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The new tech changing airport security

Queuing to be searched at the airport is a major downside of going on holiday. What is the airline industry doing to improve it? Katia Moskvitch investigates.

A young woman approaches airport security in a pair of stiletto boots, designer sunglasses, and a big wide belt that matches her fashionable …

Security

How sex statistics lie to us

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including how statistics about sex warp the truth, and what caused the capitalist system.

Physics

| The end of cosmology

Science bumps up against the frontiers of philosophy: “Cosmologists have looked deep into time, almost all the way back …

Statistics

The philosopher who studies the experience of coffee

Is coffee much deeper than it appears? David Robson meets a philosopher who certainly thinks so – he's attempting to use the drink to probe the human mind.

It’s like I’m drinking the dying embers of a log-fire – smoky and tinged with the tang of creosote. As I concentrate harder, I notice its …

Coffee Beans

The man who hacks phones with an implant under his skin

If you hand Seth Wahle your phone, he could steal your photos, passwords and more simply by holding it. Rose Eveleth finds out how he does it.

Seth Wahle is one of a growing number of people who has a chip implanted into his body. Wahle, a former petty officer in the US Navy and now an engineer at a …

Hacking

The robot truck that can drive itself

In the Nevada desert, one truckmaker is testing a big rig that can drive itself. Jack Stewart joins the truck driver in the passenger seat.

What does it feel like to be driven by a computer the size of a truck?

Remarkably underwhelming, it turns out. But that’s exactly what the team at Daimler Trucks …

Robotics

Will humans keep getting taller?

We’re much loftier than we were 150 years ago. How has this happened, asks Adam Hadhazy, and what will people look like a century from now?

Humankind has transformed in the last century-and-a-half. Our global population has soared from a mere billion to more than seven billion. In developed …

Prehistory

The mind-bending effects of foreign accent syndrome

A little-known condition causes people to adopt a new accent – and lose a part of their identity in the process, finds David Robson.

Julie Matthias’s family have a game they sometimes like to play after she comes home, disappointed, from another doctor’s appointment. During dinner, they pick a …

The Brain

The troubling flaws in forensic science

DNA, fingerprint and hair analyses may seem invincible – but they can be swayed by a scientist’s preconceptions. Linda Geddes reports on a crisis in criminology.

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” So said the fictional detective, Sherlock …

Forensics

Are computers making our lives too easy?

Smartphones, robots and computers offer to make our lives ever-more efficient, but what do we lose by accepting that seductive promise? Tom Chatfield spoke to author Nicholas Carr about the perils of over-automation.

It’s easy to assume that automating everything will lead to a better world. …

The Future

Why do people have extra nipples?

Extra nipples were once thought to be a link to our evolutionary past, but the truth is a lot stranger, writes Jason G Goldman.

What do Mark Wahlberg, Tilda Swinton, Lily Allen, and Bill Paxton have in common? For one thing they're all very, very famous, but so are lots of people, and you already …

Medicine

How safe is your password?

Hackers are coming up with ever more ingenious ways to crack your secrets. But with the right tricks, you can learn to outsmart them and protect your privacy.

When you go on holiday, you wouldn’t leave your front door open to burglars – yet many of us are equivalently foolhardy with our online …

Hacking

The secrets of slot machines

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including the psychology of price tags and how technology has made us gamble.

AI

| Artificial intelligence: Rise of the machines

A smart robot may take your job, but it is highly unlikely to take over the world, at least given foreseeable …

The Future

What happens to our bodies after we die

The breakdown of our bodies after death can be fascinating – if you dare to delve into the details. Mo Costandi investigates.

“It might take a little bit of force to break this up,” says mortician Holly Williams, lifting John’s arm and gently bending it at the fingers, elbow and wrist. “Usually, the …

Life Sciences

Could electric biorocks save coral reefs?

In Indonesia, ecologists have created ‘biological rocks’ on the ocean floor using an ingeniously simple technology. Katie Silver investigates.

Just metres off the beach, beneath the clear water, is a giant motorbike, sitting atop a big steel structure in the shape of a speedbump. It is covered in …

Coral Reefs

The underground lab testing sleep in space

In the sublevels of a shiny German building, volunteers will soon be lying at an unnatural angle, all to help astronauts sleep better. Richard Hollingham reports.

The recently opened Envihab at the German space agency (DLR) near Cologne looks like a building of the future. Possibly one of those …

Space

The hidden psychology of voting

Votes are cast based on rational decisions, right? Not necessarily – we may not be as in control of our preferences as we like to think, writes Zaria Gorvett.

