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Science and Technology

Our fossil finger discovery points to earlier human migration in Arabia

: Ian Cartwright/Michael Petraglia/Palaeodeserts Project

: Ian Cartwright/Michael Petraglia/Palaeodeserts Project Huw Groucutt, University of Oxford The Arabian Peninsula is a vast landmass at the crossroads of Africa and Eurasia. Yet until the last decade almost nothing was known about early humans in the area. In the last few years the team I work with have made many remarkable discoveries in Saudi Arabia, but one thing …

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How flu changes within the human body may hint at future global trends

What can a single person’s flu infection tell you about how the virus changes around the world? Xue and Bloom, CC BY-SA

What can a single person’s flu infection tell you about how the virus changes around the world? Xue and Bloom, CC BY-SA Katherine Xue, University of Washington and Jesse Bloom, University of Washington Evolution is usually very slow, a process of change that takes thousands or millions of years to see. But for influenza, evolution is fast – and deadly. …

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How an Iraqi translation project is helping to rebuild science in the Arab world

Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace Museum Paul Braterman, University of Glasgow Translations can change the course of civilisations. Caliph al-Mansour’s translation project, begun in the eighth century and accelerated under his grandson Harun al-Rashid, made available in Arabic scholarly writings from Greek, Aramaic, Persian and Indian sources, and laid the foundation for the flowering of science and philosophy in the Islamic world during …

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Turkey bans teaching of evolution – but science is more than a belief system

Wellcome Images/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Wellcome Images/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY James Williams, University of Sussex In the US there have been many attempts to expunge evolution from the school curriculm or demand that creationism – the idea that all life was uniquely created by God – is given equal treatment in science textbooks. While all these have failed, the government in Turkey has now banned …

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Video: Slowing deforestation is the key to preventing the next pandemic – but what does that cost?

Reducing deforestation of tropical forests and supporting the communities that live there can reduce the risk of future pandemics. AFP via Getty Images

Reducing deforestation of tropical forests and supporting the communities that live there can reduce the risk of future pandemics. AFP via Getty Images Les Kaufman, Boston University In a recent journal article, a team of biologists, medical scientists, environmental scientists and conservationists proposed a number of measures to reduce the likelihood of future pandemics, many of which originate with wild …

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Here’s why soil smells so good after it rains

New Africa/Shutterstock

New Africa/Shutterstock Klas Flärdh, Lund University and Paul Becher, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Did you ever wonder what causes that earthy smell that rises after a light summer rain? That mysterious scent has been called “petrichor”, and a main component of it is an organic compound called geosmin, which lingers around moist soil. Geosmin comes from the ancient Greek …

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Humans aren’t inherently selfish – we’re actually hardwired to work together

Franzi/Shutterstock

Franzi/Shutterstock Steve Taylor, Leeds Beckett University There has long been a general assumption that human beings are essentially selfish. We’re apparently ruthless, with strong impulses to compete against each other for resources and to accumulate power and possessions. If we are kind to one another, it’s usually because we have ulterior motives. If we are good, it’s only because we …

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