Tech

This new robot from MIT can politely navigate through crowds

If we’re going to have robots acting as tour guides and delivering pizzas then they need to be able to navigate through busy pedestrian environments, and that’s exactly what a new robot built by MIT has been programmed to do. The polite droid even knows the social norms of pedestrian movement, and will overtake on the left or right, or …


Nature

How to kill fruit flies, according to a scientist

As a researcher who works on fruit flies, I often get asked how to get them out of someone’s kitchen. This happens to fly researchers often enough that we sit around fly conferences (these actually exist) and complain about getting asked this question. Meanwhile, we watch the same fruit flies buzz around our beers instead of discussing pithy and insightful …


A vast reserve of pristine Amazon rainforest has just been saved from mining operations

Environmentalists are celebrating after a Brazilian court blocked an attempt by the country’s president to allow mining in a massive protected reserve in the Amazon rainforest. Brazilian president Michel Temer sparked outrage last week when he issued a decree abolishing a protected area called the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (aka Renca) to open the land up to commercial …

Physicists just caught sight of electrons entangled in a completely new state

Physicists have finally observed a quantum interaction between a group of four entangled electrons. Until now, this interaction was purely theoretical, but now it’s been caught in action by cleverly cooling a superconducting crystal and stressing it under high pressure. The results of this exciting experiment are now opening doors to further refining our knowledge of the bizarre quantum world, …

Spring-loaded ant jaws snap shut on prey 700 times faster than you can blink

A prey-killing mechanism so imperceptibly deadly it evolved at least five times in different kinds of ants has been caught on camera by scientists – just barely. Myrmoteras, a rarely seen genus of trap-jaw ants from South-East Asia, snap their jaws shut on unsuspecting prey at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). At least you could …

We finally know why the Caspian Sea is evaporating off the face of the planet

Like a puddle under hot sunshine, the world’s largest inland body of water is shrinking in the face of heat – in this case, a scorching climate the modern world has never before seen. The Caspian Sea, which lies between Europe and Asia, has been slowly evaporating over the past two decades due to rising temperatures associated with climate change, …

We’re about to cross the ‘quantum supremacy’ limit in computing

The 4th International Conference on Quantum Technologies held in Moscow last month was supposed to put the spotlight on Google, who were preparing to give a lecture on a 49-qubit quantum computer they have in the works. A morning talk presented by Harvard University’s Mikhail Lukin, however, upstaged that evening’s event with a small announcement of his own – his …

Researchers just proved crystals can bend, flipping chemistry on its head

Researchers have shown that crystals can be so flexible they can be bent repeatedly and even tied up in knots, overhauling our current understanding of the structures, and challenging the very definition of a crystal. As we learnt in school, crystals are brittle and inelastic – if you try to bend a crystal of rock salt or quartz, for example, …

How 12,000 tonnes of dumped orange peel grew into a landscape nobody expected to find

An experimental conservation project that was abandoned and almost forgotten about, has ended up producing an amazing ecological win nearly two decades after it was dreamt up. The plan, which saw a juice company dump 1,000 truckloads of waste orange peel in a barren pasture in Costa Rica back in the mid 1990s, has eventually revitalised the desolate site into …

Molecules chilled close to absolute zero just smashed a new physics record

A two-step cooling process using lasers has allowed physicists to push molecules of calcium monofluoride down to a record low temperature, busting a barrier that until now has been impassable. Decades ago, chilling individual atoms to near absolute zero opened a new world of research for particle physicists. This latest breakthrough could also provide fertile ground for learning more on …

In Kenya, using plastic bags can now send you to jail or cost a $40,000 fine

Rejecting a plea from manufacturers that the production of plastic bags creates jobs, Kenya’s high court on Monday paved the way for the world’s strongest ban on plastic bags to come into full effect. The law, representing Kenya’s third attempt at a ban in the past decade, comes with harsh penalties. For now, they are aimed mostly at manufacturers and …

One of Our Fundamental Assumptions About Black Holes Was Just Overturned in The Lab

Black holes are the most intense and mysterious cosmic phenomena in the Universe, and new research shows we understand even less about them than we thought we did. A long-standing assumption about the physics taking place in the space immediately surrounding these matter-consuming voids has been found to be incorrect, and the discovery could derail decades of scientific theory. To …

