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Blog

Life after a nuclear bomb, farewell to MetroCosm and the nerdiest thing ever

 

(Courtesy: David Ng)

Observed change in Tatooine surface temperature 100BBY – 10ABY. (Courtesy: David Ng)

By Hamish Johnston

What’s it like to have a nuclear bomb dropped on you? Okay, I know the question is a bit heavy for this light-hearted column but I was really inspired by this piece about Shinji Mikamo who was less than a mile from the epicentre of the Hiroshima bomb. He was 19 at the time and not surprisingly the bomb changed the course of his life in many ways. What I found most amazing is that Mikamo managed to survive an explosion so intense that it blasted off the glass and hands of his father’s pocket watch, but not before imprinting the time of the blast on the watch’s melted face. The article is called “When time stood still” and it appears on the BBC website.

Science-loving commuters in the UK will be saddened by the cancellation of the weekly MetroCosm column in the Metro newspaper. Given out free of charge to commuters, Metro reaches more than 1.3 million Britons every day, making it one of the nation’s largest daily papers. Written by Ben Gilliland since 2005, MetroCosm gave readers lively explanations of everything from cosmic wormholes to the Cambrian explosion. Because Gilliland is a graphic artist by trade, the column was very visual. This was often very effective at getting complicated scientific concepts across to readers. Fortunately, many of the columns survive online and you can read them on Gilliland’s blog. And that’s not the last we will hear from him because Gilliland has a book coming out in January called How to Build a Universe.

Finally, could this document be the nerdiest thing ever produced in our galaxy? It’s an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report that’s out of this world. It concerns the fictional planet of Tatooine. Home to Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker, the desert world also supports a thriving moisture-harvesting industry. But water is a powerful greenhouse gas, and the report offers evidence that rising humidity in the atmosphere is driving global warming (see above figure) and threatening the planet’s biodiversity.

The report appears on the Science Creative Quarterly and is written by David Ng, a molecular biologist at the University of British Columbia. A self-confessed Star Wars fan, Ng says he wrote the report to inspire the students in a class he teaches on climate change. Ng also provides links to several “scientific” works by others about Tatooine, including “Functional anatomy of Tatooine megafauna”. No doubt these will become required reading for those preparing for the next tranche of Star Wars films!

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