Jonathan O'Callaghan

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Science and technology journalist, editor, and copywriter. Below is a small selection of my work over the last few years.

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The UK Is Building Its Own Spaceport, And It Will Be Ready Sooner Than You Think

Exciting news people of Britain, as it’s been announced that the UK will be getting its very own launch pad, set to open in the early 2020s. The announcement was made yesterday by the UK Space Agency, who said the spaceport would be located in Sutherland – a remote peninsula on Scotland’s north coast. Initial funding of $3.3 million has been given to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the site. “This spaceport grant will help kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industr
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Incredible 'Ghost Particle' Discovery Heralds A New Era In Astronomy

Artist's impression of the blazar which sent the neutrino towards us. DESY, Science Communication Lab Gravitational waves have deservedly held the astronomical spotlight for the last two years, opening up a new way to see the cosmos. But thanks to a groundbreaking discovery, it might well be time for the humble neutrino to take the stage. That’s because, for the first time ever, a global team of astronomers has found the source of some of these high-energy particles coming from the distant uni
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Astronomers Just Made A Seriously Fascinating Exoplanet Discovery

I’ve got one hell of a soft spot for exoplanet research, especially new and interesting ways to find planets. And this latest one, well, it just might change everything. Here's why. In a paper published on arXiv and accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, researchers led by Helen Giles from the University of Geneva found a planet 1,800 light-years from Earth called (deep breath) EPIC248847494b. The planet itself is very interesting, and we’ll come to that later, but
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The EU Just Took A Disastrous Step Towards Destroying The Internet

Another day, another threat to the open and free Internet. Earlier this month, the US officially repealed net neutrality rules. Now, the EU has voted in favor of legislation that could censor the Internet. Called the Copyright Directive, the legislation has been widely derided by pretty much anyone who knows anything about the Internet. This morning, the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) approved it, meaning it will now go to the full European Parliament for a vote in July, after which it cou
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This Amazing Image Of A Meteorite Impact On Mars Is Not Quite What You Think

The impact probably occured in the last decade. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona Sometimes you see an image that just takes your breath away at first sight. This, undoubtedly, is one of those images. Snapped by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on February 7, 2018, the image shows the aftermath of a meteorite striking the Martian surface. In the image, you can clearly see the impact crater where the meteorite hit, thought to have
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NASA's Opportunity Rover Is Currently Fighting For Its Life

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover is facing a testing time, as it rides out a huge dust storm that's twice as big as one it experienced in 2007, described as a “dark, perpetual night” by NASA. The rover is currently wrapped up in a storm that spans more than 18 million square kilometers (7 million square miles), bigger than North America. Part of the storm has smothered Opportunity’s current location, Perseverance Valley. Dust storms on Mars are not particularly violent in terms of wind, as the at
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Scientists Have Made A Major Discovery In The Search For Life On Mars

We have been exploring the surface of Mars for a good few decades now, and in the process have discovered evidence for water and an ancient habitable environment. One thing remained elusive though – any signs of the building blocks of life. Now that looming problem has been solved by the Curiosity rover. Reporting in the journal Science, researchers have announced that the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument has successfully detected organics on Mars, a major breakthrough in our se
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Searching For This Weird Phrase Does Something Creepy To Your Google Assistant

Lots of things are creepy these days. Mind-reading helmets, robots made from living tissue, and just plain old military drones. A new Google bug, however, looks like it’s worthy of being added to the list. As first spotted on Reddit, searching for a number of phrases with your Google Assistant (typing them in, not speaking them) brings up some weird results. More specifically, these phrases bring up your phone’s text message history, which is kinda weird. The first phrase that was reported was
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Apollo 12 Astronaut Alan Bean, The Fourth Person To Walk On The Moon, Has Died At 86

Alan LaVern Bean, the fourth human to walk on the Moon, has died at the age of 86. Following reports that he had passed away, the news was confirmed today by NASA. Bean was born on March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas. In 1963, he was selected by NASA to become an astronaut as part of their third group of astronauts. After serving as a backup on the Gemini 10 and Apollo 9 missions, Bean got his first flight to space on Apollo 12 as the lunar module pilot. On November 19, 1969, he and Pete Conrad b
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Elon Musk Is Getting Destroyed On Twitter For This Bizarre Rant

Hell hath no fury like a billionaire scorned. And Elon Musk has proved that in emphatic fashion with a Twitter tirade that would put a certain narcissistic president to shame. Last night on Twitter, Musk had a bit of a meltdown. He was seemingly annoyed by a report from Reveal that questioned factory safety at Tesla, one of the companies he is CEO for along with SpaceX and the Boring Company. It’s not his first run-in with the media. “The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who l
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Plumes Of Water From Europa's Ocean Found By Dead NASA Spacecraft

Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery of a plume of water on Jupiter’s moon Europa, hidden in decades-old data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. And it could have important implications in the search for life. In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, a team led by Xianzhe Jia from the University of Michigan described how they re-analyzed data from the Galileo mission, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. And they found that on December 16, 1997 the spacecraft appears to have flown
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That Time The US Accidentally Dropped Two Nuclear Bombs On North Carolina

Such was the state of the world in 1961 that the US had nuclear bombers in the air constantly, ready to respond to the Soviet Union if they decided to launch an attack. The thinking was that, well, even if the Soviets destroyed everyone on the ground, those in the air would still be able to strike back. Mutually assured destruction, for sure. But things didn’t go exactly to plan. On January 24, 1961, just four days after John F. Kennedy had been inaugurated as president, disaster struck over N
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NASA Just Tested A New Nuclear Fission Reactor, And The Results Were Incredible

NASA says it has completed testing on a new nuclear fission power system for deep space missions – and the results went extremely well. The system is called Kilopower, and it involves using the heat generated by uranium to produce power. It’s a $20 million project that’s been billed as a way to support human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. At a conference at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio, engineers from the $20 million project revealed results of the tests, conducted earlier t
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What Is Hay Fever And Why Do Only Some People Get It?

Spring is here, which means if you suffer from hay fever, you’re about to endure months of sneezing and watery eyes. But why? It’s thought that between 10 and 30 percent of adults suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and up to 40 percent of children. For many, symptoms improve as you get older, with about half of people reporting improvement in later life. In about 10 to 20 percent of people, symptoms eventually disappear completely. Hay fever is an inflammation of your inner nose, which
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Scientists Have Created A Type Of Ice That's Almost As Hot As The Surface Of The Sun

Scientists have succeeded in creating a type of ice that forms at temperatures that are almost as hot as the Sun, and pressures millions of times greater than Earth's atmosphere. Known as superionic ice, it is believed to form at these extreme temperatures and pressures and melts at an astonishing 4,700°C (8,500°F). For comparison, the surface of the Sun is about 5,500°C (9,940°F). A study describing the findings was published in Nature Physics back in February. As Live Science notes, making t
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These Ants Have Created Their Own Torture Device For Their Victims

It can take up to several hours for the prey to die. Markus Schmidt Scientists have discovered a species of ant that, well, lies terrifyingly in wait for its enemies before tearing them apart limb by limb. Called Azteca brevis, the ants were found in Costa Rica’s Piedras Blancas National Park in 1999. But it was only when observed more closely that their alarming traits became apparent. A study describing the findings is published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. “The finding
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The Bizarre Story Of The 'Mutiny' On Board A Space Station

Skylab was in orbit from 1973 until 1979. Note, this illustration depicts boosters that were never used. NASA It’s a tale worthy of Hollywood. In December 1973, three astronauts aboard the US space station Skylab stopped working for an entire day, rebelling against their NASA overlords after complaining of being overworked. They said NASA had been working them too hard, so they took some time off without permission, even going so far as to switch their radio off so they couldn’t be contacted.
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This 5,000-Year-Old Cow Had Something Really Weird Done To Its Head

It’s not always a study grabs my attention immediately, but this one certainly did. Scientists have found an ancient cow skull that appears to have been drilled into by humans, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. The skull belongs to a cow (Bos taurus) from a Neolithic site dating back to 3,400 to 3,000 BCE. Discovered in Champ-Durand in France in 1978, the skull has a sizeable hole in it that measures a few centimeters across. It was originally thought it was caused by goring from another
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This 'Obama' Video Should Absolutely Terrify You

A video produced by BuzzFeed has highlighted the growing problem of DeepFake videos, as it becomes easier than ever to make celebrities appear to say and do anything. In the video, Barack Obama appears to say some rather un-Obama things, such as Ben Carson being “in the sunken place” or Trump being a “total and complete dipshit”. “We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time even if they would never say those things,” the Obama
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New Purification Device Can Make Safe Drinking Water Out Of Even The Dead Sea

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin say they’ve created a device that can generate clean and safe drinking water using just sunlight and a cheap gel. Published in Nature Nanotechnology, the system uses combined gel-polymer hybrid materials known as hydrogels to purify water. With solar-absorbing and hydrophilic properties, meaning they are attracted to water, the team says this can produce clean water from any source – even the Dead Sea. “We have essentially rewritten the entire a
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