BBC Future

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What we learnt from reading people’s dreams

Humans have been collecting records of dreams for years. But what do these archives of our nightly visions tell us about the human mind? And can modern technology help to unravel them?<p>Another day at the height of World War Two had come to a close. Lars (not his real name), a 36-year-old man from …

World War II

Leonardo da Vinci's lessons in design genius

Driverless cars, humanoid robots and a primitive computer: are these the most surprising things Leonardo da Vinci ever invented? An exhibition at London’s Science Museum explores his genius.<p>Famed as a conspirator in The da Vinci Code and as the master painter behind the “Mona Lisa Smile”, Leonardo …

Genius

The comfort food that took over the world

Every year, tens of billions of instant ramen noodles are enjoyed – a simple meal that only needs the addition of boiling water. Veronique Greenwood looks at the invention of a food revolution.<p>There was a time in my life when I ate a bowl of instant ramen every single day. When you're a moody …

Food

The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby

Babies are sponges for new information – so why does it take so long for us to form your first memory? BBC Future investigates.<p>You’re out to lunch with someone you’ve known for a few years. Together you’ve held parties, celebrated birthdays, visited parks and bonded over your mutual love of ice …

Psychology

The reasons why exhaustion and burnout are so common

More and more people are suffering ‘burnout’ – but is this the fault of modern life or is physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion a far older condition? BBC Future investigates.<p>A few years ago, Anna Katharina Schaffner became the latest victim of the exhaustion ‘epidemic’. It began with a kind of …

Burnout

Why gamblers get high even when they lose

You might think gambling is all about winning, but a range of studies show that things just aren’t that simple. Why do gamblers, even unsuccessful ones, keep getting a buzz?<p>No one likes to lose – even pathological gamblers. And yet they keep on betting. If the house always wins, why roll the dice …

Psychology

The pilots who make it rain

A rare group of pilots fly missions into storm clouds, encouraging the rain to fall with formidable flying skills and simple chemistry. Tao Tao Holmes reports.<p>When a cloud-seeding pilot flies inside a storm, it is not a matter of flying from point A to point B: you are trying to get something out …

Weather

The woman who forced us to look death in the face

In the 1960s, British aristocrat Jessica Mitford wrote a best-seller on the funeral industry’s practices. Twenty years after her death, she can still teach us how to handle mortality.<p>“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” Benjamin Franklin once quipped. If some …

Funerals

Meet Japan’s Kumamon, the bear who earns billions

The success story of a beloved, cuddly Japanese character reveals more about human nature than you might realise. Neil Steinberg explores the science and cultural impact of cuteness.<p>On 14 April 2016, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, toppling buildings and …

Hello Kitty

The secret history of X-ray specs

The discovery of X-rays at the end of the 19th century led to fantasies of glasses that could see through walls – and clothes. But have those ideas now become reality?<p>“I have seen my death!” Anna Bertha Röntgen is said to have exclaimed upon seeing the first X-ray photograph ever made – an image of …

X-rays

The 'broken umbrella' leading us into space

We meet the Nasa engineer who plans to use a giant broken umbrella to take us to the stars.<p>For those of us at home in the Star Trek universe, 4 April 2063 will be a great day. This is the moment when genius rocket scientist Zefram Cochrane first successfully tests his warp drive. The technology …

Astronomy

What does a bomb disposal robot actually do?

For the last 40 years, crude robots have been used to defuse bombs. We look at the development of these slow, deliberate droids that face an abrupt, explosive end.<p>Robots go where humans fear to tread. Of their many applications, bomb disposal is one of the most hazardous, where the risk of death …

Robotics

The ghost towns that were created by the oil rush

Over the last 150 years, oil booms and busts have given rise – and laid waste – to hundreds of towns across the world.<p>In many places on our planet, striking oil has meant the eruption of new settlements in previously uninhabited places. Where there has been oil, there have usually been people.<p>But …

United Arab Emirates

Could this be the first nuclear-powered airliner?

