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New Scientist 5-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


access_time1 min.
here’s to guilt-free flying

(PLAINPICTURE/AVIATION/MARK WAGNER)MAJA ROSEN gave up flying a decade ago out of concern for its environmental impact. But when she became a mother and started hanging out with other parents, she didn’t bring it up, even when the conversation turned to flying. It would have spoiled the mood.Then in April 2018, her home country of Sweden introduced a tax on aviation. The climate impacts of flying were on the evening news and the mood changed. Rosen seized the moment. With her neighbour Lotta Hammar, she launched a campaign called “We stay on the ground”, which has persuaded 10,000 people to commit to avoid flights in 2019.Kudos. But here’s the hard truth: in the grand scheme of things, barely anyone will follow suit. The chattering classes tend to have a lot to…

access_time1 min.
best intentions

HAVE you already broken your New Year’s resolution? If so, don’t be too hard on yourself.Studies show that it usually takes around two months to form a new habit, and sometimes up to a year. Even the inveterate self‑improvers among us can struggle. So it helps to know that your goal is really worthwhile.That is why we decided to apply some science to identify five things you really should start doing in 2019 – and five you should stop (see page 26).Reading our list, you might be surprised at how many good habits you already possess. You may also conclude that living better isn’t always as onerous as you think. For a start, you can ditch your gym membership.Also, instead of aiming for a dry January free of all alcohol,…

access_time3 min.
young blood tested on parkinson’s

BLOOD from young adults is being trialled as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease by a firm that wants to use the therapy to target neurodegenerative conditions.Alkahest, a firm co-founded by Tony Wyss-Coray of Stanford University, California, has already tested blood-based treatments in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In the latest trial, 90 people with Parkinson’s – mostly in their 70s and 80s – will receive injections five days in a row, and then again three months later. Tests will determine whether the treatment improves their memory, attention, language skills or other cognitive abilities.The trial is inspired by research by Wyss-Coray and others at Stanford University showing that cognitive declines in old mice can be reversed by giving them injections of blood from young mice. Since this discovery, Wyss-Coray has been trying…

access_time1 min.
exoskeleton for skiers helps fight fatigue

SKIERS and snowboarders could get an extra boost with the help of an exoskeleton.The device helps someone hurtling down a mountain by providing extra power to their legs during turns and by cushioning big impacts, allowing them to stay on the slopes for longer.San Francisco-based Roam Robotics created the exoskeleton called Elevate. It has mechanical parts that strap to the knees, thighs and ski boots, and is powered by a battery backpack with enough power for a full day on the piste. Altogether, the device weighs 9 kilograms.When someone is skiing or snowboarding with Elevate, it attempts to mimic their movements. The idea is that this gives the wearer greater control and more turning power with less effort.The device has mechanical components called pneumatic actuators that can take up to…

access_time3 min.
new year’s day visit to a distant, tiny world

One unknown is whether Ultima Thule is a single rock (NASA/JPL/JHUAPL)AS WE went to press, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was set to fly past the most distant space rock we have ever visited. Since zooming by Pluto in 2015, the probe has been heading ever further from home, towards a tiny world called 2014 MU69. If all went to plan, it would have buzzed the space rock, nicknamed Ultima Thule, on New Year’s Day.The rock is about 6.6 billion kilometres from Earth. It was only discovered in 2014 during a search for potential targets for New Horizons, so we know very little about it.We do know that it is a mere 30 kilometres or so across – less than 2 per cent of Pluto’s diameter – which has made getting…

access_time2 min.
stork-bot makes airdrops a cinch

AN AUTONOMOUS paraglider inspired by nature could help armies to resupply troops in dangerous places, or deliver humanitarian aid to disaster zones. The British Army trialled the unusual aerial vehicle during a recent month-long combat exercise.Called Stork, the glider can take off and land in very tight spaces. It can fly itself to preprogrammed coordinates, using either GPS or a vision-based navigation system if GPS is not available.Stork’s small, three-wheeled chassis has a motor for propulsion. When airborne, both are suspended from a paraglider wing that fills with air as it moves forward. The aerofoil shape of the wing was inspired by the aerodynamics of eagles’ wings.Paragliders are a rare example from engineering of a hydrostatic skeleton, a structure supported by air or liquid. The idea is the basis for…