Science and Technology

  • Readers reply: the universe is expanding – but what is it expanding into?
    on April 18, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical conceptsScientists and astronomers tell us that the universe is expanding. But what is it expanding into, ie what’s beyond the universe?Phil Town, LisbonPlease email new questions to Continue reading...

  • Vodka, toothpaste, yoga mats … the new technology making items out of thin air
    by Robin McKie on April 18, 2021 at 8:15 am

    An exhibition at London’s Science Museum shows how far carbon capture research has comeTackling climate change may bring unexpected benefits, London’s Science Museum will reveal next month. A special exhibition on carbon capture, the fledgling technology of extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and emissions from factories, will display bottles of vodka, tubes of toothpaste, pens and yoga mats made from carbon drawn out of thin air.In addition, the exhibition – Our Future Planet – will showcase prototypes of the gas-harvesting machines that can provide this carbon. They include the Lackner artificial tree which mirrors the actions of living plants by breathing in carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen. This Heath Robinson-like device – made up of dangling panels of carbon-absorbing material – was built by Klaus Lackner at Arizona State University and will be the first to be displayed in Britain. Continue reading...

  • 4,000 to attend FA Cup semi-final as live sport cautiously reopens
    by Robin McKie on April 18, 2021 at 6:15 am

    Largest crowd at a major British stadium for more than a year will aid research into events reopening this summerCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageA sporting record will be broken on Sunday when 4,000 football fans gather at Wembley to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton. It will be the largest crowd to have watched a football match in a major British stadium for more than 12 months, though still one of the lowest-attended Wembley semi-finals on record.At the same time, in Sheffield, 325 snooker fans will gather to watch the 2021 World Snooker Championship at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield, a sport that has also been played behind closed doors throughout the pandemic. Continue reading...

  • Walking or running in nature with a therapist is helping people heal
    by Lisa Buckingham on April 17, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Outdoor therapy can help people to become reflective and their body language while moving gives clues to their feelingsCovid has transformed the way many of us work and that includes the people who look after our mental health. For much of lockdown, psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists have all had to venture into the world of online therapy, tackling their clients’ issues via a computer screen, and often the experience has felt less than ideal for all those involved.But throughout much of lockdown, another option has become increasingly popular: combining therapy with the benefits of the great outdoors. The British Psychological Society (BPS) issued guidance on this outdoor approach last summer, advising its members on how best to take their work outside, addressing issues such as confidentiality and the absence of a boundaried space. Yet many therapists ditched the four walls and a couch approach a long time ago and have been working out in nature for years. Continue reading...

  • Tinnitus helpline reports a surge in calls since start of the coronavirus pandemic
    by Suzanne Bearne on April 17, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Scientists are concerned virus or medication used for treating Covid-19 is causing ear damageCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageMore people are complaining of developing tinnitus for the first time or have found their symptoms have worsened since the start of the pandemic, according to scientists and other leading experts who specialise in the condition.The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has reported a surge in the number of people accessing its services, with a 256% increase in the number of web chats from May to December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. Calls to its helpline rose by 16% during the same period. Continue reading...

  • Attack of the drones: the mystery of disappearing swarms in the US midwest
    by Amelia Tait on April 18, 2021 at 10:00 am

    When groups of sinister drones began hovering over homes in America’s Midwest, the FBI, US Air Force and 16 police forces set up a task force. But the drones vanished. Did they even exist?At twilight on New Year’s Eve, 2020, Placido Montoya, 35, a plumber from Fort Morgan, Colorado, was driving to work. Ahead of him he noticed blinking lights in the sky. He’d heard rumours of mysterious drones, whispers in his local community, but now he was seeing them with his own eyes. In the early morning gloom, it was hard to make out how big the lights were and how many were hovering above him. But one thing was clear to Montoya: he needed to give chase.As he approached the drones in his car, they “took off very fast” and Montoya tried to follow. He confesses hitting 120mph before losing track of them. “They were creepy, really creepy,” he says. “I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s almost as if they were watching us.” Continue reading...

  • Press play for Petflix: boom in gadgets for pandemic puppies as owners return to work
    by Donna Ferguson on April 18, 2021 at 5:15 am

    The realities of ownership are dawning as the UK’s lockdown eases and the dogs left at home need to be looked after Pet cameras and activity trackers are flying off the shelves. Demand for anti-chew sprays, automatic feeders and water fountains for pets has rocketed, and dog walkers and sitters are being inundated with inquiries.As lockdown restrictions ease, dog owners are snapping up products and services that will enable them to monitor and care for their pets while they are out at work. Continue reading...

  • From the archive: could a computer predict the result of the 1970 World Cup?
    by Chris Hall on April 18, 2021 at 5:00 am

    The miraculous machines had taken us to the moon the year before, surely now they could guess the outcome of a few football matchesA computer with less power than your phone had sent men to the moon in 1969, so getting one to predict the 1970 Mexico World Cup winner for the Observer Magazine should have been nailed on (‘Can England do it again? Computer forecast of the World Cup winner’, 10 May 1970).Look away now if you want to find out the made-up result later… It finished England 3 Brazil 2 (after extra time). Spoiler alert: it got the winner wrong and the score. And the fact it went to extra time. And one of the teams. But it did correctly predict that Brazil would be in the final. On the surface it does look suspiciously like the computer had simply chosen the previous winner (England in 1966) and Brazil because they were… Brazil. Continue reading...

  • AI ethicist Kate Darling: ‘Robots can be our partners’
    by Zoë Corbyn on April 17, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    The MIT researcher says that for humans to flourish we must move beyond thinking of robots as potential future competitorsDr Kate Darling is a research specialist in human-robot interaction, robot ethics and intellectual property theory and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. In her new book, The New Breed, she argues that we would be better prepared for the future if we started thinking about robots and artificial intelligence (AI) like animals.What is wrong with the way we think about robots?So often we subconsciously compare robots to humans and AI to human intelligence. The comparison limits our imagination. Focused on trying to recreate ourselves, we’re not thinking creatively about how to use robots to help humans flourish. Continue reading...

  • Chinese firms prepare to charge into Europe’s electric car market
    by Jasper Jolly on April 17, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    Tesla could be in for a shock as far-eastern rivals use cheap money to gain traction among affluent western car buyersTesla boss Elon Musk is not known for admiring his competition, but when Chinese manufacturer Nio made its 100,000th electric car last week, he offered his congratulations.It was a mark of respect from a chief executive who had been through “manufacturing hell” with his own company. Yet it is also a sign of the growing influence of China’s electric carmakers. They are hoping to stake out a spot among the heavyweights of the new industry and bring a significant new challenge to Tesla – and to the rest of the automotive industry as it scrambles to catch up. Continue reading...