Science & Technology

Identity fusion: why some people will go to extremes for the beliefs of a group

Shutterstock/hobbit Roger Whitaker, Cardiff University Football fans often become so deeply connected to their club and to other fans, as though they’re related. They’re willing to support the group on a lifelong basis, with unwaivering pride even in the face of losses. At first glance, it can seem puzzling when people align with groups or beliefs that involve a personal …

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New material inspired by spider silk could help solve our plastic problem

Shutterstock/Olga Miltsova Hom Dhakal, University of Portsmouth Plastics are very useful materials. They’ve contributed significant benefits to modern society. But the unprecedented amount of plastics produced over the past few decades has caused serious environmental pollution. Packaging alone was responsible for 46% out of 340 million tonnes of plastic waste generated globally in 2018. Although plastic recycling has increased significantly …

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How an app to decrypt criminal messages was born ‘over a few beers’ with the FBI

David Tuffley, Griffith University Australian and US law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced they’d sprung a trap three years in the making, catching major international crime figures using an encrypted app. More than 200 underworld figures in Australia have been charged in what Australian Federal Police (AFP) say is their biggest-ever organised crime bust. The operation, led by the US …

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Fastly global internet outage: why did so many sites go down — and what is a CDN, anyway?

Shutterstock Paul Haskell-Dowland, Edith Cowan University If you were having difficulty accessing your favourite website on Tuesday evening Australian time, you’re not alone. A jaw-dropping number of major websites around the globe suddenly became unavailable with no immediately obvious explanation — before reappearing an hour later. It’s disconcerting when the sites we rely on suddenly become inaccessible, and even more …

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Nasa has just rejected missions to moons of Jupiter and Neptune – here’s what we would have found out

A volcanic eruption on Jupiter’s moon Io. NASA/JPL/DLR Ashley Spindler, University of Hertfordshire It’s been 30 years since Nasa last visited Venus, with the Magellan orbiter in 1990. Now, two new missions have been selected to explore the deadly atmosphere, crushing pressures and volcanic landscape. The process dates back to February 2020, when Nasa announced that four missions were to …

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The coronavirus genome is like a shipping label that lets epidemiologists track where it’s been

The steady rate of genetic changes lets researchers recreate how a virus has travelled. nextstrain.org, CC BY Bert Ely, University of South Carolina and Taylor Carter, University of South Carolina Following the coronavirus’s spread through the population – and anticipating its next move – is an important part of the public health response to the new disease, especially since containment …

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Is it time to give up on consciousness as ‘the ghost in the machine’?

ImagesRouges/Shutterstock Peter Halligan, Cardiff University and David A Oakley, UCL As individuals, we feel that we know what consciousness is because we experience it daily. It’s that intimate sense of personal awareness we carry around with us, and the accompanying feeling of ownership and control over our thoughts, emotions and memories. But science has not yet reached a consensus on …

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A new way to remove salts and toxic metals from water

New technologies that can clean salty or polluted water could help meet growing water needs. Science Photo Library/Getty Images Adam Uliana, University of California, Berkeley Most people on Earth get fresh water from lakes and rivers. But these account for only 0.007% of the world’s water. As the human population has grown, so has demand for fresh water. Now, two …

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‘AI’ is being used to profile people from their head vibrations – but is there enough evidence to support it?

Does technology more about us than we know about ourselves? Trismegist san/Shutterstock James Wright, Alan Turing Institute Digital video surveillance systems can’t just identify who someone is. They can also work out how someone is feeling and what kind of personality they have. They can even tell how they might behave in the future. And the key to unlocking this …

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