Tech

Heat is causing problems across the world

SODANKYLA, a town in Finnish Lapland just north of the Arctic Circle, boasts an average annual temperature a little below freezing. Residents eagerly await the brief spell in July when the region enjoys something akin to summer. This year they may have wished for a bit less of it. On July 18th thermometers showed 32.1°C (89.8°F), which is 12°C warmer ...

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Python has brought computer programming to a vast new audience

IN DECEMBER 1989 Guido van Rossum, a Dutch computer scientist, set himself a Christmas project. Irked by shortcomings in other programming languages, he wanted to build his own. His principles were simple. First, it should be easy to read. Rather than sprawling over line-endings and being broken up by a tangle of curly braces, each chunk would be surrounded with ...

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Python has brought computer programming to a vast new audience

IN DECEMBER 1989 Guido van Rossum, a Dutch computer scientist, set himself a Christmas project. Irked by shortcomings in other programming languages, he wanted to build his own. His principles were simple. First, it should be easy to read. Rather than sprawling over line-endings and being broken up by a tangle of curly braces, each chunk would be surrounded with ...

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A planetary census puts humans in their place

BILLIONS of years ago a star began to die. In the process, it created something new: 65,500 billion tonnes of carbon that would later be incorporated into the nascent planet Earth. That carbon is still there, and nowadays a fair chunk of it makes up the bodies of living beings. A new study, published this week by Yinon Bar-On and ...

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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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