Tech

Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy

GREENLAND’S icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Joseph McConnell of the Desert Research Institute, in Reno, Nevada, and his colleagues have tracked economic activity in Europe and the Mediterranean over the centuries ...

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The world’s lightest wireless flying machine lifts off

DRONES are getting ever smaller. The latest is the first insect-sized robot to take to the air without a tether delivering its power. To get their device aloft, Sawyer Fuller of the University of Washington, in Seattle, and his colleagues, who will be presenting their work at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane later this month, had ...

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Scientists struggle to explain a worrying rise in atmospheric methane

EVERY year human endeavours emit 50bn tonnes of “carbon dioxide equivalent”. This way of measuring things reflects the climatic importance of CO2, which traps heat in the atmosphere for centuries before it breaks down, compared with other, shorter-lived greenhouse gases. Of that 50bn-tonne total, 70% is carbon dioxide itself. Half the remaining 15bn tonnes is methane. In the past decade ...

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Build a better bog roll

A REPORT published last year by Water UK, an industry body, said that more than 90% of sewer-pipe blockages in Britain were caused by “non-flushable wipes”. Accumulations of these can clog up pumps. Worse, when they are gathered together by the adhesive power of kitchen grease, they can form giant “fatbergs” that choke the passage of effluent. Some of the ...

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Is New Zealand the world’s best rocket-launching site?

THE Mahia peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, has been a holidaymakers’ haven for decades. It offers sandy beaches, hot springs and scenic trails. And, for those of a technological mindset, it also offers the world’s first private orbital-rocket-launching base. Launch Complex 1, as this base is known, sits at the tip of the peninsula and ...

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To understand digital advertising, study its algorithms

ALAN MISLOVE studies algorithms. Recently, his research at Northeastern University, in Boston, has shown that Facebook’s software was leaking users’ phone numbers to advertisers. He has also found new ways to audit that same software for racial bias. But work like his faces challenges. Scraping data from public-facing websites often sails close to breaching their terms and conditions. And the ...

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Are research papers less accurate and truthful than in the past?

AN ESSENTIAL of science is that experiments should yield similar results if repeated. In recent years, however, some people have raised concerns that too many irreproducible results are being published (see chart 1). This phenomenon, it is suggested, may be a result of more studies having poor methodology, of more actual misconduct, or of both. Or it may not exist ...

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An out-of-control Chinese space station will soon fall to Earth

ITS name means “heavenly palace”. But Tiangong-1, an eight-tonne Chinese space station launched in 2011, will not remain in the heavens much longer. After visits from crews in 2012 and 2013, Tiangong-1’s mission officially ended in March 2016. A few months later China’s space agency appeared to confirm what amateur skywatchers had already suspected, that it had lost control of ...

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