Robots to explore the dark flooded depths of old mines

Earth’s metals and minerals, essential to our technology, are running out. We need to explore long-forgotten passages in flooded mines

Indium, rhodium, platinum, tellurium and gold: these are some of the rarest elements in the world. From smartphones (which contain a whopping 60 to 64 elements) to hybrid cars, wind turbines and medical equipment, much of the technology we depend upon contains a rich list of elemental ingredients.

Meanwhile, demand for traditional metals such as copper and aluminium is rocketing, driven by the rapid growth of emerging economies in Asia and South America.

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Pentakill: how a metal band that doesn’t exist made it to No 1

The band from the game League of Legends has stormed the charts and bagged cameos from the likes of Tommy Lee – despite existing only in the imaginations of their creators

How has a band that doesn’t physically exist, with zero promotion from the music industry, breach the Billboard Top 40 and reach No 1 in the iTunes metal chart?

Conceived by California-based gaming gurus Riot Games in 2014, Pentakill exist purely in the imaginations of their creators – and the 100 million global fans of League of Legends, the multiplayer online battle arena game that spawned the band’s members, Karthus the Deathsinger, Yorick, Sona, Olaf and lead guitarist Mordekaiser the Master of Metal.

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Google staffer’s hostility to affirmative action sparks furious backlash

‘Manifesto’ arguing against promotion of race and gender diversity attributes lack of women in tech to ‘biological causes’

A Google software engineer’s polemic against diversity efforts has left female staff “shaking in anger” and forced the tech giant to defend its patchy record on racial and gender equality.

The 10-page “manifesto”, which Google executives acknowledge was written by a company software engineer, initially circulated internally but was leaked to the public. The author’s identity remains unknown.

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Video games versus holidays: take a screen break

Why bother flying when you can escape to the Himalayas, or into space, from the comfort of your couch

When I was a child, each year without exception our family would drive to Cornwall in a wheezing Ford Sierra for the summer holidays. We’d stay with my great-uncle, a retired army major (gruff bachelor, suspected womaniser, borderline alcoholic), who was perhaps the last person I’d ever meet who earnestly deployed the phrase: “Children should be seen and not heard.”

In order to preserve quiet in the house, we went out a lot. Routine became ritual. We’d visit the same beach, whatever the weather. We’d eat the same sandy ham sandwiches and shoo the same crabs from under the same rocks. Familiarity might have bred contempt, were it not for the Game Boy my brother and I brought along for the ride. The machine’s luminous green screen was a tiny portal to other worlds, a holiday from the holiday, when the holiday started to drag. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is, in my mind, a part of Hyrule that’s for ever Cornish.

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AI and music: will we be slaves to the algorithm?

Tech firms have developed AI that can learn how to write music. So will machines soon be composing symphonies, hit singles and bespoke soundtracks?

From Elgar to Adele, and the Beatles or Pink Floyd to Kanye West, London’s Abbey Road Studios has hosted a storied list of musical stars since opening in 1931. But the man playing a melody on the piano in the complex’s Gatehouse studio when the Observer visits isn’t one of them.

The man sitting at the keyboard where John Lennon may have finessed A Day in the Life is Siavash Mahdavi, CEO of AI Music, a British tech startup exploring the intersection of artificial intelligence and music.

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