Last Diamonds: portraits of icebergs

Last Diamonds: portraits of icebergs

A frozen menagerie of yawning overhangs, rotting underbellies, humanistic curves, tumbled-over organ pipes confronts you.  Francesco Bosso’s Last Diamonds is a glorious, sombre collection of 25 monochrome ‘portraits’ of icebergs off the coast of Greenland, gingerly treading the boundary between art and science. Each plate, created using a traditional analog photographic process, offers haunting insight into the cryosphere, exploring a grey, often cloudy sky, a shimmering jet-black ocean, and an iceberg traversing the intersection.  Read more

The deck stacked against women in science


The player on my left has the biochemist Maud Menten’s career well on track. Suddenly another player slaps a “stupid patriarchy” card on Menten’s head, and she has to earn her doctorate all over again. So goes a novel card game devoted to women in science and engineering, designed to highlight these unsung researchers and the barriers and boons that women in these fields experience.  Read more

Illustrated books of 2017: the magnificent eight

Illustrated books of 2017: the magnificent eight

There’s something about a collection. We seem to harbour an urge to amass and sort as we build menageries, museums, taxonomies. And the illustrated book is a portable simulacrum, a paper cabinet of curiosities, curated for maximum aesthetic punch.  Read more

Top 20 books: discovering worlds

Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

In terms of job satisfaction, discovering worlds must take the Sachertorte. Sibling astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, for instance, rejoiced in a haul that included Uranus, eight comets and several moons gleaned from what William called the “luxuriant garden” of the skies. Their final tally of deep-sky objects, with that of William’s gifted son John, numbered in the thousands. I’m sure their minds would be boggled by today’s exoplaneteering exploits — such as the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven Earth-like planets that fully emerged this year.  Read more

Bricks + Mortals: mapping the racist roots of science

Subhadra Das,xxx

If walls could speak: the saying might have been tailor-made for University College London’s new exhibition. Bricks + Mortals uses the campus buildings to tell the story of how eugenics gained a foothold at the university over a century ago. The epicentre, a lab for “national eugenics”, was set up in the early 1900s by Francis Galton, the Victorian mathematician and ‘father of eugenics’ whose crude bolting of statistics to human variety marks a nadir of modern science. Several UCL buildings and lecture theatres still bear the names of eugenicists.  Read more

Rocket woman


A physicist at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Space Applications Centre, Moumita Dutta was part of the team that put a probe into Mars orbit in 2014. The instruments they designed for the Mangalyaan are still beaming back data. Now India is gearing up for its third planetary mission in 2018 — Chandrayaan-2, a return to the Moon. As Dutta prepares to take part in the London Science Museum’s Illuminating India events, she talks about the lure of optics, the challenge of crafting super-light sensors, and the rise in Indian women entering space science.    … Read more

Maths and murals: Leiden’s wall formulae

One of Einstein's field equations - part of the Leiden wall formulae project.

Albert Einstein’s field equations from his theory of general relativity combine wonderful scientific intuition with the honed concision of poetry. Yet relatively few of the culturally inclined marvel at the shape of a mathematical equation in the way they might at a line from Shakespeare. Now, however, the Dutch university town of Leiden is giving its citizens a chance to try, through iconic formulae by physicists and astronomers painted on walls throughout the city.  Read more

Superbugs: fighting the flood of antimicrobial resistance

View of the monumental 'wall' and xxx at the exhibition.

Antimicrobial resistance has spread to London this month. The source of the outbreak? The Science Museum: its new exhibition, Superbugs, explores this monumental issue and our responses to it.  Read more

Machines moved by mind

Machines moved by mind

At Mental Work, an exhibition at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne ArtLab (EPFL), visitors can drive simple machines using the force of their own thoughts. Probing the rapidly changing relationship between humans and technology, these artworks will also generate vast amounts of data that will be shared with researchers around the world. The show is a collaboration between experimental philosopher Jonathan Keats and EPFL neuroengineer José Millán, who develops brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to help people with paralysis. Here, Millán talks pistons, probability and the debate over who or what is in control.  Read more