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Why does it hurt so much to hit your funny bone?

There’s no pain quite like the one you experience when you hit your funny bone. But what is going on to create such an odd feeling?

Everybody knows that smacking your funny bone isn’t all that funny, but did you know that the prickling feeling you feel from smacking it isn’t from your bones at all? …

The monster airships that could carry 66 tonnes

Watch the world’s largest aircraft in the video above.

Could the airship be finally ready for a comeback?

In 2013, the Aeros Corporation, based near San Diego, demonstrated a tethered flight of Dragon Dream – an airship measuring 90m (295ft) long and 27m wide.

As big as this airship is, it is still …


Dos and don’ts to preserve your brainpower

From changing your diet to partying like you’re 21, here are six tips for protecting your brain from the ravages of time.

Like any good machine, the brain needs a little care and attention as it ages to ensure it continues to run in good working order. If only there were a manual to its maintenance …


The SmartList: Five things to expand your mind

Welcome to The SmartList, a new series on BBC Future, offering a regular dose of fascinating facts, statistics and curiosities about the world we live in.

…assuming a 1km-wide, cube-shaped cloud. Source: Mental Floss, Nasa

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Source: Physics Central

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The surprising benefits of feeling insignificant

In the grand scheme of things, you are a tiny blip on the Earth’s surface. And recognising that fact may make you a better person, writes David Robson.

Take a look at the video above. Feel small and insignificant, compared to the enormous, beautiful world around you? If so, you may just have become …


The super-luxury watches that take years to make

Fetching hundreds of thousands of pounds, they’re the ultimate statement piece. Who are the people that make the world’s most intricately designed watches?

Roger Smith’s heart was in his mouth. Across the table from him sat George Daniels, the best watchmaker in the world. Here they were in Daniels’ …


How a Nazi rocket could have put a Briton in space

In the years following World War II, an audacious British plan would have used Nazi rockets to put a man in space.

In the summer of 1945, with the war in Europe over, Allied forces rushed to unravel the secrets of Nazi V2 rockets. These terror weapons, built by slave labourers, did little to affect …

History of Science

What may be self-driving cars’ biggest problem

Learning to drive a driverless car is more difficult than it sounds. One lab is monitoring how we might react when we have to give up the wheel to a computer.

I am pretty confident in my driving skills, but today my skills as a future car driver are going to be tested. Although it is generally …


Inside the mind of a mazemaker

With more than 700 creations, Adrian Fisher is the world's most prolific maze designer. He explains what goes into those twists and turns – and why we love feeling so confused.

In the 36 years that Adrian Fisher has been in business, he has created every kind of maze imaginable – from simple, …

World Records

The worst thing about modern phones

The best of the week’s reads in science and technology, including the downsides of mobile handsets, a database of death, and how to be a superforecaster.

Communication | Don’t hate the phone call, hate the phone

The telephone used to be “truly great” when it was a fixed line in a quiet place. The …

Ashley Madison

How your attention span compares with a monkey’s

Comparing macaque and human brains reveals the 'unique properties' of human attention.

The human brain is pretty picky about the things it pays attention to. Our senses are constantly bombarded by smells, colours, tastes, and sounds, which means that much of that information has to be filtered out, …

The Brain

The jaw-dropping missions of fire-fighting pilots

Fighting fires from the air requires pilots to fly huge aircraft close to the ground – what’s it like to be in the cockpit?

The summer of 2015 has been a cruel one for the Pacific states of the US. California, for instance, has sweltered in record temperatures, as a crippling drought has entered its …


The bad things that happen when algorithms run online shops

Smart software controls the prices and products you see when you shop online – and sometimes it can go spectacularly wrong, from causing offence to destroying livelihoods.

It was a warm, breezy Saturday morning in Melbourne, two years ago. Michael Fowler had just shut down his laptop after spending …


What is it like to have never felt an emotion?

Some people seem to lack the capacity to feel joy, sorrow or love. David Robson discovers the challenges and surprising advantages of “alexithymia”.

Caleb is telling me about the birth of his son, now eight months old. “You know you hear parents say that the first time they looked at their kid, they …


How algorithms run Amazon’s warehouses

When you click “buy’ on Amazon, a flurry of activity begins inside a nearby warehouse – all managed by smart computer code. What’s it like to work there?

“Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History.” So reads a sign above the entrance to Amazon’s newest UK “fulfilment centre” (or warehouse) in Hemel …


The secret to making great-tasting yoghurt

Heating and cooling curdled milk creates an amazing chemical process that leads to one of our most soothing foodstuffs - yoghurt.

Yoghurt is having a moment. The Greek variety has gained popularity so quickly and unexpectedly – it’s now a multi-billion-dollar industry – that no one has yet figured …


The search for an effective cure for motion sickness

It’s a form of sickness that affects about one in three people. We can’t predict who will succumb or when. And there’s no cure, discovers Katia Moskvitch.

Motion sickness can seem like a minor ailment to those blessed with a sturdy constitution. “People don't die from motion sickness,” says Bill …

Motion Sickness

Is the end of oil nigh?

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including why the oil business may be in trouble and Google changing its name to Alphabet.

Home tech | Efficiency begins at home

Gains from technology are readily quantified when they happen in the workplace. They used to be fairly easily …

Keynesian Economics

An inside look at the world’s biggest space telescope

How do you build a cosmic stargazer like the James Webb Space Telescope?

It will be the largest and most powerful telescope we have ever sent into space.

The successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is an $8.5bn (£5.5bn) collaboration between Nasa, the European Space Agency (Esa) …


The secrets of extraordinary survivors

When faced with trauma, some people manage to emerge stronger than ever. How do they manage it? Michael Bond investigates.

Eugenie is telling me the story of the end of her life. At least, it is the end of the life she used to know.

Three years ago, government soldiers came to her home in Kinshasa in …


A dream-traveller’s guide to the sleeping mind

Almost a century ago, an eccentric English lady found the secrets of dream control. Her subsequent adventures explored the limits of consciousness – and modern scientists are only just catching up.

As with many nightmares, Mary Arnold-Forster was being chased. She seemed to be in London around the …


The man who turns fizzy drinks into big lollipops

How much sugar is there in a bottle of pop? Artist Henry Hargreaves put the question to the test in a series of sticky creations.

When New Zealand-based artist Henry Hargreaves heard a health professional call soda “the cigarettes of our generation”, he wanted to find a way to represent the risk …


Do junior doctors cause more deaths?

Newly qualified doctors start work in July and August, so is it a riskier time to go to hospital? Claudia Hammond reviews the evidence.

In many parts of the world summer is well on the way, but that means brand new doctors are on the way too. In July hundreds of new doctors start their jobs in …


The dangers of trusting robots

As robots enter our home, they may steal secrets about your life that you don't want to share, argue two experts in robotics law and the philosophy of technology.

In February, a South Korean woman was sleeping on the floor when her robot vacuum ate her hair, forcing her to call for emergency help. …


The car that runs on sunshine

Cars that run on the energy of the Sun have already hit the roads of the Australian desert. As the video above explains, they can even cruise along at the same kinds of speeds as a petrol engine.

Imagine a car that runs on the same power as a toaster.

That's what the student-run Stanford Solar Car …

Renewable Energy

Rocketing prices: The investors eyeing the riches of space

The number of commercial space firms is growing – giving investors an opportunity to shape a brand new industry, writes Sarah Cruddas.

Space has long been off-limits to most of us. It’s almost 60 years since the launch of Sputnik 1 heralded the birth of the space age. Since then people have walked …


How it feels to live with no sense of smell

Losing your sense of smell takes away more than scents and flavours, writes Emma Young.

Nick Johnson skims the lunch menu at the White Dog Cafe, a warren of little rooms and ante-rooms in Philadelphia’s university district. “Beef empanadas… I would have loved those. But all that braised beef would …


How fast could humans travel safely through space?

The current speed record has stood for 46 years. When will it be beaten, asks Adam Hadhazy.

We humans are obsessed with speed. Recent months, for instance, brought news that students in Germany have broken the record for the fastest accelerating electric car, and that the US Air Force plans to …


Why do we have contempt for cowardice?

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including the apparent dawn of the age of immortality, and humanity’s troubling attitude to bullying.

Mental health | Phrases to avoid

“In this article, we present a provisional list of 50 commonly used terms in psychology, psychiatry, and …

Steven Pinker

A conversation with a space station crew

Talking to astronauts in orbit is as easy as picking up the phone, Richard Hollingham discovers as he calls up the International Space Station.

The phone to my home office – in a rural village some 30 miles north of London – is connected to the outside world by a copper cable. The line swings …