Tech

A randomised trial shows that the power of the press is real

MALCOLM X, an American political activist, described the media as the most powerful entity on Earth, “because they control the minds of the masses”. Some journalists may find this proposition flattering, but though those who study such things agree newspapers exert some influence over their readers, the effect has proved devilishly difficult to quantify. Now, Gary King of Harvard University ...

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A bird’s alarm calls do not always come out of its beak

Nice primaries, dahling CHARLES DARWIN was fascinated by bird communication. In “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex” he devoted equal space to both the sorts of sounds that emerge from birds’ beaks and the more percussive noises that they make with other parts of their bodies, such as their feet and feathers. He speculated that both ...

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Smelly farms may succumb to subtle science

I love the smell of para-cresol in the morning FARMYARDS smell. There is no getting away from that. They smell because of the excrement produced by the animals which live there. And however carefully this excrement is dealt with—whether by modern versions of the time-honoured process of muck-spreading that inject it below the surface of the fields it is fertilising; ...

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Enhanced understanding of the microbiome is helping medicine

WHEN, at the turn of the century, the first human genomes were sequenced, many biologists felt they had had delivered into their hands the keys to unlocking numerous puzzles about disease. Since then there has indeed been a fruitful effort to understand how the thousands of human genes which control hormones, enzymes and other molecules of the body serve to ...

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A new chamber has been detected in the Great Pyramid of Giza

ANCIENT Egypt has held the world in thrall for so long that some of those once enthralled are now ancient history themselves. Well-to-do Romans of the early Empire, for instance, would tour the place to look at antiquities older to them than the Colosseum is to a tourist today. Yet Egypt keeps secrets still. Its royal tombs, both those underground ...

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Gene editing takes another step forward

SINCE its discovery in 2012 CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing technique, has gone from strength to strength. This tool, developed from a bacterial defence system that cuts up the DNA of invading viruses, permits genetic material to be edited easily and precisely. It has transformed research in biology, and promises to have wide applications in agriculture and medicine. But it is not ...

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The first data from a repository of living human brain cells

PROFITABLY recycling waste is always a good idea. And the Allen Institute for Brain Science, in Seattle, has found a way to recycle what is perhaps the most valuable waste of all—living human brain tissue. Understandably, few people are willing to donate parts of their brains to science while they are still alive. But, by collaborating with seven local neurosurgeons, ...

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