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Higgs 3: Symmetry for the strong

When the Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie died in 1899 he was a bitter and disappointed man. True, his mathematical ability had been recognised by some of the greatest people in the field, including the great German mathematician Felix Klein, and Lie had succeeded Klein in the chair of mathematics […]

Higgs 2: What makes light matter?

The big question is: what is the process that somehow freezes or condenses energy into particles of matter? In this process, the energy somehow acquires the characteristic of mass – for which we can go again to David Bohm: ‘Mass is a phenomenon of connecting light rays which go […]

Higgs 1: Frozen light

The discovery of the Higgs particle is one step further on a long road – the search for the nature of matter.

Our experience of matter starts in childhood, when we become familiar with objects and learn to live with them – how to pick them up when they’re useful […]

The North Africa connection

New DNA results on Scots ancestry reopen a century-old theory about a North African language connection.

The Scotland’s DNA project has found that no less than 1% of the Scots tested carry a genetic marker which originated in North Africa. The researchers say that the gene, common today amongst the […]

The origami man

Erik Demaine never went to school very often: his longest stint there was a month in Miami Beach. He spent his young years travelling throughout the United States with his father, an artist from Halifax in Nova Scotia, who sold work at craft shows and taught his son for […]

Solway shore stories

“Criffel has vanished, blotted out by the rain that is sweeping across the Firth into our faces. We are standing in a row facing the incoming tide; there’s not much talking, just an occasional comment or joke amongst the men. Mark Messenger and I are at the seaward end […]

The giant snake from a lost world

It’s the stuff of nightmares – a giant snake so big that it could barely have squeezed through a modern door; as long as a bus and weighing more than a ton. It could swallow a crocodile whole, opening its jaws to almost 180 degrees.

It’s thought to be a relative […]

Damascus swords had vanadium steel

The mystery of a legendary type of sword is gradually being unlocked by scientists and smiths. A sword of Damascus steel was said to be so sharp that it could cut through a gauze kerchief – or a steel helmet – and so flexible that it could bend through […]

Notes and neurons

Some lively musical events have come out of a collaboration between two remarkable men. One is Bobby McFerrin, the son of two opera singers, who has a four-octave voice and the ability to produce any sound, from a bass guitar to a church congregation or a passing motorcycle. He […]