How Charles Darwin was bullied by his teacher Richard Owen

I recently relocated my copy of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, the 1968 Pelican paperback version of the first edition, with editor’s introduction. This is the edition that sold out in 1859 on the first day of publication – all 1250 copies. Five more editions followed, all slightly different – and the book (including… More How Charles Darwin was bullied by his teacher Richard Owen

It’s 85 years since the Hawke’s Bay quake and we still don’t know how many died

On 3 February 1931 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand – particularly hitting the town centres of Napier and Hastings. It remains the worst natural disaster ever to strike New Zealand in historic times – despite some doubt as to the precise casualty figure, it was still 50 percent more than the… More It’s 85 years since the Hawke’s Bay quake and we still don’t know how many died

What happens when you wake up naked in outer space…

One of the genius moments in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey comes when Dave Bowman, locked out of the Discovery in a ‘pod’, without his suit helmet, re-enters anyway, via the emergency airlock. He’s unprotected in vacuum – but he doesn’t die instantly, or freeze, or explode the way people usually do in movies when… More What happens when you wake up naked in outer space…

I’m convinced that the first aliens we find will be bacteria…

Despite all kinds of speculation – both serious and in sci-fi – the scientific fact about alien life is that we haven’t actually found any yet. So if anybody asks whether it exists, all that can be said scientifically is ‘nobody knows’. That said, it’s highly likely that it does. There’s still a chance that… More I’m convinced that the first aliens we find will be bacteria…

A hot price deal on ‘Endless Worlds Vol. 1’

Endless Worlds Publications are running a deal for their Endless Worlds 1 compilation – seven great stories including ‘Missionary’ by Yours Truly. For 36 hours from today – January 28 on this side of the date line – Endless Worlds 1 will be 99 cents, then $1.99, before reverting to the $2.99 list price on 4 February. “Endless… More A hot price deal on ‘Endless Worlds Vol. 1’

Aliens are out there, maybe around Tabby’s Star. Or not.

The ‘alien megastructure’ mystery around KIC 8462852 just deepened. That F3 V/IV class star, hotter than the Sun and some 1480 light years from Earth – made headlines in September when an unusual dimming pattern was put down to a possible alien megastructure. But no radio signals could be detected from the system and, after… More Aliens are out there, maybe around Tabby’s Star. Or not.

Planet 9 won’t be as big as Uranus. Really.

This week’s news in the Astronomical Journal that Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin of CalTech have predicted a ninth planet got the usual barrage of silly media headlines about ‘discovery’. The thing is, Brown and Batygin haven’t found anything. They’ve hypothesised that there’s a planet. And they are not the first to wonder about some… More Planet 9 won’t be as big as Uranus. Really.