A new species of early human? Why we should be cautious about new fossil footprint findings

Dawid A. Iurino for THOR, Author provided A collection of fossil footprints at Laetoli in Northern Tanzania, preserved in volcanic ash and dated to 3.66 million years ago, are still yielding surprises almost 45 years after their discovery. Based on a re-analysis of fossil footprints from one of Laetoli’s sites,…

AI can reliably spot molecules on exoplanets – and might one day even discover new laws of physics

Artist's impression of exoplanet KELT-11 b. Impression by Léa Changeat., Author provided Do you know what the Earth’s atmosphere is made of? You’d probably remember it’s oxygen, and maybe nitrogen. And with a little help from Google you can easily reach a more precise answer: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and…

How uncertainty can impair our ability to make rational decisions – new research

When times are uncertain, we can fail to be flexible. jefftakespics2/Shutterstock We make decisions every day, many of which are so straightforward that we hardly notice we are making them. But we tend to struggle when faced with decisions that have uncertain outcomes, such as during the pandemic. Cognitive scientists…

Could a chewing gum really reduce the spread of COVID-19? Maybe — but here’s what we need to know first

Milles Studio/Shutterstock An experimental chewing gum could reduce the spread of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a recent study published in the journal Molecular Therapy. You might already have noticed headlines calling the findings “fresh hope” in our fight against COVID-19. But how excited should we be?…

Household mixing during COVID-19: our research suggests adherence to lockdowns in England declined over time

Olena Ivanova/Shutterstock The grim prospect of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders is back in the news, with a number of European countries having either introduced new restrictions or reimposed full lockdowns amid rising cases. These developments inevitably raise questions around how we can best shape public health policy to reduce virus transmission.…

Sea lion whiskers can move like human fingertips: here’s how we found out

Lachlan Ross / pexels , CC BY-SA Humans have amazing fingertips. They are sensitive and can be moved over objects to feel its softness, texture, size and shape. These movements are both complex, and “task-specific”. This means that you adopt different movements depending on what you want to feel about…

Why it’s still a scientific mystery how some can live past 100 – and how to crack it

Centenarian buddies in Sardinia. Sabino Parente/Shutterstock A 35-year-old man only has a 1.5% chance of dying in the next ten years. But the same man at 75 has a 45% chance of dying before he reaches 85. Clearly, ageing is bad for our health. On the bright side, we have…

Curious Kids: how are galaxies formed?

There's a lot we don't know about galaxies. Zakharchuk/Shutterstock How are galaxies formed? – Harsh, aged 14, Kolkata, India To answer the question of how galaxies were formed, we need to travel back in time to close to the birth of the universe, nearly 14 billion years ago. The great…

How moving dots are helping us learn more about dyslexia in children – new research

Around one in ten children in the UK have dyslexia, a developmental condition which means that they struggle to learn to read. It often causes difficulties in spelling too. Reading and spelling involve mapping what we see on a page to correspond to spoken language and meaning. So, reading difficulties…

Drivers and hand-held mobile phones: extending the ban won’t solve the problem – here’s why

wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock The laws around mobile phone use while driving are to be tightened under new UK government plans to make any use of a hand-held phone illegal. From 2022, mobile phone law will be extended to cover taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists or playing games while driving or…

Do you use predictive text? Chances are it’s not saving you time – and could even be slowing you down

ImYanis/Shutterstock Typing is one of the most common things we do on our mobile phones. A recent survey suggests that millenials spend 48 minutes each day texting, while boomers spend 30 minutes. Since the advent of mobile phones, the way we text has changed. We’ve seen the introduction of autocorrect,…

Curious Kids: what are the rings around planets made of?

The planet Saturn. viktorov.pro/Shutterstock What are the rings around planets made of? – Vihan, aged five, Chennai, India Lots of us are familiar with pictures of the planet Saturn and its unmistakable ring. In fact, Saturn doesn’t have just one ring – if you look through a telescope, you will…

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