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Predict and survive

Science & technologyCombating future virusesPredict and survivePresaging how viruses evolve may let vaccines be prepared in advanceGENERALLY, IMMUNE systems mount responses only against pathogens that have already infected the bodies they are protecting. Science, though, can shorten the path to immunity by vaccination. This involves presenting the...

Robots are poised to start unloading lorries

Science & technologyAutomatic goods handlingRobots are poised to start unloading lorriesThe last pieces of warehouse automation will soon be in placeUNLOADING LORRIES is wearisome for people, but hardly an intellectual challenge. For robots it is the reverse. Robots never tire. They do, however, have problems interpreting the data streaming in from...

The Babylonians used Pythagorean ideas long before Pythagoras

Science & technologyAncient geometryThe Babylonians used Pythagorean ideas long before PythagorasSurveyors employed them to measure out landMOST READERS will have encountered Pythagoras’s theorem about right-angled triangles—that the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides—at school. But the less-mathematically...

An intriguing reinterpretation of an ancient grave

Science & technologyA non-binary burialAn intriguing reinterpretation of an ancient graveThe past is not always what you think it wasIN 1968 A GRAVE dating from about 1100 was uncovered near Hattula, in Finland. Little remained of the occupant’s skeleton, but the inhumation included two swords and a sheathed knife. Such grave goods would normally...

Data don’t lie, but they can lead scientists to opposite conclusions

Science & technologyMethods and madnessData don’t lie, but they can lead scientists to opposite conclusionsAnalytical methods can also influence resultsONE OF THE biggest concerns in science is bias—that scientists themselves, consciously or unconsciously, may put their thumbs on the scales and influence the outcomes of experiments. Boffins have...

Flies, worms and bees could help detect illness

Science & technologyThe nose knowsFlies, worms and bees could help detect illnessInvertebrates can detect the chemical signs of sicknessDOGS CAN smell things at concentrations of one part in a trillion—equivalent to a single drop in a pond the size of 20 Olympic swimming pools. That ability is put to good use by human beings. Trained dogs can sniff...

Data don’t lie

Science & technologyMethods and madnessData don’t lie...but they can lead scientists to opposite conclusionsONE OF THE biggest concerns in science is bias—that scientists themselves, consciously or unconsciously, may put their thumbs on the scales and influence the outcomes of experiments. Boffins have come up with all sorts of tactics to try to...

Propellers make a comeback on a new type of aircraft engine

Science & technologyProp swingingPropellers make a comeback on a new type of aircraft enginePropfans will be cleaner and more fuel-efficientWHEN A MODIFIED MD-80 airliner flew at the 1988 Farnborough air show in Britain, it was supposed to represent the future of air travel. One of its rear-mounted jet engines had been replaced with an unusual form...

A new, green air-conditioning system manages without nasty gases

Science & technologyCool ideasA new green air-conditioning system manages without nasty gasesAnd has few moving parts at its coreIN A WARMING world it helps to stay cool. But doing so also threatens the planet. Most air conditioners use refrigerant gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Though these do not deplete Earth’s ozone layer in the way...

Floating wind turbines could rise to great heights

Science & technologyRenewable energyFloating wind turbines could rise to great heightsBut the taller they get, the harder they will be to repairON JULY 16th Royal Dutch Shell, an oil and gas company, and Scottish Power, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, a Spanish electricity utility, made an announcement. They were, they said, jointly submitting proposals...

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