Robot swarms to map the seafloor

BEM Image copyright TEAM TAO
Image caption A Team Tao BEM in tank testing

It's one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth's oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It's a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

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Skylark: The unsung hero of British space

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Media captionFrom the archive, 2005: The final mission launched from Sweden

It's 60 years to the day that Britain launched its first Skylark rocket.

It wasn't a big vehicle, and it didn't go to orbit. But the anniversary of that first flight from Woomera, Australia, should be celebrated because much of what we do in space today has its roots in this particular piece of technology.

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The man who keeps venomous monsters

Those of a fragile disposition should not scroll down this page (spider alert!)

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Media captionRonald Jenner: "We want to give people a tension between fear and fascination"

What is the most terrifying creature in the darkest corner of your imagination?

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Gravitational waves: So many new toys to unwrap

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Media captionHear the 'sound' of two dead stars colliding

Whenever there's a big science discovery, it's always nice to get a historical perspective. And so here goes with the remarkable observation of gravitational waves emanating from the merger of two dead stars, or neutron stars, some 130 million light-years from Earth.

It's 50 years since the existence of these stellar remnants was confirmed (July 1967) by the mighty Northern Irish astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. It's more than 40 years since we realised neutron stars might occur in pairs, or binaries, as we call them.

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Plate tectonics: When we discovered how the Earth really works

Dan McKenzie Image copyright The Geological Society, McKenzie Archive
Image caption Dan McKenzie: The young scientists of the 1960s sought answers that had eluded their elders

What would you put on your list of the great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century?

General relativity? Quantum mechanics? Something to do with genetics, perhaps?

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Are Mexico's two September earthquakes connected?

composite image of ruins after separate earthquakes Image copyright AFP
Image caption Were the earthquakes of 7 September (L) and 19 September (R) connected?

Mexico had barely begun to deal with the aftermath of one big quake before another rocked the country. People will naturally ask: are they related? Did one cause the other?

Seismologists will spend a good deal of time in the coming months debating this issue, but on the face of it they look to be unconnected.

Read full article Are Mexico's two September earthquakes connected?

Sir David Attenborough polar science vessel takes shape

Block 10 Image copyright CAMMELL LAIRD
Image caption Block 10's arrival at Birkenhead, with Cammell Laird's construction hall in the far background

The 900-tonne block of steel that will form the stern of Britain's new polar ship is being moved into position at Cammell Laird on Merseyside.

The Birkenhead yard received the rear section of the Sir David Attenborough on a sea-barge at the weekend from Northeast subcontractor A&P Tyne.

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Walking in Shackleton's footsteps

Seals Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption South Georgia's beaches get very busy during the breeding season

Shackleton's escape from the Antarctic in 1916 is well told.

It is without doubt a remarkable story given the many challenges he and his crew had to overcome after losing their ship, the Endurance.

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UK wants continued EU Copernicus participation

S5P Image copyright Airbus DS/Max Alexander
Image caption Sentinel-5P will make global maps of pollution from an altitude of 824km

The UK has given the clearest statement yet of its desire to stay within the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation programme after Brexit.

EU member states are building the most advanced ever satellite system for monitoring the state of the planet - with Britain playing a major role.

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Earth is becoming 'Planet Plastic'

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Media captionScience reporter Victoria Gill looks at why there is so much plastic on beaches

US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made and put the number at 8.3 billion tonnes.

It is an astonishing mass of material that has essentially been created only in the last 65 years or so.

Read full article Earth is becoming 'Planet Plastic'