Scientists and industry are dashing to make more ventilators

ONE OF THE most worrying symptoms of covid-19 is the way the coronavirus attacks the lungs of those infected. This means some patients need a ventilator to help them breathe until their lungs recover. But there is a dire shortage of these machines in hospitals, so intensive-care units will be overwhelmed. Urged on by worried […]

Digital twins of hearts could help diagnose and help treat cardiac disease

IF YOU TRAVEL on a modern airliner, the chances are that each of the jet engines powering it will have a virtual copy residing in a computer on the ground. This copy, known as a digital twin, will be updated constantly with information from sensors that measure the engine’s performance and check for signs of […]

Farming with Tom, Dick and Harry

SLOWLY BUT surely, a spidery machine about the size of a golf cart swings an electrode over a tray of plants. Every few seconds there is a small puff of smoke as a weed keels over, having been zapped with a high voltage. The device doing the zapping is a prototype weeding robot developed by […]

The methane hunters

WHEN SCANNING for emissions from a mud volcano in western Turkmenistan in January 2019, a satellite called Claire came across a large plume of methane drifting across the landscape. The discharge appeared to originate from a gas pipeline at the nearby Korpezhe oil and gasfield. Two more large plumes were also spotted in the area, […]

How to make oxygen from moondust

IF PEOPLE ARE to travel extensively in space and set up bases on astronomical objects such as the Moon and Mars then they will need to make or find out there the things required to support life—including food, water and breathable air. Researchers are already working on ways to grow food in space, and icy […]

A research team builds robots from living cells

ROBOTS COME in all shapes and sizes. Some are humanoid. Others resemble animals. Many are just a jumble of arms slaving away on a production line. But one thing all robots have in common is that they are mechanical, not biological devices. They are built from materials like metal and plastic, and stuffed with electronics. […]

New Zealand was once a land of giants

Christchurch SQUAWKZILLA, AS HE (or possibly she) has come to be known, is not the sort of parrot that would sit on your shoulder while you cooed “pretty polly”. Instead, this huge flightless bird (weighing around 7kg and about a metre tall) would probably have pecked a chunk out of you with its massive beak. […]