New Scientist International Edition 13-Nov-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 event Happy, healthy brain The more we understand about the brain, the more we can do to keep our own in shape. Catherine de Lange shines a spotlight on the latest science of brain health, including what we know about preventing cognitive decline as we age and what we can do to improve our mental well-being. Join us on 3 February 2022 at 6pm GMT (1pm EST) or watch on demand. Online Covid daily briefing Stay on top of all the most crucial developments in the pandemic with our briefing, updated at 12pm GMT every weekday. We round up the latest coronavirus news, and give links to exclusive features and interviews. Podcast Weekly Reporter Graham Lawton shares news from COP26 about “game-changing” pledges to cut methane emissions. The team examines new analysis that suggests we could keep…

2 min
digging for victory

ENVIRONMENTALISTS making the case for a transition to renewable energy have often found the prevailing wind blowing in their faces. Solar and wind power have been dismissed as too expensive, too inefficient, too unreliable or too ugly. In recent years, however, the wind has changed direction. Even if these criticisms were once true, they no longer are. But there is a counterblast that may yet force the wind to do another U-turn: green energy is very resource-hungry. Building an offshore wind plant, for example, consumes 13 times as many minerals as erecting a gas-fired power plant of equal capacity. According to the International Energy Agency, to hit net zero by 2050, the world will have to increase its production of minerals such as lithium, copper, nickel and the rare earth elements…

3 min
much further to go yet

RESEARCHERS have poured cold water on the idea that new emissions plans put forward for COP26 have set the world on course to meet targets that would limit dangerous global warming. Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent, non-profit scientific body based in Germany, said on Tuesday that governmental pledges to curb carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 were “totally inadequate” and would lead to emissions roughly double those needed to hold the temperature rise to 1.5°C this century. The group’s analysis shows that looking only at new country‑level targets for 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the world will warm by 2.4°C on average. That is better than the 2.7°C of warming projected before the summit started in Glasgow, UK, but a far cry from the agreement that 195 countries made in…

4 min
cop’s big promises

COP26, currently taking place in Glasgow, UK, is a climate summit of two halves. First, there was a week of flashy announcements from world leaders, now there is a week of intense expectation as negotiators attempt to draw up a consensus statement that every participating country will agree to. This huge task was under way as New Scientist went to press, but there were four announcements of real significance amid the flurry of pledges from the first week. Deforestation vow The summit kicked off with a pledge to end deforestation by 2030, backed by more than 100 countries representing 85 per cent of the world’s forests. Significantly, the signatories include Brazil, where deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has been accelerating under President Jair Bolsonaro. There is also new money to help combat…

4 min
infant skull suggests homo naledi buried their dead 250,000 years ago

THE skull of a small child belonging to a different human species has been found deep in a cave system in South Africa. The team that made the discovery has named the child Leti and believes the skull shows that the Homo naledi species buried their dead. Leti’s skull was found in a narrow fissure that is almost impossible to access. Presenting their findings at a virtual press conference on 4 November, the researchers said it is evidence that hominins have been performing funerary rights for hundreds of thousands of years – even hominins with brains much smaller than ours. “We can see no other reason for this small child’s skull being in the extraordinarily difficult position,” said Lee Berger at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Berger and…

2 min
did earth grow from an alien rock?

INTERSTELLAR objects may have seeded the creation of planets in solar systems like our own, potentially solving a key problem with planet formation theories. In 2017, researchers observed an object from another solar system passing through our own for the first time. They named it ‘Oumuamua, and the general view is that it was some sort of asteroid or comet ejected from its host star system. A second interstellar object, comet Borisov, was seen in 2019. The detection of ‘Oumuamua and Borisov suggests that there are many interstellar objects travelling around our galaxy at any given moment. This further indicates that such objects could play a role during the birth of solar systems. The slow speed of young stars relative to their neighbours, coupled with the braking effect of the dust and gas…