Cathal O’Connell

Cathal O’Connell

Cathal O'Connell is a science writer based in Melbourne.

Cathal is a science writer, with a background in physics, who is based in Melbourne. He is also a researcher at St Vincent’s Hospital where he is developing technology to 3-D print body parts.  Through science writing he gives voice to an inner child still obsessed with space, relativity and quantum mechanics.

  • Quantum computing for the qubit curious

    Quantum computers could change the world.

    What is quantum computing? Regular computers operate according to strict rules of logic. But tiny quantum objects – s...

    July 5, 2019
  • The future of in-space manufacturing

    Hoisting heavy machinery into space is expensive.

    The great advantage of being a crew member in Star Trek was that you had “replicators” to create any object you neede...

    January 31, 2019
  • The ray-gun is no longer science fiction

    The idea of the ray-gun has been central to science-fiction for decades. Now it’s science fact. C...

    “However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of ...

    October 2, 2018
  • Technologies inspired by nature

    Nature has come up with some solutions for everything.

    HIVE MIND GRID Though nobody ever tells them what to do, bees in a hive instinctively sense what jobs need doing and ...

    July 9, 2018
  • A telescope the size of the Earth

    A combination of nine radio telescopes around the globe promises to produce the best ever image o...

    The most ferocious storm in our galaxy rages right at its centre. It is a maelstrom hotter than any star: a swirling ...

    July 8, 2018
  • A bird? A plane? Car, actually.

    One dream of automotive futurists has never really taken off. Cathal O’Connell has high hopes the...

    Pull out of your driveway, push a button and take off. The flying car is a futuristic dream that has long been just o...

    May 24, 2018
  • The search for cosmic strings

    Galaxy-sized filaments of raw energy may be threaded through spacetime.

    Our universe exploded into being, expanded at a fantastic speed and cooled. Perhaps too quickly. Some physicists beli...

    April 24, 2018
  • Reusable rockets explained

    Reusable rockets can slash the cost of getting into space.

    The bottom of the ocean is a rocket graveyard – littered with the expended shells of thousands of rockets used to sen...

    February 6, 2018
  • Supernova simulation shows source of cosmic rays and solar flares

    Physicists have taken an important step towards creating a tiny stellar explosion in the laborato...

    Shockwaves in plasma can whizz particles up to tremendous speeds, according to new computer simulations that confirm ...

    November 16, 2017
  • Spin doctors summon coppers in quantum computing caper

    After 40 years of trying, scientists are finally getting the hang of a very weird state of matter...

    Imagine three toddlers, but only two toys to share between them. The result? Three frustrated toddlers. Using this ba...

    October 26, 2017
  • Universe’s underlying symmetry still baffling

    Magnetic differences between matter and antimatter do not explain why the universe actually exist...

    One of the great mysteries of modern physics is why antimatter – particles with reversed electric charge that destroy...

    October 22, 2017
  • Universe shouldn’t exist, say CERN physicists

    Proton and antiproton have identical magnetic properties.

    One of the great mysteries of modern physics is why antimatter did not destroy the universe at the beginning of time....

    October 22, 2017
  • World’s greatest game-playing computer thrashed by its next-gen

    The program that beat the human champion of the fiendishly difficult game Go has itself been beat...

    In a development eerily reminiscent of Skynet’s evolution in The Terminator, the world’s greatest Go-playing computer...

    October 18, 2017
  • Closing in on dark matter

    Dogged physicists are methodically sweeping through all the places where the elusive particles ma...

    One Saturday I hired a metal detector and drove four hours to the historic gold-rush town of Bright in Victoria, Aust...

    October 17, 2017
  • Gravitational waves snare trio of physicists the Nobel prize

    The favourites have, indeed, won – Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne were awarded the 201...

    Rainer Weiss (left) and Kip Thorne at the announcement of the first detection of gravitational waves in February 2016...

    October 3, 2017
  • The world’s biggest X-ray laser blasts into action

    With X-ray pulses a million billion times brighter than the Sun, the European XFEL will unlock ne...

