Meet the neighbours

London is inundated with life. At first glance most of us would deduce it’s only human city-slickers and scruffy pigeons scurrying about the capital but strangely, most of us would be mistaken. There is actually a vast array of other creatures stealthily going about their daily business, often hiding in plain sight. From armoured sex addicts to the fastest animal on the planet, meeting your real neighbours in London may be a startling experience. The first surprise comes in the form of the Peregrine Falcon, a predatory bird that makes a meal out of London’s plump pigeons ‒ usually after snatching them mid-flight. To do this, Peregrines rocket downwards from breathtaking heights, striking unsuspecting pigeons at speeds of up to 230mph. This easily makes them the fastest animal on the planet. In 2001 it was confirmed that Peregrine Falcons were breeding in London using tall buildings as nest sites in place of their more traditional cliff top sites out in …

Married horseshoe crabs produce less poo

You wouldn’t think that the sex life of the horseshoe crab would be that complicated, but you’d be wrong. Like every red blooded guy out there, horseshoe crabs have to think long and hard about the best way to attract a mate (even though horseshoe crab blood is actually blue). While human males have many options to choose, from say writing a romantic poem, or buying a lovely bunch of flowers for their sweetheart, crabs are generally limited to two different options. In animal behaviour circles, these choices are called alternative reprodcutive tactics (ARTs). For horseshoe crab males, the first option is to attract a female out in the sea, attach together and make the long journey to the spawning beaches, where they can get freaky. This option is dependant on the male being attractive enough in the eyes of the female to be worth attaching to. The second option decidely third-wheel-ish. Instead of putting the effort into attracting a …

Lightning is really really fast

In case you didn’t already know it, lightning travels incredibly fast. Although this video is 33 seconds long, in reality, this event happened in only a little over 0.1seconds. What to us look like a simple flash of light, when slowed down 300x, is really an incredibly beautiful and complex phenomenon. There are a number of theories about how lightning originates, but all involve a build up of charge in the atmosphere. This, in itself, isn’t what causes lighning. What does is the difference in charge between the atmophere and the ground. To equilise this charge differential, electrons need to flow downhill. This is what we see in the first half of the video. Electrons always like to flow down the path of least resistance, and want to find the shortest distance to the ground. However, the electrons in the cloud don’t know where this is, so we see a random, branching pattern reaching out in all directions. This downstroke …

I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.

This brilliant lesson comes from one of Britain’s greatest scientists; Humphry Davy. Not content with discoverering only one chemical element, Davy actually discovered six (potassium, sodium, barium, strontium, calcium and magnesium). He was given a knighthood in 1812, was made president of the famous Royal Society in 1820, and to top it all off invented a really cool lamp. Despite all his great achievements  the man realised very well how he got to his position of greatness. No one is born great. No painter paints a masterpiece on their first attempt. No musician writes a number 1 straight away. And no scientist gets where they are without hundreds of mistakes along the way. That’s what is so great about the scientific method – it has an inbuilt facility to allow people to make as many mistakes as their like. It is self correcting. For hundreds of years, physicist believed Newton’s laws of motions were absolutely correct. Every good experiment done at …

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