BBC Future

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The unexpected way that Bollywood can improve literacy

In one of the world’s fastest growing economies, more than a quarter of the population can’t read. One possible solution? Adding karaoke-like subtitles to music on broadcast TV.<p>Yashoda Lakshman Keni, a resident in rural India, hops on the bus to a nearby village to visit relatives.<p>Three years ago, …

India

The ships that could change the seas forever

Transporting cargo across the oceans is vital in a global economy - yet ships sully our already polluted planet. Some of the design solutions to fix that sound straight from science fiction.<p>Last month in San Diego, California, an engineer sat down at his computer and gripped a joystick on the desk …

Sailing

How flying seriously messes with your mind

Travelling by plane has become an everyday activity – but our bodies and brains are still affected by it.<p>With the tiny screen bouncing around in front of us, tinny sound quality and frequent interruptions, watching a movie during a flight is hardly an immersive experience.<p>Yet, frequent fliers may …

Wellness

What if dinosaurs hadn’t died out?

Imagine a world where an asteroid hadn’t wiped out the dinosaurs. What would have happened afterwards – and how might their presence have affected mammals like us?<p>It was the kind of cataclysm that we can scarcely imagine. When an asteroid 15km-wide (nine miles) slammed into planet Earth 66 million …

Dinosaurs

Treating cancer, stopping violence… How AI protects us

Tech news often paints artificial intelligence as evil, job-stealing, spying robots. But many of the 21st Century’s problems could be solved by machines.<p>For some, the spread of artificial intelligence and robotics poses a threat to our privacy, our jobs – even our safety, as more and more tasks are …

Machine Learning

The room that’s home to 10,000 spiders

In a quiet university building in Oxford lives the arachnophobe’s worst nightmare – a lab filled with thousands of cannibalistic spiders.<p>“I suppose it’s quite a lot of spiders…” Alistair McGregor says casually, rotating his hand to catch a plump, leggy female who is making a bid for freedom. “We …

Biology

The surprising place where cash is going extinct

Somaliland, a self-declared republic in East Africa, faces high illiteracy and has an economy ravaged by a civil war. But it might just become the first cashless society on Earth.<p>Half a dozen men crowd round one of the many small colourful wooden shacks off a main street in Hargeisa, Somaliland, …

Africa

Can you have a heart attack and not realise it?

We might think that the effects of a heart attack would be so dramatic they would be impossible to ignore. That’s not always the case.<p>The classic description of the sensation of a heart attack is that it’s like a heavy weight crushing your chest accompanied by a feeling of overwhelming anxiety. In …

Medical Research

How we’re creating ‘super plants’ to help humanity

From fire-proof forests to famine-stopping ‘bananas on steroids’, scientists are juicing up nature’s bounty to solve the 21st Century’s problems.<p>You eat them, you wear them, you put them in vases and gawk at them appreciatively – but are you really using them to their full potential? According to …

Agriculture

How it feels to be a pro female e-sports player in China

Professional female video gamer Shan Chen used to encounter men who didn't think she could play – now she leaves those opponents in the dust. In the video above, Danny Vincent discovers what life is like for a gifted female e-sports team in China.<p>E-sports – or professional, competitive video …

eSports

The Chinese female gamers putting male players in the shade

In the world’s newest superpower, professional video gaming is a booming industry set to be worth billions. Female players struggle to earn as much as their male competitors – but that's not stopping one talented team of young women.<p>It’s late morning in the shadows of Shanghai. In a set of luxury …

China

The mystery of the lost Roman herb

Julius Caesar kept a cache of it in the government treasury and the Greeks even put it on their money. It was worth its weight in gold – but no one knows if it still exists.<p>Long ago, in the ancient city of Cyrene, there was a herb called silphium. It didn’t look like much – with stout roots, stumpy …

Gardening

We could lessen the toll of hurricanes – but we don’t

We know how to reduce the human and economic fallout, argues Amanda Ruggeri, so why isn’t more being done?<p>As I write this, Hurricane Irma has flattened the Caribbean islands, killed at least 10 people and is barrelling towards south Florida. My father and his partner, who live in an evacuation zone …

Hurricane Irma

How it feels to meet Sophia, a machine with a human face

TV presenter Michael Mosley interviewed an advanced humanoid called Sophia, with state-of-the-art facial expressions. What was it like?<p>Sophia is one of the world’s most sophisticated humanoid robots. As she chats with people, she emulates sadness, anger, curiousity, happiness, and other social …

