Archive by date | February 2009

Picture post: The Eye of God

Picture post: The Eye of God

Today’s space picture is another contribution from the European Southern Observatory, or the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, to use its full name. This is the Helix planetary nebula, a giant shell of gas 700 light years given off by a star dying into a white dwarf.

House proud aphids sacrifice all

House proud aphids sacrifice all

Social aphids Nipponaphis monzeni show a remarkable dedication to the upkeep of their homes.

The animals force plants to grow ‘galls’ of tissue inside which they reside. When these galls are damaged soldier aphids rush to the breach and explode themselves, sealing the hole with a sticky mess of aphid goo and creating a protective scab.

Takema Fukatsu and colleagues at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan, investigated what happens after the scab is formed.

Ones that got away

“Our country’s lunar exploration research and development project will be opened to all of society, bringing in a competitive mechanism.”

Chinese newspaper Guangming Daily reports that China will implement a competitive bidding system for the construction of parts of its forthcoming Moon probe (via Reuters).

“It dragged me across the boat and would have pulled me in had my colleague not grabbed my trousers – it was like the whole earth had just moved. I knew it was going to a big one.”

Ian Welsh was on a stingray tagging project in Thailand when he caught a big surprise (Daily Telegraph).

“If you want some truly original seating for your living room, these giant foam dinosaur bones are where it’s at.”

The Dvice website has the near-perfect answer for palaeontology fans in need of a sofa.

Volcano monitoring row erupts

Volcano monitoring row erupts

After John McCain’s planetarium gaffe you might have hoped that politicians would learn the following lesson: trying to score cheap points off your rivals by criticising science projects is not a good idea if you don’t understand the science.

You might have hoped, but here comes Bobby Jindal.