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Science and Technology

What is a protein? A biologist explains

Just 20 amino acids for chains in various combinations to create the thousands of varieties of proteins in our body. David Goodsell/ProteinDatabase, CC BY-SA Nathan Ahlgren, Clark University Editor’s note: Nathan Ahlgren is an assistant professor of biology at Clark University. In this interview, he explains exactly what proteins are, how they are made, and the wide variety of functions …

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How explainable artificial intelligence can help humans innovate

Understanding how artificial intelligence algorithms solve problems like the Rubik’s Cube makes AI more useful. Roland Frisch via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA Forest Agostinelli, University of South Carolina The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has created computers that can drive cars, synthesize chemical compounds, fold proteins and detect high-energy particles at a superhuman level. However, these AI algorithms cannot explain …

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Galaxies eject gas when they merge, preventing new stars forming – new research

Elliptical galaxies are filled with extremely old stars. Igor Chekalin/Shutterstock.com Annagrazia Puglisi, Durham University Most stars in the universe today are found in massive galaxies called ellipticals, named for their stretched-out-circle shape. Unlike our own galaxy, which is a spiral with arms extending out from the centre, the edges of elliptical galaxies are smooth. At first glance, these galaxies might …

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Six ways to ‘reboot your brain’ after a hard year of COVID-19 – according to science

It’s time to snap out of bad habits. Jolygon/Shutterstock, CC BY-SA Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, University of Cambridge; Christelle Langley, University of Cambridge, and Jianfeng Feng, Fudan University There’s no doubt that 2020 was difficult for everyone and tragic for many. But now vaccines against COVID-19 are finally being administered – giving a much needed hope of a return to normality …

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What children can teach governments about making graphs

Kids know… PathomP Craig Anderson, University of Glasgow; Emily Granger, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Lucy Teece, University of Leicester, and Maria Dunbar, University of Zürich Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the year 2020 has been dominated by data. But with great amounts of data comes great responsibility to communicate it properly. Unfortunately, the accurate and clear communication …

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Hayabusa 2: returning asteroid sample could help uncover the origins of life and the solar system

Artist impression of Hayabusa 2 approaching asteroid Ryugu. Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)/wikipedia, CC BY-SA John Bridges, University of Leicester What is your idea of an asteroid? Many people think of them as potato-shaped, inert and perhaps rather dull, pock-marked objects – far away in deep space. But over the last ten years, two Japanese space missions – …

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Exhibit A and other true crime shows can fuel misconceptions about forensic science

Microgen/Shutterstock Graham Williams, Staffordshire University Forensic science is under attack. A string of recent collapsed trials and quashed convictions that relied on forensic evidence have led some experts to say the field is in crisis. Several US and UK government reports over the last few years have highlighted and condemned failings in the use of forensic science. And there is …

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Spotting liars is hard – but our new method is effective and ethical

Guilty? The length of your answer may give it away. Motortion Films/Shutterstock Cody Porter, University of Portsmouth Most people lie occasionally. The lies are often trivial and essentially inconsequential – such as pretending to like a tasteless gift. But in other contexts, deception is more serious and can have harmful effects on criminal justice. From a societal perspective, such lying …

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