    It’s on. The world’s most powerful X-ray laser, the European X-ray Free Electron Laser, has blasted its first sample....

    September 14, 2017
  • How big is the universe?

    There is no bigger empirical question in astrophysics than how big space is. Cathal O'Connell pro...

    “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a lo...

    July 17, 2017
  • CubeSats: exploring other planets on a budget

    Space missions used to be so expensive only superpowers could afford them. Thanks to CubeSats thi...

    “Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win t...

    May 25, 2017
  • Using Einstein’s ‘spooky action at a distance’ to hear ripples in spacetime

    Quantum entanglement could help improve gravitational wave detectors beyond the quantum limit. Ca...

    The new technique will aid in the detection of gravitational waves caused by colliding black holes.Henze / NASAIn new...

    May 16, 2017
  • Telepathic computer reads your mind to see what you see

    Brain imaging data provides a new window on the mind. Cathal O’Connell reports.

    A new algorithm can analyse brain scans to determine what someone is looking at.Detroit Free Press / GettyScientists ...

    May 8, 2017
  • Physicists breed Schrödinger’s cats to find boundaries of the quantum realm

    Scientists hope to find the dividing line between quantum mechanics and common-sense reality. Cat...

    Entangled cats? Stranger things could happen if quantum rules scaled up to the everyday world.Ryan Schneider / GettyW...

    May 1, 2017
  • Fighting the common fate of humans: to better life and beat death

    Are we ready for transhuman bodies and the real possibility of conquering death?

    The oldest surviving great work of literature tells the story of a Sumerian king, Gilgamesh, whose historical equival...

    May 1, 2017
  • Reaching for the stars: the top ideas in space travel

    The latest projects funded by NASA read like a sci-fi anthology, reports Cathal O’Connell

    A starship drive, a vacuum airship, solar surfing. NASA has awarded funding to 22 new projects as part of the NASA In...

    April 24, 2017
  • How to 3D print optical-grade glass

    German researchers use new method to 3D print microscopic glass lenses and more, writes Cathal O’...

    A demonstration of the heat resistance of a printed glass structure.Kotz et al. / NeptunLabAncient material meets adv...

    April 20, 2017
  • Astronomers detect faintest ever early-universe galaxy

    The discovery sheds light on the epoch of re-ionisation and used a giant cluster of galaxies as a...

    A Hubble Space Telescope image showing gravitational lensing of a blue background galaxy.NASA/HSTSometimes an ordinar...

    April 10, 2017
  • Nano-holes punch a path to photonic computing

    A new technique - punching nanoscale holes in silicon wafers - speeds up data transfers and bring...

    A computer-generated image modeling the propagation of photons through a silicon wafer after they enter a tapered nan...

    April 3, 2017
  • Superfluid storm erupts

    A superfluid stirred will never stop. Everyone knows that, right? Wrong. Cathal O'Connell explains.

    Superfluids experience mini-tornadoes that cause them to lose momentum.Jalifree/Getty ImagesOne of the major discover...

    March 28, 2017
  • Two quantum physicists walk in and out of a bar …

    Can humour be reduced to a pure equation? And what do dead cats have to do with it? Cathal O'Conn...

    Are puns an expression of quantum weirdness?Getty ImagesOne of the great mysteries of the human mind is surely the pu...

    March 20, 2017
  • Absence of dark matter startles astronomers

    The spin of extremely old and distant galaxies shows they are dominated by regular matter rather ...

    A spiral galaxy.NASAWe know that galaxies today move according to the wishes of an invisible choreographer—the myster...

    March 16, 2017
  • Star Trek, Dr Who inspire quantum cleverness

    Science fiction inspiration has led to a diamond-studded detection device. Cathal O'Connell reports.

    Who knew? Star Trek's tricorder is one step closer to reality.Joe HauptInspired by Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver and the...

    March 9, 2017
  • A new form of matter: scientists create the first supersolid

    Enter the supersolid: a paradoxical material that flows easily like a superfluid, but is crystall...

    Illustration of a supersolid state, in which the properties of a frictionless fluid and a crystalline state coincide....

