Tech

How whales started filtering food from the sea

ARCHAEOPTERYX, a toothy, feathered fossil found in Germany in the 19th century, hinted at a crucial moment in one of the greatest transitions in the history of life—the point when dinosaurs (which have teeth) took to the skies, and birds (which have feathers) were thus born. There are not many evolutionary journeys that can rival this, but that made by ...

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Websites offering pirated papers are shaking up science

RECORD companies and film studios have had to learn to live with internet piracy. Despite their best attempts to close sites or co-opt them, pirated copies of their wares are easily available. Increasingly, the same is true of scientific papers. On June 21st a court in New York awarded Elsevier, a big scientific publisher, $15m in damages for copyright infringement ...

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Another malware attack stalks the world’s computers

Heavy NotPety’ing A LITTLE over a month ago a piece of malicious computer software called WannaCry spread around the world, freezing Chinese cash machines, trashing German railway timetables and causing chaos in British hospitals. On June 27th the world was treated to a re-run. As The Economist went to press, a different piece of malicious software, tentatively dubbed NotPetya, had ...

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Generating convincing audio and video of fake events

EARLIER this year Françoise Hardy, a French musician, appeared in a YouTube video. She is asked, by a presenter off-screen, why President Donald Trump sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to lie about the size of the inauguration crowd. First, Ms Hardy argues. Then she says Mr Spicer “gave alternative facts to that.” It’s all a little odd, not least ...

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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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