Tech

A new way of propelling spacecraft may open up the asteroid belt

SPACE travel is expensive. Missions such as Cassini, a recently ended exploration of Saturn and its moons, and New Horizons, a trip to Pluto and one or two more distant objects in the far reaches of the solar system, have involved launching craft weighing hundreds or thousands of kilograms. For big, essentially unique targets such as these, that expense has ...

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Electric vehicles powered by fuel-cells get a second look

WITH some 455,000 eager fans having deposited $1,000 to reserve a place in the queue for Tesla’s mid-size Model 3—a battery-powered car for the masses that went on sale in early July—electric vehicles appear poised, at last, to gain some serious traction. General Motors has already sold over 12,000 of its Chevrolet Bolt, a broadly similar model launched late last ...

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The giant panda is on a bit of a roll

Climbing out of a hole PANDAS are famously shy. Rather than counting them directly, surveyors must infer their presence from dung and semi-chewed bamboo stalks scattered on the forest floor. But they are also hard to find because there are not many left. A mix of hunting and habitat destruction has ravaged the species. By the late 1970s, their numbers ...

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As electric motors improve, more things are being electrified

HENRY FORD may have brought motoring to the masses in 1908 with the Model T, but his wife, Clara, preferred to drive an electric car. Combustion engines were noisy, dirty and in their early years required hand-cranking to start. Mrs Ford’s 1914 Detroit Electric, however, moved away instantly, was nearly silent and its speed was easy to control by pushing ...

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Faking cellular suicide could help control inflammation

What a good death looks like AS PARACELSUS first pointed out in the 16th century, it is the dose that makes the poison. Inflammation, in particular, is vital to fighting infection or healing wounds. If it lingers, however, it can cause more harm than good. Chronic inflammation often impedes the very healing that it is meant to promote. Many drugs ...

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Two years on, the Kuiper Belt is in sight

The heart of the matter ON SEPTEMBER 11th, nearly 6bn kilometres from Earth, beyond the orbit of Neptune, a spacecraft emerged from hibernation. The primary task of New Horizons, launched by NASA in 2006, was to explore Pluto. It completed that mission in July 2015, zooming past Pluto at almost 50,000kph, then spending over a year transmitting back a trove ...

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A clever way to transmit data on the cheap

THE word “smart” is ubiquitous these days. If you believe the hype, smart farms will all employ sensors to report soil conditions, crop growth or the health of livestock. Smart cities will monitor the levels of pollution and noise on every street corner. And goods in smart warehouses will tell robots where to store them, and how. Getting this to ...

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Antibiotic resistance in fish farms is passed on from fish food

THE mucky sediment below fish farms usually teems with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The presence of such bacteria is a cause of increasing concern because resistance can limit the ability to fight diseases, but it is also not that surprising: pisciculturalists have a long history of dosing fish they are breeding and rearing with antibiotics. But some scientists suspect there is more ...

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