    March 6, 2017
  • In the quantum world, identity is a hazy concept

    Physicists have discovered that making one atom look like another is all a trick of the light. Ca...

    Calculations show that a carefully engineered laser pulse can induce an atom to emit light as if it were a different ...

    February 27, 2017
  • Disney develops wireless electricity

    Soon you might be able to charge your phone just by entering a room, and it's not a Mickey Mouse ...

    Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland depicts a high-tech future – thanks to Disney it's more likely to be a wireless on...

    February 24, 2017
  • Scientists SMASH five of the biggest mysteries of modern physics

    An absurdly ambitious new theory extends the standard model of particle physics, Cathal O'Connell...

    APSIt’s five theories for the price of one. One of the most ambitious physics theories in recent times claims to have...

    February 19, 2017
  • A 600-year-old quantum experiment in the stars

    A new experimental Bell test used distant starlight to dictate how entangled photons on Earth wer...

    Two stars in the Milky Way galaxy acted as 'cosmic setting generators' in an experiment of quantum entanglement.bjdlz...

    February 16, 2017
  • Sun’s own light may be slowing its surface spin

    Is this the answer to a 20-year mystery? Cathal O'Connell reports.

    The sun, snapped by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory on 28 March 2013. Its outer layers rotate slower than those belo...

    February 6, 2017
  • A giant of physics takes string theory, quantum mechanics and inflation to task

    In ‘Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe’, Roger Penrose asks hard quest...

    NON-FICTION Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose Princeton University Press...

    February 4, 2017
  • An extragalactic void is shoving our galaxy from behind

    What causes some galaxies to speed along faster than others? The answer, it turns out, is nothing...

    An artist's impression of the Milky Way galaxy. There's a large region of nothing in our extragalactic neighbourhood ...

    January 30, 2017
  • Physicists make something from nothing with ‘virtual’ particles

    'Squeezed light' could make for even more sensitive gravitational wave detectors. Cathal O'Connel...

    There's never nothing in an empty kettle – even if it contains a vacuum.Glow Decor / Getty ImagesOne of the more absu...

    January 22, 2017
  • Quantum oracle: AI predicts and fixes qubit failure

    Machine learning kept unstable quantum bits in line – even before they wavered. Cathal O'Connell ...

    Qubits hold great processing potential but are too delicate to be useful yet. This may change, thanks to artificial i...

    January 16, 2017
  • Robot security guards: can they keep us safe?

    Almost 30 years since Robocop hit our screens, robot security guards like Knightscope’s K5 could ...

    Anthony CalvertED-209 Enforcement Droid: [menacingly] Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply. Alm...

    January 11, 2017
  • Laser excites antimatter atoms for first time

    Antihydrogen, trapped in a vacuum chamber, acts just like normal hydrogen when bathed in light. C...

    Electrodes (gold) for the ALPHA penning trap being inserted into the vacuum chamber and cryostat assembly. This is th...

    December 19, 2016
  • New theory of ‘dark gravity’ passes first test, but Einstein’s still on top

    A Dutch theoretical physicist's alternative to the general theory of relativity has been supporte...

    Gravitational lensing caused by the Abell 2218 cluster of galaxies. Its incredible mass magnifies and distorts galaxi...

    December 12, 2016
  • After the LHC, which will be crowned King Collider?

    Particle physics is petrolhead science – a particle-revving, high-octane demolition derby near th...

    The Large Hadron Collider has captured the attention and imagination of this generation of physicists, but its reign ...

    December 11, 2016
  • Was the speed of light faster at the beginning of the universe?

    Physicists challenge the theory of inflation and Einstein's special relativity to explain the uni...

    Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity stated the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating obser...

    December 5, 2016
  • NASA measured ‘impossible’ EM thrust – but is it really a big deal?

    The copper bucket that supposedly breaks physics has finally passed peer-review. But, Cathal O'Co...

    The 'copper bucket' – or EM drive prototype – in a vacuum chamber.NASATwo years ago, NASA scientists announced they m...

