South Africa power cuts see freelancers take to mountaintops, gyms for reliable Wifi

At the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, a new species of mammal is flourishing. Among the lizards, dassies, and a consistent stream of tourists taking photos, sit remote workers, tapping away on their laptops and making business calls from 1,086m in the sky. As debilitating power cuts continue across the country and threaten to wreak havoc on city-dwellers’ productivity, the search for reliable wifi is leading freelancers, flexible staffers, and anyone else who can, to chase co

Finland feels the cold as a Putin-fuelled energy crisis threatens the country's sauna culture

At Löyly public sauna in Helsinki, sweat pours off a group of tourists as they watch the locals bicker over temperature. Periodically, scoops of water are thrown from a bucket into the sauna’s coals to produce the all-important steam associated with this Nordic tradition – and the mercury rises. One man insists that two scoops of water should be thrown on the coals to ramp up the heat; another says three or four. The disagreements are good-natured, but it is no joking matter: for Finns, the sau

Network of tunnels 437m underground destined to become world’s first site for nuclear waste

Four hundred and thirty-seven metres underground on the southwest coast of Finland, a team of geologists are advising on where to blow holes into two billion-year-old granite. This is no ordinary science project: buried here in the city’s bedrock is Onkalo, a network of tunnels destined to become the world’s first permanent repository for radioactive waste. By the time construction is complete in 2120, this toxic graveyard will span 50km of tunnels – some as wide as suburban streets and taller

How to cruise the French Riviera with no sailing experience for less than £400

Best known for the glamorous beach resorts of St Tropez and Cannes, the French Riviera has long been a firm favourite among the rich and famous – and for good reason. The hot, still summers and bejewelled azure coastline offer some of the best sunshine, wine and photo opportunities in Europe. Consequently, this south-east corner of France also has a reputation for carrying a hefty price tag – meaning families and the less elite among us are more likely to have seen it through the windows of a c

Expat volunteers join forces with Portugal’s firefighters

The residents of Vale do Lobo in the Portuguese Algarve knew it was time to worry when clouds of ash started falling from the sky into the swimming pools of their multi-million euro villas. The region is a second home to several celebrities, including Cliff Richard, but emergency services are so overstretched that the majority of firefighters working to protect these luxury homes are unpaid reserves. Supporting their cause is an unlikely group of volunteers: 25 designated “fire watchers”...

Genetic Screening Now Lets Parents Pick the Healthiest Embryos

At 18 months old, Aurea Yenmai Smigrodzki is inquisitive like any other toddler. She likes peanut butter, the beach, and mobile phones—or any toys that look like phones. She likes to copy her mum and dad, Thuy and Rafal, when they are using theirs. Aurea doesn’t know it yet, but her birth was very special: She is the world’s first PGT-P baby, meaning she is statistically less likely than the rest of us to develop a genetic disease or disorder throughout her life. PGT-P stands for preimplantatio

From curbing climate change to eradicating diseases, what genomics is doing for us

What do fortified tomato plants, so-called “designer babies”, and a plan to bring woolly mammoths back from extinction all have in common? The answer is a relatively new and very exciting branch of science called genomics. Genomics is the study of all our thousands of genes, the DNA that makes us exactly who we are. Chances are, you may have heard about some of the things happening in this field already: last month, it was revealed that gene-edited tomatoes could provide a new source of vitamin

What the DNA of Ancient Humans Reveals About Pandemics

As an earth scientist specializing in ancient remains, Christopher Hunt is used to making unusual trips in the name of archaeology. But one of his most memorable has to be the time he traveled back from Iraq with a Neanderthal in the plane seat next to him. “She was packed carefully away in a large suitcase, but checking her into the hold seemed far too risky—so I bought her a passenger ticket,” he says by way of explanation. Shanidar Z, as the Neanderthal was named, is the latest ancient skele

The real reasons fewer girls choose maths and physics: stereotypes, confidence and role models

At Simon Langton Grammar School in Kent, Mabel Shave has been learning how to measure radiation levels in tea bags. She is one of several girls here studying maths and physics for A-level, and it’s practical experiments like these which she says helps “bring the science to life”. Shave has always enjoyed physics, particularly the maths element. “I like the problem-solving side,” she says – though a recent news story would have you believe otherwise.

