Tech

Intergenerational conflict may explain the menopause

Hurry up, Grandma THE menopause is a puzzle. Why do women, unlike most female mammals, stop reproducing decades before they die? Analysing birth and death records shows that the assistance they give in bringing up grandchildren does have a measurable effect on those grandchildren’s survival. But that does not prove such assistance is more valuable in evolutionary terms than continued ...

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The ultimate angling aid: a fishing drone

MOST pastimes nowadays involve lots of high-tech gadgets. For fishermen these range from electronic bite alarms to carbon-fibre rods, specialised clothing and tackle boxes stuffed with various odd and ends. There is so much clobber that some anglers use trolleys to lug around their gear. Now the ultimate piece of kit has arrived: a fishing drone. The device, called PowerRay, ...

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A “new” star should appear in 2022

X marks the spot AMATEUR astronomers have a new date for their diaries. In 2022, in the constellation of Cygnus, they will be treated to the sight of a nova, or “new star”. By themselves, novas are not particularly noteworthy. Several dozen a year happen in Earth’s home galaxy, the Milky Way, alone. But this one will be special for ...

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Electricity now flows across continents, courtesy of direct current

THE winds of the Oklahoma panhandle have a bad reputation. In the 1930s they whipped its over-tilled topsoil up into the billowing black blizzards of the Dust Bowl. The winds drove people, Steinbeck’s dispossessed, away from their livelihoods and west, to California. Today, the panhandle’s steady winds are a force for creation, not destruction. Wind turbines can generate electricity from ...

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A cardboard centrifuge separates blood cells from plasma

TAKE a cardboard disc and punch two holes in it, close to, and on either side of, its centre. Thread a piece of string through each hole. Now, pull on each end of the strings and the disc will spin frenetically—first in one direction as the strings wind around each other, and then in the other, as they unwind. Versions ...

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Will artificial intelligence help to crack biology?

IN A former leatherworks just off Euston Road in London, a hopeful firm is starting up. BenevolentAI’s main room is large and open-plan. In it, scientists and coders sit busily on benches, plying their various trades. The firm’s star, though, has a private, temperature-controlled office. That star is a powerful computer that runs the software which sits at the heart ...

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How reptilian were dinosaur eggs?

A dinosaur’s nest DID dinosaur eggs hatch quickly, like those of birds (which are dinosaurs’ direct descendants), or slowly, like those of modern reptiles (which are dinosaurs’ collateral cousins)? That is the question addressed by Gregory Erickson of Florida State University and his colleagues in a paper just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is ...

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Diagnosing illness by smell

The nose knows ONE of a doctor’s most valuable tools is his nose. Since ancient times, medics have relied on their sense of smell to help them work out what is wrong with their patients. Fruity odours on the breath, for example, let them monitor the condition of diabetics. Foul ones assist the diagnosis of respiratory-tract infections. But doctors can, ...

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