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The end of us

From the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex to the itty-bitty Tobias’ caddisfly, 98% of all species to have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. Whilst it seems unthinkable that humanity is no different to our doomed predecessors, our days are probably numbered too. Unless we can master interstellar travel, the sun’s evolution into a planet-engulfing red giant will ultimately spell the end of humanity. Fortunately it’s a few billion years before we have to worry about that. Unfortunately, there are several other theoretical scenarios that could result in Homo sapiens’ demise well before the sun boils our planet alive. Firstly, and this isn’t so bad, we may just evolve into something else. You might well think that, with all of our medicine and technology, there is no longer any driving force (selection pressure) for the process, but scientists are still recording subtle changes in human biology such as the lengthening of the reproductive period. There are also arguments that advanced civilisation …

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#SciFact

Just a quick post to say that there is plenty more from Unpopular Science coming very soon (we went a little bit quiet over the holidays). But, in the meantime, have you follwed us on twitter? We’re looking to create a buzzing online community for science buffs and nerdy nature geeks alike! So, get connected and, if you want to send us any spectacular scientific facts you happen to stumble across, that would be fantastic! Just tweet us with @Unpopsci or use #SciFacts and we’ll be certain to share them for you. Below are a list of some of the crazy ones we’ve found so far:   An adult human is comprised of roughly 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms #SciFact The first cat in space was a French cat named Felicette. In 1963, the French blasted her into outer space and she returned alive #SciFact An adult Giant Pondskater is astoundingly large; it has a body 5 cm in length and a …

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Book Review: Runners by Sharon Sant

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Runners Publisher: Immanion Summary: An engrossing, and thought-provoking read. Set in the wreck of a future dystopian England, Runners begins with teenage Elijah and a band of other tearaways (or Runners) struggling to get by in the ruins of an old house. The group dynamic, with its varied mix of personalities and ages, is fascinating from the off and the snippets of information concerning how the novel’s world came to be such a mess are intriguing to say the least. Of course, the group’s situation quickly becomes about more than merely feeding themselves as Elijah and his friends find themselves stuck in a dismal situation engineered in no small part by the sinister Mr Braithwaite. On top of this, a chance discovery in a mysterious woodland catapults them right into the heart of an even bigger menace; a superb representation of a theorized quantum phenomenon, and, by the end of the book, the numerous plot threads really do intertwine beautifully. …

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Twitter Q and A: David Bradley

This week the wonderful Feed My Reads hosted a Twitter Q and A with renowned science journalist and author, David Bradley. Using #DBQuestions, twitter users were able to ask David absolutely anything they wanted. This seemed like so much fun that Unpopular Science just had to get involved! So, below are the fiendish questions users asked, as well as David’s insightful answers. @HenryGeeBooks: What gets you up in the morning? DB: Usually, a dig in the ribs from my wife expecting a cup of tea and the dulcet tones of Humphrys et al with the news headlines on the radio. And, of course, the urge to share the scientific discoveries I come across in as informative and entertaining way as I can. Oh, and our labrador always needs her breakfast and an exit to her morning constitutional. @Charli_TAW: Have you always wanted to be writer? DB: Hah, not at all. I always wanted to be a marine biologist and then a physicist, and then a guitar god …

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‘I don’t know’: why science and fiction get on so well

I don’t know.’ This is the default position of science. If you ask any half-decent physicist how the universe came in to being, they will say ‘I don’t know but here are some theories.’ Likewise, if you ask any biologist what colour a baby archaeopteryx was, they will probably say ‘I don’t know, but I can speculate.’ The lack of absolutes is what makes science great and what makes the scientific process so encompassing and so (mostly) open-minded. By a happy coincidence, it also leaves a lot of mystery and a lot of room for guess work, and this is where our good friend fiction comes in … Because our scientific understanding is far from complete, authors can take a scientific concept, and flesh it out however they want. In 1963 a physicist named Hugh Everett published a new theorem, The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. His radical new idea proposed that, thanks to some incredibly clever calculations and observations, …

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Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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The Rithmatist Author: Brandon Sanderson Published: 23rd May 2013 Publisher: Orion Summary: Mountains of magical, mathematical mayhem. Maths. For so many school-goers, such a difficult subject to get to grips with. If only there was a way to make it more exciting. Maybe with laser beams, or explosions perhaps, or, even better, what if your geometric diagrams came to life to do battle with those of other students? Well, in New York Times-bestselling author Brandon Sanderson’s young adult novel, The Rithmatist, that is exactly what does occur in the classrooms of Armedius Academy. Unfortunately for the book’s protagonist, Joel, however, he’s strictly forbidden from studying the magical, mathematical art  he finds so alluring. Joel is the son of a lowly, deceased chalk-maker, and is only granted attendance to the prestigious Academy because his father and the principal were such close friends. Sadly, attendance is not enough to allow Joel into the exclusive Rithmatic lectures he so desperately wants to be a …

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Everything you wanted to know about peacock spiders, but were too afraid to ask

There are famously unexplored parts of the world that promise to harbour as yet undiscovered species for the determined naturalist, but you wouldn’t expect the suburbs of Sydney to be one of them. The species to be discovered aren’t everyone’s cup of tea; they’re Australia’s colourful little jumping spiders. One man isn’t afraid of these little cuties, and we hope you won’t be either by the end of this article. Dr Jürgen Otto has photographed all the wildlife around Sydney, where he works as a government scientist, and was at a loss for what to do next until he stumbled across the tiny Maratus volans in the bush around the city in 2005. Since then he has discovered several new species and found out a lot more about the genus whose members are commonly described as peacock spiders. Dr Otto believes he is the first to capture the peacock spider’s incredible courtship behaviour on film. He has shared these videos …

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The Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition

Last night, one of our team, Sally Webb, got the chance to go to the Royal Society’s Black Tie Soirée at the Summer Science Exhibition. Here are her own thoughts on the evening and what she enjoyed. When my Dad told me I could go to the Soirée with him, I was so excited. Not only did I get to dress up and enjoy the free food (which was fantastic), but I also got to meet some of the most influential scientists of our time. I spent ages looking at the website trying to decide what exhibits I wanted to go and see, but with 16 choices this was really difficult. The event itself was held at the Royal Society, which is a fantastic building off the Mall, filled with photos and books all to do with science. Walking round, you notice the different scientists with their knighthoods, OBEs and CBEs round their necks. I met the famous YouTube sensation …

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