BBC Future

3 Magazines | 221.2k Followers | @bbcfuture | Tech, science, environment and health news.

Are you washing and drying your hands wrong?

Hot water or cold? Soap or handwash? Towels or hot air dryers? The post-bathroom ritual is a vital task – but is there a best way to do it?<p>Now wash your hands! It sounds straightforward, but it isn’t. Although there’s plenty of evidence that washing your hands after you’ve been to the loo, before …

Biology

Your guide to Earth’s biggest problems

BBC Future Now is extending our series about the grandest challenges faced by humankind.<p>Earlier this year, BBC Future Now published a series called the Grand Challenges: addressing some of the world’s biggest, most pressing problems that demand solutions in the very near future.<p>But the future is a …

Tech Trends

A flight over Hong Kong's secret farms

Hong Kong's tower blocks are now the site of a green revolution - as the stunning video above shows.<p>For more information on the motivations and challenges of these cutting-edge projects, read our in-depth feature: An inside view of Hong Kong's rooftop farms.<p><i>Join 800,000+ Future fans by liking us on</i></b> …

Hong Kong

Why automation could be a threat to India's growth

Smart machines, robots, and other forms of automation could either be an economic poison or cure in a developing country like India.<p>Ravi is one of thousands of Indian IT workers who will lose their jobs this year, caught between a slump in India’s previously booming IT industry and new technology …

Intelligence

The everyday habits that reveal our personalities

From dining on spicy food to singing in the shower, seemingly innocuous behaviours may say a lot about your character.<p>One reason that personality is such an important psychological concept is because of what it tells us about the kind of lives we’re likely to lead. For example, if you are very …

Personality

An inside view of Hong Kong’s hidden rooftop farms

A butterfly perching on a lettuce leaf is not normally a cause for marvel. But I am standing on the roof the Bank of America Tower, a 39-floor building in the heart of Hong Kong’s busiest district, to see one of its highest farms. The butterfly must have flown across miles of tower blocks to reach …

Hong Kong

How army rations helped change food

Soldiers may find themselves a long way from the comforts of a kitchen – but they always have to eat. BBC Future looks at the clever tricks to make food to eat on the hoof.<p>When soldiers go into the field, they carry with them tiny miracles of engineering. And we're not just talking about weaponry: …

Biology

‘Resilience bonds’: A secret weapon against catastrophe

The costs of natural disasters are becoming too much to bear – and it’s driving up premiums, no matter where you live. The solution may be a type of insurance never seen before.<p>In a conference room overlooking downtown Miami, British executives are talking about why they know south Florida’s …

Hurricane Sandy

What’s it like to eject out of a plane?

Former RAF pilot Dode Dahroug describes the moment he ejected from his plane, after its engine fell off mid-air.<p>This audio clip is from the World Service radio programme Crowdscience. Listen to the full episode which also covers the question: why can’t commercial airliners have ejector seats? You …

Aviation

What causes that feeling of being watched

You feel somebody is looking at you, but you don’t know why. The explanation lies in some intriguing neuroscience and the study of a strange form of brain injury.<p>Something makes you turn and see someone watching you. Perhaps on a busy train, or at night, or when you’re strolling through the park. …

Behavior

Should cashiers be humans or machines?

Self-service tills mean headaches for some shoppers, but bring convenience – and a few unexpected benefits – for others.<p>Earlier this week, BBC Future published a story about shoppers’ disdain for self-service checkouts: many people find them poorly designed and irritating to use. While these …

Harvard Business School

Why it feels weird to step onto a stopped escalator

Why does walking onto a stationary escalator throw you off balance? The answer, explained in the one-minute video above, reveals intriguing things about how your non-conscious brain works.<p>Discover more about the non-conscious side of your mind:<p>The enormous power of the unconscious brain<br>• Your …

Mind

The quest to help astronauts sleep better

In a German lab, volunteers are being paid to explore one of space travel’s biggest challenges – helping astronauts get a better night’s sleep.<p>I am inside an underground research laboratory surrounded by forest near Cologne, Germany. The walls are white, harshly illuminated by concealed lighting, …

Sleep

The unpopular rise of self-checkouts (and how to fix them)

