Science Museum News posts – 2015 (part 2)

  • Civil Aviation Authority prohibits drones from flying too close to airports
  • Sections of solar plane journey will take days, so pilot only takes 20-minute naps
  • UK-built firsts on Bloodhound include a jet, a rocket, software and 3D-printed components
  • Health experts test for disease-carrying insects at seaports and airports
  • Russian space agency says failed rocket burned up in the atmosphere
  • Scientists say animal welfare has improved greatly
  • Philae lander is equipped with drills, radar, lasers and chemical probes
  • Pope Francis argues that we need to invest more in renewable energy

Lords debate drones
5th March 2015

droneI understand the need to register cars, as they’re big, dangerous things that can hurt people. But the House of Lords is pushing for registration of drone owners, even though most drones out there are little more than toy helicopters!

The Lords argue that requiring people to register their drones might stop criminal activity and make the skies safer. But some business and technology experts worry it would hold back the UK’s prospering drone industry.

Image: Flickr/minhocos



Solar plane soars
9th March 2015

lego planeAt 35,000 km the circumference of the world is a long way to travel. Embarking today, an experimental aeroplane, Solar Impulse-2, is going to make that journey by solar power alone. I’m very excited about this, partly because planes are cool, but mostly as it’s a giant leap forward for green technology.

The aeroplane is wider than a jumbo jet but less than 1% of the weight. However it can only hold one pilot and travels no faster than a car. But I’ve no doubt it’s the shape of things to come.

Image: Flickr/whiteafrican


Supersonic wheels

16th March 2015

bloodhoundThe average driving speed in central London is under 10 mph. So I’m surprised a British-built car will top 1000 mph next year! Bloodhound will accomplish this exciting feat riding on precision-engineered aluminium wheels weighing 91 kg, ten times heavier than ordinary car wheels.

The wheels will experience 50,000 times the pull of gravity as they spin beyond 170 revolutions per second, many times faster than wheels on an F1 car. At such high speed imperfections could be catastrophic, so the wheels are manufactured and tested by talented metallurgists. I can’t wait to see the test later this year…

Image: Stefan Marjoram/Siemens/Flock

Infectious mosquitoes in the UK?
23rd March 2015

mossyI can’t wait for warmer weather – the only downside is those pesky mosquitoes. But as annoying as biting bugs are, at least they don’t spread disease in the UK like they do in some other places… at least for now.

Some experts say warmer temperatures here mean we could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry tropical diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

However the climate is difficult to predict, so the experts aren’t certain what insects and diseases we might see. I don’t look forward to more bugs and bites!

Image: Flickr/treegrow

Risky Rockets
18th May 2015

rocketI’m a big fan of humankind’s drive to master space travel. So it’s a big blow when rockets crash, especially as Russia’s latest launch failure is the second in only a month.

A trusty Proton-M rocket crashed on Saturday shortly after launch. Further launches have been cancelled until the rockets can be declared safe.

The failed launch carried a Mexican communication satellite, but Proton-M rockets are also used by UK-based Global Xpress satellites – the UK’s largest ever space project. I hope the problems can be solved, as this hampers my dream of getting into space!

Image: Flickr/alexpgp

EU animal testing
4th June 2015

bunnyI don’t eat animals, but I do see the importance of animal testing for medical research.

The European Commission was under pressure from animal rights groups to make animal testing illegal for medical research. But it has decided that many scientific and medical advances would cease without it.

I wish we lived in a more advanced world where we could use computers to simulate experiments instead of perform them on animals. The European Commission shares this vision, but for now animals are the best way to ensure some medicines work.

Image: Flickr/Understanding Animal Research

Philae awakens
15th June 2015

philaeI’m immensely excited to hear that the Philae space probe has woken up after a seven-month slumber.

The probe originally landed on comet 67P in an area that obscured sunlight. Philae is solar powered, so after a few quick science experiments it went into hibernation until its host comet came closer to the Sun.

Now it’s back on line it will start probing the comet again with the help of the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft. Together they will test what the comet is made of so that scientists can explore how our Solar System began.

Image: DLR

Pope’s climate message
19th June 2015

pope statueI worry that pleas from climate scientists to tackle climate change are often ignored. So it’s reassuring when such a world-renowned figure as the Pope speaks out against climate change.

In his 184-page letter, Pope Francis explains the scientific evidence that humans are warming the planet. He’s also not shy of criticising our prevailing economic system, which he sees as putting profit before the planet.

While I personally think the Pope is not an authority on scientific matters, I hope his reach means people take climate change more seriously.

Image: Flickr/jetalone

These stories and more were originally published on the Science Museum website and interactive news gallery ‘Antenna‘.

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