    November 28, 2016
  • Quantum records fall: most entangled photons plus ‘twistiest’ light

    Physicists split and twirled light to generate the most entangled photons to date. Cathal O'Conne...

    One team entangled multiple photons – not two, or three, or even eight, but 10 – while another used mirrors to send p...

    November 21, 2016
  • Space starshade to better see exoplanets

    A flower-like starshade could give astronomers a direct look at planets orbiting distant stars. C...

    Anthony CalvertForty billion. That’s the number of habitable, Earth-like planets in our galaxy. But do any of them ho...

    November 14, 2016
  • Flitting chemical bond makes giant butterfly molecules

    An electron corrals a nearby atom closer, creating a supersized molecule – for a fraction of a se...

    A simplified diagram of electrons orbiting a nucleus. Physicists 'bumped' an electron into a very wide orbit which ci...

    November 14, 2016
  • Have scientists side-stepped the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

    Physicists have moved closer to a ‘quantum perpetual motion machine’ – at least on paper. Cathal ...

    Physicists have been trying to subvert the Second Law for years with the aim of making a perpetual motion machine.Sci...

    November 7, 2016
  • Can corkscrewing lasers solve an enduring particle physics mystery?

    A physicist may have finally figured out how to create as-yet evasive magnetic monopoles. Actuall...

    Physicists, such as those at the now-defunct Monopole, Astrophysics and Cosmic Ray Observatory at the Gran Sasso Nati...

    November 2, 2016
  • Dark energy may not exist, new supernova analysis says

    But, Cathal O'Connell writes, the 2011 Nobel physics laureates shouldn’t return their prize just ...

    G299.2-2.9 is thought to be a remnant of a Type 1a supernova – a cosmic milepost of uniform brightness. Such supernov...

    October 25, 2016
  • Spinning galaxies question existence of dark matter

    New 'law of nature' predicts galaxy rotation using visible matter alone, but don’t turf out the i...

    X-rays and visible light from the radio galaxy 3C31, located 240 million light-years from Earth. Calculating how fast...

    October 17, 2016
  • Computer solves a major time travel problem

    The ‘grandfather paradox’ of time travel has been puzzling philosophers, quantum physicists and n...

    Rachel Husband / Getty ImagesIt is more than 120 years since H.G. Wells published The Time Machine, the novel that wa...

    October 10, 2016
  • HyperCells: buildings that can build themselves

    Smart bricks that can self-assemble into structures could be the key to future disaster relief. C...

    anthony calvertPicture this scenario: two hours after a bridge is destroyed in an earthquake, its replacement arrives...

    October 9, 2016
  • Topology explained – and why you’re a donut

    Can't make head nor tails of the field that won three researchers the Nobel Prize in Physics? Cat...

    Thors Hans Hansson, member of the Nobel Committee for Physics, uses a pretzel, a bagel and a bun to visualise aspects...

    October 7, 2016
  • Mini blobs of ancient dark matter may throw light on Big Bang

    Primordial clumps of the mysterious stuff could help piece together what happened during the firs...

    An artist's impression of a pulsar – a magnetised star that rapidly spins, producing a lighthouse-like 'blink' that s...

    October 3, 2016
  • Stopped light means go for quantum computers (eventually)

    ‘Stationary light’ could lead to quantum logic gates – building blocks for quantum computers. Cat...

    A cold cloud of atoms (red smear in the centre) holds light in place.Ben Buchler / ANUAustralian physicists have brou...

    September 26, 2016
  • Physicists build mirrors from just 1,000 atoms

    But don’t expect to see your face in one – this is for making optical circuits and quantum comput...

    A conceptual drawing of how optical circuits may look in future computers.RICHARD KAIL/Getty ImagesMirror, mirror in ...

    September 26, 2016
  • Quantum hotline: information ‘teleported’ across cities

    Two milestone studies demonstrate quantum teleportation across existing metropolitan fibre networ...

    Two studies show entangled photons – which are linked across space and time – can be used with existing fibre infrast...

    September 19, 2016
  • Glimpses of the Madala boson: have we detected the dark Higgs?

