to hyperventilate. A book through which
‘Agent’ hailed as first step towards true AI as it gets adept at playing 49 retro computer games and comes up with its own winning strategies Google scientists have developed the first computer program capable of learning a wide variety of tasks independently, in what has been hailed as a significant step towards true artificial intelligence.The same program, or “agent” as its creators cal
Google’s artificial intelligence studio Deep Mind has created a computer program that can play Pong. Here is why that feat is more impressive than it soundsSo a computer program has learned how to play classic Atari games. Big deal. I mean, they’re just big blocks of pixels pushing smaller blocks of pixels around a screen, right? Yet somehow, the UK artificial intelligence specialist Deep
The cold weather hasn’t helped bring on spring flowers, but lesser celandines are coming into bloom, especially in southern England. These relatives of buttercups have glossy yellow flowers and heart-shaped leaves, and the flowers also have the uncanny knack of swivelling round to track the sun like little solar energy dishes, trapping the sun’s warmth to entice early insects into the flower; bu
Virus still present in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia after more than a year, causing concern among health expertsScientists are warning of a real risk that the Ebola virus disease could become endemic in west Africa if efforts to end the epidemic slacken as the number of cases falls.All previous outbreaks of Ebola were stamped out within months and the virus disappeared from the human p
Clinics in UK will be able to apply for licenses from this autumn after MPs approved new rules earlier this monthBritain has become the first country in the world to permit the use of “three-person IVF” to prevent incurable genetic diseases.The House of Lords voted by 280 votes to 48 on Tuesday evening to approve changes to the law allowing fertility clinics to carry out mitochondrial dona
Austrians have injured limbs amputated, then nerves and muscles transplanted from leg to arm are used to control prosthetic handsThree Austrians have had their injured hands replaced with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs.The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as “bionic reconstruction”, which invol
The compelling and uncompromising diary of a prizewinning French enthusiast and eccentricTo really appreciate mathematics, you have to see it evolve, to work through the twists and turns yourself; it’s almost never enough for someone to just tell you about it. These wise words from my secondary school maths teacher have stuck with me ever since. Cédric Villani knows this, too. To put it in his
Researchers claim Black Death was imported from Asia over 400 years of the pandemic via native rodents such as great gerbils and marmots which harboured the plague bacteriaThe gruesome waves of bubonic plague that began with the Black Death in medieval Europe and ended with the Great Plague of London may have been driven more by great gerbils than black rats, researchers claim.In a study t
Study looking at transmission among men who have sex with men recruited 545 participants at high risk of contracting HIV A daily pill can effectively protect gay men against infection with HIV, a UK trial has shown, which experts say now offers hope of reversing the virus’s spread.Taking the drug, called Truvada, could become a daily routine for men who have sex with men in the same way th
Natalie Bennett has ascribed her car-crash interview on LBC to a ‘mind blank’. So what’s going on when the brain refuses to cooperate?It makes for “excruciating” listening – not my words, but those of Green leader Natalie Bennett, who was forced to admit she’d given a disastrous radio interview on the very morning of her party’s campaign launch. Continue reading...