The Centre of Attention

Fact: The Earth is at the centre of the universe. Remember when the church argued that the Earth was the centre of the universe? Turns out, if you look at the physics in a certain way its hard to argue with them. The universe is constantly expanding, so galaxies are constantly getting further and further apart….

We Are Not Alone

Fact: The aliens should have been in touch by now. There is absolutely no convincing evidence of intelligent – or indeed any – life on other planets to date. However, taking into account the huge size and age of the universe it is also extremely unlikely that we are the only life-forms in the universe….

Totally Nutty

Fact: It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond. You might be basking in your eco-warrior glory every morning as you pour almond milk instead of cows’ milk on your cereal, but it turns out that almonds also have a lot to answer for. Almonds grow best in hot, Mediterranean climates –…

Totally Eclipsed

Fact: Solar eclipses are a complete coincidence.  If you have ever seen a total solar eclipse, you know just how beautiful it is. But it turns out that the perfect match-up between sun and moon that makes it possible is simply the biggest coincidence in the world. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon…

Run For Your Life

Fact: A human can outrun a horse over a marathon. Remember the man who can run forever, Dan Karnazes? He might be unusual, but it turns out us humans have evolved to be the masters of long distance running. Homo sapiens (that’s us) evolved in Africa, and we learned to hunt in a very particular way….

Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey

Fact: Telescopes are time machines. Ok yes, they can’t let you go back and kill Hitler. But in a very real sense looking through a telescope gives you the power to look millions of years into the past. Light moves pretty fast – almost 300 million meters/second, to be precise – but it does not reach…

En Guarde!

Fact: Flatworms decide who gets pregnant by penis fencing. First up, let me clarify: penis fencing is actually the official scientific term for this kind of behaviour, its not just me looking for a great tagline. Flatworms are hermaphrodites – each worm has the reproductive organs of both a male (i.e. testes, which produce sperm) and…

Against The Clock

Fact: There are 10,080 minutes in a week. And this time I could only find a single one in which to write a post. ‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’ Image under Creative Commons license

Part 2: A Burning Question

Fact: Birds can’t taste chilli. Due to a quirk of biology a pigeon could wolf down your vindaloo while you whimper and sweat in the corner like a little girl. This strange fact comes down to the fact that chillies are a fruit. Plants work exceptionally hard to produce fruit, so they don’t just give it…

Part 1: Burn Baby Burn

Fact: Capcaisin makes chillies hot. Put a foot wrong when ordering in your local curry house and you could easily find yourself downing pints of milk to try and stop the fire in your mouth. But what causes that burning sensation? It’s all down to a single molecule called capcaisin. This molecule causes irritation and a burning…

Cutting Edge

Fact: The iKnife can detect cancer instantly during surgery. Cancer isn’t much fun, but modern medicine is helping us win the fight. Treatments are getting ever more sophisticated, but sometimes the best bet for curing cancer is good old fashioned surgery to just cut out the tumour. However, cancer is made up of your own…

Does Not Compute

Fact: The term ‘bug’ in computing comes from an adventurous moth. When software doesn’t work properly, we might call it a glitch or a malfunction. But most of all we think of it as a ‘bug’ – remember the millennium scare of the Y2K bug, which some thought would cause a total collapse of the…