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I often write about science, technology and the possibilities for the future. From time to time I also touch on matters of health and wellbeing, on travel and on other matters that catch my attention.

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“See you at the finish line” by Stefan Barna, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Everybody knows the script. After a brief and energetic youth, humans enter a long decline after middle age. Backs start to ache, joints stiffen up, and general aches and pains become a part of every day life. By the time retirement comes along, we’re too feeble to enjoy the few years we have left.

But what if I told you that story is wrong? What if humans could stay healthy, active and mentally sharp throughout their lives? What if a seventy year old could outrun a twenty-five year old?

Biologically, the evidence suggests that they can. It doesn’t need a…

Nature is quantum. Soon our computers will be too. Here’s how they will work.

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Bound Exciton, credit to Stef Simmons, shared under CC BY 2.0

Quantum is hard. That is perhaps to put things lightly — the subject is often bizarre, defies common sense, and predicts all sorts of things that should, by rights, be utterly impossible. Computers that include the quantum bit, it logically follows, should be just as weird and baffling.

And yes, at times quantum computing can be a strange subject. It is also difficult — some of the best engineers in the world have struggled for decades to build a simple working quantum computer. …

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Photo by GRAY on Unsplash

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Easy to write, easy to read. The implications are far deeper than a moment of thought will tell you.

Marcus Aurelius was a stoic who became an emperor. As a stoic, he believed what he wrote — that happiness comes not from external things, events, or possessions, but from our own minds. Master your mind, then, and you can find happiness.

Many of the things in life that make us unhappy — politics, global events, other people — are things we have no control…

Astronomers no longer divine messages from the Gods. Even so, their work still maintains a strange grasp on society.

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The Orion Nebula. Credit: ESO/G. Beccari

Ancient civilizations believed the stars held power over the Earth. Priests watched them carefully for messages of divine importance. Kings and emperors trembled at signs of misfortune, or rejoiced when victory was foretold.

Those who could read the stars — the first astronomers — held elite positions in ancient societies. They held enormous sway over kings and queens. At one time astronomers could decide the fate of nations, trigger wars, or pronounce the displeasure of God on an ill-fated heir.

Compared to their predecessors, today’s astronomers are a sorry bunch. Astronomy no longer holds power over governments. …

Mars is a hellhole, true, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon the planet

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Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mars is no Earth. The Red Planet is a hostile, unforgiving world, one eternally dry and cold. Any water on the surface froze or evaporated away eons ago; what is left may be buried deep under the surface. With no magnetic field the planet has no protection again solar radiation, and with only a thin atmosphere surface temperatures swing wildly from night to day.

It may seem strange, then, that we consider the planet such a target for colonisation. In its current state, a self-sustaining civilization on Mars would be impossible. …

We have no idea of the horrors that are waiting for us

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Bennu’s Journey — Impacts by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center shared under CC BY 2.0

Half a century into its interstellar escape from Earth, the ship Blue Space stumbles across mysterious ruins of an alien civilization. Strangely, these ruins exist in four dimensions, one more than in our familiar world. Out of curiosity the crew halt their ship, and then make a perilous voyage across higher dimensional space to investigate.

At first the ruins remain impenetrable, until a closer inspection reveals a horrifying truth. These are the tombs of a dead race; and worse, their universe itself is collapsing. …

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A few hours into the Val Grande national park, one can stumble across the seemingly abandoned hamlet of Pogallo. Once home to Carlo Sutermeister, a Swiss businessman, and a hundred of his workers, the buildings are today all but silent.

There is almost no sign of the timber business he once operated, or of the power plant he built, one of the first in Italy. His mansion lies in ruins, his village empty. Val Grande is now a protected area, one of the largest wildernesses still remaining in Europe.

Like many other hidden places across the continent, the wilderness offered…

They might be our best option for colonising another world

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Image Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/J. Cowart, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Could a spacecraft surf the shockwaves of atomic blasts all the way to Mars? As an idea it seems completely mad; probably one reason it never got further than the drawing board. But it was, at least briefly, seriously considered by NASA.

During the late 1950s, under the name Project Orion, the space agency drew up plans to use nuclear bombs in space. Spacecraft would carry a supply of the bombs, and chuck one out of the back whenever they needed to accelerate. The blast wave, together with a careful spacecraft design, would boost the ship forward at tremendous speeds.

Alastair Isaacs

Once I studied physics and distant galaxies. Now I fly satellites instead, and spend my time thinking and writing about trends in space and technology.

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