New Scientist International Edition 9-Oct-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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2 min
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual events Sleep engineering Neuroscientist Penelope Lewis introduces the new science of sleep engineering. She believes it can be used to slow cognitive ageing, as well as enhance memory and emotional processing and will give some tips on how to apply the ideas yourself. Join us on 28 October at 6pm BST (1pm EDT). ns-events Digital Covid-19 daily update Stay on top of all the latest and most crucial developments in the pandemic with our daily briefing, updated at 12pm BST every weekday. We round up the day’s most crucial coronavirus news, plus give links to exclusive news, features and interviews. coronavirus-latest Podcast Weekly CRISPR gene-edited food has gone on sale commercially for the first time. The team finds out about the “super tomato” created by a start-up in Japan. Ever wondered why leaves change colour in autumn?…

2 min
the great reboot

THERE are two grand ambitions now for computer science: truly intelligent machines and useful quantum computers. Recent developments suggest not only that these goals should be achievable, but that they could be closer than we think. Take the quest to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) – AIs that go well beyond being good at one specific task, but can instead do anything a human can. Some people still think this is impossible. And yet analysis of AIs designed to master human language has prompted other experts to suggest that AGI might only be a matter of scaling up current technology. Build gigantic AIs and true, human-level intelligence will come, they say. This “scaling hypothesis” has come to the fore largely thanks to GPT-3, an AI released by San Francisco-based OpenAI last year…

3 min
delta in new zealand

RESTRICTIONS are being rolled back in Auckland, New Zealand, where a coronavirus outbreak has continued to grow despite a strict seven-week lockdown. Some experts fear the move will lead to a spike in cases that will overwhelm the health system, since only just over 50 per cent of people in Auckland are fully vaccinated, but the government has come under public pressure to ease the gruelling strictures. Early in the pandemic, New Zealand opted for a covid-19 elimination strategy, which meant banning international visitors and rapidly locking down whenever cases were detected. This approach paid off – in early August 2021, the country celebrated five months without any locally acquired cases. Then, on 17 August, a man in Auckland – New Zealand’s most populous city – tested positive for the delta variant.…

4 min
ivermectin buyers clubs

MULTIPLE “buyers clubs” are trying to import the drug ivermectin to the UK to prevent and treat covid-19, even though there is no evidence supporting use of the drug in this way, and it could even be dangerous. The UK Medicines and Health products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has cautioned people not to try to buy ivermectin through third parties to treat covid-19. The drug is used to treat parasite infections in humans and some other animals, but has gained a lot of attention as an unproven drug for preventing or treating covid-19. “Ivermectin is not a licensed medicine for covid-19. It can only be taken by those participating in closely supervised and highly regulated clinical trials,” an MHRA spokesperson told New Scientist. “Never self-prescribe or try to obtain medicines from an unregulated…

3 min
quantum computers can now fix their own mistakes

QUANTUM computers aren’t yet reliable enough for mainstream use, in part because the error rates of their calculations are too high. That could soon change, because for the first time, a quantum computer has demonstrated an error-correction strategy that fixes more errors than it creates. This may provide a practical way to scale up to a machine capable of carrying out genuinely useful computations. Ordinary computers store data as either a 0 or 1, but errors can cause the bit to “flip” to the wrong value, which is why error-correction is a standard feature of modern processors. In quantum computing, the problem is more complex because each quantum bit, or qubit, exists in a mixed state of 0 and 1, and any attempt to measure them directly destroys the data. Several research…

4 min
brain implant treats depression

A WOMAN who had severe depression has successfully been using a radical new treatment, which involves putting electrodes deep into the brain, for one year. “Everything has gotten easier and easier,” says Sarah, who is the first to trial the new technique and asked for her full name not be used. For now, the treatment is likely to be used only in people with the most severe depression, as it involves two brain surgeries along with days of recording the brain’s electrical signals to work out a pattern of activity, or “neural biomarker”, for each individual’s symptoms. “These results provide hope that a much-needed personalised, biomarker-based treatment for psychiatric disorders is possible,” says Katherine Scangos at the University of California, San Francisco. Crucially, the implant fires only when needed, a few hundred times…