    Cathal O'Connell explores another exciting but somewhat shaky claim from the frantic world of par...

    Is the Madala boson to dark matter what the Higgs is to 'normal' matter? A team of physicists thinks so – but CERN is...

    September 12, 2016
  • The many potential lives of ‘Earth-twin’ planet Proxima b

    It's been called humanity's best chance for a second planet, but two NASA papers suggest life on ...

    This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Cent...

    September 5, 2016
  • Alien megastructure ‘discovery’: a review of the facts

    Two recent stories suggest extraterrestrial life is alive and well – and advanced enough to build...

    An artist's impression of a Dyson sphere – a collection of energy-harvesting components built around a sun by an alie...

    August 31, 2016
  • Have physicists discovered a fifth force of nature?

    If true, this would be a revolution of almost Einsteinian proportions. But don’t fall off your ch...

    PASIEKA / Getty ImagesAt first glance, the news is ground-breaking. A team of American particle physicists, building ...

    August 22, 2016
  • Five physics lessons for Olympic athletes

    The Olympics are a stirring demonstration of human physical achievement – and physics. Cathal O'C...

    Czech Republic's Michal Balner masterfully transforms kinetic energy into gravitational potential energy.FRANCK FIFE ...

    August 15, 2016
  • Tantalising LHC ‘blip’ not a particle after all

    Hints of an exotic new particle disappear in a deluge of new data from the Large Hadron Collider....

    New particle ... or nothing at all? Unfortunately, a bump in a graph from the Large Hadron Collider turned out to be ...

    August 8, 2016
  • ‘Tractor beams’ build atom-by-atom assembly in mid-air

    Physicists have manipulated 50 individual atoms at once in a dramatic upscaling of a technique vi...

    The starship Enterprise using its tractor beam in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Quantum physicists ha...

    July 25, 2016
  • Latest search for dark matter draws a blank

    While the Large Underground Xenon, or LUX, experiment found nothing, at least we now know a littl...

    Physicists assemble the LUX (Large Underground Xenon) detector deep inside the Homestake mine.John B. Carnett/Bonnier...

    July 21, 2016
  • What shape are photons? Holography sheds light

    Physicists created a hologram of a single light particle.

    Imagine a shaft of yellow sunlight beaming through a window. Quantum physics tells us that beam is made of zillions o...

    July 20, 2016
  • Gravity tested for the first time with quantum spin

    An atomic level version of Galileo’s Tower of Pisa experiment will force a rethink of some theori...

    Italian astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei performs his legendary experiment – dropping a cannonball and a wood...

    July 11, 2016
  • How pear-shaped nuclei may help search for antimatter

    Physicists have added to the physics fruit bowl with an extremely rare, bulged atomic nucleus. Ca...

    Westend61 / Getty ImagesPhysicists have found an isotope of the element barium with an extremely rare pear-shaped nuc...

    July 7, 2016
  • CERN finds four new X particles – how big a deal is this?

    Physicists at CERN have discovered a family of new 'exotic' particles. Cathal O’Connell assesses ...

    The LHCb particle detector magnet.CERN/SPL CERN/SPLWhat’s just happened?Physicists at CERN have discovered four new “...

    July 4, 2016
  • New models present the universe as Einstein saw it

    Physicists ditch approximations and model the universe in its full relativistic, high-definition ...

    MIKKI RAIN / SPL / Getty ImagesEinstein’s full theory of general relativity has been used to precisely model the univ...

    June 27, 2016
  • Quantum effects are key to DNA electronics

    Could the molecule of life become the molecule of electronics? Scientists have taken another step...

    Alex BelomlinskyThe patterns of DNA base pairs, which code our genes, can also be used to tune the flow of electricit...

    June 20, 2016
  • What is light?

    Electromagnetic wave, photons... What does all this mean?

    Imagine you’re in a park, looking at a leaf on the branch of a tree. We know light bounces off the leaf to your eye t...

    June 13, 2016
  • The dark side of the universe – a primer

    With dark matter, dark energy, phantom matter and even a dark force, physics news can sometimes s...

    VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARYOver the past 40 years astronomers have realised that everything we can s...

    June 6, 2016
  • Universe is expanding faster than physics can explain

    Astronomers have calculated the most precise measurement of how fast the Universe is expanding an...

    Cepheid variable stars in this spiral galaxy, known as UGC 9391, and a Type Ia supernova (not visible in this image) ...

    June 3, 2016
  • Sky nets: the new anti-drone defence system

    Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can be a risk to security, but shooting them down is not alway...

    anthony CalvertIn the wee hours of January 2015, a drone crashed on the lawn of the White House causing a major panic...

    June 1, 2016
  • Resistance is futile: the super science of superconductivity

    From maglev trains to prototype hoverboards and the Large Hadron Collider – superconductors are f...

    A superconducting ceramic operates at the relatively high temperature of 123 Kelvin in a Japanese lab.TAKESHI TAKAHAR...

    May 30, 2016
  • First contact: How we’ll get the news that we found aliens

    Cathal O’Connell explains the challenges that will face scientists when they break the biggest ne...

    However unlikely contact with aliens may be, scientists are thinking about how they would break the news to a nervous...

    May 23, 2016
  • AI learns Nobel prize-winning quantum experiment

    Physicists using artificial intelligence to run a complex experiment could be putting themselves ...

    The orange cloud, just right of centre, is the Bose-Einstein condensate of supercold atoms – thanks to AI.Stuart Hay ...

    May 17, 2016
  • Five visionary ideas inspired by sci-fi

    Some of fiction's technological inventions were so richly imagined they virtually demanded their ...

    “Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real.”  - Jules VerneMany scientists chose their profession ...

    May 16, 2016
  • Particle physics: a primer to the theory of (almost) everything

    Are you a boson bozo? Do quarks leave you quizzical? Do gluons get you unstuck? Cathal O'Connell ...

    Graphic of a transverse section through a detector showing one of the numerous particle collision events recorded dur...

    May 9, 2016
  • Equations that changed the course of history

    Pivotal points in human innovation advance.

    Physics equations are forms of magic. They allow us to explain the past, such as why Halley’s comet visits every 76 y...

    May 3, 2016
  • Getting primed for fusion power

    Cracking fusion power would be one of the great technological achievements of the 21st century, p...

    An artist’s concept view of the interior of the ITER reaction vessel. – DAVID PARKER/Getty Images Fusion po...

    April 26, 2016
  • Driving the quantum data bus

    Australian scientists have come up with a way to create the vital system that shuttles informatio...

    Quantum information is encoded in single particles of light or photons. The perfect state transfer is applied to one ...

    April 19, 2016
  • How lasers can spot a dirty bomb in the making

    A new device can pick up radioactive signatures hundreds of metres away. Cathal O'Connell rep...

    Radiation is currently picked up by devices such as Geiger counters. But with a range of only a few metres, they're n...

    April 15, 2016
  • 10 technologies inspired by nature

    After 3.5 billion years of intensive R&D, nature has come up with some ingenious solutions for ev...

    An SEM of Velcro shows its similarity to burdock hooks. – Science Photo Library 1. VelcroIn 1941, Swiss ele...

    April 12, 2016
  • Holograms for everyday use

    Augmented reality devices are set to change the way we see the world. Cathal O’Connell explains w...

    Anthony Calvert As the hairdresser holds up a tablet computer to show you your ‘reflection’, you flick your...

    April 7, 2016
  • Five ways to travel through time

    Travel to the past is probably impossible. But to the future?

    In 2009 the British physicist Stephen Hawking held a party for time travellers – the twist was he sent out the invite...

    April 5, 2016
  • Rocket man zooms closer

    Buying a jetpack of your own will soon be possible. Cathal O’Connell explains the technology.

    Anthony Calvert On 3 November last year tourists visiting the Statue of Liberty were startled to see a man ...

    April 4, 2016
  • Quantum insight into world’s smelliest superconductor

    It might make you gag, but rotten egg gas has the physics world excited. Cathal O'Connell rep...

