All posts by Our Planet

What high-speed astronomy can tell us about the galactic zoo

For most of human history, the distant ‘celestial sphere’ was regarded as perfect and unchanging. Stars remained in place, planets moved predictably, and the few rogue comets were viewed as atmospheric phenomena. This began to change with the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe’s observation of the supernova of 1572 – apparently, a new star – and his studies of the Great Comet of 1577, which he proved was actually a distant object. Nonetheless, the impression of permanence is strong. There are very few astronomical objects that noticeably vary to the naked eye: only the brightest comets, novae and supernovae. For observers in the northern hemisphere, the last naked-eye supernova was in 1604.

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Smart Technology: Protecting Your Home and Saving the Planet

By Morgen Henderson

Smart technology may have started as a way to make modern life more convenient, but it has significant potential to help us conserve resources and address environmental problems, too. Humans are undoubtedly having a huge impact on the planet, and technology is both a cause and a possible solution to the damage we’re doing. From small-scale changes in individual homes to large-scale efforts such as recycling carbon dioxide and carbon capture storage, it is possible to create systems of technology that work with, not against, the environment.

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7 Ways New Technologies are Preparing Our Youth for the Future

By Morgen Henderson

New and developing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual and augmented reality (among others) are really cool. We love to see how robots can differentiate between objects, artificial intelligence can assist psychologists, and virtual reality can allow us to enter new worlds. But how can today’s youth reap the benefits of these amazing technologies in their everyday lives to prepare them for their future?

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World Water Day 2019: what’s space got to do with it?

March 22, 2019, is World Water Day. Water is a basic human right. According to the United Nations, Water scarcity affects more than 40% of people (40% !) around the world, and this is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures. Providing clean water and sanitation for all is a huge challenge.

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25 Amazing Astronomy Facts

As early as prehistoric times, humankind was fascinated by the night sky and all of its beauty. For centuries, philosophers and scholars would attribute magical properties to the bright stars and the Milky Way. In more recent times, we understand better what these mysterious objects are, and we can observe far more than our ancestors – planets, clusters, galaxies, and nebulae.

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Is bigger always better, or will the tiny inherit the Earth?

As I scuba dive in Oslob Bay off Cebu Island in the Philippines, I see a tiny shadow dart over the surface of the spherical coral block – a minute fish, a goby of the genus Eviota, among the smallest vertebrates in existence, only about a centimetre long and less than 1/10th of a gramme light. It’s about a million times smaller than myself, with the same basic vertebrate body: a spinal cord, a bony skull, a brain, kidneys and a liver. With the exception of gills and lungs, the tiny fish and I share similar sets of organs, just at a very dissimilar size.

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How to keep your life routine in energy-saving rhythm?

Saving energy in today’s digital world is sometimes nigh impossible. Anything you want to do has something to do with electricity in terms of powering your computer or giving you access to the internet.

But how can you create an eco-friendly life routine with energy saving in mind? You can save energy and keep doing everything you have been doing so far, in a slightly changed, greener way.

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How seeing snakes in the grass helped primates to evolve

Evolution has favoured the modification and expansion of primate vision. Compared with other mammals, primates have, for example, greater depth perception from having forward-facing eyes with extensively overlapping visual fields, sharper visual acuity, more areas in the brain that are involved with vision, and, in some primates, trichromatic colour vision, which enables them to distinguish red from green hues. In fact, what separates primates from other mammals most is their much greater reliance on vision as the main sensory interface with the environment.

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How many great minds does it take to invent a telescope?

On 11 January 1672, the Fellows of the British Royal Society were treated to a demonstration of Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, which formed images with mirrors rather than with the lenses that had been used since the time of Galileo. Afterward, the fellows hailed Newton as the inventor of this marvelous new instrument, an attribution that sticks to the present. However, this linear historical account obscures a far more interesting, convoluted story. Newton’s claim was immediately challenged on behalf of two other contenders, James Gregory, and Laurent Cassegrain. More confounding, the earliest known concept of using a curved mirror to focus light predated Newton by more than 1,500 years; the final realisation of a practical reflecting telescope post-dated him by more than a half century.

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