Pour la Science n ° 535 – May 2022 – Mathematics: will humans soon be overtaken by machines?

In this issue

What legitimate place should humans occupy on the only planet that guarantees them life and refuge, at a time when their actions threaten, precisely, life, shelter and, beyond that, the very existence of other species? Will we be able to become “gardens of the biosphere”, always pushing beyond the realm of domestication, or even managing our development while respecting the future of other living things, beyond our own interests? Ecologists François Sarrazin and Jane Lecomte explore these horizons in our special dossier, in collaboration with the National Museum of Natural History, dedicated to the limits and perspectives of the Anthropocene.

The question of the place that belongs to the world is posed to human beings as living beings, but also as thinking beings, now that we are creating machines capable of performing increasingly complex cognitive tasks. “What interest would it be for humanity to have machines capable of uttering conjectures and others capable of proving them, all without human intervention? asks mathematician Michael Harris. We bet, at least, that human creativity would still have all the freedom to exercise itself.

News

Genetics

Origin of sex chromosomes

In many species, sex is determined by sex chromosomes. A new theory proposes to explain the origin and evolution of these particular chromosomes.

William Rowe-Pirra

Materials

Quantum dots to power solar panels

In the laboratory, the efficiency of perovskite solar cells exceeds 25%. But in large cells, it decreases sharply. Replacing the electrode with nanometric structures could be a game changer.

Sean Bailly

Ecology

Climate: heat stroke in beeches

Beech growth could decline by 20 to 50 percent in 2090, except in Scandinavia and the mountains of Central Europe, according to a model based on 60 years of climate data.

Isabelle Bellin

Medication

Ants to detect cancer

Surprising as it may seem, cancer has an odor, which results from the emission of volatile compounds by cancer cells. Dogs can be trained to recognize this odor. But they are not the only ones: ants are capable of that too!

Gaia Jouanna

Astrophysics

Energy record of the cosmic rays of a new one

When the white dwarf of the RS Ophiuchi binary system exploded again, in 2021, it emitted cosmic rays that reached the maximum energy predicted by theoretical models.

Sean Bailly

Physics

The role of torsion in yarn strength has been elucidated

A wool yarn is made up of a set of twisted fibers whose cohesion is ensured by friction. Finally, the precise influence of torsion on the strength of the wire has been described.

Sean Bailly

cell biology

The largest single-celled bacterium lives in the mangroves of the Caribbean

With a maximum length of two centimeters, Thiomargarita magnifica is the largest bacterium known to date. Its structure, never seen before, makes it an amazing way of life.

Elisa Dore

Biochemistry

Buildings for bacteria to generate electricity

Researchers have printed in 3D a set of miniature pillars attached to an electrode that serve as buildings for bacteria. Its disposition increases the photosynthetic capacity of small organisms. In return and for rent, they can supply hundreds of microamperes.

Valentí Rakovsky

Immunology

Listeria: why some strains are hypervirulent

Some strains of the bacterium that causes listeriosis manipulate the immune system, increasing its ability to infect the brain. They also gain a selective advantage in terms of diffusion in the environment.

Noelle Guillon

animal biology

A rodent that recycles nitrogen for wintering

Like all hibernating animals, the striped squirrel faces a protein imbalance during its winter fast. Your gut microbiota then plays a crucial role in providing you with vital compounds.

Elisa Dore

Archeology

The traveling mummies of the Sado Valley

Mesolithic Iberian hunter-gatherers mummified some of their dead so that they could be transported to the clan cemetery.

François Savatier

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