Tech

Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first e-mail, has died

WHEN historians of the future study the ways information technology affected people’s lives in the late 20th century, they will surely recognise e-mail as one of the most profound. Today, about 2.5m e-mails are sent every second. The first e-mail of all, though, was sent 45 years ago by Ray Tomlinson. Mr Tomlinson did not invent electronic mail. The practice ...

Read More »

Banksy has been tagged, thanks to mathematics

CRIMINOLOGISTS increasingly rely on “geographic profiling”, an examination of the sites of dastardly deeds that narrows down the possible identities of serial criminals. A mathematical refinement of this idea has implications for pre-empting both terrorist activity and the progression of infectious disease. To demonstrate it, and to help settle a mystery, Steven Le Comber of Queen Mary, a college of ...

Read More »

The medium is the messengers

I won’t tell if you don’t TO SOME, Facebook, Twitter and similar social-media platforms are the acme of communication—better, even, than face-to-face conversations, since more people can be involved. Others think of them more as acne, a rash that fosters narcissism, threatens privacy and reduces intelligent discourse to the exchange of flippant memes. They might even, these kinds of arguments ...

Read More »

Incoming!

Peril on the sea STORMY seas can wreak havoc on ships and oil rigs, but the damage they do pales beside that which a rogue wave can dole out. These behemoths, which may be up to 30 metres (100 feet) high, can badly damage, and even sink, all but the largest merchant vessels. They form when smaller, harmless waves meld ...

Read More »

Bang to rights

FRED McNEILL, an American-football player, died in November at the age of 63. Between 1974 and 1985 he appeared for the Minnesota Vikings. After leaving them he became a lawyer but in later years suffered from dementia and was told that he had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. His recent death has become a milestone ...

Read More »

Plucking rubies from the rubbish

GUILT-FREE intercourse may, as Philip Larkin wrote, have begun in 1963, but sexual reproduction has been around a good deal longer than that. Single-celled organisms began exchanging and mixing up genetic information in ways modern biologists recognise as rudimentary forms of sex about two billion years ago. Yet the question of why sex exists at all remains troublesome. A creature ...

Read More »

Taking a bite at the Apple

“WE FEEL we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the US government.” With those words Tim Cook, head of Apple, the world’s biggest information-technology (IT) company, explained on February 16th why he felt his firm should refuse to comply with an FBI request to break into an iPhone used by Syed Farook, ...

Read More »

Now is the time to say “goodbye”

TRICHIASIS, the last stage of an infection called trachoma, rarely hits the headlines. That is because it does not kill. It does, however, blind. More than 2m people suffer, half of whom have lost their vision. The condition, caused by certain strains of Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium, makes the eyelid turn inward. That causes the sufferer’s eyelashes to scratch his ...

Read More »