No alien megastructure around mysterious ‘Tabby’s star’, analysis shows

Stand down space cadets: there is (sadly) no alien megastructure around star KIC 8462852, also known as Tabbys star

As if a divisive Star Wars film wasnt bad news enough this Christmas, now an analysis by more than 200 astronomers has been published that shows the mysterious dimming of star KIC 8462852 is not being produced by an alien megastructure.

The evidence points most strongly to a giant cloud of dust occasionally obscuring the star. The cloud was most possibly produced by the collision of two comets or the break-up of a single one. Another option is that the star itself is undergoing some sort of internal convulsion that astronomers have never seen before.

KIC 8462852 is approximately 1,500 light years away from the Earth and hit the headlines in October 2015 when data from Nasas Kepler space telescope showed that it was dimming by unexplainably large amounts. The stars light dropped by 20% first and then 15% making it unique. Even a large planet passing in front of the star would have blocked only about 1% of the light.

For an object to block 15-20%, it would have to be approaching half the diameter of the star itself. With this realisation, a few astronomers began whispering that such a signal would be the kind expected from a gigantic extraterrestrial construction orbiting in front of the star and the idea of the alien megastructure was born.

Tabetha Boyajian, then at Yale University and now at Louisiana State University, led the investigations into the mysterious signals. It was after her that the star was nicknamed Tabbys star. She said at the time that a constant monitoring programme was needed to watch the star for more dips.

Todays new analysis is the result of that programme. It was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that attracted support from more than 1,700 people and raised more than $100,000. In partnership with the Las Cumbres Observatory, a privately-funded organisation that operates 21 telescopes at eight sites around the world, the astronomers monitored the star from March 2016 to December 2017.

In that time they recorded four more dips, though none were as dramatic as the originals, reaching only a percent or two. These were named by the Kickstarter supporters as Elsie and Celeste, Skara Brae and Angkor. Significantly for the analysis, the dimming events were captured at multiple wavelengths.

If an alien megastructure had been causing the drop in light, being a solid object, it would block all wavelengths in the same way, at the same time. Thats not what the team saw. Instead, different wavelengths of light dropped by different amounts. This is exactly what you would expect from starlight passing through a tenuous dust cloud.

It happens because dust grains scatter light depending on its wavelength. Blue light, which has short wavelengths, is scattered more easily than red, which has longer wavelengths. This is why our sky is blue; that colour has been scattered out of the suns direct light by the molecules in the air.

In the case of Tabbys star, the new observations show that it dims more at blue wavelengths than red. Thus, its light is passing through a dust cloud, not being blocked by an alien megastructure in orbit around the star (#sadface).

The new analysis of KIC 8462852 showing these results is to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. It reinforces the conclusions reached by Huan Meng, University of Arizona, Tucson, and collaborators in October 2017. They monitored the star at multiple wavelengths using Nasas Spitzer and Swift missions, and the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory. These results were published in The Astrophysical Journal.

While it is not aliens this time, the story serves as a valuable reminder that unexpected signals of this kind are definitely the ones to look out for. Something unexplainable in some unexpected observation rather than a deliberate radio message to us is probably the way we are going to spot the presence of extraterrestrials if theyre out there in the first place, of course.

Stuart Clark is the author of The Search for Earths Twin (Quercus).

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Too scared to speak up? How to be more confident

Some people exude self-assurance, while others dread putting themselves forward. But is lack of confidence societal or genetic, and what tricks can we use to overcome it?

Above the entrance to Manchester Grammar School lies a coat of arms and a Latin inscription: Sapere Aude. Ian Thorpe, then the schools development officer, translated it for me Dare to Be Wise as we stood in the front quad on a warm day last July. First used by the Roman poet Horace in his book of Epistles, the phrase was later employed by the philosopher Immanuel Kant: Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own understanding is the motto of the enlightenment, he wrote. And it makes a fine motto, too, for a school that counts among its alumni the writer Thomas de Quincy and the director Nicholas Hytner.

