BBC Future

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Should you avoid ice cream when you have a cold?

Many claim that drinking milk or enjoying an ice cream worsens the symptoms of a cold. But is there any truth to it?<p>Your nose is blocked, your eyes are streaming and your head aches. You may or may not feel like eating. But if you are hungry there are plenty of ideas about what you should and …

Wellness

The unsung heroes who prevented the Apollo 13 disaster

Two days into what should have been a mission to the Moon, disaster struck Apollo 13. A new film explores the drama – and astronaut Jim Lovell recounts the incredible efforts to bring the crew back.<p>14 April 1970, the crew of Apollo 13 – Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise – are two days into …

NASA

How to save the world’s most trafficked mammal

Many people in the West have never even heard of the pangolin, yet this “scaly anteater” is the source of a billion-dollar criminal industry that threatens to push it to extinction. BBC Future met a team of Hong Kong’s ecologists and activists trying to save these creatures from extinction.<p>For …

Conservation

The British reality TV star building a fusion reactor

Successfully producing energy from fusion always has been a moonshot – but it is one that investors, including an unlikely millionaire celebrity, say they are on the brink of achieving.<p>A dimpled chunk of dark-coloured iron sits on Richard Dinan’s desk at his office in central London. He insists it …

Nuclear Energy

How Western civilisation could collapse

Some possible precipitating factors are already in place. How the West reacts to them will determine the world’s future, says Rachel Nuwer.<p>The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should …

Economics

The deadly danger in common foods

Some of our favourite ingredients include toxins that can make us very sick indeed…<p>We've all suffered from the occasional overindulgence, and most of us likely have a few dodgy oysters or shrimp canapes ruefully enshrined in our memory. But by and large, we eat pretty safely these days. While some …

Gardening

The smiles that are anything but welcoming

Not all smiles are what they seem. We may think that a flashing grin signifies happiness and welcome – but the answer might instead be nervousness, stress, misery – or even contempt. BBC Future looks at how our smiles may have evolved from the expressions of our ape-like ancestors as a way of …

Mind

Different nationalities really have different personalities

Each country may have its own unique traits, behaviours, and attitudes – but they rarely match the national stereotypes.<p>Whether it’s the caricature of the introverted English, the brash Americans or the industrious Japanese, national stereotypes are easy to come by. But do countries really have …

Personality

Is the world running out of fresh water?

Increasing temperatures and populations threaten a precious resource and pose a serious problem. What can we do about protecting our most vital resource?<p>The next time you open a can of soft drink, consider where the water inside it came from: For example, did you know that the water in an Indian …

Water

The reusable spaceplane launched inside a rocket

Since the Space Shuttle was retired, we have been lacking a multi-mission spacecraft. Could Europe’s Space Rider be the answer?<p>Spacecraft are expensive things. They can take decades to design, and test, and build. And then, apart from the modules that carry their crew back to terra firma, they are …

Aerospace

The monster ships that changed how we travel

The beauty salons, swimming pools and even wireless communications of today’s huge cruise ships all got their start with the “floating palaces” of a century ago.<p>When the world’s then-largest ocean liner embarked on its first transatlantic voyage in September 1907, thousands of spectators gathered …

World War I

How to fool artificial intelligence

Machines still have a long way to go before they learn like humans do – and that’s a potential danger to privacy, safety, and more.<p>The year is 2022. You’re riding along in a self-driving car on a routine trip through the city. The car comes to a stop sign it’s passed a hundred times before – but …

Machine Learning

Why all smiles are not the same

Our grins are not as simple as they seem. There are a myriad different ways to smile – and some of them can conceal some less than happy feelings.<p>As they hovered over their victims, knives at the ready, Carney Landis issued his instructions. The beheading was ready to commence.<p>It was 1924 and this …

Body Language

The ruined spy base with a hidden past

On top of a hill called ‘Devil’s Mountain’ in Berlin, there’s a graffiti-coated former listening station that once spied on the Soviets. BBC Future looks inside the derelict structure, and speaks to the people who worked there on the day the world almost plunged into accidental nuclear war.<p><i>Join</i> …

Science

How vertical farming reinvents agriculture

Instead of growing crops in sunny fields or greenhouses, some companies stack them and grow them in old, dark warehouses with UV lights — saving water and harvesting produce faster.<p>In an old carpet factory on the outskirts of the Belgian city of Kortrijk, an agricultural upheaval is being plotted: …

