Shortlisted for the 2014 Association of British Science Writers 2014 Awards for Journalism

10
Jun
2014

It is with great pleasure that I announce I have been shortlisted in the Association of British Science Writers 2014 Awards for Journalism.

My work features in the category of best feature. Called Ear on the Universe, the piece was edited by Valerie Jamieson and published by New Scientist on 21 October 2013. You can read the article here.

The winners will be announced at the ABSW Science Writers' Awards Ceremony on 18th June in London. I am humbled to be listed among writers whom I admire so much.

Read more about the awards and see the other category short-listers here.


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Scientists warn against China's plan to flatten over 700 mountains

05
Jun
2014

I have a new story posted over at the Guardian:

 

"Environmental consequences of removing hills to create more land for cities not considered, academics say in Nature paper

 

Scientists have criticised China's bulldozing of hundreds of mountains to provide more building land for cities.

In a paper published in journal Nature this week, three Chinese academics say plan to remove over 700 mountains and shovel debris into valleys to create 250 sq km of flat land has not been sufficiently considered “environmentally, technically or economically.”

Li Peiyue, Qian Hui and Wu Jianhua, all from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Chang’an University, China, write: “There has been too little modelling of the costs and benefits of land creation. Inexperience and technical problems delay projects and add costs, and the environment impacts are not being thoroughly considered.” ..."

 

Read the full story here.


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Genetic treatment using three-parent embryo may be ready in two years

03
Jun
2014

I've been asked to cover the science desk at The Guardian when the newspaper's other correspondents are unavailable. It means you will be seeing some non-astronomy stories popping up every now and again. I hope you enjoy these as much as the spacey stuff.

 

"Mitochondrial replacement is controversial because the law rules out all treatments on humans that require changing their DNA

 

A controversial technique involving three-parent embryos, designed to prevent incurable genetic diseases, could be ready within two years but unless the government changes the law, prospective parents will be prevented from using it, scientists say.

Mitochondrial disease afflicts around 100 babies born in the UK every year. It is incurable and passed from mother to child. Symptoms include heart, liver and kidney disease, blindness and deafness, neurological problems and dementia.

The experimental treatment, known as mitochondrial replacement, involves taking the genetic material from a man and a woman and cellular material from a third person to create an embryo. It exchanges the faulty mitochondria from the mother with those from a healthy donor. It is controversial because mitochondria carry a small amount of DNA, and the law currently rules out all treatments on humans that require changing their DNA. ..."

 

Read the full story here.


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Pulsating X-rays allow XMM-Newton to unmask a mysterious star

03
Jun
2014

I have a new story published by ESA:

 

"XMM-Newton has revealed a unique star. It is a celestial chimera with the body of a normal massive star yet the magnetic field of a dead, stellar dwarf. This makes it a singular object among the billions of known stars.

 

The race is now on to understand why it behaves in this way because the work hints at an unanticipated link between the deep interior of a star and the surrounding atmosphere. ..."

 

You can read the full article here.


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Mars volcano may have been site for life

28
May
2014

I have a new article published on my Across the Universe blog for The Guardian:

 

"Life on Mars could have flourished on the flanks of a giant Martian volcano in the relatively recent past

 

Geological landforms spotted on the flanks of a giant Martian volcano suggest that lakes could have existed there just 210m years ago. In geological terms, this is the recent past. On Earth at that time, the earliest dinosaurs were evolving as part of the late Triassic period.

No one is suggesting that there were dinosaurs on Mars. Instead, the researchers believe that the lakes could have been home to bacteria and other single-celled organisms. ..."

 

Read the full story here.


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Nasa would speak out if private manned missions to Mars too risky

19
May
2014

I have a new article published on my Across the Universe blog for The Guardian:

 

"Nasa says it will not regulate private missions to land people on Mars but would offer advice if it felt lives were in danger

It’s like an interplanetary re-telling of the famous tortoise and hare story. Nasa and the world’s other space agencies are pursuing a careful, long-winded programme aimed at landing astronauts on Mars by 2035. Private organisations, such as the not-for-profit Mars One, are claiming that they can do the same thing by 2025.

This distinct two-speed approach begs questions. Is Nasa being over-cautious? Are the private organisations being reckless? ..."

 

Read the full article here.


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