Category: Physical sciences

A face-specific mechanism for recognising people in the brain?

Humans are amazingly skilled at recognising faces. A recent study suggests that the brain has a unique mechanism specialized for doing this. Exactly how faces are recognised has been debated among scientists, and there are two alternative hypotheses that try to explain this. The face-specific hypothesis suggests that the brain possess a unique mechanism for… Read More »

March 31, 2014

Birds pay attention to speed limits, study shows

  European birds decide how soon to fly away from a car according to the speed limit of the road, a recent study shows. Animals living near humans may change their behaviour in order to survive. For instance, some birds living in urban areas sing with higher frequency as a response to noise pollution. Pierre… Read More »

November 8, 2013

Focus: A World of Music

BlueSci explores the phenomenon of music—what it is, where it comes from and why we do it Listen. Silence? Or the strange cacophony of ordered sound that is the latest Rhianna track or a Bach partita? If you are not currently plugged into your iPod or humming a tune, chances are you have been at… Read More »

May 15, 2013

Feature: Have You Heard the Northern Lights?

Shane McCorristine examines the eerie sounds made by the glowing sky The aurora borealis or the Northern Lights, is a natural luminous phenomenon that occurs in the night sky at polar latitudes and is sometimes visible in the northern hemisphere. For centuries, aurora-watchers have reported hearing strange sounds of hissing and flapping during an auroral… Read More »

History: HMS Challenger

Amelia Penny explores the expedition of the HMS Challenger which marked the beginning of oceanography In the mid-nineteenth century, the deep ocean was a great blue blank on the surface of the globe. Naval expeditions such as the voyage of HMS Beagle in 1831-6 had brought back important observations of the oceans, but were concerned mainly with the surface waters, being… Read More »

January 25, 2013

Science and Policy: Anything but Elementary

Matthew Dunstan looks back at the history of the naming of elements Chemistry and language don’t always mix well. Take for example, trying to identify chemicals through a confusing mix of common names and so-called ‘scientific’ names. When you’re trying to make a good cake, would you prefer some baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, or some bicarbonate of… Read More »

Focus: Lazy Universe

BlueSci explores the universal principle of energy minimisation across the sciences One of the most central principles used in all of modern physics is ‘The Principle of Least Action’. As the title suggests, the statement roughly translates to “energy is minimised” or, alternatively, “physics is lazy”. Roughly speaking, the principle means that the basis of all physics lies in minimising the use of… Read More »

Feature: Digging for Dinosaurs

Amelia Penny discusses the importance of the fossil record, and the impact of fossil-hunters on our historical knowledge In may of this year, a dinosaur fossil hit international headlines. The specimen, a beautifully preserved Mongolian tyrannosaur called Tarbosaurus bataar, had sold at auction in Manhattan, New York for US$1.05 million. Amid an outcry from palaeontologists, Mongolian president Elbegdhorj Tsakhia intervened, alleging that… Read More »

Feature: The Journey of the Bicycle

Karsten Koehler explores the history of the bicycle, and how our understanding of the physics of cycling has developed over time For centuries, inventors have searched for a swift carriage that frees man from relying on animals. In 1813, more than 70 years before the invention of the modern automobile, Karl von Drais, a forestmaster from Mannheim (in modern day Germany),… Read More »