Tech

How to send a message to another planet

Rendez-vous IN 2029 the inhabitants, if any, of the planet GJ 273b will receive a message that will change their lives forever. Encoded in radio signals emanating from an innocuous-looking blue-green planet 12.4 light-years away, will be tutorials in mathematics and physics, followed by a burst of music. The import of the message, however, will be clear: “Let’s talk.” Or ...

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New surgical robots are about to enter the operating theatre

ROBOTS have been giving surgeons a helping hand for years. In 2016 there were about 4,000 of them scattered around the world’s hospitals, and they took part in 750,000 operations. Most of those procedures were on prostate glands and uteruses. But robots also helped surgeons operate on kidneys, colons, hearts and other organs. Almost all of these machines were, however, ...

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Growing tiny tumours in the lab could help treat cancer

Giving up their secrets ALMOST half a century after Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, there has been plenty of progress. But there is still no cure. One reason is that “cancer” is an umbrella term that covers many different diseases. Although the fundamental mechanism is always the same—the uncontrolled proliferation of cells—the details vary enormously. Leukaemia is not the ...

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The first voyager to another star may be a worm or a tardigrade

An ambassador to aliens? SPACE is cold. So, when launching dogs for early space missions, Soviet rocket scientists chose strays like Laika that had survived on the streets during Moscow’s freezing winter. Today, in contrast, some researchers working on an ambitious effort to dispatch craft to Alpha Centauri, the nearest solar system to Earth’s, see the chill of space not ...

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The latest unmanned drone is a version of an existing manned one

Look! No hands… IN THE future, the skies of cities may belong to aerial drones. These are spiderlike devices with four or more propellers (thus often known as quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters and so on) that provide both lift and thrust. The hope is that autonomous, self-guided versions of these will deliver anything from pizzas to passengers from door to door ...

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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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