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How do you dismantle a nuclear submarine?

When nuclear-powered submarines reach the end of their lives, dismantling them is a complicated and laborious process. Paul Marks investigates.

Nuclear submarines have long been a favourite in popular fiction. From movies such as The Hunt for Red October to long-running TV series like Voyage to the …

Nuclear Power

‘How a bee sting saved my life’

Ellie Lobel was ready to die. Then she was attacked by bees. Christie Wilcox hears how venom can be a saviour.

Ellie Lobel was 27 when she was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease. And she was not yet 45 when she decided to give up fighting for survival.

Caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria …

Evidence-Based Medicine

The deepest holes dug by hand

Readers on reddit challenged our recent infographic, asking us how humans have managed to dig hundreds of metres into the Earth by hand. So we, er, dug into the subject to find the stories behind humanity's efforts to reach subterranean limits.

When considering humanity’s greatest architectural …

Empire State Building

Gemini: The spacecraft that paved the way to the Moon

It is 50 years since Nasa’s first manned Gemini spacecraft flew into orbit. Richard Hollingham looks back on one of the space race’s most daring – and hair-raising – missions.

On 5 June 1966, 200 kilometres above Australia, Gene Cernan was attempting to activate one of the most ill-conceived, badly …


How to get a city cycling

The vast majority of city street journeys take place in cars – despite all the many benefits of cycling. What would it take to really get urban citizens taking to two wheels? Katia Moskvitch investigates.

It all started with dead horses, during 1816 – the “year without a summer”. Temperatures had …

Transportation (UK)

The hidden tricks of powerful persuasion

Are we always in control of our minds? As David Robson discovers, it’s surprisingly easy to plant ideas in peoples’ heads without them realising.

Are we all just puppets on a string? Most people would like to assume that they are free agents – their fate lies in their own hands. But they’d be wrong. …


Have we found a new way to beat diseases like Ebola?

The best of the week's science and technology long reads, including a new idea for fighting communicable diseases, the pitfalls of modern parenting and TripAdvisor’s secret weapon.


| Moore’s curse

Moore’s Law is a dangerous rule of thumb. It leads to exaggerated expectations. “The doubling …


Why do we laugh inappropriately?

We often find ourselves laughing at the strangest of moments. As psychologists are discovering, those helpless giggles might be one of our most important and profound behaviours, says David Robson.

My conversation with Sophie Scott is nearly over when she spins round in her chair to show me a video …


The best and oddest science-inspired music

Science inspires music more often than you might think. Philip Ball compiled a playlist of the good, the bad and the far-out.

In February 1930, a young astronomer called Clyde Tombaugh confirmed what some researchers had suspected for some time: the solar system was home to a ninth planet, orbiting …


Solar eclipses in fiction: all spectacle, no menace

This week, people in Europe will be reminded how magical a solar eclipse can be – but how does fiction treat the phenomenon?

It’s the greatest show not quite on Earth. No other celestial spectacular eclipses an eclipse. Logic, or Wikipedia, may tell us it is simply the Moon passing between the Earth …

Solar Eclipse

Will we ever… speak faster than light speed?

If we explore the outer reaches of space, keeping in touch with home will be a daunting task. But are there ways our words could travel faster than light? Peter Ray Allison investigates.

Light travels so fast it can make the transatlantic journey between London and New York more than 50 times each …


The private investigator who spies using drones

Aerial vehicles are the latest tool for private detectives – but for how long? Rose Eveleth reports.

Chris Wright is a problem solver. Her clients come to her with an issue, a question, a mystery, and she figures out the best way to find the answer – using whatever tools she can. “I use a …

Private Investigating

Meet the ‘living dead’: Forensic scientists’ new weapon

The bacteria in and on our bodies can betray some of our deepest secrets – even after we die. Linda Geddes investigates.

In the seconds after you breathe your last breath, the living dead take over. Now that your blood no longer flows, oxygen levels within your body plummet and degrading chemical …

Living Dead

The idyllic mansions destroyed by climate change

The week’s best long reads, including the fate of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a world run by women, and people who could destroy the web.


| The art of agile leadership
Leaders rarely lead. They are helpless in the face of events like everybody else, but they handle it better. We need a …

Climate Change

The glove that transmits ‘touch’ over the internet

Blind-deaf people are often forced to live in a small and isolated world. But can a new glove open the way for easier communication? Lesley Ogden Evans reports.

