• Smart nappy with embedded sensor detects when baby needs a change

    Smart nappy with embedded sensor detects when baby needs a change

    The sensor is so cheap and simple to produce that its developers said it can be hand-drawn with a pencil onto paper treated with sodium chloride. It also paves the way for wearable, self-powered health monitors that could detect other health concerns like cardiac arrests and pneumonia. “Our team has been focused on developing devices that can capture vital information for human health,” said Professor Huanyu Cheng at Penn State university, lead author on the study. “The goal is early prediction for disease conditions and health situations, to spot problems before it is too late.” The hydration sensor is highly sensitive to changes in humidity and provides accurate readings over a wide range of relative humidity levels, from 5.6 to 90 per cent. Flexible humidity sensors have become increasingly…

  • China to build satellite ground stations on Antarctica

    China to build satellite ground stations on Antarctica

    China plans to develop its space facilities in Antarctica as part of the country’s ambitious goals to become a leading space power. The country’s state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) will develop the project after winning the tender with its 43.95 million yuan (£3.39m) bid. Ground stations help track the tens of thousands of satellites and other objects in Earth’s orbit and predict where they will be at any given time. China’s new ground stations will be built at Zhongshan, located by Prydz Bay in East Antarctica, south of the Indian Ocean. State media Global Times stated that the ground stations in the Antarctic scientific research base would help China’s eight marine observation satellites scout for marine resources exploitation, monitor the ecology…

  • MPs blast UK government over failure to secure semiconductor supply chain

    MPs blast UK government over failure to secure semiconductor supply chain

    The committee called on the government to “urgently” publish its semiconductor strategy, which was first announced two years ago, or otherwise risk the development of the UK’s burgeoning industry. The committee published a response to the government’s stocktake of the industry in November 2022, but it expressed disappointment that its recommendations had not been fully addressed yet. The key recommendations included better co-operation with allies to safeguard supply and to secure inward investment. The committee also cast doubt on whether government support for the industry was sufficient to have any meaningful effect. China is the largest producer of semiconductors globally, followed by South Korea. The US also has a manufacturing base that largely specialises in producing complex,…

  • Ministry of Defence is ‘not up to the task’ amid failure to digitalise, MPs warn

    Ministry of Defence is ‘not up to the task’ amid failure to digitalise, MPs warn

    The PAC report stressed that the department had been “struggling for years” to deliver critical digital projects, some of them needed for use by UK warships and satellites. The chair of the committee, Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, said the MoD was "frankly not up to the task it faces", and called for a "significant cultural change" to bring the systems up to date and to be prepared for modern battles ahead. As a result of long delays, PAC found the MoD was critically delayed on several projects, which were now in  danger “of being obsolescent on delivery”. In addition, two projects – the New Style IT Base and MODNet Evolve – have been deemed “unachievable” by the oversight body, MPs said. “There is no world in which that is an acceptable situation at the heart of our national defence…

  • Tech giants post sluggish financial results as sector struggles continue

    Tech giants post sluggish financial results as sector struggles continue

    Google’s parent company Alphabet posted lower profits and only a small revenue increase, while Amazon also reported a fall in profits. Apple posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years. In Apple’s case, Covid restrictions at its manufacturing factories in China hit production, which impacted sales of the iPhone during the festive period. Meanwhile, Google’s profits were impacted by slowing digital advertising sales as advertisers cut spending because of rising inflation and costs. Amazon’s latest profit drop continued a trend of slowing sales post-pandemic as people became less reliant on online shopping. Amazon, like many other online firms, saw a growth spike during the pandemic and hired more staff to handle the increased demand. Now many of these firms have been…

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  • Mock digital exam trials to take place in UK schools

    Mock digital exam trials to take place in UK schools

    Thousands of students working under the OCR and Cambridge International exam boards will sit on-screen mock ‘high stakes’ exams for the first time starting this week. GCSE Computer Science as well as IGCSEs in English and AS Level History are the first subjects being trialled, which will see schools pay around £10 for each digital exam. Jill Duffy, chief executive of OCR, said: “Students and teachers embraced digital learning by necessity during the pandemic. Now we can harness the best of that technology in assessment by choice.” The digital mock trials will run in weekly sessions until 19 March in up to 30 UK schools and 35 international schools in places including Chile and Zambia. The on-screen mocks, based on real exam papers, will be marked by Cambridge examiners and results delivered…

  • Book review: ‘Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware’

    Book review: ‘Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware’

