Longer-term thinking 'needed' on air pollution

Paris
The UK gets some pollution produced in France, and they get some of ours

Warnings about dirty air come so often that only the most severe seem to catch anyone's attention.

The last major episode to grab the headlines came a year ago when many areas of Britain were blanketed in a noxious brew that turned the skies grey-brown for several days.

At the time, all eyes were focused on the most exotic -sounding ingredient - dust that had been blown up from the Sahara.

Tiny grains from the desert had indeed made the long airborne trek from the desert but most of the problem was caused by a nasty mix of pollutants created here and abroad.

Britain frequently finds itself on the receiving-end of pollution wafted in from the Continent - and more of that is forecast tomorrow with a current of air circling from central Europe across southern France and over the English Channel.

Read full article Longer-term thinking 'needed' on air pollution

What is the point of the Large Hadron Collider?

inside the LHCb experiment
No small undertaking: the experiments occupy huge subterranean caverns

Every time fundamental research hits the headlines you can be sure that someone - maybe lots of people - will question whether it's worth it.

And so it is with the restart of this mother of all physics experiments, ready after its two-year upgrade to explore uncharted corners of the sub-atomic realm.

Read full article What is the point of the Large Hadron Collider?

Being comfortable in robotics' uncanny valley

Robot
Safety first: This robot moves out of the way as soon as the human reaches over

The robot's eyes flick towards me, and its head turns, eyebrows raised, lips forming a smile, as if we are about to meet and start a conversation.

In the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, I am a little disconcerted by my first encounter with an intelligent machine.

Read full article Being comfortable in robotics' uncanny valley

Chernobyl: Containing the world's worst nuclear accident

Rising above the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident is the spectacular sight of the largest moveable structure ever created on land.

The complex of nuclear power plants at Chernobyl has dominated this corner of northwest Ukraine for decades but the new construction towers over it all.

Read full article Chernobyl: Containing the world's worst nuclear accident

Healthy dose of hope for one-use syringes

Syringe

The people of the farming community of Roka in Cambodia are living through exactly the nightmare scenario that the World Health Organisation wants to stamp out with a new policy on syringes.

In wooden huts and farmhouses dotted among paddy fields, families are struggling to cope with the bombshell of a sudden and frightening mass infection of HIV.

Read full article Healthy dose of hope for one-use syringes

Cannabis: Promise, risk and controversy

Medicinal cannabis sold in Los Angeles before a 2012 ban

Cannabis is bad for you, cannabis is good for you - confused?

That's not surprising. Complicated and controversial, cannabis is revealed by recent science to have a dual personality, with a dark side and a more positive one. Radio 4's PM programme is this week running a whole series on cannabis, and the debate surrounding it.

Read full article Cannabis: Promise, risk and controversy

Will the falling oil price undermine green energy?

solar panels in Minneapolis
Supporters of renewable energy say it is a more stable option than the volatile fossil fuel market

Common sense would surely tell you that if you slash the cost of one source of energy, then alternatives look less appealing.

You might think, therefore, that the crash in the price of oil must be dealing a potentially fatal blow to renewable power.

Read full article Will the falling oil price undermine green energy?

Should we try to halt extinction?

In an age when mankind can send robots to look for life on Mars, why can't science stop so many forms of life from being wiped out here on Earth?

The question comes amid the loss of species on such a relentless scale that conservationists call it the Sixth Mass Extinction - the fifth being the asteroid that killed the large dinosaurs. This one is driven by human activity.

Read full article Should we try to halt extinction?

What does Beagle2 say about how to handle failure?

Colin Pillinger
Images show the daring mission, masterminded by the late Colin Pillinger, came tantalisingly close to glory

The discovery of Beagle2 on the surface of Mars confirms the mission as one of most glorious near-misses in the history of British exploration.

Bold, imaginative, and brilliantly-engineered, the spacecraft came very close to upstaging Nasa but ultimately failed.

Read full article What does Beagle2 say about how to handle failure?

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.

Read full article The largest vessel the world has ever seen