Technology

  • Mars InSight: mission unveils surprising secrets of red planet’s interior – new research
    The Mars InSight lander. NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA We may have walked on the Moon and sent probes across the solar system, but we know very little about what’s going on inside other planets. Now, for the first time, we have been able to view the interior of one, thanks to Nasa’s Mars InSight probe. The…
  • ‘Cyborg soil’ reveals the secret microbial metropolis beneath our feet
    8H/Shutterstock Dig a teaspoon into your nearest clump of soil, and what you’ll emerge with will contain more microorganisms than there are people on Earth. We know this from lab studies that analyse samples of earth scooped from the microbial wild to determine which forms of microscopic life exist in the world beneath our feet.…
  • Spyware: why the booming surveillance tech industry is vulnerable to corruption and abuse
    Zoomik/Shutterstock The world’s most sophisticated commercially available spyware may be being abused, according to an investigation by 17 media organisations in ten countries. Intelligence leaks and forensic phone analysis suggests the surveillance software, called Pegasus, has been used to target and spy on the phones of human rights activists, investigative journalists, politicians, researchers and academics.…
  • Long COVID: with one in three patients back in hospital after three months, where are the treatments?
    The pace of acute therapy and vaccine development for COVID have been dizzying. But even as we hope a route to bringing the pandemic under control is within sight, we’re now facing the possibility of another urgent public health emergency thanks to what’s known as long COVID, a group of symptoms that last long after…
  • Can consciousness be explained by quantum physics? My research takes us a step closer to finding out
    Some scientists believe consciousness is generated by quantum processes, but the theory is yet to be empirically tested. vitstudio/Shutterstock One of the most important open questions in science is how our consciousness is established. In the 1990s, long before winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for his prediction of black holes, physicist Roger Penrose…
  • COVID data is complex and changeable – expecting the public to heed it as restrictions ease is optimistic
    fran_kie/Shutterstock Throughout the pandemic, public health decisions have been based on the government’s interpretation of data. With COVID restrictions lifting in England on Monday July 19, that onus will now fall primarily on the general public – and the news media that keeps them informed. The success of this shift from government responsibility to public…
  • Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin: can they be more than ‘space’ joyrides for millionaires?
    Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and his team successfully flew to the “edge of space” on the Unity 22 mission aboard a Virgin Galactic plane on July 12. The event was hailed as the start of space tourism, narrowly beating the planned launch on 20 July by fellow billionaire business magnate Jeff Bezos and his firm…
  • Facebook often removes evidence of atrocities in countries like Syria and Myanmar – but we can preserve it
    R. Bociaga/Shutterstock Nearly half of the world’s population owns a smartphone. For those living in conflict zones or suffering human rights violations, these devices are crucial. They help ordinary people record and share the atrocities they witness – alerting the world to their plight, and holding to account those responsible for crimes against humanity. Yet…
  • Lab–grown and plant–based meat: the science, psychology and future of meat alternatives – podcast
    Would you eat cultured meat? HQuality via Shutterstock How do you mimic meat? We take a look at the science behind plant-based and cultured meat in this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, and where it might lead. And we hear about new research from Indonesia on cigarette advertising and how it lures in children.…
  • Why fans cover their faces when football players take penalties – a psychologist explains
    Penalty shootouts in football are one of the most unpredictable and dramatic events in sport, producing moments of utter ecstasy and deep despair in players and managers. As we saw in the recent UEFA Euro 2020 championship, fans often cover their faces when players take penalties. Research shows us why. There are psychological reasons behind…
  • Targeted ads isolate and divide us even when they’re not political – new research
    Zenza Flarini/Shutterstock Five years since the Brexit vote and three since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we’re now familiar with the role that targeted political advertising can play in fomenting polarisation. It was revealed in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica had used data harvested from 87 million Facebook profiles, without users’ consent, to help Donald Trump’s 2016…
  • Bitcoin alternatives could provide a green solution to energy-guzzling cryptocurrencies
    24K-Production/Shutterstock The cryptocurrency bitcoin now uses up more electricity a year than the whole of Argentina, according to recent estimates from the University of Cambridge. That’s because the creation of a bitcoin, in a process called mining, is achieved by powerful computers that work night and day to decode and solve complex mathematical problems. The…
