Tech

More ways to classify planets

A TAXONOMY of planets is emerging fast. On June 19th a group of researchers led by Andrew Howard of the California Institute of Technology divided bodies smaller than Neptune into two classes, based on both their current composition and a consequent presumption about how they formed. Now, another group of astronomers, led by Vardan Adibekyan of the Astrophysics and Space ...

Read More »

Cameras are about to get a lot smaller

THE pill-sized cameras in today’s mobile phones may seem miraculously tiny, given that a decade ago the smallest cameras available for retail sale were the size of a pack of cards. But Ali Hajimiri of the California Institute of Technology is unimpressed. In his opinion even these phone cameras are far too thick (witness the optical bump on the back ...

Read More »

Is the post-dinosaur world the Age of Frogs?

Looks like we made it AROUND 66m years ago Earth collided with a space rock so large that it punched a crater more than 180km across in the area now known as the Yucatán peninsula, in southern Mexico. This collision did for the dinosaurs and many other sorts of animal besides. It thus wiped much of the ecological slate clean, ...

Read More »

A new device to help train sniffer dogs

WHEN it comes to finding hidden explosives, the self-propelled detection system known as a sniffer dog has no equal. But sniffer dogs have to be trained, and that is a delicate process. In particular, the trace levels of explosive vapour involved are so low (because dogs’ noses are so sensitive) that accidental contamination of supposedly residue-free “control” samples is a ...

Read More »

A better way to make drinks and drugs

Cubist art SINCE the dawn of civilisation, people have used yeast to leaven bread, ferment wine and brew beer. In the modern era, such fermentation has extended its range. Carefully selected moulds churn out antibiotics. Specially engineered bacteria, living in high-tech bioreactors, pump out proteinaceous drugs such as insulin. Some brave souls even talk of taking on the petroleum industry ...

Read More »

Fake news: you ain’t seen nothing yet

EARLIER this year Françoise Hardy, a French musician, appeared in a YouTube video (see link). She is asked, by a presenter off-screen, why President Donald Trump sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to lie about the size of the inauguration crowd. First, Ms Hardy argues. Then she says Mr Spicer “gave alternative facts to that”. It’s all a little odd, ...

Read More »

Neonicotinoids can harm some bees

Or not to bee NEONICOTINOIDS are so good at killing things which suck the sap and chew the flesh of crops that they have become the world’s most widely used family of insecticides. For decades, though, there has been a fear that they harm non-crop-eating insects, too—in particular, bees. The evidence for this has been mixed. Swedish research published in ...

Read More »

Websites offering pirated papers are shaking up science

RECORD companies and film studios have had to learn to live with internet piracy. Despite their best attempts to close sites or co-opt them, pirated copies of their wares are easily available. Increasingly, the same is true of scientific papers. On June 21st a court in New York awarded Elsevier, a big scientific publisher, $15m in damages for copyright infringement ...

Read More »