Manchester Grammar is the largest all-boys day school in the country, and when I visited they were in the throes of summer sports day: a loudspeaker reeled race results out across the grass, a large marquee stood by the track. There was, I felt, a sense of gentle splendour there in the trees that line its long driveway, mature and broad-branched, and in the quad designed in the style of an Oxbridge college. Certainly, the school wants for little: it stands on a 28-acre site, has a history dating back to the early 16th century, and commands fees a little shy of 12,000 a year.

In the cool of the library, I joined Thorpe, his colleague Laura Rooney and some of their students. We talked about the benefits of the school, their previous educational experiences at a rowdy primary and a local state comprehensive. Theres more attention to individual pupils here, said one. When I came to this school, I felt more important, said another. Rooney spoke of the schools old boys network. We look after them for the rest of their lives, she said, and told of how, only the previous week, she had arranged a sixth-form work experience placement with an Old Mancunian who is now a vehicle engineer for a Formula One team.

The boys were open, articulate and delightful, their demeanour imbued with a confidence I found striking. But a school such as Manchester Grammar engenders confidence not just through the depth and breadth of its education, but through the sense of history and lineage it bestows upon its pupils, the belief that it is quite something to join the ranks of Old Mancunians, the familiarity with Oxbridge and the professional world, a feeling of ease in a variety of social settings and occasions. And although not every public school child will brim with confidence, many will go on to live their lives with the deep-rooted sense that they have worth.

Confidence is a peculiar beast. At its most fulsome it can seem repellent. In some cases it could even prove dangerous consider the circumstances brought about by the unwavering confidence of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, for instance, or the kind of financial maelstrom unleashed by the overconfidence of stock market traders. Yet as I left Manchester Grammar that July day I felt a great wash of sadness that not all young people will know that sense of self-assurance; that many will spend their lives feeling perpetually on the back foot. And I wondered whether confidence might be something we can learn at any stage in life.

To an extent, confidence is something hardwired into us from birth. A study of 3,700 twins by behavioural geneticist Corina Greven at Kings College London and Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry, for instance, concluded that academic self-confidence was 50% nature and 50% nurture. Women, meanwhile, have a biological tendency to seek acceptance and avoid conflict, while men tend to take more risks under pressure, meaning that, in some lights, women might appear to lack inner confidence.

But external factors play a huge role in shaping our feelings of self worth. Lets say you are white and male and raised in a detached house in the home counties. You attend a fee-paying school, your family is financially secure and well-educated as it has been for generations. It seems brain-numbingly obvious to suggest your levels of confidence are likely to be higher than if you were female, black and state-educated, growing up in a single-parent family on benefits living on a council estate in, say, Burnley.

No working-class kid, however self-confident, is ever going to be made the editor of the Evening Standard without any journalistic experience, in the way that George Osborne was, says the writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie, who has written often on matters of class, politics and regional divide. What he has is a complicated nexus, a network of power and relationships that means you cant really fail. Underpinning that sort of confidence, he adds, is actual material and political power and I think this is forgotten sometimes when well-meaning people are accusing working-class kids of lacking the confidence and self-assertion that comes with middle-class people.

Illustration: Dom McKenzie

Some of the reasons for this are glaringly obvious, while others exert a more subtle force. John Grindrod is the author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Post-War Britain. For hundreds of thousands of years, our confidence has been shaped by the environments that we are allowed into or not allowed into, he says, pointing out that, by its nature, castle design led to the feeling that those inside were protected by its architecture, while those outside were not. After the war, Grindrod notes, this began to shift. We saw a desire to try to create buildings that were more transparent and more permeable, he says. An egalitarian architecture as a panacea to a lot of issues around people feeling very disconnected from power.

