Earth’s comet apocalypse at the hands of Gliese 710

Every so often we’re told that a rogue star or planet known as Niblick or Niburu, or some similar gibberish, is about to cause the apocalypse. Earth’s going to be whacked in 1984, 1987, 1999, 2012, 2018, apparently, with all the effect of a nine-iron on a golf ball, and NASA are hiding the truth … More Earth’s comet apocalypse at the hands of Gliese 710

Breakfast in space, on an asteroid, in a tin can

The other day I picked up an interesting snippet about the likely breakfast menu on NASA’s upcoming Orion spacecraft. Because the vehicle is weight- and volume-critical, there are going to be problems packing enough food in for the expected 28-30 day duration asteroid investigation missions. The same issue also applies to storing the – er … More Breakfast in space, on an asteroid, in a tin can

How societies get sucked into authoritarianism

I’ve been thinking lately about one of the eye-opening experiences of my university life, and what it tells us about today’s world. In 1981 I arrived at Victoria University of Wellington as a bright-eyed eighteen year old, filled with the idea that university was the place where people could express their intellectual ideas constructively. I … More How societies get sucked into authoritarianism

I like my dinosaur cooked with eleven secret herbs and spices. Do you?

Back when I was a kid, paleontology was simple. Life had evolved from one-celled creatures to fish to lizards to dinosaurs to mammals and finally to Tory-voting, club-going Englishmen – all in a giant and wonderful ‘advance’, a relentless march of ‘progress’ during which each new form automatically doomed the last to extinction. Today we’ve … More I like my dinosaur cooked with eleven secret herbs and spices. Do you?

Does the Moon cause earthquakes – or is that a bit looney?

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit New Zealand on 14 November – and the sequence of events that followed – has been complex in every sense. The main shock itself was a highly complex rupture of multiple faults that extended northwards and delivered a hefty punch to Wellington, well distant from the putative epicentre. That … More Does the Moon cause earthquakes – or is that a bit looney?

Big brother is watching us because we asked for it – Huxley style

I have to admit to a certain cynicism about the age of big data – the age of online convenience where we can shop from home, buy stuff with the click of a button, and have it sent to us. Books, among other things. But there’s a down-side. ‘They’ know what you bought – and … More Big brother is watching us because we asked for it – Huxley style