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David Shukman

David Shukman Science editor

Welcome to my perspective on science stories in the headlines and behind them

The largest vessel the world has ever seen

Climbing onto the largest vessel the world has ever seen brings you into a realm where everything is on a bewilderingly vast scale and ambition knows no bounds.

Prelude is a staggering 488m long and the best way to grasp what this means is by comparison with something more familiar.

Four football pitches placed end-to-end would not quite match this vessel's length - and if you could lay the 301m of the Eiffel Tower alongside it, or the 443m of the Empire State Building, they wouldn't do so either.

In terms of sheer volume, Prelude is mind-boggling too: if you took six of the world's largest aircraft carriers, and measured the total amount of water they displaced, that would just about be the same as with this one gigantic vessel.

Under construction for the energy giant Shell, the dimensions of the platform are striking in their own right - but also as evidence of the sheer determination of the oil and gas industry to open up new sources of fuel.

Prelude and crane
Modules weighing 5,500 tonnes are lifted onto the vessel by huge cranes
Prelude in the shipyard
Under construction in South Korea, Prelude is destined for a gas field off the coast of Australia

Read full article The largest vessel the world has ever seen

World on course for warmest year

This year is in the running to be the hottest globally and for the UK since records began, early estimates show.

In the first 10 months of 2014, global average air temperature was about 0.57 Celsius above the long-term average.

Read full article World on course for warmest year

How could we intervene to change the climate?

  • 28 November 2014
  • From the section Africa
Namib desert
Could action by one country cause rains to stop in another?

Imagine the trouble that would ensue if China resorted to desperate measures to cool its climate but the result was that the Indian Monsoon suddenly failed.

Or that India tried to head off a rise in temperatures only to find that Pakistan suffered from massive flooding.

Read full article How could we intervene to change the climate?

Ebola outbreak: How Nigeria is beating the killer virus

  • 16 October 2014
  • From the section Africa

A nightmare scenario of Ebola raging unchecked among millions of slum-dwellers in Africa's largest city has given way to a rare example of a victory over the virus.

Amid the gloom surrounding the escalating crisis in West Africa, developments in Lagos show how the right techniques at the right speed can bring about a welcome result.

Read full article Ebola outbreak: How Nigeria is beating the killer virus

Five critical steps involved in putting a lander on a comet

How do you land on a comet? This isn't some fantasy from science fiction but the reality facing the people running Esa's Rosetta mission after the successful rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Tuesday 11 November has already been pencilled in as the day that the Philae lander will touch down on the mysterious icy body.

Read full article Five critical steps involved in putting a lander on a comet

Journey of understanding 'just beginning'

The comet on August 4th, from around 234km away
The comet on August 4th, from around 234km away

Europe's mission control here at Darmstadt in Germany cannot match the sheer exuberance of Nasa when it comes to celebrating triumphs.

Confirmation that Esa's Rosetta spacecraft had achieved its historic rendezvous with a comet was greeted with applause, wide grins and shouts of "yes, yes!", but none of the wild cheering we saw when Curiosity touched down on Mars two years ago.

Read full article Journey of understanding 'just beginning'

Rosetta 'on its final approach'

Rosetta approaching 67P
An artists impression of Rosetta approaching the comet

After a journey that has lasted a decade, Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is now on its final approach to a comet.

One of the scientists leading this European Space Agency (Esa) venture described it as "the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever".

Read full article Rosetta 'on its final approach'

Deep sea mining licences issued

Drill core
For decades, the idea of mining these deposits was dismissed as unfeasible

Vast new areas of the ocean floor have been opened up in an accelerating search for valuable minerals including manganese, copper and gold.

In a move that brings closer a new era of deep sea mining, the UN's International Seabed Authority (ISA) has issued seven new exploration licences.

Read full article Deep sea mining licences issued

Shuttle diplomacy in climate countdown

Smoke
The aim is for a deal limiting greenhouse gases

A senior British minister is once again launched on a long-haul high-carbon mission of shuttle diplomacy in the cause of tackling climate change.

The target is to try to land an international deal on limiting greenhouse gases at what is billed as a major summit in Paris in late 2015.

Read full article Shuttle diplomacy in climate countdown

Oklahoma drought kindles spectre of 1930s 'Dust Bowl'

A menacing cloud of dust swirling above a parched field in Oklahoma is a disturbing reminder of the power of drought.

All too often here, when the land is baked dry, the winds can strip away an inch of precious topsoil in as little as 24 hours, soil that has taken centuries to form.

Read full article Oklahoma drought kindles spectre of 1930s 'Dust Bowl'

More Correspondents

  • Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

    UK and European space and the latest major science stories


  • Matt McGrath Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

    Updates on emerging environmental news


  • Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

    A focus on the medical and health issues of the day


  • Tom Feilden, Science correspondent, Today programme Tom Feilden Science correspondent, Today

    Analysis of the scientific issues making headlines


About David

Twenty years ago David visited the secret lab at Los Alamos that created the nuclear bomb and he's been fascinated by science and scientists ever since. His reports on research have taken him as far afield as the Antarctic ice-sheet, the Amazon rainforest and the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

Since joining the BBC back in 1983, David has covered Northern Ireland, defence, Europe and world affairs. He is the author of three books.

His favourite memories include reporting from East Berlin during the fall of the Wall and exploring the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider on a bike.

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