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New Scientist International EditionNew Scientist International Edition

New Scientist International Edition 26-jan-19

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


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getting better at good

THE moral impact of buying a tomato probably isn’t something most of us spend time dwelling on, but perhaps we should. In a recent episode of The Good Place, a sitcom in which humans are scored on the morality of their actions to determine their place in the afterlife, one character complains that life has simply become too complex for anyone to be truly good. In his example, the act of purchasing a tomato scores morality points for being a healthy choice, but loses them because producing a tomato involves the use of pesticides, carbon-emitting vehicles and underpaid labour, resulting in a net negative. Putting aside the fact that scoring pesticides as morally negative is scientifically questionable – without them, farmers would have to destroy larger areas of wildlife habitat to feed…

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time to kill ‘species’?

DIVIDE and conquer! This isn’t just a political or military strategy, it is a human imperative. Categorising is in our nature. It is how we make sense of the world, from personal identity to scientific investigation. But sometimes, something happens that illuminates the arbitrariness of our classifications – something like the discovery that our species, Homo sapiens, contains DNA from Neanderthals. Most of us think of a species as a group of individuals that can interbreed to produce fertile offspring. In which case, either humans are hybrids or we have been mistaken in seeing Neanderthals as “other”. In fact, it isn’t that simple. This definition is just one of 34, all of which are valid ways of categorising the living world, depending on your viewpoint (see page 36). This taxonomic confusion goes…

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meteorite hits moon

MILLIONS of people around the world watched a total lunar eclipse on Monday. Some of those viewing streaming broadcasts online noticed a tiny, yellow-white flash on the lunar surface – a suspected meteorite impact (see arrow, left). José María Madiedo at the University of Huelva in Spain has confirmed that the impact is genuine, and the first to be seen during a lunar eclipse. He and his colleagues have been hoping to observe such an event for years, but they are difficult to capture due to the moon’s brightness. On this occasion, Madiedo doubled the number of telescopes trained on different parts of the moon – from four to eight – in the hope of seeing an impact. “I had a feeling, this time will be the time it will happen,” says…

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vaccine may guard against diabetes

AUSTRALIAN children who were vaccinated against a common virus had lower rates of type 1 diabetes nearly a decade later. In Australia, the vaccine for rotavirus – the most prevalent cause of severe diarrhoea in young children – was added to routine, early-childhood immunisations in 2007. Kirsten Perrett at the University of Melbourne and her colleagues compared the rates of diabetes in the eight years before and after the rotavirus vaccine was introduced and found a 14 per cent drop in type 1 diabetes in children under the age of 5 (JAMA Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4578). Rotavirus infects pancreas cells by hijacking a natural receptor on their surface, which leads to cell death. The vaccine stops this process in insulin-producing cells, which may be why it is effective against diabetes as well. Perrett and…

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plan to clear the air in the med

CLEANING up air pollution from shipping in the Mediterranean Sea would have financial benefits as well as saving lives, according to a feasibility report looking at implementing a low emission zone for ships in the region. Many ships burn fuels, such as heavy fuel oil, that contain high levels of polluting sulphur. Up to 40 per cent of the air pollution in coastal towns around the Med can come from tankers, cargo ships and cruise ships. The report, commissioned by the French environment ministry, concludes that particulate pollution from shipping causes a serious burden of disease around the Mediterranean and results in 6000 premature deaths each year. A ban would save €8 to €14 billion per year in health bills, but would cost less than €3 billion. Switching to fuels with less than…

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crispr babies researcher fired

THE Chinese scientist who created the world’s first gene-edited babies has been fired after an investigation found he “illegally conducted the research in the pursuit of personal fame and gain”. In November 2018, the world was shocked when He Jiankui claimed that two gene-edited babies had already been born and that a woman was pregnant with another. On Monday, the Xinhua state news agency reported the findings of a provincial authority investigation. It found that He avoided supervision and organised researchers on his own to carry out the work. The university that employed He, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, put out a statement: “SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech.” However, it seems He made little…