Is Betelgeuse A Cannibal Star?

A day or two ago I came across this article ...

Rocket salad, enantiomers, and nomenclature

Yet another article in the Telegraph: this time Supermarket rocket salad healthier than homegrown...

Muck and Medicine

An article in The Federalist:The Darwinism That Fuels Atheism Actually Favors Religiosity ...

The First Known Deuterostome?

A few days ago I read an article in the Telegraph Humanity’s earliest known ancestor discovered...

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Robert H OlleyRSS Feed of this column.

Until recently, I worked in the Polymer Physics Group of the Physics Department at the University of Reading.

I would describe myself as a Polymer Morphologist. I am not an astronaut,

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Blackboard qualitative proofs of the "existence" of, say, an equilibrium between demand and supply - beloved of economists trained in the maths of the department of mathematics rather than the maths of the departments of physics or engineering - are meaningless because they don't tell how big is big.
Now being at present in woolly monkey mode, I could a tail unfold about this comparison between the mathematics of mathematics and the mathematics of physics, but that would distract from the main point.


is Dutch for Chemistry, and literally means "Separation Science".  Now, if one has a carpet made of 85% polypropylene and 15% wool, how does one go about separating them?

Have no fear!  Nature already has a solution.  I found these cocoons (about half a centimetre long) on the surface of said carpet, and decided to look at them under a video microscope.  This is what we saw:


As you can see, these caterpillars emerged from the cocoons and resumed their analysis, selectively removing the wool fibres from the polypropylene matrix. 

A few days ago, I read Oldest Biblical Inscription Deciphered, Archaeologists Say by our News Staff, and found it fascinating.  It takes one back to Solomon, who, according to the Bible, had a thousand wives (that’s includin’ concubines, I have to tell ya.)  Now people like to embellish these stories, and my mother sometimes would sing this:

Oh Solomon, he had a thousand wives
And bein' a kind hearted fella,
He wanted all o' them
To lead contented lives
So he bought each mamma
A grand piana, ....

Research finds no advantage in learning to read from age five

says a press release from the world's southernmost university, the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Comparing children from Rudolf Steiner schools, who usually start learning to read from age seven, and children in state-run schools, who start learning to read at five, Dr Sebastian Suggate found that the later learners caught up and matched the reading abilities of their earlier-reading counterparts by the time they were 11, or by Year 7.  Of his third series of experiments, he says:
When Dmitri Mendeleev first published his table of elements in 1869 (picture), only 60 of these were known. One group in particular was absent, namely the inert gases.  Now you may have heard this song:

"All these gases are inert
  Helium, neon, argon.
I’ll sing this song until it hurts
  Krypton, xenon, radon." **
Some years ago, I was watching a wildlife TV programme, where a mother leopard was leading her three cubs, and they encountered a bank. Two of the cubs jumped it on the first go, but the third struggled until it found a piece of overhanging vegetation which enabled it to take the bank in two leaps.

When one leaves school and enters university, one can find that leaps are required which can overtax the brain. I am always pleased to find books in maths and the sciences which allow one to make these leaps. In Mathematician’s Delight (Pelican 1943), W. W. Sawyer wrote: