One of my favourite Robert A. Heinlein novels is Time for the Stars, a realisation of Albert Einstein’s ‘twin paradox’ that Heinlein wrote in the mid-1950s as part of his so-called ‘juvenile’ series. It was an outcome of the slightly berserk nature of Einstein’s 1905 theory of Special Relativity, which – with his theory of … More Einstein’s twin paradox explained
The arrival of OSIRIS-Rex around asteroid Bennu at the end of 2018 is all sorts of exciting. Well, apart from the rather lame acronym the probe’s been saddled with. But other than that, it’s got plenty of promise. Bennu was discovered in 1999 and isn’t very large – just 300 metres across. Its interest comes … More All sorts of exciting with OSIRIS-Rex
One of the main tropes of science fiction has to be the self-aware robot or computer – one mobile, the other not, but both presented as self-aware and able to think as we do, although often better. Often, Frankenstein-style, the AI develops malevolence. That was a trope long before HAL; virtually all of Asimov’s robot … More Why AI won’t work. Probably.
One of the outcomes of the way the Age of Reason unfolded in the eighteenth century was an attempt to reduce the world to categories. Everything, it seemed, had its place: a slot into which it could be put. That’s often useful – take the periodic table of elements, for instance, which is a way … More Dinosaurs and birds – mixing up the classifications
Eighteen months on, the Juno mission to probe the otherwise little-known poles of Jupiter is producing incredible dividends. Check this out. This is just so cool on so many levels. One of the things that NASA and JPL have done is to publish the raw Juno-Cam images sent back by the probe, for everyday people … More By Jove, Jupiter’s impressive!
On 1 January 2019 the New Horizons probe – the one that whipped past Pluto in 2015 – will encounter another outer solar-system body: 2014 MU69. Informally it’s become known as Ultima Thule. The neat part is that this body wasn’t even known when New Horizons was launched in January 2006. Back then, the probe … More New Horizons and Ultima Thule – the bonus mission
A while back a downtown Auckland tower-block was evacuated after the occupants fell ill with what was first thought to be gas from the air conditioning. It wasn’t. But a dozen people were hospitalised. That evening, more people fell ill and the building was closed. Before a formal investigation reported on the problem, a university … More Why the term ‘it’s psychological’ doesn’t cut it as a real medical diagnosis