Tech

A self-repairing surface that stays clean and dry

THE repulsive powers of lotus leaves are the stuff of legend. Water sprayed onto them forms instantly into silvery beads (see picture) and rolls right off again—carrying any dirt on the leaf’s surface with it. The physics behind this impressive and beautiful phenomenon is well understood. Lotus leaves repel water because they are covered with minuscule waxy nodules that stop ...

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Why AI researchers like video games

LAST year Artur Filipowicz, a computer scientist at Princeton University, had a stop-sign problem. Dr Filipowicz is teaching cars how to see and interpret the world, with a view to them being able to drive themselves around unaided. One quality they will need is an ability to recognise stop signs. To that end, he was trying to train an appropriate ...

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Modern violins are better than 300-year-old ones

Goodbye to old times? FOR a work of art by a genius, $16m might not seem an outrageous price. And that is what is believed to have been paid, in 2012, for the Vieuxtemps Guarneri—a violin made in the 18th century, in Cremona, Italy, which thus became the most expensive fiddle in the world. The Vieuxtemps’s owner remains anonymous, but ...

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A large-scale cyber attack highlights the structural dilemma of the NSA

IN BRITAIN, doctors could neither gain access their patients’ files nor make appointments to see those patients. In Russia, hundreds of the interior ministry’s workers sat idle. In China, students were locked out of their theses. As the latest cyber attack rippled around the globe, infecting at least 45,000 computers in 74 countries, according to Kaspersky Labs, a Russian cyber-security ...

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How to build an artificial womb

Sheep may safely laze THESE days, in rich countries, premature birth is the main cause of infant mortality. A baby born at 23 weeks—just over half way through a normal pregnancy—has a fighting chance of survival. But underdeveloped lungs struggle to cope with breathing air. External pumps used to circulate blood impose potentially fatal stresses on tiny hearts. Those that ...

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Spyware that can identify what films you are watching

We know what you’re doing REMEMBER that racy film you probably should not have enjoyed on Netflix last weekend? Eran Tromer’s algorithms can tell what it was. Although videos streamed from services such as Netflix, Amazon and YouTube are encrypted in various ways to ensure privacy, all have one thing in common: they leak information. Dr Tromer, of Tel Aviv ...

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Tourists really do seem to help to preserve wild animals

WHICH countries have the best wildlife-conservation records? That was the question posed by a group of biologists led by Peter Lindsey of the University of Pretoria, in South Africa. Their conclusions, just published in Global Ecology and Conservation and summarised in the map below, suggest one determinant is the economic value of wildlife to a country, with nature-tourism destinations in ...

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The link between pollution and heart disease

WHY air pollution causes lung disease is obvious. Why it also causes heart disease is, though, a conundrum. One suggestion is that tiny particles of soot migrate through the lungs, into the bloodstream and thence to the walls of blood vessels, where they cause damage. Until now, this has remained hypothetical. But a study published in ACS Nano, by Mark ...

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