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A digital payments revolution in India

Take a walk on Mumbai’s Juhu beach and little has changed in five years—except for the QR codes adorning every food stall. Go to São Paulo in Brazil, Beijing in China, or many other cities across the emerging world and you find something similar.


“The” human genome was always a misnomer

The human Genome Project, which published its results 20 years ago last month, was a landmark in biology. It was also somewhat misleadingly named. After all, there is no such thing as “the” human genome.


How to bring scents to the metaverse

It was one of those many inventions that never quite took off. In 1960, audiences watching the film “Scent of Mystery” got to experience the wonders of “Smell-O-Vision”. Mounted under the cinema seats, the system pumped out 30 different scents—from…


What shipwrecked insects reveal about life at sea in the 17th century

A great deal of romance attaches these days to the “Age of Sail”, the period between the 15th and 19th centuries when wooden sailing ships reached their technological apogee. Historians, however, have a less rosy view.


Much of the Earth remains unexplored

“Earth” has always been an odd choice of name for the third planet from the Sun. After all, an alien examining it through a telescope would note that two-thirds of its surface is covered not by earth at all, but by oceans of water.


Western firms are becoming interested in a Soviet medicine

It was on the golf course that Barry Rud first noticed something was seriously wrong. A trim 60-year-old who played hockey as a young man, he found himself unable to take more than a few steps without gasping for breath.


After half a century, there is a commercial market for Moon missions

“THE MOON is a Harsh Mistress”, by Robert Heinlein, was not just the most influential novel about the Moon published in the 20th century. It was also the one with the raciest title. In the body of the book, though, the Moon’s role is less…


How to make low-carbon concrete from old cement

The world gets a little greyer every year. According to a paper published in 2014 concrete—an aggregate material made by mixing cement, sand and gravel—is the second-most consumed substance in the world after water.


Too many people take too many pills

As a pharmacist in a big hospital in Adelaide, Emily Reeve would often see patients overwhelmed by the number of drugs they took each day. “They’d say ‘I take so many medicines that I rattle when I walk’,” she recalls.


A new way to clean up the steel industry

Making steel is a dirty business. For every tonne of it some 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted into the atmosphere. As a result, steelmaking accounts for 7-9% of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions. Cleaner ways of…


Most children in poor countries are being failed by their schools

“Good job you!” shouts Pauline Bika, as a group of schoolchildren completes the hokey-cokey. “Good job me!” choruses her class. Ms Bika runs a small government primary school in Edo state, in southern Nigeria. It is reached by a mud track that…


A better way of keeping mosquitoes at bay is under development

Mosquito repellents have come a long way. For decades, the market leader was DEET, which fends the pests off successfully, but only for an hour or two. Recently, Icaridin has become available. This lasts up to eight hours and is just as effective.


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