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Coffee in crisis: the bitter end of our favourite drink?

Drought, flooding, disease - climate change is already threatening the source of our caffeine fix. Are we facing the end of coffee as we know it, asks David Robson.

As we sip our lattes and espressos and read the daily headlines, climate change can seem like a distant threat. But travel a few …


The team that keep a watchful eye on the ISS

Richard Hollingham meets the team who keep astronauts safe - and tidy - as they cope with the daily challenges of conducting science in space.

In a darkened room, deep within the high-security perimeter of Redstone Arsenal, a US army base in Huntsville, Alabama, eight men and women sit behind …


Why do babies laugh out loud?

Babies can't possibly get a joke, so what causes their giggles? The answer might reveal a lot about the making of our minds, says Tom Stafford.

What makes babies laugh? It sounds like one of the most fun questions a researcher could investigate, but there's a serious scientific reason why Caspar …


What are the limits of human vision?

From spotting galaxies millions of light years away to perceiving invisible colours, Adam Hadhazy explains why your eyes can do incredible things.

Take a look around the room – what do you see? All those colours, the walls, the windows – everything seems so self-evident, just so there. It's weird to …


The truth about the Turing Test

When bots can pass for human in conversation, it will be a milestone in AI, but not necessarily the significant moment that sci-fi would have us believe. Phillip Ball explores the strengths and limitations of the Turing Test.

Alan Turing made many predictions about artificial intelligence, but one …


The paradox of measuring happiness

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including Silicon Valley’s resurgence and why suicide rates are highest in the happiest places.

Food | Two months of soylent

Consumer review of the powdered meal-replacement mix which claims to be a complete adult food. “Soylent is a …


The truth about the death of cash

Will cash disappear? Many technology cheerleaders believe so, but as Rose Eveleth discovers, the truth is more complicated.

It’s a hot summer day in 2025 and you’re wrapping up a long meeting at the office. Several of your colleagues have attended the meeting from home, their faces and bodies …


The myth of mental illness and violence

Surveys reveal that the public associates mental illness with violent crime – Claudia Hammond says the evidence suggests otherwise.

On 24 March 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 144 passengers on board and six crew members. In the days that followed, …

Mental Health

Why Britain has secret ‘ghost trains’

Empty and all but unknown, ghost trains are one of British transport’s strangest quirks. Why do they exist? To find out, Amanda Ruggeri gets on board.

The train that cuts across the West Yorkshire countryside from Leeds to the small town of Snaith departs just once at precisely 17:16, Monday to …

United Kingdom

The strange phenomenon of musical 'skin orgasms'

Some people feel music so strongly the sensations can be compared to sex. How does a good song move the body and mind in this way, asks David Robson.

Sometimes music strikes the body like a bolt of lightning. “I was in a friend’s dorm room in my third year as an undergraduate,” Psyche Loui …

Music (UK)

Is radiation really as bad as we think?

The best of the week’s long reads in science and technology, including data versus intuition, and whether radiation is quite as dangerous as we think.

Memory | What stays when everything goes

Tests on patients with Alzheimer’s show that musical memory is distinct from general memory, and lasts …


The hidden lab where bankcards are hacked

Decoding PIN numbers and credit cards can bring criminal groups vast wealth. Paul Marks visits a secret facility where one financial giant is fighting back – by trying to hack their own products.

It couldn't get any more steampunk if it tried: a wooden robot hisses like an airbrake as a blast of …


'My robot bought illegal drugs'

As algorithms and robots start moving around in our world, who is responsible for their actions? Rose Eveleth reports

In October of last year, an algorithm started to go shopping. It got $100 in bitcoins every Wednesday, and set about perusing the wares on the Agora Market, eventually selecting one …


The people ‘possessed’ by computers

What would happen if a computer could take over a human body? David Robson meets an “echoborg” – a strange experiment that reveals our future with artificial intelligence.

Sophia Ben-Achour looks like a typical London student. She has short, brown hair, dancing eyes and a wide smile. We talk about …


Watch how a cyborg cockroach is created

Why are researchers making remote-controlled bugs? Click investigates.

Cockroaches’ astonishing survival skills make them the bane of many households – but perhaps we’ve under-appreciated these tough little insect warriors.
In the above video, our colleagues at Click explore a surprising new …


The mysterious way your body changes with the weather

Does the damp cause arthritis? Can air pressure shifts bring a headache? Will the temperature influence a baby's sex? David Robson finds some surprising evidence for the folklore.