It hits the moment you board the train – that unmistakeable tang of stale urine. You take a seat. The passenger opposite sneezes across the …

Psychology

The number glitch that can lead to catastrophe

A surprisingly simple bug afflicts computers controlling planes, spacecraft and more – they get confused by big numbers. As Chris Baraniuk discovers, the glitch has led to explosions, missing space probes and more.

Tuesday, 4 June 1996 will forever be remembered as a dark day for the European Space …

Catastrophe

What would you see in a black hole?

What would it be like to fly a spacecraft into a black hole? Marcus Woo investigates.

Something about a black hole just pulls you in. Sure, its gravity is so strong that not even light can elude its grasp. But, there's something else, something harder to pinpoint. Maybe it's a black hole's absolute …

Physics

The weird way Lenin’s body is kept fresh

The best reads in science and technology this week, including an ambitious plan for flying cars and the macabre body preservation of Lenin.

Sport

| Stat cast – The new moneyball

A video platform called Statcast takes baseball analytics to the next level by recording every movement on the pitch from …

Vladimir Lenin

The dawn of the plastic car?

Printing the parts of a car and building it yourself sounds like pure fantasy. But one US lab has done just that. Jack Stewart investigates.

The Shelby Cobra recently unveiled by the US Department of Energy’s Oakridge National Laboratory is no ordinary sports car. It wasn’t so much built as …

Plastic

How to learn with zero effort

What is the easiest way to learn? David Robson meets a group of scientists and memory champions competing to find techniques that make facts stick... fast.

Face to face with the world’s leading memory experts, my mind is beginning to feel very humble. Ben Whately, for instance, tells me about the …

Psychology

Why do we get sleep in our eyes?

Our eyes fill up with gunk as we sleep, but what is it? As Jason G Goldman discovers, the stuff has a more important job than it seems.

This first thing I do when I wake up each morning is look at the long list of notifications that have silently accumulated on my phone as I slept. The second thing …

Sleep

The mind-bending cuts in every movie you watch

The best recent long reads in science and technology, including dolphin conversation, death in space and the discombobulating effects of cinema.

Vision

| What it’s like to go blind

A blind person explains. “To many sighted people, the prospect of going blind is terrifying. They think about what they …

Game Theory

The subtle science of selling – a six-step guide

Salespeople can lure you into buying their products with simple psychological tricks. Tiffanie Wen explores how they work.

If I told you this is the most important article you’ll read this week, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But what if I could say that 75% of your friends agreed? Or if I could …

Scientific Research

Why we want food so much it hurts

Be it chocolate, cheese or chip shop curry, craving a favorite food is something we’ve all experienced. Why do our bodies suffer such serious pangs? Veronique Greenwood investigates.

There's nothing like the salty tang of beef-flavored Top Ramen broth and a mouthful of slightly overdone instant …

Food

The spacewalk that saved Hubble

Hubble celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. However, the Nasa space telescope that has transformed our view of the Universe was launched with a major defect. Richard Hollingham talks to the man who had to don his spacesuit and make it work.

Story Musgrave had worked on the development of the …

NASA

The people who are lost in time

What is it like to lose your memory after brain injury, drug abuse – or energetic sex? Christian Jarrett reports on the strange causes and consequences of amnesia.

One morning in 2008, Naomi Jacobs, then 32, woke up with no recollection of her previous 17 years. It’s as if the memories of drug …

The Brain

A five-step guide to not being stupid

Even the smartest people can be fools. David Robson explains how to avoid the most common traps of sloppy thinking.

If you ever doubt the idea that the very clever can also be very silly, just remember the time the smartest man in America tried to electrocute a turkey. Benjamin Franklin had been …

Intelligence

Will we ever… live in underground homes?

As cities get more crowded, why not build down? Kieran Nash profiles some of the world’s most unusual underground constructions, from Australian rock homes to Beijing’s subterranean spaces.

In many respects, Bernadette Roberts’ three-bedroom house is like any other. “Lounge, dining area, kitchen – …

Urbanism

The strangest sounds in the world

Do you hear the same things as me? Probably not. As these weird audio illusions show, people have radically different opinions about what reaches their ears, says David Robson.

“You know you were told to be nice and not to heckle?” Sophie Meekings asks her audience in the dingy cellar of the North …

Illusion