  • Why do cauliflowers look so odd? We’ve cracked the maths behind their ‘fractal’ shape
    Ekaterina Smirnova/Shutterstock Have you ever stared at a cauliflower before preparing it and got lost in its stunningly beautiful pattern? Probably not, if you are in your right mind, but I reassure you it’s worth a try. What you’ll find is that what at first sight looks like an amorphous blob has a striking regularity.…
  • Tiangong: astronauts are working on China’s new space station – here’s what to expect
    Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng, and Liu Boming during ceremony before heading to Tiangong. ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA Three astronauts on China’s new space station have just performed the country’s first space walk and are busy configuring the module for future crews. Named Tiangong (“heavenly palace”), the station is the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA)‘s signature…
  • We solved the mystery of why some fish are warm-blooded
    For over 50 years now, scientists have known that, despite their reputation, not all fish are cold-blooded. Some shark and tuna species, the white shark and the Atlantic bluefin tuna, have evolved the ability to warm parts of their bodies, such as their muscle, eyes and brain. About 35 species of fishes – accounting for…
  • COVID-19: kids are using soft drinks to fake positive tests – I’ve worked out the science and how to spot it
    Can you really fake a covid test with soft drinks? K321/Shutterstock Children are always going to find cunning ways to bunk off school, and the latest trick is to fake a positive COVID-19 lateral flow test (LFT) using soft drinks. So how are fruit juices, cola and devious kids fooling the tests and is there…
  • Four ways artificial intelligence is helping us learn about the universe
    Astronomy is all about data. The universe is getting bigger and so too is the amount of information we have about it. But some of the biggest challenges of the next generation of astronomy lie in just how we’re going to study all the data we’re collecting. To take on these challenges, astronomers are turning…
  • Human behaviour: what scientists have learned about it from the pandemic
    People haven't been as irrational during the pandemic as some initially thought. Jennifer M. Mason/Shutterstock During the pandemic, a lot of assumptions were made about how people behave. Many of those assumptions were wrong, and they led to disastrous policies. Several governments worried that their pandemic restrictions would quickly lead to “behavioural fatigue” so that…
  • What happens when black holes collide with the most dense stars in the universe
    For the first time, a faint signal caused by the merging of two almost equally mysterious objects – a black hole and a neutron star – has been recorded on Earth. On January 5 2020, when the world was first learning of the COVID-19 outbreak, gravitational waves from this merging reached the Livingston detector of…
  • A decade since ‘the year of the hacktivist’, online protests look set to return
    NeydtStock/Shutterstock Many of us vaguely remember the word “hacktivism” from a decade ago. This was a time before serious ransomware attacks dominated current cybersecurity concerns, when certain hacking techniques were being used to send political messages to governmental and corporate entities. Hacktivism has since retreated as a form of protest, in part due to the…
  • England players suffer from stereotype they can’t win penalty shootouts, research suggests
    It’s one of the strongest stereotypes in world sport: England’s national football team is bad at penalty shootouts. Trotted out whenever England find themselves in the knockout phases of an international tournament, this time-worn stereotype always seems most pronounced when England are to face historic rivals Germany. That rivalry has featured two agonising penalty shootouts,…
  • Prehistoric creatures flocked to different latitudes to survive climate change – the same is taking place today
    J.T. Csotonyi/wikimedia, CC BY-SA Life on Earth is most diverse at the equator. This pattern, where species biodiversity increases as we move through the tropics towards the equator, is seen on land and in the oceans, and has been documented across a broad range of animal and plant groups, from mammals and birds, to ants…
  • I listened to animals’ hearts to reveal their hidden emotional worlds
    Tom Wang/Shutterstock It’s not only humans who feel emotions. In his 1872 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin described a range of “innate” and “evolved” emotions in dogs, cats, chimpanzees, swans and other non-human animals. But animals can’t verbally report their emotions, and humans often misread how an animal’s…
  • Homo longi: extinct human species that may replace Neanderthals as our closest relatives found in China
    What our relative may have looked like. CREDIT Chuang Zhao In 1933 a mysterious fossil skull was discovered near Harbin City in the Heilongjiang province of north-eastern China. Despite being nearly perfectly preserved – with square eye sockets, thick brow ridges and large teeth – nobody could work out exactly what it was. The skull…
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