Levitation, touch and sound – how you’ll be able to feel videogames in the future

When ultrasound waves from different emitters meet in mid-air, it creates the sensation of a solid object which could enhance people's videogaming experience. Image credit - Maurizio Pesce, licensed under CC BY 2.0 (brands blurred out)

by Kelly Oakes Despite advances in both virtual and augmented reality technology in the last few years, there’s one area that remains neglected: touch. With your VR headset on, you might be able to explore the sights of a vast forest and hear birdsong all around you, but you won’t feel the dampness of the … Read more

Zeroing in on baby exoplanets could reveal how they form

The way that a young exoplanet interacts with its star's disc of dust and gas determines the type of exoplanet that will ultimately form. Image credit - NASA/JPL-Caltech/D. Berry

Twenty-four years ago, Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz discovered the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system – a milestone recognised by this year’s Nobel prize in physics. Today we know of thousands more ‘exoplanets’, and researchers are now trying to understand when and how they form. The known exoplanets … Read more

How digital ‘twins’ are guiding the future of maintenance and manufacturing

Digital replicas of infrastructure such as oil platforms could help prevent accidents by spotting potential ruptures before they happen. Image credit - Akselos

by Tom Cassauwers As our world becomes more digitalised and connected, we can actually make a virtual copy of it. And such replicas are now being used to improve real world scenarios, from making aircraft production more accurate to preventing oil spills. A digital twin is a virtual replica of a real life entity, such … Read more

Pinning down consciousness could improve mental health, brain disorder treatments

Studies into consciousness could help explain why patients in vegetative states have varying levels of awareness. Image credit - Dr. Leon Kaufman. University Of California, San Francisco, licensed under CC0

Consciousness – the awareness we have of our self and surroundings – is often referred to as ‘the hard problem’. It’s not easy to scientifically explain how a subjective experience, which is something intangible, can be created by the brain – a physical object. But understanding more about how consciousness works could help us find … Read more

Is there life on super-Earths? The answer could lie in their cores

The habitability of a super-Earth could be related to its having a magnetic field. Image credit - ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser, licensed under CC BY 4.0. Artist’s impression of super-Earth K2-18 b

Rocky planets larger than our own, so-called super-Earths, are surprisingly abundant in our Galaxy, and stand as the most likely planets to be habitable. Getting a better idea of their interior structures will help predict whether different planets are able to generate magnetic fields – thought to be conducive for life to survive. Atmospheric water … Read more

Changing climate is narrowing options for migrating birds

The volatility of seasons is affecting the breeding patterns of Brent geese, a migratory bird species. Image credit - Flickr/milo bostock, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Across an entire desert or ocean, migratory birds make some of the most extreme journeys found in nature, but there are still huge gaps in our understanding of how they manage to travel these vast distances and what a changing climate means for their migration patterns. ‘Some species of migrants might be affected by a … Read more

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