Science & Technology

A giant space rock demolished an ancient Middle Eastern city and everyone in it – possibly inspiring the Biblical story of Sodom

 Artist’s evidence-based depiction of the blast, which had the power of 1,000 Hiroshimas. Allen West and Jennifer Rice, CC BY-ND Christopher R. Moore, University of South Carolina As the inhabitants of an ancient Middle Eastern city now called Tall el-Hammam went about their daily business one day about 3,600 years ago, they had no idea an unseen icy space …

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Do the northern lights make sounds that you can hear?

John A Davis/Shutterstock Fiona Amery, University of Cambridge It’s a question that has puzzled observers for centuries: do the fantastic green and crimson light displays of the aurora borealis produce any discernible sound? Conjured by the interaction of solar particles with gas molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, the aurora generally occurs near Earth’s poles, where the magnetic field is strongest. Reports …

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We created holograms you can touch – you could soon shake a virtual colleague’s hand

Holograms with a sense of touch are being created at Glasgow University. Design_cells/Shutterstock Ravinder Dahiya, University of Glasgow The TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced millions of people to the idea of a holodeck: an immersive, realistic 3D holographic projection of a complete environment that you could interact with and even touch. In the 21st century, holograms are …

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Iran attack: how Reaper drones really carry out airstrikes

Kit Leong/Shutterstock Peter Lee, University of Portsmouth The recent killing of senior Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has been widely reported as conducted by an MQ-9 Reaper drone. But what does such an operation actually involve? While the ultimate decision to carry out the attack has clearly been placed with the Trump administration, much of the reporting and commentary has still …

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AI is increasingly being used to identify emotions – here’s what’s at stake

AI can be biased. aslysun/Shutterstock Alexa Hagerty, University of Cambridge and Alexandra Albert, UCL Imagine you are in a job interview. As you answer the recruiter’s questions, an artificial intelligence (AI) system scans your face, scoring you for nervousness, empathy and dependability. It may sound like science fiction, but these systems are increasingly used, often without people’s knowledge or consent. …

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Wearable tech for your ears: ‘Hearables’ can teach you a language or music with the help of AI

Hearables are wearable listening devices that can interact with the wearer and the environment. (Shutterstock) Rory McGreal, Athabasca University Hearables are wireless smart micro-computers with artificial intelligence that incorporate both speakers and microphones. They fit in the ears and can connect to the internet and to other devices, and are designed to be worn daily. Some technology companies are now …

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Thinking objectively about romantic conflicts could lead to fewer future disagreements

How would a supportive outsider think about this dispute? Wodicka\ullstein bild via Getty Images Lindsey Rodriguez, University of South Florida The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work. The big idea Consciously channeling the perspective of a neutral third party can defuse romantic conflict and prevent future disputes, according to a study of 716 Americans my colleagues …

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How ancient Babylonian land surveyors developed a unique form of trigonometry — 1,000 years before the Greeks

This stone tablet records the restoration of certain lands by the Babylonian king Nabu-apla-iddina to a priest. Babylonian, circa 870 BCE. From Sippar (Tell Abu Habbah) Wikipedia Daniel Mansfield, UNSW Our modern understanding of trigonometry harks back to ancient Greek astronomers studying the movement of celestial bodies through the night sky. But in 2017, I showed the ancient Babylonians likely …

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Consciousness: how the brain chemical ‘dopamine’ plays a key role – new research

We know very little about the human brain. Orla/Shutterstock Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, University of Cambridge; Christelle Langley, University of Cambridge; Emmanuel A Stamatakis, University of Cambridge et Lennart Spindler, University of Cambridge Consciousness is arguably the most important scientific topic there is. Without consciousness, there would after all be no science. But while we all know what it is like …

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Can consciousness be explained by quantum physics? My research takes us a step closer to finding out

Some scientists believe consciousness is generated by quantum processes, but the theory is yet to be empirically tested. vitstudio/Shutterstock Cristiane de Morais Smith, Utrecht University One of the most important open questions in science is how our consciousness is established. In the 1990s, long before winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for his prediction of black holes, physicist Roger …

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