Frontiersmen: the 1962 US Mercury crew
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The best of the NS in 2014: Science

Our best pieces from the past year. In this selection, the best articles about science.

Apocalypse soon: the scientists preparing for the end times

By Sophie McBain.

A growing community of scientists, philosophers and tech billionaires believe we need to start thinking seriously about the threat of human extinction.
 

This is (maybe) how we’d have colonised the Moon if the Soviet Union had got there first

By Ian Steadman.

A fascinating documentary from 1965 shows what Soviet scientists hoped would be possible with colonisation of the Moon.
 

The great ebola scare

By Michael Brooks.

It is being called the most severe health emergency of modern times. But are the fears of mass contagion in the west overblown?  


 

The sexist pseudoscience of pick-up artists: the dangers of “alpha male” thinking

By Ian Steadman.

We can mock the men in silly hats who claim to be experts in picking up women, but their weird anthropological worldview – of “alpha males” competing for “targets” – is a nonsense that has bled out into other sexist discourse.

 

Wandering in the heavens: how mathematics explains Saturn’s rings

By Ian Stewart.

How maths is changing cosmology - and why the best way to reach a comet near Mars is to go round the back of the sun.  

 

We may never teach robots about love, but what about ethics?

By Emma Woollacott.

Do androids dream of electric Kant?

 

The Periodic table versus the Apocalypse

By Michael Brooks.

Not just a faded poster on a lab wall, but “as impressive as the Pyramids or any of the other wonders of the world”. The table also holds the key to finding replacements for antibiotics.  

 

“Jews are adapted to capitalism”, and other nonsenses of the new scientific racism

By Ian Steadman.

Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance argues that the genetic differences between racial groups explain why the West is rich and Africa is poor - but beneath the new science lies an old, dangerous lie.

 

Maths is all Greek to me: how language barriers influence mathematics

By Michael Brooks.

The Navier-Stokes equations, which describe how fluids such as air and water flow, may finally have been proved to work in every situation.  

 

Explorers … or nosy parkers

By Colin Pillinger.

The planetary scientist Collin Pillinger, who died aged 70 this year, argues that it’s our thirst for discovery that makes us human.

Death on Mars: would you take a one-way trip to space?

By Helen Lewis

Within a few decades, we will have the technological ability to send humans to the red planet - as long as they don't want to come back home again.

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Upon Remembering Westminster Bridge

"Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie, Open unto the fields, and to the sky" - things to help remember the best of Westminster Bridge.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by,
 A sight so touching in its majesty:
This city now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare ...

When I think of Westminster Bridge, I always think of these lines by Wordsworth. But whenever I turn on the news this week, the thought of them makes my chest seize. Other images come to mind instead.

On Wednesday 22nd March, the bridge turned into a death trap. An assailant driving a rented car drove up onto the pavement and straight into the path of passersbys. Four of those people are now dead. Tens of others are severely injured. 

The two associations now sit alongside each other in a grotesque marriage. 

But as those present become able to share what they saw and felt, we will likely learn more about the acts of compassion that unfolded in the minutes and hours after the attack.

The bridge itself is also becoming a site for remembrance. And just as laying flowers can become marks of defiance against an act nobody wanted or condones, so too can memories. Not memories of horror stumbled upon on social media. But of the brave actions of police and paramedics, of the lives the victims led, and of Westminster's "mighty heart" that these events have so entirely failed to crush.

So if you find yourself upon the bridge in coming weeks, perhaps commuting to work or showing visitors round the city, here are some other thoughts had upon Westminster Bridge which no man in an estate car will ever take away:

Tourists taking photos with friends:


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The end of the film Pride - and the 1985 march on which it is based

 

Virginia Woolf and Mrs Dalloway’s “moment in June”

One feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can't be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.

 

Brilliant Boudicca guarding the bridge's Northern end


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Penis Shadows! (I say no more)

 

 

Sci-fi scenes from 28 Days Later

 

The “Build Bridges Not Walls” protest from January this year


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And “Upon Westminster Bridge” by William Wordsworth (1802)

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.