    It’s not just the wisdom of crowds that says your smartphone is an extension of the mind. That small electronic device, which acts as your personalised atlas, calendar, post office, telephone, library and camera, is becoming formally recognised as a fully fledged external memory. And, the argument goes, if governments have no right to access the thoughts inside your head, why should they have the right to access the data on the machine to which we outsource our memory? Yet, as is revealed with frightening plausibility in Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud’s investigation into Pegasus, it’s happening. Now. A book-length piece of investigative journalism, ‘Pegasus: The Story of the World’s Most Dangerous Spyware’ (MacMillan, £20, ISBN 9781529094831) does no more or less than what it says on…

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  • Digital initiatives to improve predictions of climate-related infectious diseases

    Digital initiatives to improve predictions of climate-related infectious diseases

    Wellcome, a charitable foundation focused on health research, has announced it will financially support 24 research teams in 12 countries around the world that are leveraging  climate data to better predict and prepare for infectious disease outbreaks. The £22.7m funding is expected to allow these projects to analyse where and when deadly disease outbreaks are likely to occur, helping policy-makers plan ahead. “The connection between climate change and the spread of infectious disease is often overlooked, or not made at all," said Felipe Colon, technology lead at Wellcome. “This has resulted in a critical shortage of tools that model the relationship between climate change and disease outbreaks, and those that do exist are often complex and not accessible for local health officials and…

  • Hands-on review: Keen WK400 walking shoes

    Hands-on review: Keen WK400 walking shoes

    This isn’t the first time that footwear designers have come up with curved soles. Some shoes are intentionally wobbly to keep your muscles active. Others, like these, have a ‘rocker bottom’ so that the act of walking propels you forwards, from one step to the next. Rather than just aping others, Keen has designed the WK400 walking shoe from scratch. Three years, nearly 10,000 hours of design and development, and 5,000 miles of testing contributed to its all-new KEEN.CURVE geometry, with a 3D plate and curved sole. The full-length plate maintains the shape of the curve and reduces energy loss, while using a high-energy, bouncy EVA midsole. That EVA compound is lightweight and returns energy into your step. The last has a 10mm drop, which is high compared with the trainers that most walkers…

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  • Nasa-IBM collaboration will use AI to study climate change

    Nasa-IBM collaboration will use AI to study climate change

    Nasa and IBM have joined forces to promote a new application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to Nasa Earth observation satellite data. The two organisations have revealed their plans to develop several applications to extract insights from Earth observations about the impact of climate change.  In one of the projects, scientists will train an IBM geospatial intelligence foundation model on Nasa's Harmonized Landsat Sentinel-2 dataset, a record of land cover and land use changes captured by Earth-orbiting satellites. The AI is expected to analyse petabytes of satellite data to identify the impact of natural disasters and rising temperatures on crop yields, and wildlife habitats.  Meanwhile, another project is expected to be a large language model based on Earth science literature…

  • Shell profits hit record £68.1bn as energy prices surge

    Shell profits hit record £68.1bn as energy prices surge

    Shell said that its core profits skyrocketed to £68.1bn ($84.3bn) in 2022, surpassing the expectations of industry experts. This gargantuan profit haul will increase the pressure on prime minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt to tax energy producers further, with UK households coming under increasing and relentless pressure from their astronomical bills. Bumper profits by producers in 2022 eventually persuaded the government to launch a windfall tax, called the 'Energy Profits Levy', which was subsequently further strengthened by Hunt. Shell said that it paid £1.5bn ($1.9bn) in windfall tax charges to the UK and EU. Labour has accused Sunak of being “too weak” to stand up to oil and gas interests following the news of Shell’s profit increase. Shadow climate change secretary…

  • India pledges $4.3bn for clean energy projects

    India pledges $4.3bn for clean energy projects

    India has stated that "green growth" is a top priority for the country, as it earmarks  350 billion rupees ($4.3bn, £3.5bn) to invest in the nation’s energy security and green transition.  In the announcement, Indian authorities included a focus on solar power from the Himalayan region of Ladakh and green hydrogen production. “We are implementing many programmes for green fuel, green energy, green farming, green mobility, green buildings, and green equipment, and policies for efficient use of energy,” said finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her speech to Parliament.  “These green growth efforts help in reducing carbon intensity of the economy and provide for large-scale green job opportunities,” she added. The minister said the cash injection will be channelled through the ministry…

