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Douglas BlaneRSS Feed of this column.

Research physicist originally, working on nuclear reactors, autonomous underwater vehicles, smart materials etc. Now journalist, writer and teacher. Maintain website of Read More »


I don’t normally write much about the social sciences, apart from education. But some of the research results in these sciences are strange and interesting, and it seems a shame to do nothing with them. So I’ve devised a little quiz. I’m going to leave it up here for a week, before posting the answers and where they come from.

I'll also offer a prize to one person who gets all twenty answers correct. This is a copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2007, which has eight hundred pages of contacts and advice on getting started in newspapers, magazines, books, online and broadcast media.

It’s a good book. So good I bought it twice.

Right, here we go:

Snail-racing is an action-packed spectator sport compared to watching the drift of Earth’s continents, which usually move just a few centimetres a year – about as fast as fingernails grow. But occasionally events quicken dramatically, and become interesting enough for a "desk-bound geophysicist" like Dr Tim Wright to pack his bags and go camel-trekking across a desert.

String theory is a leading candidate for a "theory of everything", but there is not a scrap of experimental evidence for it and no obvious way of getting any, either now or in the foreseeable future.

Daniel Holz, one of the guys at Cosmic Variance, raises interesting questions about art and science, arising from a talk he attended by Felice Frankel, a photographer who produces stunning scientific images.

He was surprised and disappointed, he says, by her insistence that she is not an artist and her photos are not to be considered art. He quotes her as saying: "This is why I am not an artist: I am deeply committed to maintaining the integrity of the science."