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Science
New Scientist

New Scientist 12-Sep-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.

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
New Scientist Ltd
Frequency:
Weekly
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51 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual events Quantum computing A new kind of computing that harnesses the properties of the quantum world promises to outperform the most powerful classical supercomputers and transform everything from drug discovery to cybersecurity. In this talk, Ilyas Khan, founder of Cambridge Quantum Computing, reveals how these machines are becoming a reality. Thursday 8 October at 6pm BST/1pm EDT. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly Billionaires’ plan to geoengineer the planet; the impact of the moon on human health; Neuralink’s brain-computer implant. Plus: travelling through wormholes. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Fix the Planet Our free newsletter delivers a weekly dose of climate optimism straight to your inbox. This week: will social movements like Extinction Rebellion shift opinions on climate change? newscientist.com/sign-up/fix-the-planet Video What is a vaccine? This week’s installment of our Science with Sam series explains how vaccines work and what it will take to develop one for covid-19. youtube.com/newscientist Online Covid-19 daily…

2 min.
food for thought

IT WAS a tempting offer enjoyed by millions of people: as many cut-price restaurant meals as you could eat every Monday to Wednesday for a month. While the UK’s recent “eat out to help out” scheme may have saved jobs and boosted the hospitality industry after the coronavirus lockdown, it is unlikely to have done much for the country’s obesity crisis. The government’s own figures show meals from restaurants are on average twice as calorific as the equivalent dish prepared at home. For many years, the UK has laboured under the burden of having one of Europe’s fattest populations. Earlier this year, prime minister Boris Johnson – who blamed his brush with severe covid-19 on being overweight – swallowed his opposition to “nanny state” schemes and announced a national obesity strategy. It is…

3 min.
huge surge in uk cases

THE UK is experiencing a surge of new coronavirus cases, following in the footsteps of several other western European countries including Spain and France. On Sunday, 2988 new cases were reported, the highest number of positive cases in a single day in the UK since 22 May, according to government figures. The seven-day rolling average of new cases has increased to 1812 cases per day across the country, up from 1244 the week before and 1040 a fortnight ago. The rise in cases may partly be due to increases in testing across the UK. Throughout August, more than 170,000 tests were processed daily, compared with about 70,000 daily tests at the beginning of May. But UK health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that while greater numbers of people are being tested, “the proportion that…

9 min.
what winter holds for covid-19

WITH hindsight, we may come to see late summer in the northern hemisphere as the calm before the storm. While many countries in the north have suppressed the spread of covid-19 for now, there is growing evidence warning us that winter could undo that progress. Researchers are racing to pinpoint what role temperature and humidity may have in the spread and severity of the illness. They are exploring how SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus that causes covid‑19, will interact with other seasonal respiratory viruses. And people are scouring data from winter in the southern hemisphere to see what the north might face. “Some leaders assumed that this would go away in hot weather. That could have led to complacency” These questions are a matter of life and death. In the UK alone, a reasonable worst-case…

4 min.
could co-infection cause coronavirus to evolve?

DOCTORS may be fretting about concurrent outbreaks of flu and covid-19 (see page 8) but some virologists are worrying about another scenario: a Frankenvirus. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, almost certainly originated from the hybridisation of two different coronaviruses. The details remain hazy, but the virus’s genome sequence suggests that this mash-up occurred in a bat about a decade ago. The bat was simultaneously infected with two closely related coronaviruses, which merged into a new one. Such recombination isn’t unusual for coronaviruses. “If you look in the family tree of coronavirus, there’s recombination everywhere,” says virologist Samuel Díaz-Muñoz at the University of California, Davis. It occurs for two reasons. First, coronaviruses are tolerant to co-infection. Unlike many other viruses, they allow co-infection of the same cell by other viruses. Second, the way coronaviruses…

2 min.
trees and shrubs might reveal the location of decomposing bodies

PLANTS could help investigators find dead bodies. Botanists believe the sudden flush of nutrients into the soil from decomposition may affect nearby foliage. If scientists can understand those changes – for instance, on leaf colour – they may be able to identify where remains are buried simply by studying aerial images. “If we’re able to use the plants as sensors, at least first as indicators or crude indicators, we can identify whether a missing body may be close by,” says Neal Stewart Jr at the University of Tennessee. “If we’re able to use the plants as sensors, we can identify whether a missing body may be close by” Teams looking for human remains often rely on aerial searches, but these are difficult if a cadaver is buried in a forest. Although pedestrian surveys…