    Brand New Images / Getty Images Hydrogen sulfide, the molecule that gives rotten eggs their gag-inducing sm...

    March 29, 2016
  • Higgsino or hallucination? New particle detected at CERN … maybe

    After the excitement of the Higgs boson discovery in 2013, a new, unexpected particle may open a ...

    Has the world's largest atom smasher found a new, surprise particle? Well ... – Harold Cunningham / Getty Images ...

    March 22, 2016
  • NASA’s plans for deep space propulsion

    10 of the most feasible options available.

    Ion drives, solar sails, fission and fusion ... some of the ideas for powering the next generation of spacecraft have...

    March 18, 2016
  • One small step for bio-bots

    Use it or lose it: steerable miniature worm-like robots built with live muscle cells get stronger...

    Meet a new class of modular muscle-powered walking bio-bots that respond to light. – Ritu Raman, University of Illino...

    March 15, 2016
  • On-chip laser that could have your computer working at the speed of light

    British physicists have made a breakthrough that brings the holy grail of 'silicon photonics&...

    If you’re lucky enough to have a broadband connection by fibre optic cable, you already know about the speed of photo...

    March 8, 2016
  • Will this quantum computer take down internet banking?

    Is this the beginning of the end for online transactions? Physicists claim they've built a sc...

    "SCIENTISTS FACTOR THE NUMBER 15."Hardly a headline to grab the popular imagination. But when it’s done by a quantum ...

    March 4, 2016
  • Quantum physics for the terminally confused

    A primer to some bewildering, but vital concepts.

    Does quantum physics melt your brain? First, don’t panic. You’re not alone in your confuddlement. As legendary physic...

    February 29, 2016
  • A different picture of quantum surrealism

    New research supports an old, more intuitive theory of how sub-atomic particles behave. Cathal O&...

    With its ideas of particles zipping in and out of existence, quantum mechanics is probably the kookiest-sounding theo...

    February 21, 2016
  • How does LIGO look for gravitational waves?

    Think of it as the most sensitive ruler in the galaxy, and it could be on the verge of proving th...

    A time-exposure representation of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), in Livingston, Loui...

    February 11, 2016
  • The hyperloop alternative to a very fast train

    A cheaper, swifter means of mass transit by land is on the horizon. By Cathal O’Connell.

    Anthony Calvert You step inside the sleek silvery pod, settle back in your seat. There’s a slight shudder a...

    December 15, 2015
  • Launching a solar sail

    A solar sail uses photons from the Sun to propel its flight in space. By Cathal O’Connell.

    Stowed for launch into space, the LightSail's solar sail folds into a space just 10 x 10 x 20 centimetre in size (lef...

    November 9, 2015
  • Shape-shifting neutrinos that led to a Nobel Prize

    Two scientists who delved into the peculiar habits of neutrinos have upset the standard model of ...

    Takaaki Kajita, co-winner of the Nobel prize in physics for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that ...

    October 19, 2015
  • How a human can climb like a gecko

    Humans will be able to scale sheer glass walls – with gecko-inspired technology. By Cathal O’Conn...

    Anthony Calvert Elliot Hawkes clings to the sheer wall of glass, the ground looming vertiginously below. He...

    September 7, 2015
  • Meet our Solar System’s twin

    A planetary system with a gas giant like Jupiter in an outer orbit and a Sun just like our own ha...

    This chart shows most of the stars visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cetus (The Whale). The location o...

    August 3, 2015
  • Found: the first stars in creation

    Their short, intense lives ended in giant supernova explosions that formed the first traces of ca...

    Artist’s concept of the first stars in the Universe. New data suggest these stars persisted far longer than many scie...

    July 6, 2015
  • Saved by an ambulance drone

    Built for speed, this new flying doctor leaves paramedics in its wake. By Cathal O’Connell.

    Illustration Anthony Calvert CAMERAThe front-mounted camera gives the pilot a bird’s-eye view to help navig...

    June 29, 2015
  • Time travel and the single atom

    Researchers have confirmed one of the most profound thought experiments of quantum physics. Catha...

