Tag Archives: Science

Why being a philosopher in the heatwave is so particularly unbearable

I hate heat. The place where I dream to be nowadays is on the Svalbard islands north of Norway, halfway to the North Pole. But since I am stuck at my home, all I can do is turn on the air conditioner and read… about the ongoing heatwaves and global warming, of course.

And it’s quite something to read about. Temperatures rising over 50C is no longer big news, it happens regularly in the crescent from Emirates to southern Iran, in parts of India, in the Death Valley, and now we learn that the prospects are much darker, threatening not only desert areas. In Vietnam, many farmers decide to sleep during the day and work at night because of the unbearable heat.

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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Uncategorized


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The Maya maths revolution

In a classroom in south-east Mexico, eight-year-old Verónica Yuritzi Martín Puc’s hand shoots up with the answer. On her desk is a sheet of paper with a simple grid drawn on it. She has put two dried black beans in one of the squares on her grid and a shell of dried pasta in another. More beans, pasta and some thin wooden blocks lie unused in piles on the desk.

Yuri, as she is known, is learning maths — but not the way most children do. Instead, she is following a method invented thousands of years ago by her Maya ancestors.

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Posted by on August 3, 2018 in South America


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A brief history of Stephen Hawking: A legacy of paradox

Stephen Hawking, the world-famous theoretical physicist, has died at the age of 76.

Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.

“He once said: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.”

The most recognisable scientist of our age, Hawking holds an iconic status. His genre-defining book, A Brief History of Time, has sold more than 10 million copies since its publication in 1988, and has been translated into more than 35 languages. He appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory. His early life was the subject of an Oscar-winning performance by Eddie Redmayne in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything. He was routinely consulted for oracular pronouncements on everything from time travel and alien life to Middle Eastern politics and nefarious robots. He had an endearing sense of humour and a daredevil attitude – relatable human traits that, combined with his seemingly superhuman mind, made Hawking eminently marketable.

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Posted by on July 29, 2018 in Reportages



Haven’t we met before? On doppelgängers and perception

In 2015, Niamh Geaney, a 28-year-old Irish woman, was approached by a TV production company to participate in an unusual competition: a race to find her twin stranger, a stranger who looks exactly like her. Within two weeks of scouring social networks and every other available outlet, she’d found a dead ringer, Karen Branigan, from Dublin. Then she found another match, Luisa Guizzardi, from Genoa. And then another, Irene Adams, from Sligo. Identical quadruplets by appearance, in reality they were unrelated.

Geaney is not the only person to find a spitting image in an unlikely place. The abundance of doppelgängers, celebrity lookalikes and doubles found in artworks point to the same unsettling possibility: somewhere in the world, there’s a person who looks almost exactly like you. Whether you take this as an insult to your uniqueness or a testament to our collective humanity is up to you. Either way, the story of individuality does not end there, for a reason that these notions of facial resemblance often overlook: people vary in their visual-recognition capabilities, and these variations determine in part how similar others appear.

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Posted by on July 17, 2018 in Reportages


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La Terra senza di noi

Gli esseri umani sono senza dubbio la specie più invadente mai vissuta sulla Terra. In poche migliaia di anni ci siamo appropriati di più di un terzo delle terre emerse, occupandole con le nostre città, i nostri campi e i nostri pascoli. Secondo alcune stime, ormai controlliamo il 40 per cento della capacità produttiva del pianeta. E ci stiamo lasciando alle spalle un bel disastro: praterie arate, foreste rase al suolo, falde acquifere prosciugate, scorie nucleari, inquinamento chimico, specie invasive, estinzioni di massa. E ora anche lo spettro del cambiamento climatico. Se potessero, le altre specie con cui dividiamo la Terra ci caccerebbero senza esitare. E se il loro desiderio si avverasse? Cosa succederebbe se tutti gli esseri umani che vivono sulla Terra – almeno 6,5 miliardi – fossero deportati in un campo di rieducazione in una galassia lontana?

Escludiamo l’idea di un flagello che ci spazzi via, se non altro per evitare la complicazione di tutti quei cadaveri. Abbandonata di nuovo a se stessa, la natura comincerebbe a riprendersi il pianeta: i campi e i pascoli tornerebbero a essere praterie e foreste, l’aria e l’acqua si purificherebbero dalle sostanze inquinanti e le strade e le città diventerebbero polvere.

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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Reportages



How a new technology is changing the lives of people who cannot speak

Last November, Joe Morris, a 31-year-old film-maker from London, noticed a sore spot on his tongue. He figured he’d bitten himself in his sleep and thought nothing more about it until halfway through the winter holidays, when he realised the sore was still with him. He Googled “cut on tongue won’t heal” and, after sifting through pages of medical information on oral cancer, he decided to call his doctor.

