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New Scientist 17-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 The future of food and agriculture Join us for a day of inspiring talks, demos and interactive sessions from world-leading scientists, technologists and farmers. Kicks off on Saturday 28 November at 10am GMT – or watch on demand afterwards. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly Black holes and CRISPR gene editing spring Nobel surprises; climate change and indigenous people in the Arctic; and symptom clusters identified for covid-19. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Healthcheck Our free newsletter delivers a weekly round-up of health and fitness news direct to your inbox. newscientist.com/sign-up/health Video Science with Sam Spending too much time indoors? Join Sam Wong as he gets reacquainted with the sun and explains how daylight can have a profound effect on our mental and physical health. youtube.com/newscientist Online Covid-19 daily briefing The day’s coronavirus coverage updated at 6pm BST with news, features and interviews. newscientist.com/coronavirus-latest Essential guide The fourth in the Essential Guide series, Our human…

2 min.
the other emergency

AT THE height of the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns, we commented here on the falls in pollution and carbon emissions because of car-free roads and plane-free skies. We also warned that “we must be realistic that this will have little if any long-term effect on global warming” (New Scientist, 30 May, p 5). Five months on, and the scores are on the doors. Global emissions are indeed more or less back to where they were before the pandemic. Meanwhile, more valuable time has been lost in creating a workable plan to restrict global warming to the “safe” level of 1.5°C set out in the 2015 Paris agreement (see page 34). Yet the coronavirus pandemic has shown us that another world is possible. Governments can act decisively: in the words of natural…

3 min.
three-tier covid-19 alert

A NEW three-tier system for setting coronavirus rules in England was announced by UK prime minister Boris Johnson on 12 October. The approach falls short of advice from science advisers who called for tougher measures several weeks ago. Under the new framework, which began on 14 October, different sets of restrictions of increasing severity will be applied to separate regions based on infection rates, as well as the rate at which infections are rising. Speaking in parliament, Johnson said that the system was intended to simplify and standardise current measures, which already vary according to region and have been criticised for being overly complicated. The new system begins with a lowest alert level called medium, or tier 1, rising to high (tier 2) and then very high (tier 3). The Liverpool city region, which…

2 min.
virtual earths to be created

WORK is set to begin within months on building “digital twins” of Earth to better predict the future of climate change, extreme weather and the environment. The Destination Earth project aims to create a tool for everyone from politicians to energy companies to simulate in unprecedented detail how human and physical systems will change in a warming world. Three digital twins are initially planned. These simulations, built on satellite and field data, will cover extreme weather and disaster risk management, climate change adaptation and the oceans. More twins will come later. The European Union is funding the project and sees it as vital to informing government decisions on the EU’s Green Deal, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. For example, some twins could let policy-makers model the…

1 min.
naked mole rats invade their neighbours

THOUGH normally the most sociable of mammals, naked mole rats have been seen invading neighbouring populations and even kidnapping newborn pups, which become workers in the conquering colony. The mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber) are one of a handful of mammal species that are eusocial: they live in large underground colonies in which most members are sterile workers and only one individual, the queen, reproduces, similar to honeybees. Stan Braude at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and his colleagues observed the animals attacking their neighbours in the 1990s, but couldn’t confirm their suspicions. The researchers were tracking colonies of naked mole rats in Meru National Park, Kenya, and noticed 26 examples of colonies expanding their territory into burrows previously occupied by others. The team repeatedly captured entire colonies, marked each animal, then returned…

1 min.
eurasia’s oldest known balls may have been for sport

THE first ball games in Eurasia may have been played 3000 years ago, according to a new analysis of three leather balls unearthed in an ancient cemetery in northern China. The Yanghai cemetery contains more than 500 graves and was in use between about 3200 and 1850 years ago. Archaeologists working there a few years ago uncovered three leather balls from three graves. The balls, each about 9 centimetres in diameter, had been stuffed with either leather strips or with wool and hair. Two of them had a red cross painted on one side. Balls like this one were stuffed with either leather strips or with wool and hair They were first thought to be 2400 to 2800 years old, making them the earliest known balls in Eurasia. Patrick Wertmann at the University…