    Andrew Truscott (left) and Ph.D. student Roman Khakimov have conducted an experiment that seems to show the past beha...

    June 22, 2015
  • Metal with a memory

    Scientists develop a new alloy that can return to its original shape – even if it’s been mangled ...

    Shape-memory metals can 'remember' their original shape. When a straightened Nitinol wire is dipped in hot water, it ...

    June 8, 2015
  • Making a robot with bat powers

    Engineers wanting to replicate a horseshoe bat's amazing sonar skills made a robot with the s...

    The horseshoe bat has an echolocation system so sophisticated that acoustic engineers do not know how it works. – Adi...

    May 25, 2015
  • Cosmic rays reveal thunderstorm secrets

    High-energy particles flying across the cosmos are providing clues to how thunderstorms work. Cat...

    We don't know what triggers lightning bolts, but physicists hope cosmic rays might provide an answer. – GETTY IMAGES ...

    May 11, 2015
  • The most accurate clock ever made

    A strontium clock can tick for 15 billion years and not lose a second. Cathal O’Connell reports.

    Building the world's most accurate clock is no simple task. At the clock's ticking heart is a chamber filled with str...

    May 4, 2015
  • Breakthrough for quantum computers

    Quantum computing in silicon has moved a step closer to becoming a reality. Cathal O'Connell ...

    Andrea Morello at work. The computer he and his team are trying to build would use silicon chips not dissimilar to th...

    April 27, 2015
  • Enter the graphene era

    Super graphene is ushering in a new industrial age which could surpass that of steam, steel and s...

    Carbon acquires superpowers when it takes on the two-dimensional chicken-wire form, graphene. – Chad Hagen ...

    April 27, 2015
  • How the chameleon glows in technicolour

    Tiny crystals within a chameleon’s skin are responsible for the animal’s bravura exhibitions. Cat...

    A male panther chameleon showing off and using a masterful trick of nanotechnology to do it. – Michel C. Milinkovitch...

    March 23, 2015
  • Packing light for Mars

    A microbe factory could more than halve a mission's payload weight. Cathal O'Connell repo...

    We’ve all had trouble squeezing our luggage down to the allowed weight for a flight. But for a trip to Mars that prob...

    March 16, 2015
  • Ancient explosion warps space and time

    An astronomer has spotted four images of the same distant supernova, visual evidence of a cosmic ...

    A distant galaxy (box) acts like an imperfect lens, magnifying but also multiplying light from an ancient supernova t...

    March 16, 2015
  • What tectonic plates float on

    Using dynamite to shake the truth out of the Earth's underbelly.

    Any geologist will tell you the Earth’s crust is broken into tectonic plates that “float” around like gigantic rafts....

    February 16, 2015
  • 3D printing takes its lead from the pop-up book

    Scientists are printing electronic circuits that spring up from a flat surface to form tiny 3D co...

    These microscopic 3D structures were designed to be printed on an elastic silicone surface and to pop up when the ten...

    January 27, 2015
  • The myriad uses of amazing graphene

    Since its discovery graphene has been hailed as a wonder-material. Now add two new properties to ...

    A graphene membrane is twice as good at stopping a projectile as Kevlar, but when it does rupture, it does so in a pr...

    January 12, 2015
  • Astronomers define our place in the cosmos

    The Milky Way is part of a galactic supercluster, which astronomers have named Laniakea, reports ...

    As the Milky Way hurtles through space, it doesn’t travel alone. It is part of a galactic supercluster which a team o...

    October 6, 2014
  • Introducing the knitted circuit board

    Scientists have found a way to knit copper wiring and electronic sensors into fabric with applica...

    Lightweight, stretchy, machine-washable – and electrically conductive: it’s a fabric of the future. Researchers at th...

    September 5, 2014
  • Measuring gravity: Have we finally cracked it?

    Physicists use a fountain of cold atoms to close in on Big G.

    More than 300 years after Sir Isaac Newton first grappled with calculating the strength of gravity, measurements cont...

    July 14, 2014

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