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.


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

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

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.

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

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

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

The UK unicorns and how they made their first billions

If you’ve recently ordered a takeaway, picked up a beer or had your DNA sequenced, you may have encountered one of the UK’s “unicorn” companies. Unicorns are a rare breed of company, hence the playful moniker, billed as startups that have eclipsed a valuation of $1 billion (around £720 million). They’re companies making the impossible seem possible, acting as disruptors in their fields. The term unicorn is not clearly defined, so there is a bit of contention over its use. Some argue publicly l

7 Of The Worst Diseases You've Never Heard Of

Some disease can cause an intense amount of pain. luxorphoto/Shutterstock There are some pretty painful diseases on planet Earth. Some are infectious, others genetic, but most have some pretty grisly symptoms. From permanent disfiguration to endless pain more intense than childbirth, here we run through some of the diseases and disorders you really don't want to develop. Modern treatment techniques have helped reduce the severity of some of these conditions, but many remain untreatable with u

What Is Sleep Paralysis, And Why Does It Happen?

Have you ever woken up unable to move, with a shadowy figure looming over you and filling you with immense terror? If so, you may suffer from something known as sleep paralysis – and you’re not alone. Sleep paralysis is a little-understood condition that is thought to affect a range of people. It can last from seconds to minutes, and the experience can be extremely unnerving, enough so that people are afraid of shutting their eyes and going to sleep. It usually occurs when a person is waking u

The Incredible Story Of The Monkeys That Rafted Across The World

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s the story of how we think monkeys came to inhabit the Americas. And it’s a weird one, because we think we got there by sailing across the seas. Our story begins 140 million years ago during the Cretaceous, when the continents of Africa and South America first split through continental drift. This caused the diversification of many species as the South Atlantic Ocean opened, ending any land link between these two locales. But it wasn’t until 45 million years

What's The Largest Man-Made Object To Ever Fall To Earth From Space?

If you’ve been paying any attention to space news recently, you’re probably aware that China’s Tiangong-1 space station is about to fall uncontrolled to Earth, possibly over Easter weekend. This has spawned all sorts of alarming headlines, but even though it weighs 8,500 kilograms (18,700 pounds), it’s not actually that big. And it pales in comparison to other objects that have fallen onto our planet. In fact, in the history of man-made objects that have returned to Earth, it ranks pretty low.

Something Strange Is Happening To The Clocks In Europe

A dispute between Serbia and Kosovo has resulted in clocks across Europe running up to six minutes slow. But why? The issue stems from the way digital clocks connected to the mains keep time, such as the ones in your oven or microwave. They do this by measuring the oscillations in the alternating current they receive, which is when the electricity sort of changes direction. This frequency in Europe is about 50Hz (meaning the current alternates 50 times a second), while in the US it’s 60Hz. But

Scientists Identify A Microbe That Could Live On Saturn's Moon Enceladus

Saturn’s moon Enceladus has looked like a tantalizing possibility for life in the Solar System for quite some time. Now, we may have identified something that can live there and explain why we found methane in its plumes. Published in Nature Communications, a study led by the University of Vienna describes a particular microbe found in the deep sea near Japan called Methanothermococcus okinawensis that could survive the temperature, pressure, and chemical make-up of the ocean hiding under the i

One Of The Most Enduring Mysteries Of The Pyramids May Have A Very Simple Solution

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one. That’s what an archaeologist is proposing for Egypt's great pyramids, suggesting the Earth’s position around the Sun was enough to give these structures their odd alignment. The Great Pyramid of Giza, along with another at Giza and one at Dahshur, are all remarkably aligned along the cardinal points – north, south, east, and west. However, experts have struggled to explain why this is the case, as the Egyptians did not have access to tools to

Not Everyone Is Happy About Elon Musk Sending His Car Into Space

Yesterday a billionaire launched his car into space on a $90 million rocket. It was a fun publicity stunt, sure – but some are bemoaning the lack of any scientific value to the launch. That billionaire is of course Elon Musk, who launched his Tesla car on the test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Thanks to a bigger than expected boost from the rocket’s upper stage, the car is now on its way to the asteroid belt in an orbit that may last a billion years. And on board the car? Well, there was

Elon Musk's Car Is On Its Way To Mars Orbit After Stunning Falcon Heavy Launch

Well, it happened. It actually happened. After seven years of waiting, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off last night from Cape Canaveral in Florida in a stunning launch watched around the world. On board was Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster car, intended to be shot to the orbital plane of Mars because reasons. However, it looks like the car overshot a bit, and it’ll actually head further into the Solar System, to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The car was on a six-hour coast th

Why SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Launch Is Such A Big Deal

If you thought the Superbowl was a big deal, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tomorrow, the world will be gripped by the biggest rocket to launch in more than a generation – and despite some teething issues, it heralds a bright and exciting future in spaceflight. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 1.30pm EST (6.30pm GMT) at the earliest tomorrow, February 6. The rocket will have a 2.5-hour launch window, with a backup launch date scheduled for Feb

It's Been More Than A Year Since NASA Had Someone Properly In Charge

If you’re keeping count, yes, it has been more than 365 days since NASA last had an Administrator. That is unprecedented, and the end is not yet in sight. At the moment, the Trump administration is trying to push forward the nomination of Republican Jim Bridenstine. He was put forward in November and then resubmitted in January, but it's not clear when a full Senate vote will take place. This is the longest time NASA has been without an Administrator in its 60-year history; it took just six mo

Astronomers Are Really Pissed Off About That Disco Ball Satellite In Orbit

Hey, remember the other day we told you about that “disco ball” satellite that had been launched into orbit? Well, astronomers aren’t too pleased about it. Not pleased at all. Called the Humanity Star, it was launched into space by the fledgling US company Rocket Lab, on the second ever launch of their Electron rocket from New Zealand. That launch itself was quite an achievement. But it wasn’t until after the launch that the company revealed a secret payload on the rocket – this geodesic ball

These Are The Most Exciting Space Missions To Look Forward To In 2018

Hooray! We made it into 2018. And with another year comes another host of exciting space missions to look forward to, from long-awaited launches to deep space rendezvous. Last year saw a number of fascinating developments in space. India launched a record-breaking 104 satellites on a single rocket, for example, while the Cassini mission came to an end and SpaceX wowed us all with repeated rocket landings. This year should be even more thrilling though, and things get started almost immediately
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