Tech

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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Whence new plagues?

MOST new human viral infections come from other animals. Ebola fever, SARS and AIDS all started in this way. Animals are also the sources of influenza epidemics. Keeping an eye on birds and beasts, the viruses they carry, and which of those viruses are found in people is thus a prudent thing to do. And that is the self-appointed task ...

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Conserve elephants. They hold a scientific mirror up to humans

THE symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature is a giant panda. The panda’s black-and-white pelage certainly makes for a striking logo. But, though pandas are an endangered species, the cause of their endangerment is depressingly quotidian: a loss of habitat as Earth’s human population increases. A better icon might be an elephant, particularly an African elephant, for elephants ...

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How to keep tabs on Atlantic hurricanes

IN SEPTEMBER 1961 a small hurricane called Esther swirled into being above the warm waters of the mid-Atlantic. It bore down on America’s east coast, executed a graceful clockwise loop-the-loop off the shores of New York, then gusted up through Maine and into Quebec as little more than a squall. Esther’s place in history was not assured through its destructive ...

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A new way to extend Moore’s law

ALL good things come to an end. Moore’s law—the observation that the number of transistors that can be crammed onto a chip of a given size doubles every two years—has built the modern, computerised world. But as transistors get smaller, making them smaller still gets harder. In recent years Moore’s law has begun to slow. For all the fearsome complexity ...

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