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New Scientist 16-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


access_time2 min.
the trouble with cheese

WE ALL know animal products can create environmental and welfare problems. On the whole, though, many of us simply don’t think about it. But it is getting tougher to do so. Veganism, which rejects all animal products, is rarely out of the headlines. Likewise its critics: think of Piers Morgan theatrically gagging on live television after biting into a vegan sausage roll and food writer William Sitwell resigning as editor of Waitrose Food magazine after mocking vegans. All this is evidence that the issue is on the public radar. Until now, most of the pressure over animal products has been piled onto meat and fur. The dairy industry, meanwhile, has largely been let off the hook. In fact, there is emerging evidence that people who quit meat often switch to cheese, suggesting…

access_time1 min.
nature’s alarm bell rings

THE idea that biodiversity is in crisis is wearily familiar. To most people that means things like rhinos, whales and orangutans. These wonderful animals are indeed in trouble, but in the grand scheme of things it matters little. To be a true crisis, biodiversity decline needs to be hitting the unglamorous creatures that keep ecosystems in good working order, especially insects. Until recently, their fate wasn’t known, because too few biologists were keeping watch. But gradually the picture is being filled in, and it isn’t pretty. This week saw the publication of a paper reviewing all research on the state of insect biodiversity. The verdict: “dreadful” (see page 6). Naysayers will point out that there are still big holes in the data. Almost all of it comes from North America and Europe and there…

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a climate of change

ENTHUSIASM for tackling climate change in the US is rising. An idea called the Green New Deal that aims to address both climate change and economic inequality has gained momentum in recent months and now two members of Congress have drafted a proposal to try to gain widespread political support. The core idea is simple: cut US greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the next 10 years, transitioning entirely to clean and renewable energy by 2030. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (pictured left) and senator Ed Markey, both Democrats, have added more ambitious goals to this in their draft proposal published on 7 February. These include overhauling transport systems by building zero-emission public transport and high-speed trains, upgrading buildings and energy grids to lower emissions, and working with farmers to eliminate emissions from…

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mars rover named rosalind franklin

THE ExoMars rover set to launch next year to seek evidence of life on Mars has been named after British scientist Rosalind Franklin. The decision, revealed by astronaut Tim Peake, was the result of a public competition launched last year. More than 36,000 people submitted ideas for what to call the rover. An expert panel made the final choice of Franklin, who is best known for her work on the structure of DNA. “It is an important name because Rosalind Franklin was one of the great British scientists who unlocked the secrets of human life in terms of understanding DNA and the double helix, and ExoMars is so exciting because we’re searching for life on Mars,” said Peake at an event to reveal the name. The rover is a joint mission between the…

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many insects are facing extinction

OVER 40 per cent of insect species could die out in the next few decades, with butterflies, bees and dung beetles most affected. That is the alarming conclusion of a review of all long-term surveys of insects published in the past 40 years. According to this review of 73 studies, the single largest cause of the decline is habitat loss. Next up is pollution, including from farms, factories and cities. Parasites and diseases are also playing a role, as is climate change. However, almost all of the studies were done in Europe and the US. This means we lack a clear picture of how insects are doing elsewhere, including in tropical regions. For South America and Africa, the reviewers found just one relevant study from Brazil and one from South Africa (Biological…

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younger breast cancer screening

ANNUAL mammogram screening should be extended to up to 86,000 women in their mid to late thirties with a family history of breast cancer, suggests a trial conducted at 34 UK screening centres. The study examined data for almost 2900 women who had annual mammograms from 2006 to 2015. All were between the ages of 35 and 39, and were deemed to have a moderate or high risk of breast cancer due to their family history. Of 35 invasive tumours identified, 80 per cent were 2 centimetres or smaller. In a group with a similar risk level that didn’t undergo annual screening, only 45 per cent of detected breast cancers were that small (EClinicalMedicine, doi.org/c2mw). Current UK guidelines recommend annual screening for women aged 40 to 49 who are at moderate or…