Citizen science is the new black

Milky way at dusk
Enthusiastic amateurs look at images from telescopes and classify galaxies according to their shapes and features.

Citizen science - the trend for involving amateurs in research projects - is all the rage nowadays but is it real science or just good PR?

"This is a blob, nothing too impressive. Oh dear, another blob, these are elliptical galaxies. Ooh look this is a merger..."

The Oxford astronomer Dr Chris Lintott flicks through the first of 70,000 images from UKIDSS, the UK Infrared Deep Sky Survey, that have been posted on the Galaxy Zoo website.

"This one's a disc galaxy, so this might be what the Milky Way looks like from far away," he adds.

The images, which have never been seen before, are part of the latest citizen science project run on the site.

Read full article Citizen science is the new black

Reaching Out To The Stars

Nasa clearly gets it, kicking off its press conference on the Voyager space mission with an impromptu skit based on the iconic opening sequence of Star Trek.

"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship... Voyager. Its mission: to boldly go where no probe has gone before."

Read full article Reaching Out To The Stars

Could avatar therapy succeed where drugs alone have failed?

Examples of avatars created by patients during the pilot study
Examples of avatars created by patients during the pilot study

A surprising way of helping schizophrenic patients deal with the voices in their heads has emerged and is about undergo a clinical trial.

"You're a thicko."

Read full article Could avatar therapy succeed where drugs alone have failed?

Stark warning over the state of nature

Hedgehog numbers have declined greatly, according to the report

Another day, another depressing report detailing the remorseless decline of British wildlife. Some things never change.

And that, in itself, is part of the problem. The constant drip-feed of bad news on the environment has inured us to the litany of loss.

Read full article Stark warning over the state of nature

Building a biological model of mental illness

Conceptual computer artwork of a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) double helix
The DEFINE Consortium aims to build on a growing understanding of the genetics of brain function

A team of scientists based at Cardiff University who found that a handful of genes are implicated in a wide range of debilitating neurological conditions have won £5m for further research.

"So the animal has actually gone to the wrong panel. He's swum to the long black panel first and had to change direction to find the platform."

Read full article Building a biological model of mental illness

Is Nasa looking in the wrong place for life?

Europa, a moon of Jupiter, is set to be surveyed by Nasa

The world's leading space agency, Nasa, has an ambitious new Grand Plan: to "identify, capture and relocate" an asteroid.

Outlining the Agency's $17.7 billion budget proposal for 2014, Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said the mission would ensure the United States remained in the forefront of space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come.

Read full article Is Nasa looking in the wrong place for life?

'Cinderella cancer' comes in from the cold

DaVinci surgical robot
Professor Neil Burnet uses the DaVinci robot to perform prostate surgery

It's a sobering thought for all us carriers of the Y chromosome, but prostate cancer kills almost as many men every year as breast cancer does women.

According to Cancer Research UK some 41, 000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, but 10,700 will die of the disease, making it the fourth most common cause of cancer death - and second only to lung cancer in men.

Read full article 'Cinderella cancer' comes in from the cold

From counting to characterising exoplanets

An artist's impression of an exoplanet orbiting close to a star

`

We've come a long way since 1995 when Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz claimed the first official detection of an exoplanet orbiting a distant star - the somewhat prosaically named 51 Pegasi b, orbiting a sun-like star some 51 light-years from earth in the constellation Pegasus.

Read full article From counting to characterising exoplanets

Keeping up with the Jinzhousauruses

Where do you go if you want to know everything there is to know about dinosaurs?

Well obviously you could ask any passing nine-year-old boy, but if you can't find one of those you're going to need The Complete Dinosaur, 2nd Edition. Eleven-hundred pages of rigorously researched and engagingly presented dino-facts and figures set out in 45 chapters covering everything from the earliest discoveries to the latest fossil-dating technologies and written by some of the world's leading palaeontologists.

Read full article Keeping up with the Jinzhousauruses

Which bright spark knocked over the inkwell?

Wide-field view of the Lupus 3 dark cloud and associated hot young stars

A new image from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) provides a remarkable insight into star formation.

It looks like a smear of clumsily spilt black ink, or perhaps (for the more romantically minded), a rip in the star-studded cloak of the cosmos.

Read full article Which bright spark knocked over the inkwell?