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Science and Technology

The mystery of feather origins: how fluffy pterosaurs have reignited debate

Reconstruction. Yuan Zhang Maria McNamara, University College Cork and Zixiao Yang, Nanjing University When fossils of the oldest known bird, Archaeopteryx, were first discovered almost 160 years ago, the find created a puzzle that has troubled palaeontologists ever since. These fossils were celebrated for their chimera-like combination of supposedly reptilian features (such as a bony tail and jaws with teeth) …

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Did prehistoric women hunt? New research suggests so

Artist impression of a prehistoric woman hunting. Matthew Verdolivo (UC Davis IET Academic Technology Services) Annemieke Milks, UCL For a long time, it was assumed that hunting in prehistoric societies was primarily carried out by men. Now a new study adds to a body of evidence challenging this idea. The research reports the discovery of a female body, buried alongside …

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3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online daily. Can you sort real from fake?

Twitter screenshots/Unsplash, Author provided T.J. Thomson, Queensland University of Technology; Daniel Angus, Queensland University of Technology, and Paula Dootson, Queensland University of Technology Twitter over the weekend “tagged” as manipulated a video showing US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden supposedly forgetting which state he’s in while addressing a crowd. Biden’s “hello Minnesota” greeting contrasted with prominent signage reading “Tampa, Florida” …

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A language generation program’s ability to write articles, produce code and compose poetry has wowed scientists

GPT-3 is 10 times more complex than its predecessor. antoniokhr/iStock via Getty Images Prasenjit Mitra, Penn State Seven years ago, my student and I at Penn State built a bot to write a Wikipedia article on Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s play “Chitra.” First it culled information about “Chitra” from the internet. Then it looked at existing Wikipedia entries to …

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Most plastic recycling produces low-value materials – but we’ve found a way to turn a common plastic into high-value molecules

Bales of plastic waste destined for recycling. Koron/Getty Images Susannah Scott, University of California Santa Barbara If you thought those flimsy disposable plastic grocery bags represented most of our plastic waste problem, think again. The volume of plastic the world throws away every year could rebuild the Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall of China – about 3,700 miles long. In the …

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A second pathway into cells for SARS-CoV-2: New understanding of the neuropilin-1 protein could speed vaccine research

The Spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 must bind to proteins on the surface of human cells to trigger an infection. KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images Rajesh Khanna, University of Arizona and Aubin Moutal, University of Arizona When it comes to how the coronavirus invades a cell, it takes three to tango. The dance began with the ACE2 receptor, a …

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How to stay socially connected as lockdown returns – according to science

giuseppelombardo/Shutterstock Pascal Vrticka, University of Essex and Philip J. Cozzolino, University of Essex After a fairly relaxed summer, more and more places are bringing back tighter restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 cases, with some even returning to full or near-full lockdowns. We all know that social distancing makes sense: the fewer people we meet (and the further away from …

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How much do our genes restrict free will?

Hannah Critchlow, University of Cambridge Social media algorithms, artificial intelligence, and our own genetics are among the factors influencing us beyond our awareness. This raises an ancient question: do we have control over our own lives? This article is part of The Conversation’s series on the science of free will. Many of us believe we are masters of own destiny, …

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You’re not done with banana bread – a psychologist reveals all

Nata Bene/Shutterstock

Nata Bene/Shutterstock Stephanie Baines, Bangor University During the first pandemic lockdowns at the start of 2020, social media was flooded with pictures of homemade banana bread as people turned to baking in lieu of socialising. Now with many places reintroducing or anticipating further restrictions as COVID-19 case numbers rise again, there’s a good chance we could see a revival of …

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