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Luhman 16B is the nearest brown dwarf to Earth, and the third nearest star system to our solar system

In what sense is HS2 plan progress?

I am pro-public transport and so are the Wildlife Trusts. The trusts have furnished HS2 with a huge amount of information about the impact of the proposed routes, and so far there's been no recognition of that information being received or, more importantly, taken into account.

Sir David (above) said Professor Brian Cox was the man 'to carry the torch'

And so the older male makes way for a younger rival... David Attenborough reveals his choice of successor: Professor Brian Cox

After six decades of bringing the wonders of the natural world to television audiences, Sir David Attenborough has finally anointed a successor.

David Attenborough narrated Africa, but China Central Television was also a key contributor

Chinese state funds behind BBC's Attenborough series

Viewers hypnotised by the BBC's landmark series Africa, with its stunning images of fighting giraffes and baby turtles scuttling into the sea, are watching pictures partly funded by the state of China, it can be disclosed.

Earth was hit by gamma ray burst from space in eighth century, say scientists

A massive cosmic explosion in deep space sent out a pulse of high-energy radiation that hit the Earth between the years 774AD and 775AD when the emperor Charlemagne ruled much of Western Europe, scientists have found.

Book of a lifetime: Casgliad o Ysgrifau by TH Parry-Williams

Casgliad o Ysgrifau, by TH Parry-Williams, is the book of its author's lifetime. It brings together nearly all of the short essays that he published between 1928 and 1966, and in which he regularly cast back to his early childhood in Snowdonia. In my opinion, ysgrifau is better translated with the more literal "writings". For, more than anything else, Parry-Williams used the form to write out what Konstantin Mochulsky, referring to Dostoevsky, called the "enigma of his personality".

Postcard from... Cern

It's just another day of digital carnage in the Hadron Collider, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

Balloons, a blimp and deep sea divers all require helium

A ballooning problem: the great helium shortage

It’s used in everything from kids parties to medicine – but now supplies are running so low scientists want to ration it. Steve Connor reports on the great helium shortage

Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk, Thursday 3 January

Volcano visit

Page 3 Profile: Stephen Hawking, physicist

Another incredible discovery for the world famous scientist?

2012 breakthroughs: Curiosity rover landing system

Scientific breakthroughs: From bone fragments to Higgs boson, the tiny finds with huge consequences

Winners of this year’s best breakthroughs revealed

Toyota's violin-playing robot plays at Tokyo's Universal Design Showcase in 2007

Vaccines will wipe out drug addiction and other predictions for the next century

Should you be lucky enough to survive Friday's apocalypse, there's lots to look forward to in the next 110 years (and a few things to be screamingly terrified of).

Mary Dejevsky: Why I would want to carry a gun in the US

Now is not a good time to admit this, but when I went to Washington as correspondent in 1997, I had two ambitions. The first was to become proficient in Spanish – for demographic reasons that are even more obvious now than they were then – the second was to learn to shoot.

A cosmic collision: Two satellites due to smash into surface of the moon… but don't worry, it was all planned by Nasa

NASA has deliberately guided the twin satellites into a cliff close to the moon’s northern pole

The Emperor's New Clothes (16/12/12)

Need a degree to get on? Not if our most respected experts are anything to go by, says English graduate Matthew Bell

Higgs zombies? CERN students make 'scientist fiction' film in Large Hadron Collider

Murderous zombies are stalking the dark underground passageways of the renowned CERN physics centre near Geneva, hunting young scientists who have survived a devastating failure in its world-famous particle collider.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick