Archive by category | Technology

The deck stacked against women in science


The player on my left has the biochemist Maud Menten’s career well on track. Suddenly another player slaps a “stupid patriarchy” card on Menten’s head, and she has to earn her doctorate all over again. So goes a novel card game devoted to women in science and engineering, designed to highlight these unsung researchers and the barriers and boons that women in these fields experience.  Read more

Rocket woman


A physicist at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Space Applications Centre, Moumita Dutta was part of the team that put a probe into Mars orbit in 2014. The instruments they designed for the Mangalyaan are still beaming back data. Now India is gearing up for its third planetary mission in 2018 — Chandrayaan-2, a return to the Moon. As Dutta prepares to take part in the London Science Museum’s Illuminating India events, she talks about the lure of optics, the challenge of crafting super-light sensors, and the rise in Indian women entering space science.    … Read more

Machines moved by mind

Machines moved by mind

At Mental Work, an exhibition at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne ArtLab (EPFL), visitors can drive simple machines using the force of their own thoughts. Probing the rapidly changing relationship between humans and technology, these artworks will also generate vast amounts of data that will be shared with researchers around the world. The show is a collaboration between experimental philosopher Jonathan Keats and EPFL neuroengineer José Millán, who develops brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to help people with paralysis. Here, Millán talks pistons, probability and the debate over who or what is in control.  Read more

Imaging exodus: a thermographic lens on refugees


Like war photography, images of the refugee crisis can elicit a disorienting mix of empathy and disbelief. Photographer Nilüfer Demir’s 2015 image of lifeless toddler Alan Kurdi, face down on a Turkish beach, is a case in point. Now film installation Incoming at London’s Barbican, by Irish photographer Richard Mosse, offers an original, unsettling perspective on the crisis.  Read more

Change Agent: CRISPR-flavoured fiction

Change Agent: CRISPR-flavoured fiction

It’s 2045, and the genetic editing system CRISPR has become a mainstay of society, producing everything from housecat-sized tigers to geopolitical intrigues. The United Nations has approved a sensible list of gene edits that can be legally used to eliminate specific genetic diseases from human embryos. This international concord works as well as one could expect from a sluggish bureaucracy trying to rein in a lucrative new enterprise. Before the treaty’s ink is dry, underground labs in Asia are offering “vanity edits” to parents willing to pay for smarter, healthier children. A single CRISPR snip to a gene that reduces the risk of heart disease might be routine and relatively cheap; altering the many genes that contribute to a complex feature like intelligence will cost much more.  Read more

Snapping Earth for more than seven decades

In 1960, cameras aboard NASA's first weather satellite TIROS-1 captured Earth.

For centuries, the only way to ‘see’ Earth whole was through globes and maps; its grandeur was merely glimpsed in mountain vistas or across a stretch of ocean. That changed in the 1940s, when the first images of the planet were snapped from rockets probing the border of space, 100 kilometres up. The imaginable became the visible.  Read more

Thomas Bayrle: mesmerising machines

Autobahn (mixed media).

In the 1950s, when the German Pop Art pioneer Thomas Bayrle first trained as a weaver, he says he was “put into a state of trance by the loud and monotonous noise of the machines — until they began to sing”. His more recent artworks, currently on display at an exhibition of wall pieces, light projections, videos and electronically driven sculptures at the Kunstbau gallery in Munich, have a similar mesmeric effect. The ‘continuous-loop’ animations and smoothly moving sculptures, accompanied by monotonous sounds, are hypnotic portrayals of mass production and the complexities of society.  Read more

The making of science

Some of the mycorrhyzal materials made by Maurizio Montalti for Officina Corupuscoli

Scientists are makers. The specialized skills they hone in the lab over many years – from assembling robots and circuits to growing microbes and cells – mirror the practices of artisans such as seamstresses and potters. Chemists may melt, stretch and snap a glass tube to make a pipette. Jewellers rearrange silver atoms each time they warm the metal to anneal or soften it.  Read more