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Welcome to the blog, you can read all about the latest news for the sections and take a look in our archive. Scroll through the latest posts below, or select a section from the dropdown.

by Dan Richards

The Skylon concept space plane has been designed a testbed for the new Sabre engine. Image credit: RELThis week has seen a UK company announcing the successful testing of an innovative new propulsion system, designed to propel a single vehicle into space almost as easily as a conventional airliner.

Persuasive technology, the environment and kettles that answer back – Birmingham Café Scientifique, 6 November 2012

David Chapman

Anyone who has picked up a newspaper or watched the news on television in the past few weeks can hardly fail to notice the huge amount of coverage dedicated to the American Presidential election.

By the year 2050, the world’s population is predicted to have risen from 6.8 billion to 9 billion. Feeding them all, without damaging the environment or contributing to climate change, is acknowledged to be one of the major challenges facing world governments.

Last month, the problem of ‘Feeding the Nine Billion’ was explored at a session at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen. A panel of experts explored the issues surrounding global food demand from four different perspectives – nutrition, livestock, resource management, and economics.

Increasingly, we are becoming more and more dependent on power and communication systems in many different aspects of our daily lives. This leaves us even more susceptible to disruption during particularly violent periods of solar weather.

Bad solar storms could potentially shutdown electricity power grids around the UK if the position of electrical power transformers is not moved in order to cope with powerful geomagnetic induced currents (GIC) caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) from the Sun.

Sciencewise-ERC is the UK’s national centre for public dialogue in policy making involving science and technology issues. The British Science Association is working in partnership with Sciencewise acting as the public face and engaging the public in emerging science issues.


Planet Under Pressure: six months on

by Louise Ogden, Web Editor at the British Science Association


Have you ever noticed how regular nature can be; that there are patterns hidden everywhere? Sea shells have a nice spiral pattern, trees show subtle fractal patterns, and some plants have their petals arranged in a very specific way. But some patterns are a lot more obvious. Take the zebra for example, the black-and-white striped cousin of the horse.

What do you get if you put Aberdeen, the British Science Festival, and dwarf elephants together? Isn’t it obvious? Hugh Falconer.

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Hugh Falconer? The man who was instrumental in introducing tea plantations to India? The man who, in 1842, brought back five tons of fossil bones to the UK from Pakistan and India, fossils which would eventually form a core part of the Natural History Museum’s collections? The man who Stephen J. Gould claimed was the first scientist to anticipate the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium? Not ringing any bells? Poor Hugh Falconer – one of the most respected scientists of his day, but now he is largely forgotten."

Neurons in the brain - illustration Image credit: Benedict Campbell. Wellcome ImagesWith neuroscience technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, scientists are getting a much more detailed view of what it is that makes our brains tick. But the deeper they go, the more they discover that our brains run mostly on chemical and electrical signals. Does this mean that we are just machines running on electricity? Do we still have free will? This is an age old question that philosopher Professor Barry Smith, Director of the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London is trying to understand, and he spoke to Julie Gould about his views on the philosophy of the mind.