Tech

Time may be fuzzy. If so, the idea of causality may be in trouble

THE thing about Gedankenexperimente—or thought experiments, for those who find Albert Einstein’s native tongue too twisting—is that you never know where they might lead. For Einstein, they led to the theory of relativity. For James Clerk Maxwell, they conjured an imaginary demon who could violate the second law of thermodynamics. For Erwin Schrödinger, they created an existentially confused cat that ...

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Helping blind people navigate

Belted up FOR centuries, canes have served blind and partially sighted people well by giving them a means to negotiate the world around them. The only serious upgrade they have undergone dates back to 1921, when a Briton called James Biggs, who had recently lost his sight, painted his own cane white in order to make it easily visible and ...

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The oldest Homo sapiens yet

A three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle HOW old is Homo sapiens? Comparing the genomes of modern humans with those from fossils of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) suggests that the lines leading to these two species split from one another more than 500,000 years ago. But that does not answer the question of when they achieved their distinctive forms. Fossils recognisable as Neanderthals go ...

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Gravity-wave detectors offer a new way to look at the universe

ONE of the biggest bits of science news in 2016 was the announcement, in February, that gravitational waves had been detected for the first time. A prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, theorists had long suspected that such waves—rippling distortions in the fabric of space itself—were real. But no one had seen one. They were eventually revealed by ...

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Cricket’s batsmen get the high-tech treatment

Activate the bat signal THE signature sound of cricket is the thwack of a willow bat hitting a leather ball. At the ICC Champions Trophy Tournament, though, which started in England and Wales on June 1st, the bats were emitting more than those soothing reverberations. They have been fitted with sensors that enable them to fire off wireless reports that ...

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Peer review is a thankless job. One firm wants to change that

Publish on a six AS SCULPTURES go, it is certainly eye-catching. On May 26th a small crowd gathered outside Moscow’s Higher School of Economics to watch the unveiling of a 1.5-tonne stone cube shaped like a six-sided die. Its five visible sides are carved with phrases such as “Minor Changes”, “Revise and Resubmit” and “Accept”. Called the “Monument to the ...

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Airports switch to “virtual” control towers

THE 67-metre-tall control tower that opened at San Francisco International Airport in October is a stylish structure that cost $120m. It is supposed to resemble a beacon of the sort used in ancient times to guide ships safely to harbour. Those in the know might be forgiven for wondering if the new control tower is less a beacon than a ...

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