But the issue is that we do not live in an egalitarian society. The design of a public school such as Eton has much in common with, say, the colleges of Oxbridge, as well as the Inns of Court and the Houses of Parliament. If you grow up among these kinds of buildings, you are not only less likely to be daunted by their grandeur but ,on the contrary, you will feel at home, as if you belong there and they speak your language. When the competition to build the Houses of Parliament came along in the 1830s, you were only allowed to enter buildings that were neo-gothic or Tudor, adds Grindrod. People who understood this vernacular, of course, would have been to Oxford and Cambridge and all those other hallowed institutions.

There have been architectural ripostes to the established elite, however. Maconie speaks fondly of St Georges Hall in Liverpool, a neoclassical building begun in 1841, when the city was flourishing: Its designed to be the first thing you see when you get off the train at Lime Street, this grand edifice, and its supposed to say, Were not bowing to anyone, were supremely self-confident and were as good a city as anywhere in the world. You see that in a lot of Manchesters cottonopolis-era architecture. A sort of swagger in bricks.

Swagger is one of those words often used to describe confident northerners particularly men. I think of the self-confidence of the north in terms of, say, the Gallagher brothers [from Oasis], that and Arthur Seaton [from Alan Sillitoes Saturday Night and Sunday Morning], says Maconie. That kind of self-confidence is born, to a degree, of failure. You get a lot of street confidence in northern males, its an Im never really going to make anything of myself in terms of money or power or prestige, but I can enjoy the prestige of being the loudest guy in the pub.

Confident women, meanwhile, often find they are described as bossy or snobby. Katty Kay presents BBC World News America you may remember her as the presenter whom Dr Ben Carson, the former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, tried to silence during a live TV discussion of Trumps alleged sexual assaults, asking for her microphone to be turned off. She is also the co-author of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance What Women Should Know.

Kay is the daughter of a diplomat, she attended Oxford, and worked for the Bank of England before beginning her career in journalism. Despite this grounding, professional confidence has been a quality that has often alluded her, and she attributes its cause to thinking I wasnt bright enough, and I was conscious of not being confident enough.

But she is aware that she is not alone. Evidence of women underestimating their abilities is comprehensive and across the board, she says. It exists in sports, it exists in politics, it exists in business, it exists in the military. It is quite the reverse for men. One of the most reliable social studies you can do is to give men and women a scientific reasoning quiz, she says. Men tend to overestimate their abilities by more than 30%. Women routinely underestimate their abilities. In reality, the quiz results reveal men and women tend to do about the same.

This, of course, has implications for both an individuals career and the workplace in general. Hewlett Packard has done work on promotions, Kay continues. Women will apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skill set, men will go for those same promotions with 60% of the skill set, because they figure theyre going to learn the rest when they get there and theyre right, they will, and so could we. Its one of the biggest factors I think in why women hold themselves back at work. Now, there are lots of structural reasons, the playing field is not level, but we are also not going for those promotions, were not asking for those pay rises in the way that men do.

During the last few months I have been making a radio series about confidence what it is, where it comes from, why some of us have it and others dont, and what to do about it if your confidence levels are in short supply. I should note that I am not a confident person. I spent my entire first term at primary school allowing myself to be called Louise because I was too shy to tell them my name was actually Laura. I also recently gave a talk at a festival and, for fear that I was taking up everyones valuable time, began early, then garbled through it at high speed and low volume, apologising frequently. I did not ask for a lectern, or for the window on to the noisy street to be closed, I did not allow myself to stop and breathe, because I feared that to do any of these things things that would have benefited both the audience and myself might have been considered arrogant.

It seems to me that confidence has much to do with space with how much room you feel able and allowed to take up. Grow up in a detached house with several acres and you might feel entitled to more room than someone raised in a terrace or a high rise with a tiny balcony. Attend a school where the class sizes are smaller, where fees are paid, and the buildings are grander, and you will learn early that you have a right to spread out, raise your voice, ask for more.

