Science, Nature and Tech

Can Too Much Screen Time Damage Your Eyes?

 

I bet you’ve heard some adults warn that too much screen time can damage your eyes. Some even say that sitting too close to a screen can be harmful. This is an idea that’s been around for decades but is there any truth to it? In the latest of our Fact or Fable series, Sam investigates.

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Science, Nature and Tech

What Causes Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness is also known as travel sickness, sea sickness or air sickness. It can happen in a number of situations, not all of which involve movement, and is a very unpleasant sensation. As part of our Have You Ever Wondered series, our Science Editor Sam finds out what causes motion sickness, and if there is anything you can do to prevent it.

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Art & History, Science, Nature and Tech

The Clifton suspension bridge: designed by a woman, built by Brunel

One of the best known landmarks in Bristol, UK, the Clifton suspension bridge first opened in 1864. It was built by the famous British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but it has recently become public knowledge that it was designed by a woman. Our science editor Sam Gouldson explains who she was and why her work isn’t more widely known.

Who really designed the bridge?

The Clifton suspension bridge was designed by a woman called Sarah Guppy. She was born Sarah Beach in 1770, but when she married her husband Samuel Guppy she took his name. She was one of the great British inventors of her time and the bridge isn’t the only thing she came up with.

What else did she design?

The invention that earned Sarah the most money was her device to prevent barnacles forming on the hulls of ships. Without barnacles the ships would be able to cut better through water and travel more quickly, and the Royal Navy paid her £40,000 for it. That may not sound like much for such a valuable design, but today it would be more than £2.3 million. Her other inventions included a kettle that not only boiled water for tea but could cook an egg and keep toast warm, a candle holder that could keep candles alight for longer and a way of treating boats so that they were more watertight. She also came up with the idea of planting willow and poplar trees on the embankments of new railways, to hold the earth together and prevent landslides.

Why isn’t she more famous?

Sarah lived during the Georgian and Victorian eras. In those times married women weren’t allowed to own property in their own name, and intellectual property such as Sarah’s inventions were no different. Her husband had to file the patents on her behalf, as the property of the Guppy family. The patent for her method of piling bridge foundations in order to create a new kind of bridge was filed in 1811, but she refused to charge others to use the idea because she felt it was for the benefit of the public. Thomas Telford, a civil engineer, used her design to build the Menai bridge in 1826, and when the competition to design the Clifton bridge was announced Sarah gave her work to Brunel. When she wrote to him to suggest the use of willow and poplar trees to reinforce railway embankments, she explained that she didn’t want the credit for her idea because she felt that women “must not be boastful”.

 

Featured image: Sage Solar/Flikr

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Art & History

What is the Big Deal About Finding Richard III?

As skeleton found under a car park in Leicester has been identified as that of King Richard III, who ruled England from 1483 to 1485. Richard has been pictured as a tyrant king. There’s a story that Richard killed his own nephews, the legendary ‘princes in the tower’ in order to usurp the throne.

Nearly a century after Richard’s death, Shakespeare describes Richard as a ‘bottled spider’, a hunchback. Since Shakespeare’s time writers and artists through history have imagined Richard as a terrifying figure, whose physical disabilities are signs of his cruel inner nature.

Some historians argue that Shakespeare must have been writing propaganda to please his queen, Elizabeth I, whose grandfather Henry VII defeated Richard in battle. These historians argue that Richard’s ‘hunchback’ is an insult made up by Shakespeare, but until now, we haven’t been able to know what the truth is.

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Travel

Exploring Australia – Marvellous Melbourne

melbourne lanes

Continuing on my Australian adventure, I thought I’d tell you about Melbourne, my new favourite city. Whilst I’m in Australia, I’m going to be staying here in Melbourne, then moving on to Sydney next week. Sydney, I know about; there’s a big harbour, famous for its bridge and its opera house. But Melbourne? Before I came here, I didn’t know a thing about it.
 The first thing I found out is that Melbourne is in the South East of Australia, in the state of Victoria. It’s on the coast and like Sydney is a harbour city. The climate in Melbourne can be a bit like the UK; it changes often and can start raining out of nowhere! Although it gets hotter than the UK, it doesn’t get quite as hot as the rest of Australia.

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