Where did our sense of curiosity come from?

My recent article for I-M on solar eclipses and the Fermi paradox is now available online. As Daniel C Dennett, a philosopher and cognitive scientist, has observed, searching for explanations is a central feature of our species. Where does our sense of curiosity come from? As an exercise in fun speculation, I propose it couldContinue reading “Where did our sense of curiosity come from?”

The pump of curiosity

The summer 2020 issue of I-M Intelligent Magazine… … includes “an exercise in fun speculation” by me on a potential link between solar eclipses and the Fermi paradox. According to the Copernican principle, there is nothing special about the earth’s place in the universe. Except for the awkward fact that — on current evidence —Continue reading “The pump of curiosity”

Can you solve this logical-thinking puzzle?

Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute For anyone locked down and in need of some mental exercise, here’s a quick Japanese challenge. If you only speak English, the puzzle is impossible to solve. If, however, you speak Spanish — or one of a number of other languages, including French, Welsh or Hindi — it becomes an exerciseContinue reading “Can you solve this logical-thinking puzzle?”

Helping African children become radio astronomers, and other stories

Image: NASA/EOS/GSFC I’ve written a piece for EarthSky about last month’s International Astronomical Union Symposium on Astronomy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: https://earthsky.org/human-world/iau-symposium-diversity-inclusion-astronomy The article focusses on two stories from two continents. Ikechukwu Anthony Obi — from the Center for Basic Space Science at Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency — is finding cleverContinue reading “Helping African children become radio astronomers, and other stories”

The top ten ephemeral moments in the sky

As part of the build-up to next week’s Mercury transit, I’ve put together a list for Sky & Telescope on the top ten fleeting phenomena in astronomy… https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/top-ten-ephemeral-moments-sky/ At Number 10: An Overhead Pass of the International Space Station. Image: Bob King. Coming soon: there will be a lovely ‘ephemeral moment’ at the end ofContinue reading “The top ten ephemeral moments in the sky”

Physics at the movies

The November 2019 Physics World is a special issue on “Physics at the movies – the science behind the scenes”. Among the highlights: Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe talks to friend and physicist Jess Wade about what it’s like as an actor to work with visual effects (VFX), from 3D body mapping to green screensContinue reading “Physics at the movies”

How ‘the little stuff’ helps language learners

Later this month the Japanese publisher CosmoPier is bringing out a special magazine on foreign TV dramas that can help people learn English. I was asked to write a piece about the BBC comedy The Office. How can The Office help learners improve their English skills? I quoted the show’s creators, Ricky Gervais and StephenContinue reading “How ‘the little stuff’ helps language learners”

Wish you were here? 7 chances to experience totality in the 2020s

My latest piece for Physics World is a travel guide to the seven total solar eclipses of the 2020s. Link: https://physicsworld.com/a/wish-you-were-here-seven-chances-to-experience-a-total-solar-eclipse-in-the-2020s/ Luxor, on the banks of the River Nile in Egypt, will enjoy 6 minutes 22 seconds of totality on 2 August 2027. (Image: Mahmoud Algazzar)