New Scientist

New Scientist 29-Aug-20

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

in this issue

1 min.
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual events How to… with Randall Munroe The mind behind the webcomic xkcd reveals the world’s most useless self-help guide with astrophysicist Katie Mack. Thursday 10 September at 6pm BST/1pm EDT. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly Redefining time; why mindfulness can cause problems; the secrets of super-resilient tardigrades. Plus: Greenland’s meltdown and the fastest star ever seen. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Launchpad Our free newsletter sends you on a weekly voyage across the galaxy and beyond. newscientist.com/sign-up/launchpad Online Covid-19 daily update The day’s coronavirus coverage updated at 6pm BST. newscientist.com/coronavirus-latest Science with Sam In the first of our new video series, Sam Wong explains black holes. youtube.com/newscientist JEREMY SCHNITTMAN/NASA’S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER/DAVE STOCK…

2 min.
a note from the editor

There has arguably never been a time when human health has been higher up the agenda than now. That is why I am pleased to announce that my colleagues have been working on not one, but two health-related publications that we hope you will find both fascinating and useful. The first is the third edition in our Essential Guides series (following The Nature of Reality and Artificial Intelligence). Essential Guide: Human Health has been guest-edited by Linda Geddes, a long-time New Scientist contributor and consultant. She is also the award-winning author of the books Bumpology and Chasing the Sun. Human health may sound like a big subject, but Linda has done a brilliant job of focusing on the areas in which cutting-edge research is making a profound difference to our knowledge…

2 min.
overcoming prejudice

FEW ideas from social psychology have captured public attention in recent years as much as unconscious bias, the catch-all term for the assumptions we make about other people without being consciously aware of the process. That reach is partly down to the Implicit Association Test (IAT) created by researchers at Harvard University in the 1990s. Available online, it is widely seen as a quick and easy way to see how implicitly biased you are. The results can be unsettling: you may not think you are racist or sexist or ageist, but, in many cases, your unconscious preferences, measured by instant associations, suggest otherwise. Another reason the idea has caught on is that it seems to offer an explanation for why prejudice clearly persists, despite measures of explicit racism showing a steep decline.…

3 min.
getting less deadly?

IT IS becoming increasingly clear that people are less likely to die if they get covid-19 now compared with earlier in the pandemic, at least in Europe, but the reasons why this might be the case are shrouded in uncertainty. One UK doctor has said that the coronavirus was “getting a little bit less angry”, while an infectious disease consultant at the National University of Singapore claimed that a mutated version of the coronavirus, D614G, is making the illness less deadly. In England, the proportion of people infected by the coronavirus who later died was lower in early August than it was in late June. Over the period, this infection fatality rate (IFR) dropped by between 55 and 80 per cent, depending on which data set you use, say Jason Oke at…

11 min.
the rush to develop a vaccine

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump is considering allowing the usual procedures to be bypassed so an experimental coronavirus vaccine can be made available to the public in time for the US election in November, according to a report in the Financial Times. AstraZeneca, the drug company developing the vaccine in partnership with the University of Oxford, has said there have been no talks with the US government about fast-tracking the vaccine. But the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine is speeding up. On 11 August, president Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had approved a vaccine called Sputnik V for widespread use after only two months of small-scale trials, before the usual longer, large-scale trials. China has also allowed volunteers to be given a vaccine although human trials are still running. These decisions have…

1 min.
how vaccines get to the front line

Moving a vaccine candidate through the standard phases of development can take more than a decade. Due to the urgency of the pandemic, researchers and regulatory bodies are trying to eliminate delays and teams are running some phases concurrently in the hope of making a coronavirus vaccine in just 12 to 18 months. THE STEPS TO MAKING A VACCINE Prototype development This usually takes years, depending on the technique used. For the current coronavirus, researchers had prototypes within hours due to new technologies that identify the bits of a virus a vaccine might use. Animal trials These primarily test safety and the immune response generated by a vaccine. Skipping this stage can speed things up, but there may be safety trade-offs. Phase I human trials The first tests in people usually involve 20 to…