Women’s History Month: The Royal Astronomical Society

Photograph of the entrance to the Royal Astronomical Society.

First published on 16th March 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

The Royal Astronomical Society is a society in London that represents astronomers and geophysicists. Women were not allowed to become Fellows until 1916, yet made substantial contributions from the beginning. You can find more about this on a thread created by Royal Astronomical Society for Women’s History Month. »

LGBT+ History Month

Photograph of the LGBT+ pride flag.

First published on 26th February 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

Homophobia, transphobia, and sexism may all stem from the idea that people can be easily categorised. If there are only two genders that can be identified from birth, and everyone with the same gender acts the same way, then a world of 7 billion people seems less daunting. This is a childish fantasy. People from cultures all around the world have identified as genders other than male and female, as genders other than their sex, and as sexualities other than straight throughout recorded history. »

The EM drive: A history of the impossible engine

Photograph of the International Space Station.

First published on 1st December 2016. Last updated 11 August 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

In November 2016, NASA officially announced that they've tested British engineer Roger Shawyer's controversial spaceship engine known as the EM Drive. They found that it appears to work, despite the fact that it appears to contradict the conservation of momentum, making it as impossible as a perpetual motion machine. »

The new alien water hole: How aliens could use lasers for both communication and cloaking

Photograph of the Yepun Telescope emitting a laser.

First published on 6th August 2016. Last updated 11 August 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

In a paper published in MNRAS in June 2016, astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey showed how we could cloak the Earth using lasers. We could also do the opposite, and use lasers to broadcast our presence. If we can do this, then presumably any other intelligent, technologically advanced species can do this too. »

Carl Sagan and space exploration: The effects of popularising science

Photograph of Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander.

First published on 6th April 2016. Last updated 11 August 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

In the 1960s, science journalism in the United States was sparse and mostly performed by journalists with little or no scientific background. Science was perceived as minimising the need for pseudoscience, but it didn't fill the spiritual void this left in people. »

Cycles of destruction: The link between comet and asteroid impacts and mass extinctions on Earth

Photograph of the Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria.

First published on 28th January 2016. Last updated 11 August 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

Over 180 impact craters have been identified on Earth, and most of these were discovered in the first half of the 20th century. Impacts have been associated with mass extinction events since the 1980s, with strong evidence coming from the Chicxulub Crater, which was linked to the extinction of most of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. »

Devouring stars: The science of supermassive black holes

Artist's impression of a flare emanating from a supermassive black hole.

First published on 27th December 2015. Last updated 11 August 2018 by Dr Helen Klus

In November 2015, a team of scientists led by Sjoert van Velzen of Johns Hopkins University and Gemma Anderson of ICRAR (the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) in Perth discovered what happens when a supermassive black hole devours a star. »

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