  • ‘Liquid windows’ could reduce buildings’ energy consumption

    ‘Liquid windows’ could reduce buildings’ energy consumption

    What if windows were not solid? A research team at the University of Toronto has developed a window prototype that uses a thin layer of liquid pigment between two glass panes to affect how much sunlight gets through. The scientists were inspired by the multilayered skin of organisms such as squid. Each of these layers contains s pecialised organs that work together to protect the animals from sunlight and other external factors.  The objective of the prototype is to optimise the wavelength, intensity and dispersion of light transmitted through windows. In doing so, it could offer much greater control than existing technologies while keeping costs low.  “Buildings use a ton of energy to heat, cool and illuminate the spaces inside them,” said Raphael Kay, one of the scientists involved…

  • Sustainable V8 sports car project aims to make muscle car carbon neutral

    Sustainable V8 sports car project aims to make muscle car carbon neutral

    When it comes to sustainable car choices, most people don't think of a 5.0-litre V8 muscle car. The British Motor Show is hoping to change perceptions by running a Ford Mustang for six months using Coryton 'Sustain' biofuel to see if an old-school muscle car can clean up its act. Using Sustain – a second-generation biofuel that uses agricultural waste such as straw or by-products from farming, food production or forestry, recycling carbon from the atmosphere – the team behind the show will be running the 5.0-litre V8 Ford Mustang, covering over 1,000 miles a month promoting the event around the UK. As well as using the Sustain fuel, the 'Sustainable V8 Project' Mustang will also be run on sustainable oils, use eco tyres and will be maintained using reuseable service parts or second-life…

  • Money & Markets: What’s up with the UK stock market?

    Money & Markets: What’s up with the UK stock market?

    The UK stock market, for all the woe in the news, seems to have broken out into new trading territory. The question is, what went right? Since a runaway dollar nearly broke everything, the buck has been reined in and up went all the stock markets. This is because however the rout brought on by a strong dollar was reversed it meant that in effect there was more money to stick into trades like buying equities. Engineers will recognise oscillating systems, noise and signal running together. Theory suggests that the market is pure noise, but we all know that there is a faint signal in there and this is a product of economic growth, or you might say progress. The signal is too small to profit from in the short term and possibly only capturable by long-term holding rather than short-term trading…

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  • View from India: Budget 2023-24 focuses on green growth, digital economy and AI

    View from India: Budget 2023-24 focuses on green growth, digital economy and AI

    Th2023-2024 Budget hopes to build on the foundation laid in the previous Budget and the blueprint drawn for India@100. “India’s rising global profile is because of several accomplishments: unique world-class digital public infrastructure, for example Aadhaar, Co-Win and UPI, and Covid vaccination drive in unparalleled scale and speed; proactive role in frontier areas such as achieving the climate related goals, mission LiFE, and National Hydrogen Mission,” said Union Finance Minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman.    The future seems to be moving towards green growth with the implementation of programmes for green fuel, green energy, green farming, green mobility, green buildings and green equipment, and policies for efficient use of energy across various economic sectors. These efforts help in…

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  • Hands-on review: Renpho Elis 1 Smart Scale

    Hands-on review: Renpho Elis 1 Smart Scale

    We're already one month deep into another new year. With the best will in the world, ambitious resolutions often lie discarded, the best laid fitness plans of mice and men ruinously abandoned at the seductive and delicious twin altars of food and booze. Still, we persevere. It's good to at least keep a watchful eye on the state of our bodies, even if their temple status was regrettably withdrawn some time ago. With a set of smart bathroom scales, such as Renpho's upgraded unit on review here, cold, hard data will be captured, logged and tracked, making it ever trickier for you to keep lying to yourself about the state of you. This - whether you like it or not - is a good thing. There's obviously a limit to how smart a set of scales can be. They're scales. They weigh stuff. You, mostly.…

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  • Book review: ‘We Are Electric’ by Sally Adee

    Book review: ‘We Are Electric’ by Sally Adee

    Electricity is at the heart of how we are formed, how our brains speak to our bodies, how we heal after injuries, how we think, move, feel. In ‘We Are Electric: The New Science of our Body’s Electrome' (Canongate Books, £20, ISBN 9781838853327), Sally Adee explores the discovery of ‘galvanism’, the confusing steps towards understanding bioelectricity since then, and the incredible applications under development today. The history of bioelectricity makes for a compelling yarn. It involves larger-than-life characters, a disagreement between two men which spawned an epic war between the physical and life sciences, shocking experiments conducted in public, yet more shocking experiments conducted in private, more ‘faecal explosions’ than might reasonably be expected, and many unfortunate frogs…