To muddy things further, girls are raised to believe that being smaller is preferable; in a hundred thousand ways we receive the message that we should be quieter, thinner, less demanding, in case we are deemed bossy, or our views too strident, or in case a man asks for our microphone to be turned off. To ask for a pay rise, then, is demanding; it says I am worthy of more and to women, who have spent their lives being told that they should be less, this is conflicting. Men, meanwhile, are raised to be go-getters, to conquer and to win.

But, male or female, we are all a mess of contradictions: the business leader who cant make small talk, the party animal who balks at intimacy. I feel relatively self-assured so long as you cant see me so I can write an article, or present a radio programme, or be as cocky as you like on email, but in the decade that I worked in the Guardians offices, it filled me with dread to have to walk over to speak to my editor.

In the making of this series, there have been moments when I have begun to question whether confidence is such a marvellous thing at all. I dont know if I always trust it, and certainly I have wondered whether confidence always has to equate with brashness whether there might not be a quieter, gentler form of self-worth. I have thought often of something Maria Konnikova, author of a book about con artists, The Confidence Game, said to me: I have to be very wary of people who speak confidently. That is actually a sign that you should be a little bit more sceptical of them. And Ive considered the state of the world and wondered whether maybe all the big mouths and hot-talkers should just pipe down for a moment. I certainly look around me at the world and see strong, confident men who seem to be leading us into very dark places, Maconie notes. Isnt quiet, modest competence a better thing? Ease in ones own skin, I think, is a different matter. To not feel beholden to anyone or inferior to anyone, thats hard-acquired, I think, and that comes from a long immersion in what you do. Sometimes a little more discretion and humility might be a good thing.

Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cant Stop Talking. She cites a recent study by the Kellogg School in the US which found that in an average large meeting, three people do 70% of the talking. And thats horrifying, she says, because if you imagine it, everyone in those large meetings is equally likely to have good ideas but were only hearing from three of those people. That is just so much power and mind talent that has never seen the light of day.

The problem, she says, is that we have created a culture in our schools and workplaces where those people who are just more vocal, who are more dominant, more willing to take up space are automatically accorded all kinds of advantages, both consciously and unconsciously. But if you consider that a third to a half of the population is introverted, perhaps it is time for us to change the culture rather than change ourselves.

Still, we have grown accustomed to trying to change ourselves. Visit the self-help section of any bookshop and you will find any number of guides to gaining confidence: Susan Jeffers Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Paul McKennas Instant Confidence, Russ Harriss The Confidence Gap among them. One of the bestsellers is Bren Browns Daring Greatly. In 2010, Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, gave a TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability which has gone on to be one of the most-viewed TED talks of all time (31,649,423 views at time of writing). Browns theory is that we acquire true confidence through vulnerability. Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen, she writes.

The School of Life, the educational company founded by Alain de Botton, takes a similar approach. It runs a popular confidence workshop and publishes a guide, On Confidence, that draws on the wisdom of Erasmuss 1509 essay In Praise of Folly, and suggests that a willingness not only to be vulnerable but also to be a fool is crucial to evolving greater self-worth. Theres a type of underconfidence that arises specifically when we grow too attached to our own dignity and become anxious around any situation that might seem to threaten it, it states. We hold back from challenges in which there is any risk of ending up looking ridiculous, which comprises, of course, almost all the most interesting situations. The happy news is that, far from regarding it as an elusive gift, confidence is rather a skill based on ideas about our place in the world, and its secrets can be learned.

