From robotic companions to third thumbs, machines can change the human brain

Image credit - Ruud Hortensius and Emily Cross

People’s interactions with machines, from robots that throw tantrums when they lose a colour-matching game against a human opponent to the bionic limbs that could give us extra abilities, are not just revealing more about how our brains are wired – they are also altering them. by Frieda Klotz Emily Cross is a professor of … Read more

How to protect the Arctic as melting ice opens new shipping routes

Increased maritime traffic raises the risks of oil spills in the Arctic.

by Gareth Willmer Early this year, the Eduard Toll set a record: laden with liquefied natural gas, the tanker was the first commercial vessel to cross the Arctic in winter without an icebreaker. This milestone in shipping may be a sign of things to come, with maritime activity expected to climb as global warming melts the region’s sea ice – declining … Read more

Drones and satellite imaging to make forest protection pay

Image credit - lubasi, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Every year 7 million hectares of forest are cut down, chipping away at the 485 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in trees around the world, but low-cost drones and new satellite imaging could soon protect these carbon stocks and help developing countries get paid for protecting their trees. ‘If you can measure the biomass you can … Read more

‘Big picture’ platforms boost fight against online terror activity

Image credit - Flickr/Takver CC BY SA 2.0

The fight against terrorism-related content and illegal financing online is speeding up thanks to new platforms that join up different internet-scouring technologies to create a comprehensive picture of terrorist activity. The idea is that when an online tool discovers a fragment of information it can be added to a constellation of millions of others – revealing links that … Read more

Digital ‘coffeehouse’ to spark new scientific ideas now ready for use

Image credit - picture is in the public domain

By Annette Ekin The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), a virtual one-stop shop for researchers to share, access and reuse data, was officially unveiled at the University of Vienna, Austria, on 23 November, giving scientists, open data advocates, research institutions and policymakers a first glimpse of the portal. It is part of the EU’s vision for an … Read more

Record-breaking solar cells get ready for mass production

Image credit: Flickr- Bioregional International, licensed under CC.

By Benedict O’Donnell Sandwiching an oxygen-rich layer of silicon between a solar cell and its metal contact has allowed researchers in Europe to break performance records for the efficiency with which silicon solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. But the challenge now is how to make these so-called passivating contacts suitable for mass production. ‘There … Read more