As I write this the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has many unknowns, including the actual death rate. I have no doubt that many of those unknowns will be discovered; the fact that the genome has been sequenced (and shared) is a huge step up. What intrigues me is the way that this outbreak has also acted … More The coronavirus outbreak – the human cost
The red supergiant star Betelgeuse, the ‘shoulder’ of Orion, has been dimming of late. As we saw last week, that’s possibly a sign it might be about to go supernova. Odds are on that won’t happen. But what if it does? One of the actual ways an apocalypse could descend upon Earth is when a … More Will we all die if Betelgeuse goes supernova?
Betelgeuse – the biggest, reddest star in our neighbourhood – has been fading of late. It oscillates anyway, over a defined cycle; but this cycle of dimming is more pronounced than any seen. It’s dropped from being one of the top ten brightest stars in the sky to the 21st. And that, astronomers consider, might … More Is Betelgeuse about to go bang?
When I was growing up, a ‘ray gun’ was a weapon that zapped somebody and turned them into a petrol attendant named Ray. OK, that joke’s actually from The Tick. That aside, ‘rays’ were a staple of deco-era sci-fi, especially Edward Elmer ‘Doc’ Smith’s space operettas, where ‘rays’ – meaning an undefined something that either … More Hurrah for deco-punk ray guns: when imagination outstrips reality
I have tūī in my back garden. Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae to scientists. There are at least three, possibly more, which live in the area and drop in every so often to snack on harakeke (flax) nectar. They also squabble and sing. Loudly. And all of that that is a great luxury to have in the back … More An ode to the humble tui
Picture the scene: you’re standing on an ice-shelf in Antaractica circa 1940 and suddenly spot a huge orange-red vehicle approaching on just four 10-foot high balloon tyres. It’s got a small aircraft on its back. And it’s absolutely enormous: 16 feet high, 20 feet wide and 55 feet long – a giant of a vehicle … More Going totally dieselpunk with the Antarctic Snow Cruiser
It would be nice to think that hydrogen could solve the world’s energy problems. It’s a great fuel: it burns with oxygen to produce heat and water. No by-products. No pollution other than the waste heat. That heat, itself, might be a problem, given enough time – but it’s far less of an evil in … More Why burning hydrogen won’t reduce global pollution any time soon