It’s a machine that many people love to hate. What will it take to improve the experience of the self-checkout?<p>On the self-select screen of bakery items before me, the difference was just 50p (65 cents) between a plain croissant and an almond one. While I struggled to identify baked goods, juggling …

eCommerce

The many reasons that people are having less sex

People today are having less sex than ever before – and it may reflect some troubling anxieties at the heart of modern society.<p>We live in one of the most sexually liberated times of human history. Access to new technologies over the past 40 years, whether it is the contraceptive pill, or dating …

Psychology

The most promising route to ‘mental superpowers’

If people are given a way to see what’s happening inside their head in real-time, they can rapidly learn how to dampen pain, enhance self-control and boost mental ability. If more of us had access to this technique, it could be transformative.<p>Many of us have our special ways of dealing with our …

The Brain

The world’s biggest plane may have a new mission

The Soviet Union’s Antonov An-225 was designed to transport the Buran space shuttle. It still flies sporadically today – but a Chinese plan could give it a new lease of life.<p>Tucked away in a small section of a Soviet era air base on the outskirts of Kiev is the flagship aircraft of the legendary …

Aerospace

The crucial role of Britain’s nuclear police

Since 2005, every nuclear power station in the UK has had armed protection – the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. But why is such security necessary and what does the job entail?<p>In a drab parking area by a disused army barracks in Surrey, a car has just skidded to a halt. The driver is soon on foot and …

Energy

How farmers put apples into suspended animation

How is it possible to buy apples all year round? Veronique Greenwood investigates the chemical alchemy that puts ripening on hold.<p>Apples are an autumn speciality, their scent rolling off farmers' market carts and inspiring pie bakers and cider makers to delicious heights. But they're available to …

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Are there downsides to ‘breast is best’?

Breastfeeding has many benefits, but some campaigners argue that health policies to encourage the practice could be placing potentially harmful pressures on mothers. Clare Wilson looks at what the evidence says.<p>As the birth of her first baby drew near, Suzanne Barston was determined to do …

Pregnancy

The hidden cost of transport ‘megaprojects’

How do you build a massive infrastructure project meant to bring Britain into the future… and not destroy the stories about its past? Two new railway lines are trying to figure it out.<p>Sitting in a train seat and watching the outside world whiz past, you’re unlikely to think about the sacrifices …

Archaeology

The woman with a strange ‘second sight’

A blind woman describes how she learnt she had one of the world’s most intriguing senses.<p>It ranks among the most curious phenomena in cognitive neuroscience. A handful of people in the world have “blindsight”: they are blind, but their non-conscious brain can still sense their surroundings.<p>Milina …

Behavior

The surprisingly unique parts of your body

Everyone knows about fingerprints – but what else can be used to identify you?<p>Discover more: The seven ways you are totally unique<p><i>Video:</i> <i>Shane Croke and Adrian Burke</i><i>/1000 Heads, Australia</i><p><i>Based on an article by Richard Gray</i>

Science

Hong Kong has a monumental waste problem

By 2020, the region’s landfill sites will be full to bursting with rubbish. What can be done?<p>When I first meet Chan King Ming at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it is difficult to imagine that the region is facing an environmental disaster. We are speaking on a crisp spring morning, in the …

Hong Kong

The people who never feel any pain

Pain is our bodies’ way of telling us to be careful – but there are some who go their entire lives without feeling it. Could their disorder unlock new ways to safely deal with chronic pain?<p>At the Institute of Human Genetics in Aachen, Germany, Dr Ingo Kurth is preparing for a rather unusual …

Pain

The next generation of drones will be defined by 'swarms'

These automated, flying robots are tiny, cheap, disposable. And in large groups, they could either save your life, or be the deadliest weapon since the machine gun.<p>What do you picture when you think of a drone? A solitary, remote-controlled toy with propellers, or perhaps a large, unmanned military …

Drones

The ‘silent killer’ of Africa’s albinos

Albinos in Tanzania live in fear of witch doctors who prize their body parts, but they face a far greater threat just by spending time outdoors.<p>On stage, Sixmond Mdeka goes by the name Ras Six. He is a successful reggae singer in his homeland of Tanzania, yet despite his fame, he is haunted by …

Africa

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 …

Beverages

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 …

Wildlife