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Ben Gilliland's blog

Fancy designing your own space experiment?

Exciting new summer school opens space science to the public

(And Cosm has two scholarships up for grabs)

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is an impressive bit of kit (find out about it here) but most of the experiments carried out on the International Space Station are a little more modest.

Even so, getting even a small experiment up to the ISS’s altitude of 300km (186 miles) is no easy task. After all, it costs more than £3,000 just to carry a single kilogram into Earth orbit. Then there is the competition. Space (no pun intended) is limited inside the station, so they have to be selective about what they let aboard.

But imagine if you were given the chance to design an experiment that actually made it to the ISS… it could kickstart a career, or it might help turn your degree into a doctorate.

Meet the ultimate space experiment

Searching cosmic rays for the secrets of the universe

A titan has just been installed on the International Space Station. Weighing in at seven tonnes, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) took 16 years to build and is the most complex space physics experiment ever built. Launched last week as the final payload of Nasa’s retiring space shuttle Endeavour, AMS-02 was successfully bolted on to the ISS on Thursday.

It is a huge scientific collaboration involving 600 physicists from around the world. Led by Nobel prize winner Prof Samuel Ting, it has the world of physics in a state of fevered excitement (we leave it to you to imagine a fevered physicist).

The measures of man

Celebrate World Measurement Day

Today is World Metrology Day. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention de Metre in 1875, which provided the basis for a single, coherent system of measurements. But why should you care?

Well, without what is known as the International System of Units (SI units), we would have no agreed standard with which to measure the world around us.

It guarantees that a kiliogram weighs a kilogram the world over. It ensures that, if you travel a kilometre away from home, you know exactly how far you have travelled, and that if you arrange to have dinner with the wife at six o clock, you won't find it already in the dog.

Meet the Time Lords of nature...

...who are last of their kind too

As species, they have called Earth home for more than 200 million years.

They are amongst the planet’s most ancient inhabitants. Their ancestors have survived repeated catastrophic extinction events.

They have witnessed the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and survived periods of unimaginably dramatic global climate change. They have seen the once mighty landmass of Pangaea torn apart and have sailed the planet on the shattered fragments that we call the continents today. They have passed through almost every drama witnessed by life on Earth and yet they have remained virtually unchanged.

They are survivors from another time. But today (like another famous time-traveller), each stands alone as the last of his kind.

NO S**T SHERLOCK! – The Greatest Hits (part three)

Another cornucopia of obviousness!

Does what it says on the tin... more No S**T Sherlock's from the archives of the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious.

The last blog post of a dying man

Humbled by a man I never met

I didn't know Derek Miller. Over the years I have dipped in and out of his blog (as you do) and always enjoyed his witty, sceptical and englightend posts. But that is as far as it went.

On May 4, Derek Miller died of complications arising from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer.

Normally, to those of us that didn't know Derek directly, this would be an unremarkable event – tragic certainly, but people we don't know die everyday (every second)...

So why has the passing of a man I didn't know (and who wasn't a television celebrity or movie star) prompted me to type these words?

Well, Derek has left his readers a message from the grave (he points out that he hasn't gone to a better place, he has made a 'remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse') in the form of a 'last post'.

I won't post his words here because I would be doing him a disservice, but they are witty, humbling, tragic and inspiring in equal measure.

So visit his blog, read his last post and then delve a bit deeper into the words he left behind.

'The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out' – Derek Miller

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