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Charles Darwin’s voyage on Beagle unfolds online in works by ship’s artist

Digitised sketches and watercolours by Conrad Martens have been placed online by Cambridge University libraryOn Christmas Day 1833, Charles Darwin and the crew of HMS Beagle were larking about at Port Desire in Patagonia, under the keen gaze of the ship’s artist, Conrad Martens.The crew were mostly young men – Darwin himself, a recent graduate from Cambridge University, was only 22 – and had been given shore leave. Martens recorded them playing a naval game called Slinging the Monkey, which looks much more fun for the observers than the main participant. It involved a man being tied by his feet from a frame, swung about and jeered by his shipmates, until he manages to hit one of them with a stick, whereupon they change places. Continue reading...

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What we Cannot Know by Marcus du Sautoy review – the seven edges of knowledge

Among the frontiers identified are time, the cosmos, consciousness and God, but aren’t swaths of knowledge concerned with meaning rather than scientific fact?Scientists like to see themselves as modern counterparts of the great explorers, sailing off into the unknown and coming back with marvellous tales of adventure and discovery. But the heroic age of exploration lasted no more than 500 years: after the so-called conquest of the poles there was not much terra incognita left to conquer. Does a similar fate await the sciences? Will nature yield up its last secret one day? Will our questions all be answered? Will scientists abandon their laboratories and take up poetry, painting or tap dancing instead?These are the questions raised by an engaging new book in which Marcus du Sautoy promises to lead us to “the edges of knowledge”. He begins by recalling a speech given by the physicist Lord Kelvin at the end of the 19th century. “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now,” Kelvin said, “all that remains is more and more precise measurement.” Albert Einstein soon proved him wrong, but scientists carried on dreaming of the day when they could declare mission accomplished. In September 1930, for instance, the distinguished mathematician David Hilbert addressed a meeting in his honour in Königsberg. Nothing could hold out against the progress of science, he said: “We must know – and we shall.” Unluckily for him, a young logician called Kurt Gödel had demonstrated the exact opposite in a paper delivered in the same city on the previous day. Every conceivable system of mathematics, Gödel showed, must contain statements that cannot be proved, so the idea of scientific closure was a quixotic fantasy. Continue reading...

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What we Cannot Know by Marcus du Sautoy – review

Among the frontiers identified are time, the cosmos, consciousness and God, but aren’t swaths of knowledge concerned with meaning rather than scientific fact?Scientists like to see themselves as modern counterparts of the great explorers, sailing off into the unknown and coming back with marvellous tales of adventure and discovery. But the heroic age of exploration lasted no more than 500 years: after the so-called conquest of the poles there was not much terra incognita left to conquer. Does a similar fate await the sciences? Will nature yield up its last secret one day? Will our questions all be answered? Will scientists abandon their laboratories and take up poetry, painting or tap dancing instead?These are the questions raised by an engaging new book in which Marcus du Sautoy promises to lead us to “the edges of knowledge”. He begins by recalling a speech given by the physicist Lord Kelvin at the end of the 19th century. “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now,” Kelvin said, “all that remains is more and more precise measurement.” Albert Einstein soon proved him wrong, but scientists carried on dreaming of the day when they could declare mission accomplished. In September 1930, for instance, the distinguished mathematician David Hilbert addressed a meeting in his honour in Königsberg. Nothing could hold out against the progress of science, he said: “We must know – and we shall.” Unluckily for him, a young logician called Kurt Gödel had demonstrated the exact opposite in a paper delivered in the same city on the previous day. Every conceivable system of mathematics, Gödel showed, must contain statements that cannot be proved, so the idea of scientific closure was a quixotic fantasy. Continue reading...

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Am I a psychopath? You asked Google – here’s the answer | David Shariatmadari

Every day millions of internet users ask Google life’s most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queriesAre psychopaths trendy? Does saying “I have psychopathic tendencies” pass the dinner table test? Is this merely the latest debilitating condition to be reimagined as a fascinating quirk, à la “I’m a little bit OCD”? If so, popular non-fiction might be to blame. In 2011, Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test introduced millions of readers to a checklist, devised by psychologist Robert Hare, that scores people on a range of psychopathic traits. A year later, Kevin Dutton’s The Wisdom of Psychopaths advanced the idea that we all sit somewhere on a psychopathic spectrum, and that aspects of psychopathy can be harnessed for good. ME Thomas used an alternative term to describe her superficial charm and lack of empathy in Confessions of a Sociopath. Hare’s own own book, Snakes in Suits, written with psychologist Paul Babiak, examines the success of the psychopath in corporate settings. Continue reading...

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Nasa successfully tests rocket designed to take humans to Mars – video

Nasa carried out a successful test on a rocket booster in Cape Canaveral in Florida on Tuesday. The booster is intended to form part of the mission that will see the first human exploration of Mars. The rocket’s first outing will be an unmanned journey, set to launch in 2018, but it is hoped that astronauts could be on their way to the red planet in the 2030s. Continue reading...

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Water on Mars: Nasa faces contamination dilemma over future investigations1

Curiosity rover already on red planet cannot study streaks left by flowing water because it could be carrying bugs from EarthNasa scientists may still be celebrating their discovery of liquid water on Mars, but they now face some serious questions about how they can investigate further and look for signs of life on the red planet.The problem is how to find life without contaminating the planet with bugs from Earth. Continue reading...

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UK light pollution 'causing spring to come a week earlier'

Report is the first to examine the impact of artificial night-lighting on the seasonal behaviour of plants on a national scaleLight pollution is causing spring to come at least a week earlier in the UK, a new study has revealed. The report, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that budburst in trees occurs up to 7.5 days earlier in brighter areas, with later-budding species being more affected. Continue reading...

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Nasa: watery flows discovered on Mars – video1

Nasa announce that there are watery flows on the surface of Mars during the red planet’s summer months. Scientists say they’re still trying to figure out the chemistry and source of the water on the red planet, the discovery has them now rethinking whether Mars can support present day microbial life Continue reading...

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Nasa ignites huge Mars rocket with fiery test in Utah desert1

Larger version of solid rocket booster used on shuttle will form part of Space Launch System propelling astronauts beyond Earth’s orbitNasa has successfully tested a huge rocket motor that will one day propel astronauts out of Earth’s orbit and towards Mars.It was the second and final test-firing of the solid rocket booster designed for Nasa’s Space Launch System (SLS). The debut launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in 2018 will not carry people, but a few years later astronauts are scheduled to climb aboard for a flight near the moon. Continue reading...

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