Aquaculture

The British airliner that changed the world

When the de Havilland Comet flew into the sky in 1949, it changed aviation for good. BBC Future examines the legacy of a flawed but far-reaching design.<p>On 7 April 1954, Peter Duffey co-piloted the sleek, four-engined de Havilland Comet G-ALYY into Heathrow Airport. It was the last leg of the new …

Aerospace

Miami’s fight against rising seas

The first time my father’s basement flooded, it was shortly after he moved in. The building was an ocean-front high-rise in a small city north of Miami called Sunny Isles Beach. The marble lobby had a waterfall that never stopped running; crisp-shirted valets parked your car for you. For the …

Climate Change

The hidden upsides of revenge

Revenge serves a very useful purpose – even the idea of seeking it gives us pleasure. Why is this?<p>A tale of revenge is always bittersweet. Take the sack of Troy, as depicted in Homer's epic poem The Iliad. When Paris steals away Helen, her husband King Menelaus cannot bear the injustice and seeks …

Psychology

50 grand challenges for the 21st Century

We asked experts from the world of science and technology to describe the societal challenges that they think matter in 2017 and beyond. Read the full list of responses below.<p>Over the past month, Future Now has been covering the “grand challenges” we face as a society in a series of articles, …

Innovation

Five numbers that will define the next 100 years

From energy to life expectancy, these crucial statistics could define Earth’s upcoming century.<p><i>(Click/pinch to enlarge)</i><p><b>How will the world’s population continue to increase?</b><p>There will be 11.2 billion of us by 2100, according to the UN’s most likely scenario. But this is a projection, not a …

Geography

The uncertain future of democracy

The West’s grandest challenge could be preserving the post-war stability that has existed for more than half a century.<p>Joshua Wong was 17 when he was first arrested for his political views. But by then he had been taking part in pro-democracy protests for more than three years. In 2011, aged 14, he …

Democracy

The small Scottish isle leading the world in electricity

Some 1.3 billion people lack regular access to electricity. With its reliable independent grid powered by wind, water and solar, a remote Scottish island could hold the key to a solution.<p>The Scottish island of Eigg has a precarious connection to the outside world – which I experienced first-hand …

Renewable Energy

12 questions we need to prioritise in 2017

In addition to established problems facing the world such as climate change or poverty, what lesser-known issues do we face? We asked experts for the “grand challenges” they think need to be addressed fast if we want a positive future.<p><b>HOW CAN WE AVOID RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS?</b><p>“More needs to be …

Cities

The milk that lasts for months

Ultra-heat-treated milk is a shelf staple, especially in tropical climes where milk easily spoils. BBC Future investigates its special properties.<p>In general, milk is not known for a spectacular shelf life. Even milk that's been pasteurised, so a good many of the bacteria naturally present are dead, …

Milk

Bill Gates: We need a new approach to tackling epidemics

In this exclusive video, the entrepreneur and philanthropist outlines a new approach to disease outbreaks like Zika and Ebola.<p>Ebola, Zika, Sars… recent years have shown that we are often unprepared to briskly mobilise against the threat of rapid disease outbreaks. In an interconnected world, it’s …

Bill Gates

The strange case of the phantom Pokemon

In August 2016, a woman claimed to have been attacked by a real Pokemon. Her terrifying hallucination reveals the mysterious 'twilight zone' between waking and sleep — a strange state of consciousness that may also lie behind various phenomena, from the Salem Witch Trials to alien abductions.<p>In …

Consciousness

The ingenious invention to better the button

The zipper has transformed everything from fashion to safety equipment. But the plans to make this intensely useful mechanism took some time to come together…<p>We use it every day, a rather fascinating invention that has transformed our lives – from the ease of closing your trousers to the secure way …

National Air and Space Museum

The deadly danger you can’t see

Many countries have banned landmines, but millions continue to lie in wait for unsuspecting victims. The methods used to find and deal with them have had to keep pace with their increasing sophistication.<p>“Danger: Minefield” are two words with an almost unsurpassed power to stop you in your tracks. …

War

Why your diet may be bad for your gut bacteria

For a healthy body full of ‘good’ microbes, you may need to do a lot more than eat a probiotic yoghurt, as Adam Rutherford discovered when he took a rather uncomfortable test.<p>It began with what can only be described as an ingenious invention. It’s a fold-out sheet, with sticky tabs at the front and …

Biology

We hate to admit it, but Brits aren’t the best at queuing

Waiting patiently in a line was meant to be a quintessentially British behaviour – but the evidence suggests otherwise.<p>As sources of competition go, queuing must be one of the most perplexing. But standing patiently in line appears to be one of Britain’s greatest prides alongside our love of tea, …

Psychology