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New Scientist International EditionNew Scientist International Edition

New Scientist International Edition 9-feb-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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lessons from the deep past

(SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES)IN THE past few weeks, the weather has once again gone wild. Swathes of the US have been plunged into Arctic conditions. Temperatures below -30°C have been recorded and at least eight people are reported to have died because of the cold. The culprit is the polar vortex, a column of chilly air that normally swirls around the North Pole, but has spilled into more southerly areas.Climate deniers have made their usual comments about the apparent absence of global warming. But the cold is localised. By the end of January, only two records for all-time coldest temperatures had been set anywhere on the planet, both in Illinois. Meanwhile, 35 southern hemisphere weather stations recorded all-time highs.What’s more, January’s mean temperature in Australia exceeded 30°C, the first time that…

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this week

(ITAR-TASS NEWS AGENCY/ALAMY)Nuclear argumentA KEY nuclear arms treaty is facing oblivion, as the US and Russia accuse each other of violating it.Last week, US president Donald Trump announced he will leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty if Russia doesn’t give up a missile that the US says breaches the deal. Russia denies this and says the US’s Aegis anti-missile launchers could breach the treaty, which the US dismisses.Under the INF treaty, the US and Russia are banned from having ground-launched missiles, nuclear or not, that have a range between 500 and 5500 kilometres. The US says Russia’s 9M729 missiles (pictured left) can fly that far and thus breach the treaty. Arms experts contacted by New Scientist agree.The dispute could be resolved by inspections and changes to both systems,…

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prehistoric climate change revealed

FOR the first time, we have had a detailed look at how our climate has changed throughout prehistory, thanks to a surprisingly detailed computer model. And it could shed light on how ecosystem changes shaped our evolution and intelligence.Thanks to ice cores and other natural records, we already knew that, for the past 2.5 million years, Earth has been in an ice age, with permanent ice at both poles. The extent of this ice has often waxed and waned during this time, and we are currently in a warmer, “interglacial” period.But this doesn’t explain why these climate changes happened or how they affected wildlife, says Mark Maslin of University College London, who wasn’t involved in the modelling work. “An ice core in Antarctica just tells you what’s happened in Antarctica,”…

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building an asteroid space station

ASTEROID miners might be better off working inside-out. Placing a space station inside a rotating asteroid would provide simulated gravity for the mining equipment, making the process easier.The past few years have seen an increased interest in mining asteroids. The idea is to send probes to distant space rocks, remove chunks of resources like precious metals, and either bring them back to Earth or use them to build in space.One major problem is that you can’t just jackhammer an asteroid: most of them have such weak gravity that a hammer or digger would bounce off.Thomas Maindl and his colleagues at the University of Vienna in Austria have come up with a potential solution. If you put a space station inside a rotating asteroid and started mining from the inside, the…

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the secrets of how sperm really swim

WE THOUGHT we had sperm figured out, but it turns out they wiggle in mysterious ways. This could shed light on why some men have fertility problems.Sperm move forwards by waving their long tails, taking hours to travel from the vagina, through the uterus, to reach an egg in the fallopian tubes.They also have another kind of behaviour, called hyperactivation, when they beat their tails more strongly and asymmetrically. This makes them jolt around randomly and so cover less ground.We had thought that sperm only switch to this mode when they reach the egg, in order to burrow through its outer wall. But Stephen Publicover at the University of Birmingham, UK, and his colleagues have found that fresh sperm in fact swap repeatedly between normal swimming and hyperactivation. “Rather than…

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robot welder controlled by thought

WELDING is going hands-free. A mind-controlled robot can join metal parts together after receiving mental instructions from its operator.The person controlling the robot wears an electroencephalography (EEG) cap, which measures the brain’s electrical activity via the scalp. They then look at a screen that shows several, preselected metal seams for the robot to weld.Each option on the screen flickers in turn and the operator stares at their choice. When their chosen option flickers, seeing this generates a specific electrical response in the brain that the EEG can detect.By matching the electrical signals to the timing of the options displayed, the robot can identify where the operator was looking and therefore which seam they want to be welded.If the operator is happy the robot has correctly interpreted their choice, they push…