It’s good to keep in touch – something that Edi Haug and Laura Schwengber know only too well. The pair have been friends since childhood. …

Design Research

How your face betrays your personality and health

We are more than just a pretty face. It turns out the shape, size and even colour of our looks can relay some very important information about our personalities, health and sexuality. David Robson investigates.

You might expect a great philosopher to look past our surface into the depths of the soul …


Why painful memories linger with us

If we didn’t forget pain, women would never go through childbirth twice – or so says the myth. But the truth is that agonising memories don’t always diminish.

If you visit someone with a newborn baby, their description of the pain of childbirth often includes the phrase “never again”. One friend …


The disastrous events that would break the internet

Could the internet ever be switched off – or destroyed? Chris Baraniuk investigates what it would take to bring down the network we all now rely on.

The internet is unbreakable. At least, we think it is. That’s why when something goes extremely viral, such as pictures of Kim Kardashian’s bottom or …


Inside Nasa’s giant rocket factory

It’s been decades since Nasa has had a rocket powerful enough to reach to the Moon – and beyond. But now the agency is building one that could venture even further into space. Richard Hollingham pays it a visit.

If you remember one fact from this story, make it this: America’s new rocket will be …

Moon Missions

Are you ‘over-connected’?

Wander the city in 2015 and all you’ll see is people staring at screens or talking on handsets. Is it changing who we are? Tom Chatfield weighs up the arguments.

A group of people wait by a monument, unaware of each other’s existence. A woman strides open-mouthed down a busy street, holding one hand …

Mobile Technology

How a doctor’s words can make you ill

A good bedside manner can help heal the body, but if doctors don’t choose their words carefully, they can also make you unwell.

Have you ever visited a doctor, and come away feeling they weren’t much help? Listen to the following audio clip, and you might start to understand why.

During a role-play …


Will we ever eat genetically modified meat?

Tweaking the DNA of fish, pigs, and cows promises to breed healthier, happier animals and boost food production. But will people eat the results? Daniel Cossins investigates.

The highlands of western Panama are an odd place for a fish farm. But then the Atlantic salmon reared there is unusual. It’s …

Healthy Eating

The future of 3D computer graphics... from 1982

Back in the early 1980s, a spinning square world heralded the start of a computer animation revolution, as this archive BBC footage shows.

Back in 1982, computing was really going mainstream. Tron, the story of a computer programmer trapped inside a mainframe, was making millions at the box office; …


Cancer: The mysterious miracle cases inspiring doctors

A few patients have made rare and unexpected recoveries leaving doctors scratching their heads, says David Robson. Can these cases provide vital clues for tackling cancer?

It was a case that baffled everyone involved. The 74-year-old woman had initially been troubled by a rash that wouldn’t go away. …


The man who gets drunk on chips

A few people become inebriated simply by eating carbohydrates – what’s going on in the body? Helen Thomson reports.

At first, Nick Hess didn’t really know what was happening. “It was weird, I’d eat some carbs and all of a sudden I was goofy, vulgar.”

He would get inexplicably sick, with stomach pains …


Inside Nasa’s amazing airport simulator

With air traffic becoming busier every year, how do controllers train to the limits? At Nasa’s Ames Research Center, they can simulate any airport in the world at the click of a button.

The skies are getting crowded. Every year more and more commercial aircraft join the world’s fleets. In the last …


A wild and chilling theory about what happened to MH370

The pick of the week’s best long reads, including a theory on where Flight MH370 ended up, a socialist robot utopia and why people doubt science.


| The thrill of defeat

How science works, at its best. Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick, “two of the 20th Century’s most brilliant geneticists”, …


The seven ways to have a near-death experience

Seeing a light and a tunnel may be the popular perception of death, but as Rachel Nuwer discovers, reports are emerging of many other strange experiences.

In 2011, Mr A, a 57-year-old social worker from England, was admitted to Southampton General Hospital after collapsing at work. Medical personnel …

The Brain

Is it bad to crack your knuckles?

It’s so satisfying, but is it dangerous? Greg Foot explains.

If you ‘“crack” the joints of your hand regularly, you may wonder if it’s doing any damage. Some would have it that “you’ll get arthritis” in the long-term, but is there any truth to this?

To find out, Greg Foot and the BritLab team …


Turning the sounds of the space race into pop

With its new album, British band Public Service Broadcasting has blended original music with rare archive footage of the space race. Richard Hollingham meets the band’s leader to discuss the lasting cultural legacy of the race to the Moon.

I am sitting in a converted garage on a residential back …

Space Science