  • Suck on this: eco-friendly paper straws designed to stay stiff

    Suck on this: eco-friendly paper straws designed to stay stiff

    The researchers said their straws are easy to mass-produce and could quickly replace current products in response to new regulations designed to limit single-use plastics. Many of the paper straws that are currently available to buy are typically coated in polyethylene (PE) or acrylic resin – the same material used for making plastic bags and adhesives. This is because straws made of paper alone become soggy when they come in contact with liquids, thus losing their core functionality. Previous studies have reported that polyethylene coating on discarded paper cups can disintegrate into small particles without being fully decomposed and thus become microplastics in the environment. To develop the new straws, the researchers synthesised a common biodegradable plastic - polybutylene succinate…

  • Vertical LEDs could triple resolution of displays

    Vertical LEDs could triple resolution of displays

    Today’s screens use a plate patterned with pixels formed from red, green, and blue LEDs arranged end to end, which shine in different intensities to generate the full spectrum of colours. Over the years, the size of individual pixels has shrunk, enabling many more of them to be packed into devices to produce sharper, higher-resolution digital displays. But much like computer transistors, LEDs are reaching a limit to how small they can be while also performing effectively. This limit is especially noticeable in close-range displays such as augmented and virtual reality devices, where limited pixel density results in a “screen door effect” such that users perceive stripes in the space between pixels. The new stacked pixels can generate the full range of colours and measure about 4 microns…

  • Government pledges to regulate cryptocurrencies

    Government pledges to regulate cryptocurrencies

    The UK has formally announced its plans to regulate the cryptocurrency industry, with the government looking to rein in some of the reckless business practices that characterise the "turbulent industry".  The government has therefore proposed a number of measures aimed at bringing regulation of crypto asset businesses in line with that of traditional financial firms. The Treasury says that will allow crypto to benefit from the "confidence, credibility and regulatory clarity" of the existing system for financial services, as set out in the UK's Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). In doing so, the government aims to create a “robust approach” that will mitigate “the most significant risks”, but also allow the UK to tap into the advantages of crypto technologies. The…

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  • EU responds to US and Chinese green subsidies in leaked plan

    EU responds to US and Chinese green subsidies in leaked plan

    The European Union (EU) is said to be preparing a comprehensive plan to respond to the US's Inflation Reduction Act and loosen the continent's dependence on Chinese technology, the Financial Times has reported.  According to the leaked document, the European Commission would be planning to extend some of the s implified state aid rules that already apply to some renewable technologies, in order to include renewable hydrogen and biofuel storage. In addition, EU member states will be able to offer help to EU companies that are being offered equivalent financial aid from foreign governments with measures such as tax benefits.  Some of the €800bn (£707bn) included in the NextGenerationEU Covid-19 recovery fund could also be redirected towards tax credits, according to the draft. This move…

  • ChatGPT owner launches ‘imperfect’ tool to detect AI-generated text

    ChatGPT owner launches ‘imperfect’ tool to detect AI-generated text

    ChatGPT is a free app that generates text in response to a prompt, including articles, essays, jokes and even poetry. It has become spectacularly popular in the short time since its release in November, while simultaneously raising inevitable concerns about copyright and plagiarism. The AI classifier , OpenAI's language model trained on the dataset of pairs of human-written and AI-written text on the same topic, aims to distinguish the text which was written by the latter. It uses a variety of providers to address issues such as automated misinformation campaigns and academic dishonesty, the company said. In its public beta mode, announced in a blog post today (Wednesday 1 February), OpenAI acknowledges the detection tool is currently "very unreliable" on texts under 1,000 characters and…

  • First self-driving bus service to launch in Edinburgh this spring

    First self-driving bus service to launch in Edinburgh this spring

    Passengers are set to board the bus service in Edinburgh from the spring after it became one of seven autonomous passenger and freight vehicle programmes to win a share of the new funds. The service, which will receive £10.4m in funding, will be comprised of five self-driving single-decker buses that will carry members of the public between Ferrytoll park and ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange via the Forth Road Bridge. As well as the Edinburgh project, automated shuttles in Belfast and lorries in Sunderland will also get support. The North East Automotive Alliance will receive £8m to roll out self-driving and remotely piloted HGVs between the Vantec and Nissan sites in Sunderland. Hub2Hub will receive £13.2m to develop a new, zero emissions, self-driving…