Browsing: Science

Space travel is expensive. It costs several thousand dollars per pound of weight in transport, as well as roughly $11,000 per astronaut per day for life support systems, $22,000 per day for crew supplies, and around $42 per hour for power. The process has to be made more efficient wherever possible to limit some of the costs. This means getting creative with building materials as scientists look to set up a permanent base on the moon. Transporting huge amounts of building materials would be financially draining and require many hours of careful planning to make sure not one screw is…

Photo Credit: Marco Verch According to the biomedical research charity The Wellcome Trust, there are 321 potential vaccines for COVID-19 in development around the world, with 32 of those in clinical trials, and at least 15 in human trial stages. Although vaccines typically take up to a decade to develop, test, and manufacture; researchers have collaborated to streamline this process as much as possible, meaning there could be an effective vaccine in as little as a year. The UK has already ordered 340 million doses of a completed vaccine from 6 different manufacturers: Oxford University & AstraZeneca; BioNTech-Pfizer; Valneva; GSK-Sanofi;…

Astronomers are considering the possibility that there is life in the clouds of Venus after telescopes detected a gas which they can’t explain.  Astronomers from the university of Cardiff have published a paper in the journal Nature Astronomy showing that there are high concentrations of the gas phosphine in the cloud of Venus (roughly 10-20 parts in every billion molecules), as well as the accompanying investigations they’ve carried out to demonstrate that this molecule could have a natural origin. Phosphine is a molecule which is typically associated with feaces, rotting microbes, or microbes living in the gut (like in penguins)…

Scientists from Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre are working with North Wales company Pennotec to produce a modified chemical found naturally in crab shells. The chemical Chitosan is thought to have long-lasting, anti-viral properties, and could potentially be applied to personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers from the coronavirus, and to reduce the risks of contamination. It is a polymer made of modified Chitin, found in the exoskeletons of arthropods and the shells of shellfish. Once the modified chitosan-based chemical has been fully developed, it will be tested in the lab for its effectiveness against viruses, including the coronavirus. Dr…

On the 13th of July, Boris Johnson announced that face coverings will be mandatory in shops in England from the 24th of July in order to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). This has been a requirement in shops in Scotland since the 10th of July and has been compulsory on public transport in England, Scotland, and Wales since as early as the 15th of June. In Northern Ireland, masks are also compulsory on public transport, with circumstances in indoor spaces being considered and ‘under review’.  So how do face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19? COVID-19 spreads from person…

A consortium led by Bangor University has been awarded nearly half a million pounds for research into monitoring Covid-19 outbreaks using sewage. Dead fragments of the virus’ genetic material can be found in faeces up to two weeks before symptoms appear, meaning mass testing could predict outbreaks before they appear. “I’m delighted that the ground-breaking environmental monitoring work, which combines different areas of expertise at our College of Environmental Science & Engineering, is to contribute to the nation’s vital work to protect communities against Covid-19 and further outbreaks of coronavirus and other infectious viruses.” said Professor Iwan Davies, Vice-Chancellor of…

We are social creatures. The popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have shown how much we want to show off and share with others. We aren’t the first to do this though, as new research has uncovered a social network in Lesotho from 33,000 years ago. Researchers were initially puzzled when they found prehistoric ornamental necklace beads made of ostrich eggs, around 1,000 km from the nearest ostriches. So how did they get there? 33,000 years ago, humans lived in tribal communities. It was important for them to maintain a relationship with their neighbours; this…

Governments all over the globe are asking their citizens to practice ‘social distancing’, but what is it and how does it help? On March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organisation upgraded the COVID-19 outbreak to pandemic status, meaning that the virus had spread to a significant portion of the world. The virus behind the diseases, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (or more snappily, SARS-CoV-2), is highly infectious, spreading easily from person to person. COVID-19 is a new disease and scientists the world over are frantically developing a vaccine, but as of yet one has not been created. Our best…

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, a lot of us are doing a lot more sitting than before. But should we be sitting down at all? A study has highlighted the differences between how we and hunter-gatherer communities rest, and outlined how squatting may be the key to better health. Rest is good: it allows our bodies time to recover and repair, ready for the next task. We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for example. But sitting seems to be an exception with study after study finding links between extended periods sitting and various health…

The state of the climate emergency has come to the forefront in recent years, no longer being a bolt-on issue and instead a centrepiece of news coverage, political manifestos, and public conscience. With experts warning of the rapidly approaching “point of no return”, some have turned to new technology for answers; but will this be enough to turn the tide? In 2019 the Welsh, Scottish and UK governments pledged to achieve a “net zero” emission of carbon by 2050. This would result in all carbon emissions being offset by tree planting, carbon capture and other techniques. But a report by…

Some creatures are able to ‘pause’ ageing or be immune to its effects entirely. This phenomenon is known as ‘diapause’ and a team of researchers have finally uncovered some of it’s mechanisms in the African Killifish. This fish can pause its life processes in response to environmental threats such as its pond drying up. The embryos can halt their development for years, longer than the adult’s entire life expectancy. This has allowed the fish to survive annual droughts. The breakthrough came in revealing that this ‘pause’ has no effect on the fish’s future development, hinting that the processes halts the…

In the last few days of 2019, a new virus appeared in Wuhan, China, and spread at a frightening pace. Since then the new coronavirus, which has since been given the official designation Covid-19, has been the subject of headlines all over the world. But what is this new illness, where did it come from, and how worried should you be? Covid-19 is a member of the coronavirus family, named after the likeness of their appearance to the sun’s corona under a microscope. The coronavirus family also includes influenza and the viruses that cause the common cold. Covid-19 has been…

Twice a year, the UK jumps an hour forward or back due to the concept of Daylight Saving Time. The idea was originally coined by Benjamin Franklin to reduce the usage of candles but did not become widespread until the first World War, where countries either side of the line adopted it in a bid to reduce coal consumption. So is daylight saving an outdated idea, or still just as relevant today? Many countries ditched daylight saving after 1918, as the reduction in coal usage was no longer a priority. However, the 1970s energy crisis meant that the energy reduction…

Seatbelts, body armour, crash test dummies and even spacesuits; recently it has been realised just how dangerous these things can be to many people. Why? They’re designed around traditionally male bodies, leaving women’s health at risk. For example, a recent paper focusing on body armour for female troops in the US army found that the ill-fitting protection encumbers movement, is uncomfortable to wear, and even leaves gaps which enemies can grab onto in hand-to-hand combat. The issue in designing new armour lies in the curves in the plates needed to better fit female troops. Lt. Col. Fran Lozano explained to…

The forest has always been an environment deeply resonant with the human spirit. Since the dawn of mankind, it’s been a place of mystery and darkness, but also shelter and comfort. Few places on earth are richer with life, it buzzes, oozes and beats in every nook and cranny. Ecologically speaking, the forest had long been considered a place of fierce competition for sunlight, food and survival, but over the past few decades a discovery has emerged with profound implications for our understanding of this ecosystem. In 1988, plant scientist E. I. Newman argued the existence of a complex subterranean…

Two important Ukranian exports to Wales are to be combined to produce a drink which is sure to raise a few eyebrows. We’ve long been importing vodka, and since 1986 we’ve had a few years of importing radiation resulting from the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Now scientists at the University of Portsmouth hope to combine these exports by making a vodka using ingredients from Chernobyl’s radioactive wasteland.  After the nuclear power plant exploded, a 30km exclusion zone was declared unfit for human habitation for twenty four thousand years. Three hundred and fifty thousand people were moved from…

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