Chinese scientists discovered aliens? Not so FAST

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Carl Sagan (Cosmos, 1980) This phrase is the standard that astronomers will be applying to a curious signal captured with China’s “Sky Eye” telescope that might be a transmission from alien technology. An article reporting the signal was posted on the website of China’s state-backed Science and Technology Daily newspaper …

A door on Mars? Here’s how do we see things in space that aren’t there

Enthusiasts lit up social media recently with images of what appeared to be a “doorway” into a hillside on Mars. Was it, some wondered, evidence that the red planet could be, or have been, inhabited by aliens? The “door on Mars” was imaged by Nasa’s Curiosity rover on May 7 on the slopes of Mount …

A large solar storm can knock out the internet and electricity. Here’s how

On September 1 and 2, 1859, telegraph systems around the world failed catastrophically. The operators of the telegraphs reported receiving electrical shocks, telegraph paper catching fire, and being able to operate equipment with batteries disconnected. During the evenings, the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, could be seen as far south as …

Nuclear fusion: how excited should we be?

There’s been tremendous excitement about recent results from the Joint European Torus (JET) facility in the UK, hinting that the dream of nuclear fusion power is inching closer to reality. We know that fusion works – it is the process that powers the Sun, providing heat and light to the Earth. But for decades it …

William Gibson: “We’ve come to not have a future”

The future isn’t what it used to be, at least according to the Canadian science-fiction novelist William Gibson. In an interview with the BBC, Gibson said people seemed to be losing interest in the future. “All through the 20th century we constantly saw the 21st century invoked,” he said. “How often do you hear anyone …

Hydroelectric dams take a toll on endangered big cats, study shows

Big cats are among the most widespread top predators on Earth. Lions stalk zebra in the African savanna, tigers ambush antelope in the forests of Asia and jaguars hunt deer in the jungles of South America. They play an important role in ecosystems by regulating the numbers of these herbivores, in turn, reducing the deterioration …

A small telescope beyond Saturn could solve mysteries of the universe better than giant telescopes near Earth

Dozens of space-based telescopes operate near-Earth and provide incredible images of the universe. But imagine a telescope far away in the outer solar system, 10 or even 100 times farther from the Sun than Earth. The ability to look back at our solar system or peer into the darkness of the distant cosmos would make …

Dune: Could humans survive on Arrakis, the desert planet?

Dune, the epic series of sci-fi books by Frank Herbert, now turned into a movie of the same name, is set in the far future on the desert planet of Arrakis. Herbert outlined a richly-detailed world that, at first glance, seems so real we could imagine ourselves within it. Alex Farnsworth, University of Bristol; Michael …

Why Earth and Venus followed different paths

Earth is the only planet we know contains life. Is our planet special? Scientists over the years have mulled over what factors are essential for, or beneficial to, life. The answers will help us identify other potentially inhabited planets elsewhere in the galaxy. Antony Burnham, Australian National University and Hugh O’Neill, Australian National University