New Scientist International Edition

New Scientist International Edition 19-Jun-21

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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1 min
don’t miss

Visit Fantastic Beasts, both real and magical, stalk London’s Natural History Museum until 3 January, revealing how mythical and imaginary creatures are inspired by real-life animals. With nods to all the connected films. Read The Ascent of Information, by astronomer Caleb Scharf, argues that data of all sorts is really an aggregated organism, controlling our behaviour and evolving alongside us. Terrifyingly, it has goals and needs. Watch Apples, directed by Christos Nikou, is a much-praised comedy-drama about a man developing a new identity after an amnesia pandemic. Available on demand from Curzon Home Cinema. See a full review on our website.…

1 min
cosmic art

Source X-ray: NASA/CXC/UMass/Q.D. Wang; Radio: NRF/SARAO/MeerKAT POWERFUL threads of energy interweave at the heart of the Milky Way in this spectacular image released by NASA. It is designed to give a broader view of the centre of our galaxy and provide insight into solar weather. The image was created using data from two telescopes: NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, orbiting up to 139,000 kilometres above Earth, and the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa. White threads denote superheated gas and magnetic fields. X-rays detected by Chandra from super-hot sources like exploded stars show as blue, green, orange or purple, depending on the energy of the radiation, while radio waves detected by MeerKAT are lilac and grey. The thread marked by a rectangle is around 20 light years long, the equivalent of 189 trillion kilometres, and…

1 min
cause of deadly flood in indian valley pinned down

A FLOOD in Uttarakhand, India, that left more than 200 people dead or missing resulted from an avalanche that dropped about 27 million square metres of rock and glacier ice from the nearby Ronti mountain. On 7 February 2021, residents of Chamoli district saw a plume of dust coming down the valley followed by a vast amount of water that hit two hydropower sites. Many people caught the dramatic event on video. Dan Shugar at the University of Calgary, Canada, and his colleagues used satellite images and sensor data to trace the source of the flood. They found that it was triggered by an avalanche consisting of about 80 per cent bedrock and 20 per cent glacier ice that dropped to the valley almost 2 kilometres below, then continued down, picking up…

1 min
really brief

Reefs face tipping point by 2054 Coral reefs could start to disappear in a few decades. The rate at which they are depositing new calcium carbonate is dropping by around 4 per cent a year because of ocean acidification. By 2054, coral reefs may erode faster than they regenerate (Communications Earth & Environment, doi.org/ghhf). Your ears can reveal if you are drunk A new device captures alcohol given off by the skin of a person’s ears. It can measure the amount of alcohol in their blood and whether they are over a legal limit. The earmuff-like device records a similar rise and fall in alcohol levels as a breathalyser, but with a 13-minute delay (Scientific Reports, doi.org/ghhg). Building blocks for life at galaxy’s edge Telescopes have spotted organic molecules such as methanol in gas clouds…

3 min
a powerful quantum microscope

MICROSCOPES used to image living systems have made a quantum leap. Using a quantum trick with light has allowed researchers to examine cells in remarkable detail without destroying them, a technique that could improve medical diagnoses and microbiology research. The microscopes that are generally used to examine such biological systems shine one or two bright lights on their targets, and more powerful light sources allow researchers to see the cells in greater detail. But this approach has a fundamental limit to the precision it can achieve: at some point, a bright enough light will kill a living cell. “Our understanding of life as it is now has relied almost entirely on the quality of our microscopes,” says Warwick Bowen at the University of Queensland in Australia. “We’re really limited by technology, and…

2 min
fox breeding suggests that domestication boosts brains

OUR understanding of how domestication changes the neurobiology of a species may be wrong, results from a 60-year experiment to breed tame foxes suggest. Usually, domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild counterparts, but animals raised in a Russian fox farm experiment in Novosibirsk haven’t followed that trend. On the contrary, fox lines purposefully bred for either a good or a bad relationship with humans had larger brains than those that weren’t, says Erin Hecht at Harvard University, who is part of a team studying specimens from the experiment. The unexpected findings “suggest revision of existing thinking about domestication” is needed, perhaps towards an idea that brains respond to behaviour-related pressure, at least initially, by developing more grey matter, says Hecht. Starting in 1959, project scientists began selectively breeding silver foxes (Vulpes…