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Matthew McConaughey embodies the heroic scientist in Interstellar. Paramount

Scientists as Hollywood heroes

Interstellar’s protagonists spend a significant portion of the movie’s 169-minute running time giving mini-lectures – sometimes with props and a little whiteboard – on theoretical physics. The characters…
Interstellar stars Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain glitzing it up for the European premiere. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

On Interstellar and ‘real physics’

Poor old Richard Branson. SpaceShipTwo has only just stopped smouldering after struggling to get more than 20km from the Earth and there’s the Nolan brothers getting Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway…
There are millions of these lurking in Earth’s backyard. NASA

Gecko sticking forces hold rubble-pile asteroids together

Millions of asteroids of all shapes and sizes are littered throughout the inner solar system. In the past three decades, scientists have spotted as many as 500,000 but many more remain unseen. Many of…
Scary but fascinating. NASA and M. Weiss (Chandra X -ray Center)

From black holes to dark matter, an astrophysicist explains

Katherine Mack, astrophysicist at the University of Melbourne, answered questions posed by the public on Reddit. The Conversation has curated the highlights. Dark Matter How do you explain dark matter…
Maybe pink planets have life too. gsfc

Explainer: how do you find exoplanets?

Astronomers didn’t know, 20 years ago, whether planets existed around any stars other than the Sun. All that changed in 1995 with the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting the star 51 Pegasi. And by the beginning…
Only physics can burn a hole through the sky. European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Beyond the Higgs boson: five reasons physics is still interesting

Would physics be “far more interesting” if the Higgs boson had not been found? Stephen Hawking thinks so. He made this bold claim, possibly with his tongue slightly in his cheek, at the opening of a new…
The theory likens cancer to organisms such as these green and yellow sea sponges. Steve Rupp, National Science Foundation/Wikimedia Commons

Evolutionary theory of cancer overlooks genetic research

The history of biology is peppered with invaluable contributions by physics and physicists. Even if we leave aside the argument that it’s all just physics anyway, theoretical and practical biology leans…
A new study shows only 30% of stars in a globular cluster will reach old age and become planetary nebulae. NASA

A stellar mid-life crisis: why do some cluster stars die early?

It was written in the stars all along, but we’ve just found out: a whopping 70% of stars in a widely-studied cluster die before reaching old age which, for stars, is the most productive stage of their…

Looking for planets just like Earth

University of Auckland scientists have proposed a new way to find planets like Earth. The research strategy includes the…
The Andromeda galaxy and its companions is challenging the very foundations of cosmology. Adam Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Cosmic dance challenges our understanding of the universe

Deep images of the sky reveal that the universe contains billions of galaxies. Some, such as our own Milky Way, are immense, containing hundreds of billions of stars. Most galaxies, however, are dwarfs…
The SKA is on the horizon, but how do we get from here to there? Pete Wheeler, ICRAR

Aspiration vs delivery: the long road to the Square Kilometre Array

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope has been on the cards since the early 1990s. It took until May of last year to find out where it will be built – in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand…
The black hole at the centre of NGC 1277 galaxy is one of the largest ever discovered. NASA /ESA/Andrew C. Fabian/Remco C. E. van den Bosch (MPIA)

‘Overmassive’ black hole holds the mass of 17 billion suns

Astronomers have discovered a new, enormous black hole that could change our understanding of how galaxies evolve. Holding the mass of 17 billion suns, the black hole at the centre of the NGC 1277 galaxy…
The explosion of a super-luminous supernovae can emit as much light as our sun will in 10 billion years. Rampant.Gaffer

Super-luminous supernovae: seriously worth the superlatives

Supernovae are the brilliant, explosive deaths of stars. For a short time, these explosions can outshine an entire galaxy containing billions of stars. A recently discovered rare class of supernovae, termed…
Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our own sun and appears to be home to at least one planet. EPA/Davide De Martin/ESO

Alpha Centauri exoplanet is the closest ever – how was it found?

Earlier this week, a Swiss-based team searching for planets outside our solar system (exoplanets) published a paper in Nature announcing the detection of an Earth-mass planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri…
Three years ago we discovered water on the moon, and now we’ve worked out where it’s from. Jason Bache

Blowin' in the (solar) wind: how the moon got its water

A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience last week suggests water on the moon may have come, at least in part, from the sun. Until a few years ago the orthodox view was that the moon was bone-dry…
Things may not be as they’d previously seemed regarding the moon’s formation. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Was the moon formed by a planetary hit-and-run?

New research published in the planetary science journal Icarus, shows the moon may have been formed by a glancing collision with an “impactor” in the violent days of the early solar system. Contrary to…

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