A supersonic airliner that flies at three times the speed of sound – and runs on nuclear fusion. Stephen Dowling investigates the challenges of making airliners run on atomic power.<p>It could whisk you from London Heathrow and have you stepping onto the air bridge at New York’s John F Kennedy airport …

Nuclear fusion

You are surprisingly likely to have a living doppelganger

What are the chances of finding your exact lookalike? BBC Future investigates.<p>It’s on your passport. It’s how criminals are identified in a line-up. It’s how you’re recognised by old friends on the street, even after years apart. Your face: it’s so tangled up with your identity, soon it may be all …

Australian Universities

The hacks that make air travel less painful

Flying for hours in cramped airline seats can take a lot out of us. Katia Moskvitch explores the scientific remedies that can make flying less frustrating.<p>You can’t sleep. Your joints hurt. The food is awful. The air is stinky. It’s too hot. Now it’s too cold. There’s no space for your knees. And …

Airlines

The psychological tricks behind Pokemon Go's success

Nintendo's latest video game has become an overnight sensation. What’s the appeal?<p>“Basically the reason I downloaded it is because a lot of my friends in the States have been going mad for it,” says Jon Norris. “They’re quite sensible adults but they were absolutely freaking out about it.”<p>Norris, …

Pokémon

Why true coincidences are hard to find

In recent months, the same headlines seem to keep cropping up in our newsfeeds. The reasons why are simple.<p>It would appear we cannot go for more than a few days in 2016 before there is another high-profile celebrity death or mass shooting reported somewhere. More recently, in the space of a …

University of Virginia

The surprising links between human milk and the wild

Every mammal produces milk to rear its young. What’s in that milk depends on everything from the heat of the climate to how long the baby needs to feed for. And human milk, it turns out, has much in common with one of Africa’s wildest species.<p>Nine out of every 10 glasses of raw milk produced in the …

Science

We need a new approach to avoiding allergies

Friendly bugs can protect our health - but the answer is not to abandon hygiene. There are now many more effective ways to nurture your 'microbiome'.<p>Over the past few years, it has become clear that far from being our foes, many bacteria and parasites can act as our body’s caretakers, guarding us …

Allergies

The surprising and eerie beauty of World War Two bunkers

In this series of eight photographs, Jason Guilbeau captures the striking architecture of France's military relics.<p>Once protectors of the land during World War Two, these now retired bunkers sit quietly in rural France.<p>The photographer Jason Guilbeau, from Strasbourg, has been documenting the …

Bunker

The mind tricks to get better tips

Waiters and waitresses might be able to boost their take-home pay with a few tricks gleaned from psychological journals, Claudia Hammond says.<p>I was once chased out of a sushi restaurant in Manhattan for leaving a tip which was fine by UK standards, generous even, but low in US terms. It’s clear …

Psychology

What Freudian slips really reveal about your mind

Do our verbal stumblings unveil our unconscious desires – or are they simply an innocent glitch in the brain’s workings? BBC Future investigates.<p>It was 1988 and the then-vice president, George H. W. Bush, was on a routine visit to Idaho. He was supposed to give a dry speech on agricultural policy …

The Brain

The toughest spaceship we’ve ever built

Future missions to Venus need tough new technologies – and an old one.<p>It’s been a long time since anyone tried landing on Venus, one of the most hostile environments in the Solar System. Covered in sulphuric acid clouds, the surface temperatures approach 460 C (860 F) with atmospheric pressure 90 …

NASA

Why is Big Ben falling silent?

In 2017, the 157-year-old clock will grind to a halt for a £29 million facelift. But what will that mean – and how has the world’s most famous clock kept accurate time for so long?<p>For more than 150 years, its four huge faces have gazed across London – watching over five monarchs, 23 prime ministers …

Big Ben

Eight myths and truths about sex, sexuality and gender

The lowdown on everything from the ‘gay gene’ to the animals with four genders.<p>Is sexuality innate? Did our gender roles evolve in nature? And would we be happier if we abandoned the idea of monogamy? Over eight articles, our Sexual Revolutions series has probed our changing opinions of sexuality …

Women's News

Interactive: Your 24-hour guide to living a smarter day

A personalised infographic to uncover the hidden rhythms governing your life.<p>When should you drink your first cup of coffee – or your first beer? At what time is it best to send an important email? And what’s a simple trick to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep? Enter your details and …

Beer

The huge Chinese warehouse run by robots

A warehouse in China barely needs any human workers to function. BBC Click went to Shanghai to see how it works.<p>A warehouse picker who never gets tired? The online retailer JD.com has just the thing. The company has opened a huge facility in Shanghai where items are picked from shelves, packed up …

Asia

How to destroy your digital history

What really happens when you hit “delete” on a file on your computer? Watch the videos to find out.<p>We all have private information on our computers, phones and tablets. Whether of personal or professional origin, there’s some data that we’d rather no-one else got their hands on. But does deleting a …

History

The enduring enigma of female sexual desire

Why have scientists been slow to understand women’s sexuality, asks Rachel Nuwer.<p>What do women want? It’s a question that’s stymied the likes of Sigmund Freud to Mel Gibson. It has been at the centre of numerous books, articles and blog posts, and no doubt the cause of countless agonised ponderings …

Gender