Tech

A new antibiotic for drug-resistant tuberculosis

TUBERCULOSIS has plagued humanity for thousands of years. The discovery in the 19th century of its cause, a bacterium (pictured above) called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and the consequent development of better hygiene, helped bring that plague under control. Then, in the mid-20th century, what many hoped would be the final nail in its coffin appeared: antibiotic drugs. Unfortunately, TB is back. ...

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If you are a politician, changing your convictions could cost you

CYNICS may regard the phrase “political morality” as an oxymoron. Nevertheless, many politicians insist that their stated beliefs have a moral basis rather than a merely pragmatic one. And personal convictions aside, moralising has many benefits: past research suggests that leaders who make moral arguments are seen as having better characters, and that they are better at persuading waverers to ...

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How to get rid of weeds by crossing them with GM crops

Shattered INTRODUCING genes for herbicide resistance into a crop permits it to be sprayed with weedkiller that really does then kill nothing but weeds. But that works only until the weeds themselves develop resistance to the poison. One way this can happen is through crossbreeding with the crop originally protected—a risk if weed and crop are closely related. That is ...

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Planets come in different species

THE starting-point of science is collecting: animals, plants, minerals, elements, even stars. Then, once a collection is large enough, patterns begin to emerge. Animals and plants fall into phylogenetic trees, minerals into crystal groups, elements into the periodic table, stars into the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Those patterns both require and suggest explanation. Thus, the theory of evolution, the science of crystallography, ...

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Whence new plagues?

MOST new human viral infections come from other animals. Ebola fever, SARS and AIDS all started in this way. Animals are also the sources of influenza epidemics. Keeping an eye on birds and beasts, the viruses they carry, and which of those viruses are found in people is thus a prudent thing to do. And that is the self-appointed task ...

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Conserve elephants. They hold a scientific mirror up to humans

THE symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature is a giant panda. The panda’s black-and-white pelage certainly makes for a striking logo. But, though pandas are an endangered species, the cause of their endangerment is depressingly quotidian: a loss of habitat as Earth’s human population increases. A better icon might be an elephant, particularly an African elephant, for elephants ...

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The oldest Homo sapiens yet

A three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle HOW old is Homo sapiens? Comparing the genomes of modern humans with those from fossils of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) suggests that the lines leading to these two species split from one another more than 500,000 years ago. But that does not answer the question of when they achieved their distinctive forms. Fossils recognisable as Neanderthals go ...

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