Steven MacNeil

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How does human eyesight compare to animals?

Who’s got the better eyesight – a human or a cat? Well, it depends on the time of day, and what you’re looking at. Chris Howard takes a look.<p>What’s the difference between the way a cat sees the world and a human? Well, according to new research, that depends very much on how far away the object is, …

The bats that mix nature’s grossest perfume

Humans are not the only species that makes perfumes, but you might think twice before sniffing the stinky cocktail mixed by this bat.<p>Women would do well to look, act and smell like flowers – at least if the etiquette guides of the 19th Century are to be believed. One such book of rules, called …

Potato power: the spuds that could light the world

With a simple trick, the humble spud can be made into a battery, so could potato powered homes catch on?<p>Mashed, boiled, baked or fried? You probably have a preference for your potatoes. Haim Rabinowitch, however, likes his spuds “hacked”.<p>For the past few years, researcher Rabinowitch and colleagues …

Alfred Russel Wallace: Evolution’s unsung hero

Why do we airbrush out some of history’s most important scientists, wonders Quentin Cooper.<p>Recognition at last. The first ever statue of Alfred Russel Wallace was erected outside the Natural History Museum in London last week. Sir David Attenborough unveiled the statue, and I’m hosting a …

The ���Very Large’ Hadron Collider needs a better name

If built, the successor to the Large Hadron Collider will be one of the most incredible machines we have ever made, and it deserves a fitting title.<p>Over the years, physicists have done a lot to expand our perspective on the universe – but when it comes to naming their machines, they do seem to have …

Parks 2050: Growing food, curbing floods, cleaning air

Growing food, curbing floods and cleaning the air - the green spaces of tomorrow will be much more than just a pretty place.<p>Have you ever noticed a certain similarity in public parks and back gardens in the cities of the West? A ubiquitous woodland mix of lawn grasses and trees has found its way …

Why do you have eyebrows?

You’ll think twice about plucking your eyebrows when you discover their important role, says Greg Foot.<p>They are one of the most expressive parts of our bodies. With your eyebrows, you can communicate your feelings to other people whether you’re quizzical or angry. But is that their only …

Bored? Hunt for dark matter in your spare time

Astronomers hunting for the invisible stuff that holds galaxies together are making progress by turning to the wisdom of the crowd.<p>It is the next “big hunt” in modern physics. Following confirmation of the existence of the Higgs Boson earlier this year, physicists now have their eyes on dark …

Smart cities: Bringing life back to the neighbourhood

More and more of humanity is moving to cities. Improving technology could dramatically change the way we live and work in them – making the neighbourhood the centre of our lives once more.<p>More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities – because for most of us life is better there: it …

Cicada 3301: The internet mystery puzzling the world

Our pick of the week from the web, including the game leaving hackers baffled, how to interpret scientific claims and the man Bill Gates wants you to read.<p>The fall (and rise?) of Yahoo<br>Derrick Harris | GigaOm | 27 November 2013<br>Four former Yahoo technology executives talk about why the company has …

Secret city design tricks manipulate your behaviour

Hidden in our streets and buildings are "unpleasant designs" that force us to make certain choices, discovers Frank Swain. Once you know what they are, it will transform how you see your city.<p>When Selena Savic walks down a city street, she sees it differently to most people. Whereas other designers …

Could we harness power from black holes?

It might seem like an absurd idea, but physicists have long pondered whether black holes could one day be tapped for energy, says Phil Ball. But how possible is it?<p>Imagine the scene: highly advanced civilisations get enormous amounts of energy from black holes, be it extracting it from collapsed …

Ocean 2050: How to sustain our biggest ecosystem

Mankind is consuming the ocean’s resources at an alarming rate. How do we sustain this vital resource for generations to come? National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle outlines some of the ways to save this vital ecosystem.<p>Predicting the future state of the ocean is tricky, partly …