Illustration: Dom McKenzie

Katty Kay, agrees. I see confidence almost like building blocks, she says. Its almost a tangible physical commodity. You get confidence by doing things and trying stuff thats hard for you and when you do those things its like you bank a bit of confidence, you put it in your confidence wall. Not so long ago she was called to a meeting on Middle East affairs at the White House. And I thought: Oh my God, Im a fraud, all these people are super-duper experts, what am I doing here? Im just a generalist! When they reached the Q&A part of the meeting, Kay noted how the men in the room just jump in with questions, and Im sitting there thinking to myself: I must ask a question, I cant be one of only two women and neither of us ask questions! And eventually I think: For Gods sakes, Katty, youre nearly 50! Put your hand in the air and ask a question! So I put my hand up, and the question comes out, and the Earth didnt open up and swallow me whole. And the next time I was in that situation it was that bit easier because I had banked a bit of confidence.

Its an approach echoed by Brown. Courage is a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts, she writes. Its like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. The brain, after all, is not rigidly set, but malleable and open to change, and so we can learn to be bolder through repetition and reward.

A 2014 study at Dartmouth College, looked at the role of the frontostriatal pathway, which connects the medial prefrontal cortex, implicated in self-knowledge, to the ventral striatum, which provides feelings of reward and motivation. Researchers used magnetic imaging to measure both the physical parameters of that pathway, which it termed the road and the activity levels on that pathway, termed the traffic.

Participants answered questions about how they rated themselves in the short and the long-term with regard to qualities such as happy, hard-working, pessimistic and depressed. The researchers found that an individual with a strong road was likely to experience higher long-term self-esteem. Higher traffic levels on the pathway, meanwhile, showed momentary rises in self-esteem. They also only saw traffic when participants rated themselves with positive qualities, not negative ones. So if we think about ourselves positively, the areas of the brain connected with motivation, pleasure and reward are stimulated.

Just like mastering any other talent, gaining self-assurance requires repetition and time, writes Dr Stacie Grossman Bloom, a neuroscientist who has examined the role that neuroscience can play in raising confidence. The first step is to push back against the obstacles we know stand in our way by being mindful of the situation, and deciding to be confident. Making that complex decision is a multi-step process that taps into our emotions and engages many other parts of the brain. It doesnt matter what level of self-assurance you start at, the more time and effort you dedicate to practicing being more confident, the faster your brain will change and the faster youll master it.

At the Impact Factory in north London, Jo Ellen Grzyb runs workshops on communication, negotiation and public speaking. Over the course of her career she has developed her own tricks for pushing back against obstacles and mustering confidence. If, for example, you find yourself in a meeting in which only three people are blathering on, you might consider interjecting for the good of your colleagues. You put on your Superwoman or Superman cape and you are rescuing everyone else, she says. Because if Im thinking, I have to speak, I have to speak, what am I going to say?, Im all in my head. But if I think, I can rescue this meeting, then that builds my confidence because Im not just doing it on my behalf, Im doing it for the whole room.

There are physical tools, too. You think you dont have the confidence to interrupt this blusterer, she says. But if you begin to speak and you give eye contact to everybody but that person, its one of those little tiny magic tricks, because that person is being ignored. Its not being rude, but you can change the dynamic very quickly. Speak, make eye contact but not with the person who is taking up all the space.

Among many roles, Patsy Rodenburg is head of voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and works with actors, teachers, world leaders and members of the corporate world, teaching on matters of voice and presence. Although I cant talk about the psychology of confidence, I know what it looks like in the body, and the breath, and the voice and the pace, she says. Often people who are trying to be confident and arent swing the pendulum the other way and theyre too loud. They take up too much space. Others are collapsed in their bodies. They dont want to make eye contact, so there is a withdrawal from the world. You disappear. You stop breathing. Its the equivalent of the mouse with the hawk above it.

Her advice is that there is no overnight fix for the underconfident. It takes consciousness, choice, but also simple exercises that might have to be done for the rest of your life. Technique is for the moments when youre upset, disturbed or fearful. She asks people where they feel uncomfortable in these moments. All these tensions stop us breathing, she says. And breath is the fundamental thing in using our voice and connecting to people. So we have to get the breath low and deep and not rushed.

