Category: Features

How ‘Big Cyclones’ Can Help Us

Given its location on the Atlantic seaboard of North America, Maine is no stranger to seasonal storms. I’ve lived through multiple hurricanes and a historic ice storm that paralysed my home state for weeks. In November, however, around 484,000 residents in Maine – nearly two-thirds of the state – were left in...

Nasa’s Plan to Save Earth from a Supervolcano

Lying beneath the tranquil settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at Nasa, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilisation as we know it: a...

The World of Circular Design

We live in a world full of waste but what if the products we used were all repackaged or resold when they needed to be replaced? Welcome to the circular economy. The circular economy Waste is a huge problem. In December 2017 plastic in our oceans was dubbed a “planetary crisis” by...

A Split Town

Step into the Haskell Library and you’d easily mistake it for a typical small-town American library. Sure, it’s a bit more elegant, with original woodwork from 1905 and upholstered reading chairs but, still, a library like any other. Soon, though, questions nag. Why do the librarians toggle effortlessly between English and French?...

The Ocean after Dark

Moonlight triggers the world’s biggest orgy, strange creatures emerge from the depths, and waves glow blue. Some phenomena in the ocean can only be witnessed after dark. Bioluminescence makes the sea shimmer You may have seen the pictures. It’s night-time in an impossibly exotic location. Waves are breaking on the...

Let Go and Feel Less Pain

I often write about finding lightness in life. It can come from an unhurried but effective day at work. It can come from uncluttering and simplifying both your home and life. Or from letting go of distractions or huge mental burdens (that can also become physical as stress and worries pile up)....

The Dogs behind the Space Race

The engineers who sealed Laika into a narrow, windowless Sputnik 2 space capsule on 3 November 1957 knew it was the last time they would ever see her. Following the success of Sputnik 1 on 4 October, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had ordered a dog be flown within a month....

If Dinosaurs Would Still Around

It was the kind of cataclysm that we can scarcely imagine. When an asteroid 15km-wide (nine miles) slammed into planet Earth 66 million years ago, it struck with a force equivalent to about 10 billion Hiroshima bombs. A radioactive fireball seared everything for hundreds of miles in every direction and...

The Dark Side of Night Lights

In 1994, an earthquake knocked out power in Los Angeles, Calif. In the days that followed, concerned residents reported a giant cloud of silvery light stretching across the night sky. Some worried that the mysterious sight was somehow related to the earthquake. These people had lived in the large, brightly...

Architecture Affects How You Feel

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us,” mused Winston Churchill in 1943 while considering the repair of the bomb-ravaged House of Commons. More than 70 years on, he would doubtless be pleased to learn that neuroscientists and psychologists have found plenty of evidence to back him up....

Skyscrapers in Plants

The city that until recently Italians would dismiss as ‘grey’ is becoming ever more verdant thanks to the creative minds of designers and architects. Let’s have a look how it happened. New look for an old city Italy’s second biggest city is reinventing itself, with a shining horizon of brand-new...

The Mysterious Greek Island

I caught my first glimpse of Spinalonga four years ago from a steep hilltop overlooking the sleepy village of Plaka in north-eastern Crete. The diminutive 8.5-hectare islet in the Gulf of Mirabello stood completely in shadow, dark and foreboding as if blackened by coal, while the butterscotch-hued Spinalonga Peninsula that...

The Perfect Battery

Batteries symbolize our love affair with convenience. They liberate us from wires by juicing up our smartphones, laptops and cars. With gadgets fully charged, we can go anywhere, do anything. One hundred percent power feels secure. But when the charge runs dry, we’re screwed. The good news? Engineers are trying...

Where Internet Warms Homes

“The cloud” is a real place. The pictures you post on Instagram, the happy birthday wishes you leave on Facebook pages, and the TV shows you stream on Netflix aren’t living in a nebulous ball of condensation in the sky. They live on a massive series of servers – all...

Motivate Yourself Smart and Simple Ways

Some days you wake up motivated and ready to go. And some days things feel heavy as you arise and it is hard to get going and find that inner drive. At least in my experience. So over the past 10+ years I have found some simple and smart strategies...

AI Coming to Help

For some, the spread of artificial intelligence and robotics poses a threat to our privacy, our jobs – even our safety, as more and more tasks are handed over to silicon-based brains. But even the most vocal critics highlight the potential good that AI and automated systems could do for humanity. A...

In The Home of Spiders

“I suppose it’s quite a lot of spiders…” Alistair McGregor says casually, rotating his hand to catch a plump, leggy female who is making a bid for freedom. “We can never have too many though – they eat each other.” It is in the spider room at his lab in...

Somaliland Going Cashless

Half a dozen men crowd round one of the many small colourful wooden shacks off a main street in Hargeisa, Somaliland, shouting and arguing over the quality of khat – a mild narcotic that has been likened to both coffee and cocaine – that they’ve just been hastily handed by...

Take Action Every Day

One of the biggest and most common problems with improving your life or the success you want out of is that you may not take consistent action over a longer time period. Now, consistency isn’t the sexiest or most exciting word. But it is, coupled with time, what will give you...