The cut was nothing, Joe was sure: he was a non-smoker with no family history of cancer. But he’d make an appointment, just in case.
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I’m sure it’s nothing, the doctor said. You’re not a smoker, and you’re 31 years old. But see a specialist, just in case.

I’m sure it’s nothing, the specialist said, you don’t check any of the boxes, but we’ll do a biopsy, just in case.

When the biopsy results came back positive for cancerous cells, the specialist said that the lab must have made a mistake. The second time Joe’s biopsy results came back positive, the specialist was startled. Now Joe was transferred to Guy’s hospital, which has one of the best oral cancer teams in Britain.

The oncologists at Guy’s reassured Joe again: the cancerous spot was small, and cancer of the tongue typically starts on the surface and grows inward. This tiny sore could likely be nipped out without much damage to the rest of his tongue. They’d take an MRI to make sure there wasn’t any serious inward growth, and then schedule the surgery.

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Posted by on April 7, 2018 in Reportages


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Wound treatment and selective help in a termite-hunting ant

Open wounds are a major health risk in animals, with species prone to injuries likely developing means to reduce these risks. We therefore analysed the behavioural response towards open wounds on the social and individual level in the termite group-hunting ant Megaponera analis.

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Posted by on March 10, 2018 in Uncategorized


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For the first time in 152 years, a supermoon, blue moon, and total lunar eclipse will coincide

On Jan. 31, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing—you owe it to yourself to gaze at the darkened sky.

In the early morning hours of the Western Hemisphere and the evening in the Eastern, you will be treated to both a visible supermoon—what we call a full moon at its closest orbital point to Earth—and a total lunar eclipse. The celestial coincidence hasn’t happened in more than 150 years. That means there were people who lived and died on this Earth without ever having had a chance to see this phenomenon, which won’t reappear again for another decade.

This supermoon also happens to be the final one in a supermoon trilogy—the first two of which appeared on Dec. 3 and Jan. 1. As the second full moon of the month, it earns the title of a blue moon as well.

For the first time in 152 years, a supermoon, blue moon, and total lunar eclipse will coincide

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Posted by on January 29, 2018 in Uncategorized



Tous victimes des pirates de l’attention

Cet article a été très compliqué à écrire. Pas seulement à cause des révélations retentissantes qu’il contient, mais parce que mon attention a sans cesse été détournée. Par mon chat Facebook qui clignote. Mon ­portable qui m’annonce un texto dont la lecture ne saurait souffrir un instant de plus. Ah tiens !, cette vidéo sur Twitter, il faut absolument que je la voie. Et que se passe-t-il sur Instagram en ce moment ? Vous-même, qui avez commencé à lire ce paragraphe, voyez déjà votre concentration se fragiliser. Accrochez-vous, nous sommes tous victimes des ­pirates de l’attention.

Des cœurs et des flammes

Ma quête a commencé par un rendez-vous avec Emma, 15 ans. Sur la ­table, posé à côté d’un Coca Light et à portée de ses mains ornées d’un vernis rose écaillé, son portable clignote comme un sapin de Noël perdu dans ce café du nord de ­Paris. Il n’arrête pas de nous interrompre, alors que je l’interroge justement à ce sujet. C’est surtout le petit fantôme jaune et blanc de Snapchat qui s’immisce dans notre conversation. « Tu vois, ça, ce sont des “streaks”, m’explique-t-elle, me donnant l’impression d’être une poule devant un couteau. Et si tu perds les streaks, tu perds tes amis… » Ces smileys permettent d’établir une ­typologie des relations comme les ados en raffolent. Cœur jaune pour meilleur ami, cœur rouge pour meilleur ami deux semaines de suite, double cœur rose pour deux mois, etc.

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Posted by on January 24, 2018 in Reportages


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When Humans War, Animals Die

In 1977, two years after declaring independence from Portugal, Mozambique erupted into civil war. Over the next 15 years, the violent conflict claimed at least a million lives—and that was just the humans.

Government troops and resistance fighters also slaughtered their way through the wildlife in the nation’s renowned Gorongosa National Park, once touted as a natural paradise. Thousands of elephants were hunted for their ivory, which was sold to buy arms and supplies. Zebras, wildebeest, and buffalo were killed for meat. Around 90 percent of the park’s large mammals were shot or died of starvation.

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Posted by on January 23, 2018 in Uncategorized


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