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New Scientist 3-Oct-20

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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 Decoding reality Our understanding of reality is based on the observations we make of the world around us. In this lecture, quantum physicist Vlatko Vedral explains why the best description of all observed phenomena is based on quantum physics. Available to watch on demand now. Climate change in the time of pandemic Leading climatologist Mark Maslin reveals how we can rebuild the global economy after covid-19 and save our planet from climate change, while still improving everyone’s lives. Available to watch on demand now. newscientist.com/events Podcast Weekly The first woman on the moon; the purpose of sleep and dreams; a deep water mystery; China’s climate pledge. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Fix the Planet Our free newsletter delivers a weekly dose of climate optimism straight to your inbox. This week: hydrogen-powered planes. newscientist.com/sign-up/fix-the-planet Video Science with Sam In this week’s edition of our explainer series, Sam Wong…

2 min.
watch this space

SCIENTISTS and science journalists often share a weary refrain whenever a story with a whiff of the extraterrestrial raises its head: it isn’t aliens. It is never aliens. While firm evidence of life beyond Earth would be the discovery of the century, we have been burned too many times before – most notably in 1996, when excitement about supposed fossils in a Martian meteorite inspired the-then US president Bill Clinton to make a statement from the White House lawn. President Donald Trump hasn’t made any public pronouncements about the discovery of phosphine, a molecule that may have a biological origin, on Venus. Yet it has tested the resolve of the “never aliens” crowd. Could it really be that after all the time we spent looking for life on rocky Mars, it was…

3 min.
europe braces again

IN EUROPE, the long-predicted second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is now well under way. “In some member states, the situation is now even worse than in the peak during March,” said Stella Kyriakides, the European Union’s commissioner for health and food safety, on 24 September. “This is a real cause for concern.” Spain, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and the UK are reporting higher numbers of daily confirmed cases per million people than they did in March, with around 240 per million in Spain. Portugal has the next highest infection rate, but hasn’t yet exceeded earlier peak levels. However, during the first wave, testing was mostly limited to those in hospitals, meaning many cases were missed. Antibody surveys, which estimate the proportion of people who have had the SARS-CoV-2 virus, show…

5 min.
how best to lockdown again

IT IS no shock that many European countries are again facing rising coronavirus cases – this is exactly what researchers anticipated. Modelling in March by Mark Woolhouse at the University of Edinburgh, UK, suggested that a two-month UK lockdown would lead to low cases and an imperceptible rise over the summer before new measures were required at the end of September. Which is roughly what happened. Other models foresaw similar patterns. “I’m not claiming a prediction, but it’s a scenario that was predictable,” says Woolhouse. “Epidemiologists have been expecting a big increase, but it’s been bigger than most of us expected” The speed and size of the wave in Europe has been a surprise though. “Every infectious disease epidemiologist has been expecting a big increase, but it’s been bigger and sooner than…

3 min.
strict policies in australia seem to have worked

A WEEK ago, with an expired UK visa and after eight unsuccessful attempts to get home, I finally boarded a plane bound for Perth in Western Australia. I now find myself in quarantine, at the sharp end of the country’s tough policies to curb a second wave of covid-19 cases. Australia has limited the number of returning passengers since July, after security breaches in quarantine hotels in Melbourne, Victoria, led to another wave of infections. The city went into a second lockdown, imposing some of the strictest measures in the world, including a curfew between 9 pm and 5 am and hefty on-the-spot fines for people in breach of stay-at-home orders. The policies seem to have worked. After more than 11 gruelling weeks, cases dropped faster than expected, and the curfew was…

4 min.
should we let the virus rip?

CORONAVIRUS cases are rising again across the UK. Without urgent action, they could reach 50,000 per day by mid-October, health officials have warned. Many scientists are now calling for further measures, such as a short-term national lockdown to limit the virus’s spread (see page 8). But others point out that restrictions cause their own harms, including impacts on other health services, economic hardship and a significant toll on mental health. Thousands of people attended a London protest last weekend against lockdown and related measures. Similar protests have taken place around the UK and the world. Meanwhile, a group of scientists have signed an open letter essentially arguing that the virus should be left to let rip through young and healthy populations. Devastating impact The open letter, by Sunetra Gupta at the University of…