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New Scientist 25-may-19

New Scientist covers the latest developments in science and technology that will impact your world. New Scientist employs and commissions the best writers in their fields from all over the world. Our editorial team provide cutting-edge news, award-winning features and reports, written in concise and clear language that puts discoveries and advances in the context of everyday life today and in the future.

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51 Issues


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hunting willow seeds in hundred acre wood

WINNIE-THE-POOH scoured Hundred Acre Wood in search of honey in A. A. Milne’s beloved children’s tales. In Ashdown Forest in Sussex, UK, the wood’s real-life inspiration, Alice Hudson and Ian Willey are looking for something less sweet, but equally vital. The researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are seeking willow seeds to deposit in an underground vault. The plan is to preserve them as an insurance policy against future threats. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Willey. 12.5m Number of seeds banked by the UK National Tree Seed Project More than 12.5 million seeds have been collected and banked by Kew’s UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP) since 2013 to preserve genetic diversity in the long term. Willow is a tricky customer when it comes to seed-banking, which is why…

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sea otters bounce back - into the jaws of great whites

DECADES of conservation work have boosted sea otter populations in many parts of the North Pacific Ocean, but the animals are now being killed by great white sharks. The sharks prefer blubbery, calorie-dense prey like seals, so any bites of furry sea otters are probably mistakes. But these bites often cause fatal injuries, leading to an increasing number of otters washing up on California’s beaches. Jerry Moxley at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, and his colleagues set out to investigate where and when the bites are happening. Comparing data on shark movements and otter strandings, they found that sea otters were being bitten more frequently in the summer, around the time that adult sharks come closer to shore before heading to seal rookeries (Ecology and Evolution, doi.org/c5xd). The team thinks the sharks, which…

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chinese rover unearths moon’s deeper secrets

WE ARE peeking under the crust of the moon for the first time. China’s Yutu 2 rover, which arrived in January on the Chang’e 4 lander, has spotted what seems to be primitive material from the moon’s mantle. This may help reveal details about our satellite’s early magma ocean. Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon in the crater known as the South Pole-Aitken basin, which is 2500 kilometres wide. Computer simulations have shown that the impact that made this feature was probably powerful enough to punch through the moon’s outer crust, revealing rocks from its interior. Chunlai Li at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and his colleagues examined data that Yutu 2 gathered during its first day looking for those deeper rocks. They seem to have…

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really brief

Bulldogs’ genetic breathing problems Many English and French bulldogs develop breathing difficulties, and the flat faces of these breeds were long thought to be responsible for this. Now it seems that a mutation in a gene called ADAMTS3 may also play a role. In humans, the mutation is associated with fluid retention and swelling (PLoS Genetics, doi.org/c5xm). Rise in colon cancer seen in under-50s Colorectal cancers seem to be becoming more common among younger people in rich countries. While these cancers are declining in older people, colon cancer cases in people under 50 rose by 1.8 per cent between 1995 and 2014 (The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, doi.org/c5xj). Our long split from Neanderthals By comparing the teeth of eight ancient hominins, researchers have concluded that we may have split from Neanderthals earlier than thought. Their…

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glue to mend a broken heart

A STICKY material can repair cuts in pig hearts without using any stitches and then biodegrade. Hongwei Ouyang at Zhejiang University in China and his colleagues used polymers and water to create a glue that mimics the composition of the viscous gel of proteins that help with wound repair in animals. Once activated by UV light, the glue reacts with proteins in tissue to form tight chemical bonds, sticking closely to surfaces and sealing a wound. The team tested the technique in four pigs. They punctured the left ventricle of each pig’s heart using a needle. Then the glue was applied to the wounds followed by UV light. In less than 30 seconds, the bleeding stopped. The bonds are strong enough to withstand blood pressure twice the normal levels (Nature Communications, doi.org/c5xf). “No current…

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a question of diplomacy

Political leadership can change the landscape of cybersecurity. In 2015, US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping signed a bilateral agreement to reduce cyber-espionage between their two countries, Dave Palmer from Darktrace said that as a result of this agreement the number of hacking incidents on US companies declined dramatically. That was a huge win but there was an unintended consequence too. The share prices of cybersecurity companies fell due to the drop in business. The episode shows how diplomacy can play a big role in reducing activity in the “grey zone” beneath the threshold of conventional war. More recently, fake news and misinformation have become part of the battleground between nation states. Whether a similar approach to the one taken by the US and China could help…