In 2013, neuroscientists reported one of the strangest case reports in the history of medicine: a man who claimed to be …


Killer robots: The soldiers that never sleep

In the city of Daejeon, South Korea, an arms manufacturer has designed and built a gun turret that’s able to identify, track and shoot targets, theoretically without the need for human mediation. Who will teach these robot soldiers the rules of engagement?

On a green hill overlooking the tree-lined …


How robots mess with our minds

Robots can make you do surprising things, says Alexander Reben, whose talking bots have elicited secrets from passers-by, festival-goers and even astronauts.

One day in April 2010, a man in his mid-30s happened to wander into the Media Lab at MIT in Boston and encountered a friend of mine. After …


Can a machine ever think?

Would a supersmart AI have a conscious experience like us? As Marcus du Sautoy demonstrates, you can fake intelligence.

Imagine we had invented a computer that could act like a human in every possible way. Every decision it made, every word it spoke, seemed to be the same as a living, breathing …

Western Philosophy

The ultimate guide to AI

Smart machines are about to shape your life in hidden ways. Welcome to a special series on AI – exploring the truth about what this technology means for you.

What does artificial intelligence mean to you? If you believe the movies, AI is something theoretical, futuristic…far away. It’s a rampaging …

Artificial Intelligence

How worried should you be about artificial intelligence?

Intelligent machines come in myriad forms, so which ones pose a danger to us, and how likely are they to actually happen?

What AI threats are you worried or excited about? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.


Should we build a village on the Moon?

The new head of the European Space Agency has a plan – for humanity to build a ‘village on the Moon’. Richard Hollingham asks him why.

Professor Johann-Dietrich Woerner has been in his new job as Director General of the European Space Agency (Esa) for a week. In charge of a €4.4 billion annual …


The curious truth about belly button fluff

Some people have belly buttons devoid of fluff – while others must clean lint out of theirs every day. Jason G Goldman discovers why the fuzz is strong with some…

There are two crucial things you need to know about the lint that forms inside of belly buttons. The first is that it's referred to more …

North Carolina State University

What you may not know about sleep

The secrets of sleep are only now coming to light. William Park surveys some of the more intriguing facts researchers have learnt about the world of slumber.

The science of sleep can be fuzzy and confusing at times. Researchers are still not sure what our brains are up to, why we dream, or what …


The gruesome, untold story of Eva Peron’s lobotomy

Did Evita die as the result of sinister brain surgery? One neuroscientist believes so, as David Robson discovers.

A few weeks before she died, Eva Peron rode next to her husband for his second inauguration as President of Argentina. Her cervical cancer, it is said, had rendered her so weak, that she …

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Is 'face-ism' spoiling your life?

Your face can be your fortune or your downfall - and it's not just a question of beauty. Others may be unconsciously judging your features in ways you don't realise, says David Robson.

Imagine you grew up with a non-identical twin. You have the same upbringing, the same IQ, the same education, the …

Carnegie Mellon University

On your commute? Maybe you shouldn’t read this

Smartphones and tablets absorb the attention of today’s commuters. But does that mean they aren’t ‘in the moment’ – and what are device-less passengers doing instead?

Board any bus or train today and you’ll be surrounded by suited commuters, peering at the slab of glass and metal in their hands. …

London Public Transport

The woman who barely sleeps

Is it true that some people need only a few hours of sleep? Helen Thomson talks to a woman whose genes might hint at how we all could survive on less shuteye.

What would you do if you had 60 days of extra free time a year? Ask Abby Ross, a retired psychologist from Miami, Florida, a “short-sleeper”. …


How did milk become a staple food?

Milk is regarded, along with bread, as one of the staples of the Western diet. But, Veronique Greenwood discovers, that’s only a very recent phenomenon.

In the modern pantry pantheon, milk occupies a curious place. It's right up there with bread as one of the most basic and important foodstuffs in …

Food (UK)

The traits that make human beings unique

We’re all just animals… right? Not so fast, says Melissa Hogenboom, a few things make us different from any other species.

"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." So said the physicist Robert Oppenheimer, who helped to invent the atomic bomb.

The two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in …