How vegetarianism is helping the planet, self-healing robots, water scarcity and how gender-neutral pronouns reduce bias. Our round-up of provoking thoughts, penetrating insights and digital curiosities…

Eat your veg

The next time you consider ordering a burger, think again – switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change, according to a new report from the United Nations. Not only does a vegetarian diet have health benefits but less land would be needed to produce food if people ate less meat – which would have a positive impact on climate change. The report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also said climate change poses a threat to the security of our food supply as more extreme weather can be damaging for crops and livestock.

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Robot, heal thyself

Robots could in future be able to tell if they are damaged and fix themselves – and go back to work – without needing human interaction. A team of researchers from different institutions are using flexible plastics and artificial intelligence to build a self-healing robot, Cambridge Network reports, which could make costly repairs a thing of the past.

Read more: Let your robot take the final

Water scarcity causing stress

A quarter of the world’s population suffers from extreme water stress, meaning resources are very scarce, as supply is threatened by climate change and pollution, The Guardian reports. Citing a new study from the World Resources Institute, it said that 17 countries face extremely high levels of water stress, with a narrow gap between supply and demand – and that better planning and management is needed to avoid a global water crisis.

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Tails for the elderly?

When you think of wearable technology, most people think of smart watches or activity trackers. But now researchers in Japan have gone one step further and created a robotic tail. It’s intended use is to provide balance and prevent people from falling over when carrying heavy objects, Fast Company reports, but could also be used in the gaming industry to make a computer game feel more realistic.

Read more: Adapting homes and lives to a growing population

Gender-neutral pronouns ‘reduce bias’

Using gender-neutral pronouns reduces bias towards men, as well as being more inclusive towards LGBT+ people, a new study suggests. The Independent reports that US researchers carried out an experiment asking people to describe a cartoon using different pronouns, then write about a fictional person running for political office and give that person a name. They found that the group who were asked to use gender-neutral pronouns for the cartoon were more likely to use female or gender-neutral names for the politician, suggesting the language helped steer them away from gender bias.

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