Tech

Game over for virtual reality?

LIKE the rest of the consumer-electronics industry, video-game makers would be lost without the traditional binge buying that happens between mid-November and the late December. This year’s gift-giving season will be as much a treat for makers of video-gaming gadgets as for their happy recipients. Prices of the headsets, sensors and controllers that let game-players explore the artificial world of ...

Read More »

A bacterium that can read man-made DNA

Four become six ALL life on Earth uses the same four chemical letters, known as bases, to store genetic information in the form of DNA. Three bases form a codon, a genetic “word” that represents one of 20 natural amino acids. A string of codons can be read by the machinery inside cells and turned into long chains of amino ...

Read More »

Smart circuit-breakers for energy-efficient homes

Let there be light IN THE future, homes will use electricity much more sensibly than they do now: turning the lights off automatically when no one is around; adjusting the heating regularly to suit a householder’s daily routine; making sure the electric car is charged up using off-peak rates; even drawing power from the car’s battery in the event of ...

Read More »

Birds with poor digestion are literally off colour

Mr and Mrs House-Finch THE vibrant hues of beautiful plumage are often borrowed. Flamingos, for example, owe their pinkness to chemicals called carotenoids that are made by bacteria known (confusingly) as blue-green algae. The birds, when feeding, both ingest these bacteria directly and consume small crustaceans that themselves subsist on such bacteria. Blue-footed boobies obtain their eponymous colour similarly, via ...

Read More »

The first known interstellar rock gets a name

The International Astronomical Union has spoken. The first body known to have visited Earth’s solar system from interstellar space, which had been given the provisional name 1I/2017 U1, is to be called ’Oumuamua. The object, 180 metres long and 30 metres wide, was discovered on October 19th by Rob Weryk of the University of Hawaii, using Pan-STARRS 1, a telescope ...

Read More »

Improving the plants that Africans eat and breeders neglect

CASSAVA and sweet potatoes. Lablab beans and water berries. Bitter gourds and sickle sennas. Elephant ears and African locusts. Some will be familiar to readers in rich countries. Others, probably not. Elephant ears, for example, are leafy vegetables. African locusts are tree-borne legumes. All, however, are standard fare in various parts of Africa. What they also have in common is ...

Read More »

Doctors have a rosier view of male than of female surgeons

MARGARET ANN BULKLEY, who became, in 1812, the first woman to receive modern surgical training, achieved that distinction by pretending to be a man. No medical school at the time admitted women. She practised under the name of Dr James Barry and performed one of the first successful Caesarean sections (successful in that both mother and baby survived). Much has ...

Read More »

Another example of why replication is important in science

The class of ’52 AN ENDLESS stream of new discoveries makes science thrilling. But, as any seasoned researcher knows, such novelties are worthless unless they can be replicated. Often, though, replication does not get done as thoroughly as it should be—or even at all. For, as any seasoned researcher also knows, replication is rarely the stuff careers are built on; ...

Read More »