The man who designs future worlds

Syd Mead was asked if he wanted to help out on a film – and became one of the most revered ‘futurists’ in cinema, helping define the look of classic sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, Aliens and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.<p>Syd Mead wasn’t planning on becoming a visual futurist. The job …

Star Trek

Welcome to Untold World

In this new series, the BBC taps into its global network of reporters to reveal how science and technology affects the most under-reported communities in the news.<p>So often, technology news is the same thing over and over: headlines about Silicon Valley juggernauts, breathless updates about the …

Science

Introducing ‘Grand Ideas’ – a new special series

The 21st Century is continually throwing us new challenges and expecting us to adapt – but for every earth-shattering megatrend, there are dozens of genius solutions.<p>The 21st Century can sometimes feel a pretty scary place: rising oceans swallowing coastal cities; fresh threats of looming nuclear …

Chelsea Clinton

The bleak, chilling magazine for nuclear doomsday preppers

In the 1980s, you could buy a publication offering detailed advice about how to prepare for nuclear war – it makes for timely, fascinating and occasionally morbid reading.<p>If you were to browse a British newsstand in the early 1980s, you might have discovered a rather unusual magazine.<p>Called Protect …

Nuclear

How marriage changes people forever

Many committed singles have watched as their married friends became insufferable and boring. But is this really true?<p>“Why is it there are so many unmarried women in their thirties these days, Bridget?” – the dinner party scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary is excruciatingly familiar to anyone who has …

Psychology

The flavours that pretend to be something else

If you drink mango juice, you could be forgiven for thinking mango is the main ingredient, but that’s often not true. Food substitutions to enhance flavour are surprisingly common.<p>In a world where modern chemistry has allowed almost anything to be flavoured or coloured like almost anything else, …

Smoothies

The amazing fertility of the older mind

It’s never too late to learn – if you go about it in the right way.<p>If you ever fear that you are already too old to learn a new skill, remember Priscilla Sitienei, a midwife from Ndalat in rural Kenya. Having grown up without free primary school education, she had never learnt to read or write. As …

The Brain

The Channel Tunnel that was never built

The ‘Chunnel’ may be the UK’s most famous underwater tunnel, but the British have been trying to dig to Europe since 1880 – and plans still remain for a second Channel Tunnel.<p>The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France holds the record for the longest undersea tunnel in the world – 50km (31 …

Channel Tunnel

Why it’s not surprising that ship collisions still happen

The ocean may be huge, and navigation technology may be advanced – but the conditions are still in place for ocean collisions like the one between a tanker and US navy destroyer this week. What can be done to prevent future disasters?<p>It happened in the middle of the night, off the coast of …

Sailing

How prepared are we for the impact of a nuclear war?

In the 20th Century, we had information campaigns, fallout shelters, sirens and widespread awareness of the nuclear threat. Do we need a revival of ‘civil defence’ today?<p>In the event of nuclear war, the British government has at its disposal at least one bunker hidden away in the very heart of …

War

How to survive the end of the world

What to do when the apocalypse arrives – explained in the animation above.<p>This video was inspired by an in-depth BBC Future article by Lewis Dartnell. Read more:<p>How to cope with the end of the world<p>An extract:<p><i>If you did ever find yourself a survivor of a global catastrophe that wiped out most of</i> …

Solar Eclipse

The two ways that Western civilisation could collapse

Downfalls of great societies have often been preceded by a specific chain of events – could history be repeating itself? The one-minute video above explains what those triggers are.<p>For an in-depth read about how today’s societies could fall apart, read more here:<p>How Western civilisation could …

Solar Eclipse

Voyager: Inside the world's greatest space mission

In 1977, two spacecraft started a mission that has redefined our knowledge of the Solar System – and will soon become our ambassadors on a journey into the unknown. BBC Future looks at their legacy, 40 years after launch.<p>In a beige-coloured cubicle, on the ground floor of a nondescript suburban …

Space Exploration

Nasa’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano

With an eruption brewing, it may be the only way to prevent the extinction of the human race.<p>Lying beneath the tranquil settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at Nasa, …

Geology

The monster atomic bomb that was too big to use

In 1961, the Soviet Union tested a nuclear bomb so powerful that it would have been too big to use in war. And it had far-reaching effects of a very different kind.<p>On the morning of 30 October 1961, a Soviet Tu-95 bomber took off from Olenya airfield in the Kola Peninsula in the far north of Russia.<p>…

War

The greatest threats to humanity as we know it

The ultimate guide to the end of the world<p>To coincide with the US solar eclipse on 21 August, BBC Future is running a special series about the end of the world. For other stories, check back here, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.<p>This infographic was originally published on BBC Future in …

Tech Trends