Elon Musk just shared footage of a hyperloop accelerating to 200 mph and holy crap

Ever since Elon Musk shared his blueprints for the hyperloop – a revolutionary transport system that has the potential to shuttle humans at speeds of more than 1,200 km/h (746 mph) – the engineering community has been in overdrive, with hyperloop prototypes popping up all over the place.   And now Musk has put up footage of a test pod …

Elon Musk just shared footage of a hyperloop accelerating to 200 mph and holy crap

Ever since Elon Musk shared his blueprints for the hyperloop – a revolutionary transport system that has the potential to shuttle humans at speeds of more than 1,200 km/h (746 mph) – the engineering community has been in overdrive, with hyperloop prototypes popping up all over the place. And now Musk has put up footage of a test pod accelerating …

Physicists just achieved quantum teleportation underwater for the first time

Chinese scientists have successfully sent information between entangled particles through sea water, the first time this type of quantum communication has been achieved underwater. In this proof-of-concept experiment, information was sent across a 3.3-metre (10.8-foot) long tank of seawater, but the researchers predict they should be able to use the same technique to send unhackable communications close to 900 metres …

Was climate change involved in making Hurricane Harvey?

As a major hurricane has made landfall in the United States for the first time since 2005, we may be fated for another debate about how climate change does, and doesn’t, affect these kinds of events. It would be strange to ignore the role of a changing climate when it comes to hurricanes, because they themselves have a climatology – …

How winning the lottery affects happiness, according to psychology research

You know what sounds pretty great? Finding out that you’ve won the US$700 million Powerball jackpot. The lump sum minus taxes yields about US$293 million to play with, depending on where you live. Divide that by two or three to account for multiple winners, and it’s still a ton of money. Buying a ticket may not be a financially rational …

This clockwork rover could be the perfect way to get around on Venus

Space can be hell, especially for delicate hardware. So when vital instruments need to run like clockwork, sometimes clockwork is actually the solution. NASA is taking a close look at a design for an off-world rover that’s more Mad Max than Star Trek, one that relies on old fashioned mechanics to make calculations under intense conditions that would fry most …

What’s the Tallest Thing We Could Ever Possibly Build?

Humans have been fascinated with stars for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that we keep wanting to make taller and taller buildings that stretch towards them. There will eventually come a point where we can no longer build a taller building – but what is that point? As the new video by RealLifeLore shows, it’s probably taller than …

Russian tanker is the first to sail the Arctic without an icebreaker escort

In another sign of our warming world, a Russian tanker has completed an Arctic trip from Norway to South Korea in record time, becoming the first ship to cross the Northern Sea Route (NSR) without the aid of an icebreaker vessel travelling ahead. Although that’s partly due to shrinking ice coverage, the Christophe de Margerie vessel has also been specially …

Scientists set a new record for the world’s strongest resistive magnet

The pulling power of the world’s strongest resistive magnet now stands at 41.4 teslas, thanks to the efforts of scientists at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (or MagLab), part of Florida State University. Taking two-and-a-half years and $3.5 million in funding to build, the magnet smashed the previous record of 38.5 teslas earlier this week. And the new high …

New NASA video shows Hurricane Harvey ready to swallow all of Texas

A brief-but-haunting video released by NASA on Thursday night shows Hurricane Harvey’s powerful churn toward central Texas, where the slow-moving storm is expected to throttle coastal communities with high winds and up to 25 inches (63 cm) of rain. The footage was captured just after 6pm by cameras aboard the International Space Station, not long after the tropical cyclone – …

Scientists have created a super-thin fabric that harvests energy from our movements

A twisted fibre made of gel-coated carbon nanotubes could be the very thing we need to steal energy from our surroundings that would otherwise go to waste. Threads of a material dubbed “twistron” have already shown incredible promise in the laboratory, but could one day be built into power harvesters that collect the energy equivalent of spare change from our …

Meet ‘dark DNA’ – the hidden genes that may change how we think about evolution

DNA sequencing technology is helping scientists unravel questions that humans have been asking about animals for centuries. By mapping out animal genomes, we now have a better idea of how the giraffe got its huge neck and why snakes are so long. Genome sequencing allows us to compare and contrast the DNA of different animals and work out how they …