A silent retreat without phones, talking or even reading taught me to savour a slower life

“But we’ve just had two years of quiet, why the hell would you want to go and punish yourself like this?” My well-meaning friend was not the only one who felt confused by my decision to book a five-day off-grid silent retreat. Other common reactions included: “Are you being paid to do it?” (I wasn’t). Or, “Which paper are you writing about it for?” (None, at the time.) Others gave a sympathetic smile and assumed I was going through some sort of relationship crisis or nervous breakdown. But the

Sexist narratives about animals in David Attenborough's shows 'leave me screaming at the TV'

Lucy Cooke has a bone to pick with David Attenborough. When his series The Mating Game aired last year, Cooke found herself “screaming at the television in utter frustration”. The problem with the series, and so many others like it, is that “stories about nature are still being told through the male perspective,” she explains – and inevitably, the result is a biased, sexist and sometimes completely inaccurate account. Sexism in biology is something Cooke has become acutely aware of since resear

To Fight Climate Change, First You Need to Measure It

From devastating wildfires to polar bears clinging to melting ice floes, there’s no shortage of shocking images to illustrate the need for action on climate change. But collecting reliable data to track the rate of change—and help determine how to tackle it—is much less straightforward. Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, South West London, are using precise monitoring equipment to measure pollutants and track our impact on the planet more accurately than ever before.

Covid lab-leak researcher is glad she challenged China's Wuhan 'cover up' despite death threats

As one of the first medical researchers to question publicly the origins of Covid-19, Dr Alina Chan is used to criticism. Since May 2020, she has been making the highly contentious case that the coronavirus responsible for more than five million deaths could, in fact, have been leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Initially dismissed as a conspiracy, her theory about the pandemic remains controversial, but it is gaining ground. World Health Organisation director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed l

Wood is being used to make toilets, sinks and even satellites with eco-friendly innovation

Imagine the invention of a new wonder material that could be used to make everything from toilets to satellites – created using water and sunshine, and eliminating the carbon footprint of ceramics and plastics. Well, it doesn’t need to be invented – we’ve been using it for millennia. Innovative ways of using wood to make everyday household items and even hi-tech medical and scientific devices are being developed. Soon we could all be ordering wooden bathtubs and sinks, as well as using the mate

Eco-friendly ways to wash and clean, starting by using old-fashioned laundry powder and bleach

Do you have more than one shower a day? Or do you secretly indulge in a daily bath? Many of us are aware of the negative effect that our washing habits can have on the planet – from the amount of water we use and the energy required to heat it up, which can contribute to climate change, to the chemicals in the products we use which cause pollution – but it can feel like one of the hardest parts of our lives to make changes in. Add in washing-up duties, boiling the kettle and flushing the loo, a

The Untold Story of the Contraceptive Pill

ALICE PELTON WAS 16 years old when she first went on the pill. Like many teenagers, she found the thought of becoming pregnant terrifying, and starting a course of the combined hormonal contraceptive pill, prescribed by her GP, felt like a logical step. In the months that followed, Pelton’s mood was all over the place. “I would have these uncontrollable outbursts and cry at really stupid things,” she recalls. “There were blazing arguments with very confused ex-boyfriends and family members… I al

‘My children know I have a brain tumour - talking openly about cancer benefits all of us’

Adam Blain’s three children know he has terminal cancer. In fact, they’re so familiar with the reality of his illness, it’s become “boring background noise”, he says. “Long may it stay that way.” Once a lawyer with a top London firm, Blain has always been straight talking, and he makes no exception when it comes to speaking publicly about his brain tumour. “For me there’s no other option – I don’t want to dress it up,” he says. “If nothing else, my children can’t complain that it’s a shock wh

The strangest experiments in science and the ingenious researchers who come up with them

From the ancient medical practice of drilling holes in patients’ skulls, to testing out Class A drugs on spiders in the 90s, scientists have always been willing to try some strange things in the name of research. Even today, experiments still manage to surprise us – not for their findings, necessarily, but because of their curious subjects or methods. To think of ideas that are new, ethical, feasible – and will offer useful results – requires creative thinking from researchers. Sometimes they

Wildlife presenter Dan O'Neill: ‘I was told to play down the fact that I’m gay’

When I was young, I vehemently denied being gay. I’d known it from a very young age, but my sexuality wasn’t something I ever felt able to talk about. It also didn’t fit in with the things that I dreamed of being. I loved David Attenborough documentaries, and wanted to be a biologist and wildlife presenter when I grew up. I was always the kid looking for slow worms in next door’s garden instead of playing football out on the village green with the other boys. But there was nobody like me on sc
Load More Articles

Get in touch

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.