For a lot of women, its a matter of lifting the sternum, for others it might be finding some kind of external connection. I might be sitting at a desk feeling scared, she suggests. So Im just putting my hand against a desk and Im just gently pushing. And if you push against the desk, and your feet are on the floor, you can re-set the breath. Its about re-setting. Youve just got to come back into yourself.

Conversely, coming back into yourself is often a matter of stepping out of yourself. Somebody who is incredibly confident has authority and stillness and theyre interested in us, Rodenburg says. Real confidence has gravitas. And when were fully present, were interested in something outside ourselves. So one of the best things you could do if youre not feeling confident is just listen to others, and be attentive.

Once, I thought gaining confidence might require me to become someone else entirely someone harder and louder and more bruising. But really I think it is a matter of stepping beyond yourself; an adventure of sorts, into the unknown and the brilliantly possible. It is about taking up as much space as you need. About daring to be wise. And, if necessary, its about keeping a steadying hand on the table.

The Confidence Trick, written and presented by Laura Barton, begins on 31 October at 8pm on BBC Radio 4.

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How cool are you? Personality quiz | Ben Ambridge

Whether you are the rough and rebellious type or the charismatic thrill-seeking sort, this short test will reveal what sort of cool you are, says Ben Ambridge

Are you as cool as a cucumber? Or as naff as a 40-year-old using slang from the 1990s? To find out, simply tick off each of the personality traits you think you possess on each of the lists below.

List A
Thrill-seeking; unconventional; hedonistic (eg partying, self-indulgence); pro-social values (eg caring, unselfish); driven for success; friendly; competent; charismatic; attractive; confident; trendy; warm.

List B
Rebellious; ironic; rough; aloof; anti-social values (eg selfish).

So, are you cool?And, if so, what type of cool? If you ticked mostly traits on List A, then you have what coolness researchers, for example Professor Ilan Dar-Nimrod of the University of Rochester, New York, call cachet-cool. This is the type of cool enjoyed by the popular, conventionally attractive kids. If you ticked mostly items on List B, you have contrarian-cool. This is enjoyed by the tough rebels who eschew sports in favour of smoking behind the bike sheds.

If youre very attractive, youll be perceived as cool (thats cachet-cool), whatever you do. If not, youll have to work harder, for example by being friendly and partying extra hard. If you want to go the contrarian-cool route but are not naturally rebellious, youll need to dial up the irony and the rough demeanour and never use the word cool.

Order Are You Smarter Than a Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, 12.99) for 11.04 at

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UK nuclear power stations ‘could be forced to close’ after Brexit

Leaving Euratom treaty will shut down nuclear industry if international safety agreements are not made in time, MPs told

Nuclear power stations would be forced to shut down if a new measures are not in place when Britain quits a European atomic power treaty in 2019, an expert has warned.

Rupert Cowen, a senior nuclear energy lawyer at Prospect Law, told MPs on Tuesday that leaving the Euratom treaty as the government has promised could see trade in nuclear fuel grind to a halt.

The UK government has said it will exit Euratom when article 50 is triggered. The treaty promotes cooperation and research into nuclear power, and uniform safety standards.

Unlike other arrangements, if we dont get this right, business stops. There will be no trade. If we cant arrive at safeguards and other principles that allow compliance [with international nuclear standards] to be demonstrated, no nuclear trade will be able to continue.

Asked by the chair of the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee if that would see reactors switching off, he said: Ultimately, when their fuels runs out, yes. Cowen said that in his view there was no legal requirement for the UK to leave Euratom because of Brexit: Its a political issue, not a legal issue.

The UK nuclear industry would be crippled if new nuclear cooperation deals are not agreed within two years, a former government adviser told the committee.

Euratom explainer

There is a plethora of international agreements that would have to be struck that almost mirror those in place with Euratom, before we moved not just material but intellectual property, services, anything in the nuclear sector. We would be crippled without other things in place, said Dame Sue Ion, chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which was established by the government in 2013.

