Combined data from the Planck satellite and BICEP2 rules out detection of primordial gravitational waves

In March last year, members of the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2) experiment, based in Antarctica, announced results that appeared to contain measurements of an elusive physical phenomenon named primordial gravitational waves. Gravitational waves were predicted to exist by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity, published almost a century ago, and to … More


Mini-Neptunes, Super-Earths and the Search for Extrasolar Planets

There are a few ways to create a habitable planet. We think the way Earth was created was as a bunch of rocks that were orbiting the Sun and all clumped together. Scientists think that later extra water was brought by asteroids. However as the search for extra-solar planets progresses we find more and more … More


Attractiveness Can Make You Quicker (If You Are a Website)

New operating systems often look more “flash” than the previous iteration, with many an Apple/Android fan raving to their friends about the new look, but do improved aesthetics actually make the product better? According to new research by Irene Reppa of Swansea University and Siné McDougall of Bournemouth University, the answer is yes . By … More


Father’s Sweet Tooth Slows Offspring’s Metabolism

We all gain a few pounds after a little indulgence, especially over a gut busting Christmas, but why are some of us affected more than others? New research suggests that your father’s diet could be to blame. Cheers Dad! A study carried out using fruit flies found that the rate of weight gain in flies … More


The Fountain of Youth… In a Whale Genome?

Wouldn’t we all like to live longer? In our society, the pursuit of youth and longevity is an obsession – from the constant barrage of anti-aging cosmetics to the recent approval of self-DNA tests for genetic disease risk. Scientists all over the world study the process of aging with hopes of increasing the human lifespan. … More


Paws for Thought: Panda Pregnancy is a Tricky Business

Why is it so hard to get a panda pregnant? As many of us were saddened to find, Edinburgh Zoo’s own panda Tian Tian was confirmed not pregnant after briefly showing signs early this September. It is thought that the foetus may have been reabsorbed despite being expected to develop to full term, and offers … More


Fungal Killer vs. Bacterial Champion: The Battle for Kermit’s Life

There is a killer out there, and its name is Chytrid… Well, actually it is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). The spores of this aquatic fungus get under the skin, causing it to ulcerate and slough off abnormally, and it won’t be long before the eyes, muscles and skin start haemorrhaging. Pathogenic bacteria will soon colonise these … More


Differences in Gene Regulation Between Mice and Humans

Mammalians have around 25,000 genes, but only 62% of the human genome is transcribed in one or more cell types . Considering this, it’s possible to understand that the performance of a cell is not only determined by its gene set, but rather by which genes are active, which is highly variable among cells. All … More


Peering into the Brain of Adolescent Suicide

Despite the fact that adolescent suicide is a major public health issue, research which investigates its possible neurobiological causes is still sparse. However, so far, researchers have found some intriguing differences in the brain chemistry of adolescents who die from suicide, compared to adult equivalents. How would you determine whether adolescents that die from suicide … More


Using Circulating Tumour Cells to Personalise Cancer Treatment

Rapid technological advances within the past decade now allow the isolation and analysis of individual tumour cells circulating in the blood stream of cancer patients. We are beginning to realise the potential of these cells, which carry the hallmarks of the patient’s tumour, in developing personalised treatments with the possibility of avoiding invasive biopsies. Tumours … More


Breaking the Chemist’s Back

As many of you will know, the definition of a chemist is “a scientist trained in the field of chemistry who studies both the properties and composition of chemicals and who studies the way that chemicals interact with other chemicals.” Contrary to what a hit American TV show (you know the one) would like you … More


A Quantum Conundrum

How secure do you feel on the internet? Like you’re dangling from a dangerously high precipice by the straps of your dungarees, while some piece of malevolent code holds scissors to the straps? Or perhaps like you’re curled up, warm and snug, under a blanket of encryption beside a crackling fire. For most of us, … More