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With my head resting against the window inside a high-speed train, I enjoy watching the vegetation along the tracks forming lines moving far faster than the mountains on the horizon. What in our vision system manages to estimate speed of movement like this? Our brain probably has complex neuronal networks responsible for this task. Recent studies in fact have shown that pre-processing movement-related visual information occurs well before the brain - in the retina!

Contrary to what we were told in school, the retina is not just a light sensor. The layer of neurons that covers the back of our eyes and translates light into electrical impulses does not...

Following archaeological digs, analysis of the lead pollution in sediments in the antique port of Naples proves that the region’s vast water supply network, based on the Augustan Aqueduct, was profoundly affected by the infamous eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii.

In the year 79, the eruption of Vesuvius buried a large swathe of the Bay of Naples in a cloud of ash. It entirely destroyed Pompeii and Herculanum, and killed more than 3,000 people. Historians and archaeologists have long wondered about the consequences of the eruption on the water supply of the bay, a popular holiday destination for the Roman aristocracy.

Towns on the Bay of Naples were supplied with fresh water by the Aqua Augusta, a network of galleries, canals, r...

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Information technology is now essential in many fields. Be it for banking or sales, electronic voting, piloting planes and cars, pacemakers, insulin pumps or scientific instruments, computers perform functions which are critical, and sometimes vital, in the real sense of the term. It is therefore essential that circuits, software and development tools function irreproachably. This requirement however, runs up against an intrinsic flaw in computers: bugs, tiny human errors in code that calculations can amplify to the point of causing serious damage.

In 1994, Intel had to spend 475 million dollars to correct a bug in a Pentium Pro microproc...

Storing data! The challenge of the 21st century… A few bytes written onto long chains of synthetic polymers are opening up huge perspectives.

 Photo credit: Tomasz Sowinski/Getty Image

In brief

  • Data storage on traditional materials (silicon, hard disks) is reaching its limits.

  • To overcome these limits, chemists are starting to store digital data on natural polymers, such as DNA, but also on synthetic polymers.

  • Today, synthetic polymers can be used to store a few bytes.

In our digital society, we are producing ever more data: documents, images, videos… and it is becoming increasingly difficult to conserve them. Data centres funded by the Internet giants are monopolising vast spaces that require huge quantities of energy. An...

Research and development? Many innovations do not actually originate from science.

It is no longer enough to use change in state to explain cloud formation. The role of chemical and biological substances must now be added.

 Photo credit A. Frossard

In brief:

  • Cloud behaviour still escapes modelling.

  • The geometry and chemical composition of aerosol particles around which water droplets condense must be taken into account.

  • Substances probably of organic origin, surfactants, play an essential role in lowering the surface tension of the drop.

Say, where do clouds come from? We have all asked this question at one time or another. Conscientiously, we told a wonderful story, of water vapour released from the ground that rises to altitude, meets cold air and condenses into droplets to form a cloud. The thermodyna...

Binge drinking, or the massive and rapid consumption of alcohol, affects the adolescent brain. Studies in humans and rodents reveal the mechanisms at play.

In brief

  • Alcohol consumption alters the brains of adolescents and young adults differently depending on whether the subjects are so-called “social” drinkers or fans of “binge drinking”.

  • Binge drinking is associated with damage to white matter (neuronal wiring) accompanied by alteration to the medium-term memory.

  • In rodents, it causes a long-term alteration of the function of one synaptic receptor essential for memory.

“The odd episode of binge drinking leaves no traces!” This statement, collected from secondary school pupils during visits to schools was the starting po...

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Photo Bernard Martinez


Managing Editor


La Recherche, founded in 1970, is a major source of science information in France for science-interested citizens, leading universities and research institutions. The site Researchinfrance.com publishes the English version of a series of articles about the most advanced achievements appearing in our printed French version.


November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018

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