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New Scientist 24-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

Courses Introducing: New Scientist Academy Launching very soon, our expertly curated online courses allow you to learn from the best minds about the hottest topics in science – anywhere, anytime. Our first two courses cover the universe’s biggest mysteries and the human brain. Register your interest now. newscientist.com/courses Podcasts Weekly Tackling the climate crisis; essential, like, filler words of, um, language; mystery of the human penis; your covid-19 questions answered. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Fix the Planet Our free newsletter delivers a weekly dose of climate optimism to your inbox. This week: could we make home delivery greener using magnetic freight pipes? newscientist.com/sign-up/fix-the-planet Online Instagram A huge python that sank its teeth into a sleeping woman’s posterior is just one of the startling images on our feed (also see page 12). instagram.com/newscientist 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…

2 min.
now is not the time

EARLY on in the pandemic, we heard a lot about behavioural fatigue – the hunch that people would quickly grow tired of restrictions on their lives and throw caution to the wind. It was a factor in the reluctance of the UK government to go into lockdown too quickly, a delay that led to the virus getting out of hand. We don’t hear very much about behavioural fatigue any more. We feel it. The prospect of further restrictions or even “circuit breaker” lockdowns (see page 8) is greeted with dread, and the very real possibility of disobedience. This isn’t the time to let our guard down. Two obvious reasons are that we don’t want to overwhelm hospitals or shut schools. But there is another reason to mask up, observe distancing and stick…

3 min.
intentional infections

RESEARCHERS in the UK have announced plans to infect volunteers with the coronavirus, starting in January. The aim is to establish the minimum infectious dose before testing potential vaccines. The study will be funded by the UK government, but has yet to get final ethical approval. “The top priority is participants’ safety,” says Chris Chiu at Imperial College London, whose team will carry out the study. “We have spent many months thinking about the evidence and weighing up the pros and cons.” The coronavirus doses will be created by a company called hVIVO, as the research requires a pure, quantifiable source of the virus, rather than an infection spreading person to person. The doses will contain the same strain that is currently circulating and will not be weakened in any way. Volunteers will…

4 min.
lockdown again and again?

WITH cases of covid-19 rising in most parts of the UK, there is fierce debate over the best way to respond. While some people argue for a “let the virus rip” strategy, others want increasing social restrictions, up to and including full lockdown, as happened in the pandemic’s first wave. But is there another way? One idea gaining ground is that countries should hold regular pre-emptive lockdowns, each lasting about two weeks. They could be timed to coincide with school holidays, minimising disruption to education. In the UK, this would mean having these shutdowns around every two months. The concept may sound similar to short, sharp, “circuit breaker” lockdowns, which have been advocated by some scientists advising the UK government, including chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. Northern Ireland began such a lockdown…

1 min.
concerns raised about vital uk infections survey

THE UK’s largest scheme for tracking the coronavirus is at risk of providing a misleading picture of the epidemic, as a growing share of people invited to take part fail to respond or complete a test. The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) launched its survey in April to estimate how many people are infected with the virus each week. At first, it randomly sampled homes in England, later adding ones in Wales and Northern Ireland. When the survey began, 51 per cent of English households invited to take part completed at least one test. But that figure is now just 5 per cent, sparking concerns that if tests are only being done by a certain group of people, they may not reflect the wider population and the true state of infections. The…

3 min.
pandemic is leading to more tb deaths in india

THE covid-19 pandemic has collided with an ongoing tuberculosis epidemic in India, leaving many without adequate medical care and stuck at home, where they could infect others. Globally, the number of new TB cases is set to be around 200,000 to 400,000 higher than usual in 2020, and most of these will be in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2019, 445,000 people died from TB in India, according to a recent WHO report. This figure could rise in the coming years. A study led by Finn McQuaid at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found there could be an extra 149,448 TB deaths above that baseline level in India between 2020 and 2024 (European Respiratory Journal, doi.org/d6ck). “We are definitely still…