Artemis: why it may be the last mission for Nasa astronauts

A camera mounted on the tip of one of the Orion capsule’s solar array wings captured this footage of the spacecraft and the Moon NASA Neil Armstrong took his historic “one small step” on the Moon in 1969. And just three years later, the last Apollo astronauts left our celestial neighbour. Since then, hundreds of astronauts have been launched into space but mainly to the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. None has, in fact, ventured more than a few hundred kilometres from Earth. The US-led Artemis programme, however, aims to return humans to the Moon this decade – with Artemis 1…

The real Paleo diet: new archaeological evidence changes what we thought about how ancient humans prepared food

Kit8.net/Shutterstock We humans can’t stop playing with our food. Just think of all the different ways of serving potatoes – entire books have been written about potato recipes alone. The restaurant industry was born from our love of flavouring food in new and interesting ways. My team’s analysis of the oldest charred food remains ever found show that jazzing up your dinner is a human habit dating back at least 70,000 years. Imagine ancient people sharing a meal. You would be forgiven for picturing people tearing into raw ingredients or maybe roasting meat over a fire as that is the…

Why we feel like Christmas comes around more quickly each year

How can it be December already. Luis Molinero/Shutterstock Think back to your childhood. December was the longest of months. It might have been filled with rehearsing school nativity performances, writing up your wishlist and savouring the morning’s advent calendar chocolate. But at times it felt like Santa would never arrive. As an adult it’s a different experience. One minute it’s summer holidays, barbecues and sunburn and then, in the blink of an eye, it’s mince pies, tinsel and turkey. Is it just me, or is Christmas coming around faster? If you cannot believe the festive season is upon us already,…

How to test if we’re living in a computer simulation

NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI Physicists have long struggled to explain why the universe started out with conditions suitable for life to evolve. Why do the physical laws and constants take the very specific values that allow stars, planets and ultimately life to develop? The expansive force of the universe, dark energy, for example, is much weaker than theory suggests it should be – allowing matter to clump together rather than being ripped apart. A common answer is that we live in an infinite multiverse of universes, so we shouldn’t be surprised that at least one universe has turned out as…

Mars: how we discovered two huge, unusual impact craters – and the secrets they unveil

InSight's dusty solar panel. NASA/JPL Most of the worlds of our Solar System are pockmarked with impact craters. These bear testament to the violence of the early days of the Sun, when asteroids, comets and entire planets routinely collided with and annihilated each other. Our own Moon was most likely formed by one of these collisions, and is itself home to the largest impact feature in the Solar System – the South Pole/Aitken Basin, some 2,500km across. Mars’ vast, flat northern deserts may too have formed during a gigantic collision some 4 billion years ago. Today’s Solar System is a…

Curious Kids: how many galaxies are there in the universe?

Sunti/Shutterstock How many galaxies are there beyond the Milky Way? – Rosella, aged 15, Hong Kong A galaxy is a massive collection of gas, dust and billions of stars all bound together by the force of gravity. Galaxies are also huge, measuring billions of billions of kilometres across. To properly understand what a galaxy is, we should start by looking at our own Milky Way galaxy. Our Sun is just one star out of billions of other stars contained within a galaxy called the Milky Way. In the same way that the Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun also orbits…

8 billion people: how different the world would look if Neanderthals had prevailed

Neanderthal reproduction in Trento Museum of Natural History Luca Lorenzelli/Shutterstock In evolutionary terms, the human population has rocketed in seconds. The news that it has now reached 8 billion seems inexplicable when you think about our history. For 99% of the last million years of our existence, people rarely came across other humans. There were only around 10,000 Neanderthals living at any one time. Today, there are around 800,000 people in the same space that was occupied by one Neanderthal. What’s more, since humans live in social groups, the next nearest Neanderthal group was probably well over 100km away. Finding…

Five things you probably have wrong about rain

UK weather can often be on the damp side Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock There’s been so much rain over the last few weeks it’s hard to believe much of the UK is in drought. Even as people trudge home drenched to the skin there are still hosepipe bans in place. After another record-breaking hot summer, UK reservoirs are still well below normal levels. In 2022 so far, the south of England has had 20% less rain than average. Talking about the weather may be a national pastime. But there are things even British people may not know about rain. 1. Rain drops…

Families of athletes with dementia linked to brain trauma on watching somebody you love disappear – Uncharted Brain podcast part 2

Traumatic brain injury from sports such as American football is linked with a form of dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Steve Jacobson/Shutterstock Dementia doesn’t just affect older people. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a form of dementia that athletes from a whole range of sports can develop. It’s now at the centre of a number of legal challenges involving sports from rugby to American football. We find out about the toll this type of dementia can take on family members, who are often unaware of what’s happening to their loved ones, in the second episode of Uncharted Brain: Decoding Dementia,…

How a study which began just after the end of the second world war is discovering clues to Alzheimer’s – Uncharted Brain podcast part 1

A study which began in 1946 is unlocking new clues to dementia. LightField Studios/Shutterstock Scientists have been doing an array of regular health checks on the same group of people since they were born in 1946 – the world’s longest running cohort study. Now the brains of some of its participants are revealing new insights into the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. We find out more in the first episode of Uncharted Brain: Decoding Dementia, a new podcast series available via The Anthill. Based on a representative sample of 5,362 babies all born in the same week in the UK…

8 billion people: how evolution made it happen

One in 8 billion oneinchpunch/Shutterstock November 15 2022 marks a milestone for our species, as the global population hits 8 billion. Just 70 years ago, within a human lifetime, there were only 2.5 billion of us. In AD1, fewer than one-third of a billion. So how have we been so successful? Humans are not especially fast, strong or agile. Our senses are rather poor, even in comparison to domestic livestock and pets. Instead, large brains and the complex social structures they underpin are the secrets of our success. They have allowed us to change the rules of the evolutionary game…

Honeybee lifespan could be half what it was 50 years ago – new study

Honeybees are vital pollinators BigBlueStudio/Shutterstock A new paper shows how the lifespan of the adult honeybee appears to have shrunk by nearly 50% in the past 50 years. The European Red List for Bees suggests nearly one in ten species of wild bees are facing extinction. Imagine how we would react if human lifespans halved. The equivalent would be if the average woman in the UK was living to 41 instead of 82 years old. Our future is intertwined with bees. Without bees and other pollinators, we cannot grow the majority of crops we depend on for food. This research…

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