The best of the NS in 2014: Science

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

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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.