She said movement of the industrys best intellectual talent was made easier by the UKs membership of Euratom.

The government said it was working on alternative arrangements to Euratom. Describing the notification of withdrawal as a regrettable necessity when article 50 is triggered, energy minister Jesse Norman said that the UK saw clear routes outside of Euratom to address issues such as the trade of nuclear materials.

We take this extremely seriously and are devoting serious resources [to looking at new arrangements], he told the Lords science and technology committee on Tuesday.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said there was a lot to be done to put in place transitional measures replacing Euratom.

What were collectively warning about is the potential for there to be a very hard two-year period during which there are lots of other things the government has to deal with, that could leave it in a position where some of these things arent in place, he said. Greatrex said one possible option was an associate membership of Euratom.

Over the weekend, the GMB union called on ministers to reconsider their foolhardy rush to leave the treaty, claiming it could endanger the UKs entire nuclear future.

But the Office for Nuclear Regulation argued there could even be be some positives to leaving Euratom, such as a reduction in bureaucracy. If we relinquish Euratom there would be reduced burden from not having to comply with directives, said David Senior, an ONR executive.

Norman also promised a decision was due soon on the next stage of a delayed multimillion-pound government competition for mini nuclear reactors, known as small modular reactors. I love the projects and ideas but I want to be shown the value, he told the peers.

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At 140 a mile, how does Elon Musks moon trip compare with other journeys?

From car to rail, its hard to find a terrestrial journey that matches SpaceXs astronomical cost

It is a stratospheric sum but it does, at least, include the return journey. Elon Musk, the billionaire American transport visionary, has suggested that the first, so far unnamed, passengers on his SpaceX flight round the moon will pay about $70m (56m).

Musk says the journey, tentatively scheduled for 2018 on an untested Falcon Heavy rocket, will cover up to 400,000 miles, although the Apollo 13 crew, on their trip to the moon in 1970, were a record 248,655 miles from Earth, so this figure seems modest if anything. Either way, 400,000 miles (about 16 times the circumference of Earth) for 56m is equal to about 140 a mile, which is easier to fathom. But how does it compare with terrestrial journeys?

Rail: The priciest rail ticket in the UK, the home of extortionate rail travel, is reportedly 501 for the 480-mile anytime return from Shanklin on the Isle of Wight to Buxton in Derbyshire (includes the ferry). Thats a little more than 1 a mile. The most expensive season ticket by distance, from Harlow Town in Essex to London Liverpool Street, is less than 40p a mile for a full-time worker.

Car: A Ferrari F12tdf has the joint worst fuel economy, according to US government figures, with as little as 12 miles a gallon. At current pump prices, that equates to about 45p a mile. Even adding depreciation, insurance and the 340,000 cost of the car its a lot cheaper than space.

Bus: Buses are cheap, right? Not if you take the No 47 from Lewisham Park in south-east London to Lewisham Hospital, 135 metres up the road. At 1.50 that equates to almost 18 a mile.

Air: You would think air travel comes close, but the worst damage you can do on an airliner is a 55,000 return ticket from London to Melbourne (20,000 miles total) in Etihads penthouse suite. But thats only 2.75 a mile.

Tube: The closest you can get to matching the cost of lunar travel is on the London Underground. The shortest Tube journey is the 350 metres, from Covent Garden to Leicester Square. A cash ticket costs 4.90, which equates to almost 23 a mile, about a sixth of the cost of a trip to the moon and back and a lot quicker.

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What a Baby Can See In Its First 12 Months of Life

According to research it takes babies approximately two years for their eyesight to fully develop. In fact children can’t focus on their parents’ faces, even close up, until they’re around three months old.

You can read more about how a baby’s vision develops at Business Insider.



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‘Science for the people’: researchers challenge Trump outside US conference

Scientists rally in Boston amid alarm over presidents views and fears for the future of the EPA, as ecologist likens current struggle to Galileos

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