The first thorium salt reactors in over 40 years were just switched on in Europe

A Dutch energy company has just embarked on a series of experiments testing the use of molten thorium salts in producing power from nuclear fission, the first of their kind since the early 1970s. It’s still early days, but the use to thorium as an alternative to uranium could provide a cleaner, safer fuel source that would be harder to …

We just got another explanation for the crazy behaviour of the ‘alien megastructure’ star

A team of scientists led by Mario Sucerquia at the University of Antioquia in Colombia have suggested a new explanation for the irregular dips in brightness of the star K8462852, since it recently resumed its unusual behaviour. The mysterious shift in stellar opacity could be the signature of a transiting Saturn-like exoplanet. “[W]e study the dynamics of a tilted exoring …

Tropical Storm Harvey is threatening to become a major, devastating hurricane in Texas

Tropical Storm Harvey is gaining power in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to turn into a hurricane as it nears the Texas coast. The National Hurricane Center expects Harvey to hit the southern flank of Texas as a “major hurricane” on Friday night, with wind speeds topping 65 mph (105 km/h). Once the storm makes landfall, forecasters predict it will …

99% of the microbes in our own bodies are still a total mystery to science

We’re seeing incredible scientific discoveries being made every day, but new research indicates there’s a pretty huge gap in our knowledge when it comes to our own bodies – it turns out more than 99 percent of the microbes inside us are currently unknown to science. Researchers have long known that our bodies play host to a range of tiny …

Museum-goers just ruined an 800-year-old coffin for the sake of a photo

We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but if you see signs telling you to stay off the museum exhibits, then stay off them: an 800 year-old coffin on display at Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend in the UK has been damaged after being knocked off its stand by a clambering child. According to CCTV footage, the kid was lifted …

Quantum computing is coming at us fast, so here’s everything you need to know

In early July, Google announced that it will expand its commercially available cloud computing services to include quantum computing. A similar service has been available from IBM since May. These aren’t services most regular people will have a lot of reason to use yet. But making quantum computers more accessible will help government, academic and corporate research groups around the …

Dakota Access Pipeline firm is suing environmentalists who protested against it

Controversy around the Dakota Access Pipeline continues with the latest news that the company behind the oil pipeline is now suing Greenpeace and other environmental groups who were involved in extensive protests against the project. On Tuesday, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a federal lawsuit, alleging the dissemination of “materially false and misleading information” about the pipeline. The company is …

Most of the world could be 100% powered with renewables by 2050

Almost three quarters of the world’s countries could be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2050 – if we want it badly enough, that is. That’s according to an ambitious new 2050 roadmap that calculates a move to an emissions-free future would create millions of jobs, cut trillions in health and climate costs, and help save the planet from …

Unbreakable rubber bands that are 200 times stronger than steel are coming soon

The world’s largest manufacturer of rubber bands is making its main product immortal. Alliance Rubber Co., a 94-year-old company based out of Alliance, Ohio, has announced a new partnership with British researchers to infuse graphene into its rubber bands. The rubber bands could transform how food travels through supply chains, simplify the shipment of fragile electronics, and, most satisfyingly, last …

Rumours are flying that a big gravitational wave announcement is imminent

Time to keep a close eye on the LIGO announcement schedule, folks, because if rumours are to be believed, we might be in for a big gravitational wave announcement very soon. At this stage, we’re in the realm of speculation – nothing has been officially confirmed or denied. But there are pretty exciting hints out there that, for the first …

ExxonMobil misled the public on climate change for 40 years, new study shows

A comprehensive analysis of almost 40 years’ worth of ExxonMobil communications has found that the company consistently misled the public on the mechanisms of climate change. In a new peer-reviewed study investigating nearly 200 climate change documents from the oil and gas giant, researchers discovered a damning discrepancy between what the company internally acknowledged versus its public statements of denial …

Elon Musk Just Shared the First Photo of SpaceX’s Fully Functional Space Suits

This past weekend, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk promised to reveal photos of the space suit his company has been developing for NASA. Musk revealed the first of these photos on his Instagram earlier today, and promised to show “[m]ore in days to follow”. First announced in 2015, it’s taken SpaceX almost two years to preview the design. Elon …

