Einstein’s Relativity and How Not to Get Lost

Philippa Jefferies looks at how Einstein’s theories affect us every day through our GPS devices.

We’ve all heard of Einstein’s theories of Relativity, even if only by name. They’re often associated with black holes and other immense objects in space and they dictate the movement of objects from our own planet to vast galaxies. However, the consequences of Special and General Relativity affect us more personally every day. A good example is the GPS on your phone!
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What a Load of Hot Air!

Marion Cromb and Daniel Thomas reveal the invisible beauty of the world around us with schlieren imaging.

Look here, there’s something cool happening! No, not just on the page, but in the air in front of it! There are many interesting phenomena taking place all the time in the air surrounding us, but their transparency normally makes them difficult to admire. However, certain techniques are able to pick up on slight changes in the way materials bend light, allowing us to see the otherwise hidden beauty of air flow and much much more.
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What Is Caffeine?

John Dunsmuir takes us on the journey coffee makes through our body.

Three hundred tonnes of caffeine are consumed globally each year, making it the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. But what makes this insecticide so popular?

The first credible source of coffee drinking comes from Fifteenth Century Sufi monasteries in modern day Yemen. It quickly spread via trade throughout the Mediterranean Basin, entering Europe via Italy.

Caffeine closely resembles the structure of a naturally occuring chemical in the brain known as Adenosine

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Vultures: The Unsung Heroes of Death

Chyi Chung considers the position of vultures within the Indian food chain.

T he doongerwadi seems an inconspicuous stone tower raised on a plinth. But from their flight in the sky, its roofless interior becomes exposed. The bodies of men, women and children are laid out in three carved, concentric circles surrounding a pit. They swoop down and devour the corpses in a matter of hours. They are efficient: the bodies are picked clean to the bone for depositing in the pit, before they take flight once more. They are the unsung heroes of death.
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Ludwig Prandtl: The Father of Modern Aerodynamics

Take smooth flights for granted? Siddharth Trivedi meets the man behind the mechanics.

Born in Freising, Germany in 1875, Ludwig Prandtl spent a significant portion of his childhood with his father due to his mother’s long term illness. A professor in engineering, his father was probably the reason Prandtl picked up his innate ability for scientific observation. He later utilised these same skills as he earned his PhD in Munich, and entered his first job in a factory where he designed a suction device as an equipment design engineer.
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Franklin’s fight for DNA

Rosalind Franklin was a forerunner in the preliminary research towards determining the structure of DNA. Her X-ray crystallography photos and corresponding mathematical data led to the discovery of the helical structure of DNA.

These results set out the basis for many further studies, including the well-known discoveries by Watson and Crick. Controversy over Franklin’s contributions to Watson and Crick’s work has been the subject of debate continuing to this day.
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Materials For a Greener Tomorrow!

Kit Béhard finds that nanofoams, Stanene and Shrilk may be the keys to a sustainable future.

Goodbye Plastic?

Plastics are arguably the most important material of the 20th century. Since the invention of the first synthetic plastic in 1907 they’ve been used in everything from toys and packaging, to electronics and transportation. The reason for the versatility and wide use of plastics is that they are flexible, strong and cheap.
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Mind Reading: The Science Behind the Superpower

Will it be possible to read minds in the future? Sophie Dixon examines the current research and future possibilities of mind reading.

Mind reading, the phenomena that has for so long been considered a fantasy, is becoming a more realistic possibility. While mind reading devices for casual communication are still a long way off, the ability to translate a person’s brain activity into written text, a process known as neurotelepathy, has already been achieved.
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Thorium: The Nuclear Fuel of the Future?

Thorium is described by its proponents as a “superfuel”. Marion Cromb asks what makes it better than what we have now?

Currently, nuclear reactors use enriched uranium as fuel. It is 96% uranium isotope U-238, and just 4% fissile U-235. Fissile isotopes split when hit by a neutron, and are the only isotopes capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction. While uranium power is a thousand times more efficient than fossil fuels, reactors utilise less than 1% of their fuel and generate plutonium waste that is dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
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X-ray Crystallography

Revealing Structure: Amy Thompson revisits the technique that science has overlooked.

X -ray crystallography is a fundamental method used to study atoms that make up a solid object. As the name suggests it involves the use of X-ray beams, which are fired at the solid that has been made into a crystal form. Information is received from the X-ray beams as they bounce off the crystal; this is recorded as a series of dots. These dots reveal the organisation of the atoms within the solid structure allowing scientists to see how a structure is arranged. It is a complex procedure based on highly intricate, yet fundamental mathematics that enable the prediction of a solid structure to be mapped out.
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