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Walking in the footsteps of robotic fossils

Robot of ancient fossil enables scientists to model gait Ripples are forming at the surface of a glass of water; scared children huddle at the back of a car; ominous footsteps resonate on the not-so-distant-anymore horizon. And suddenly, it appears: swinging its tail side-to-side, little arms tucked on the side, a T-rex makes its way into the frame, walking its characteristic walk. But how do we know which gait the now (thankfully) extinct giant adopted? Fossils can

Most distant planetary flyby in history

The NASA probe captured photographs of the distant object Three years ago, NASA’s New Horizons probe made its famous flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto. On New Year’s day 2019, the probe made history again, in its flyby of Ultima Thule. This is the farthest away object humanity has ever visited in the Solar System, 6.5 billion km away from the Earth. Flying as ‘close’ to the object as 3,500km, New Horizons took a series of stunning

Drought and the Collapse of the Maya

James Kershaw discusses whether new data is raining on, or could prove, this fashionable hypothesis Water is essential for life. In this article, we explore the palaeoclimatological evidence linking societal change to periods of drought, with a specific focus on the Maya civilisation. It has been the subject of recent sensationalist news articles, so we ask whether science can conclusively confirm how the great society collapsed. “We definitely consider ourselves

Live bacteria pills, a possibility

Pills containing live bacteria on the horizon Taking a pill full of live bacteria does not sound like a medicine that your doctor would, or could, prescribe – but it might soon be. In the last decade, gut microbiome research has drawn a lot of attention and funding, but it was not clear whether any therapies would come out of it any time soon. Synlogic, Inc in Cambridge, MA developed a live bacterial therapy to treat phenylketonuria,

How could feedback loops in the atmosphere lead to runaway environmental disaster?

James Weber explains the role of positive feedback loops and how they could lead to runaway environmental disaster Our atmosphere can be thought of as a single, highly complex system. The complexity arises in part due to the coupling of a vast array of different elements, such as temperature, wind speed, and chemical composition. Should one element be disturbed, others will also change, and this perturbation will propagate throughout the

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Scientists work together to create more effective medicines Advances continue to progress personalised medicine, a field in which drugs are tailored to patients’ needs based on their genetic information. Historically, simply screening patients’ genomes enabled this trend but more recently, synthetic nucleotide-based medicines have taken this a step further. Nucleotide-based medicines use artificial DNA and RNA (nucleotides) to target cellular genetic information directly, shutting off genetic diseases at their source.

Peering into the Past

Dan Brubaker and a mishmash of know-nothings convene at the Dr Ralph L Buice, Jr Observatory, Atlanta A low, steady rumble vibrates through the air
and under my feet. It is the sound of a garage door closing, only this is no garage. The single curved wall that surrounds the room remains remarkably still. It
is the mechanical domed ceiling perched overhead
that is causing the ruckus, that is rotating with careful precision

Time Flies

Philip Myers tells us how scientists unravelled the secrets of time telling using the humble vinegar fly You cannot win a Nobel Prize if you are dead. Last year, the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded for the ‘elucidation of the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms’, and the living received the credit. But some missed out – some who had passed away, who had been central to the

Why Limit Ourselves to Silverware?

Think goldware, zincware and copperware! Bianca Provost explains what Professor Mark Miodownik’s work can tell us about materials and food With every spoonful of food you eat, you are 
also consuming billions of atoms worth of the spoon’s material. It should therefore come as no surprise that your spoon’s composition affects the taste of your
meal. Dr Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society as well as director of the Institute