This 3,700-year-old Babylonian clay tablet just changed the history of maths

A Babylonian clay tablet dating back 3,700 years has been identified as the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, suggesting the Babylonians beat the ancient Greeks to the invention of trigonometry by over 1,000 years. The tablet, known as Plimpton 322, was discovered in the early 1900s in what is now southern Iraq, but researchers have always been baffled …

The key to getting to Mars could be in recycling astronaut pee into food supplements

Researchers have shown how astronaut urine, poop and even exhaled breath could be turned into 3D-printed plastics and nutrients, the kind of smart waste recycling we’re going to need if humans are to make the long trip to Mars – and beyond. The trick is in a yeast called Yarrowia lipolytica, which scientists have found can feed on the carbon …

Why people believe in conspiracy theories – and how to change their minds

I’m sitting on a train when a group of football fans streams on. Fresh from the game – their team has clearly won – they occupy the empty seats around me. One picks up a discarded newspaper and chuckles derisively as she reads about the latest “alternative facts” peddled by Donald Trump. The others soon chip in with their thoughts …

NASA has a $3.5bn plan to save the planet from the Yellowstone supervolcano

Scientists at NASA have developed a hugely ambitious strategy to counter the looming threat of an apocalyptic supereruption from the Yellowstone Caldera. Yellowstone is one of about 20 known supervolcanoes around the world, and an eruption from any of these could produce so much fiery magma that the ensuing ash cloud might starve the Earth of sunlight in a choking, …

From next month, Turkey will stop teaching evolution in the school curriculum

Changes to the Turkish secondary school science curriculum that has been expected to take effect by 2019 will be in place next month, according to recent updates on the controversial measure. While the government sees this as the foundation for a simpler, “values-based” education system, for many in the politically-charged nation it’s a troubling sign of religious influences. Earlier this …

New recipe for heating nuclear fusion plasma boosts ion energy output 10 times

Extracting useful amounts of energy from the merging of atoms is tricky business, not least thanks to the challenges of controlling squirming clouds of ultra-hot plasma. Our clean power fusion goals could be a step closer now researchers have tweaked their fusion recipe to add a new ion to the mix. This allows researchers to get a better grip on …

Cyborg bacteria covered in tiny solar panels are changing the future of clean fuel

In an effort to improve the efficiency of natural photosynthesis, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, has created cyborg bacteria. These bacteria were trained to grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystals that act as efficient solar panels for harvesting sunlight. Although most life on Earth relies upon photosynthesis as its source of energy, the process …

Confirmed: Electrons flowing like liquid in graphene are insanely superconductive

Electrons have been caught flowing through graphene like a liquid, reaching limits physicists thought were fundamentally impossible. This type of conductance is known as ‘superballistic’ flow, and this new experiment suggests it could revolutionise the way we conduct electricity. If that’s not crazy enough, the super-fast flows actually occur as a result of electrons bouncing off each other, something that …

How did animals react to the solar eclipse? Here’s some reports on their weird behaviour

I watched the solar eclipse on my parents’ farm in Wisconsin and got a front row seat to wacky animal behaviour during the celestial event of the century. At the eclipse’s peak, when the moon was covering about 83 percent of the sun, chipmunks popped their heads out of their burrows, and a pheasant started squawking incessantly. (My dog also …

It rains diamonds on Neptune and we’ve now re-created that effect here on Earth

If you think the weather’s bad on our planet, consider the ice giants Neptune and Uranus, where intense pressures and super-hot temperatures are thought to cause cascading showers of diamonds. Now, researchers have recreated the effect here on Earth. Using high-powered optical lasers to rapidly heat polystyrene, researchers were able to produce and then study this diamond rain in the …

Disney is developing an AI that can judge what makes for a truly great story

Disney’s cuddly toys of the future could be smart enough to pick out the perfect bedtime story, thanks to a clever new artificial intelligence engine that’s been trained to judge short works of fiction. Using neural networks designed to mimic the learning processes of human brains, the AI was trained using sample stories to recognise particular traits and patterns that …

New analysis of this Moon rock says our satellite doesn’t actually have water inside

Scientists have re-analysed fragments of a Moon rock brought back in 1972, and say that its composition reveals our planet’s satellite really doesn’t have water inside. Figuring out the wetness of our Moon is highly important not just for future lunar missions, but also for better understanding of its composition and origins. And these new results appear to contradict a …