New Scientist International Edition

New Scientist International Edition 14-dec-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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2 minuti
the truth isn’t out there

IF THE Platonic ideal of science is that it guides us towards truth by extracting simplicity from a complex world, then the messy reality is that it often just ends up adding to the confusion – and sending us down the odd rabbit hole. It isn’t science’s fault: the world is complex. Our 13 mini-articles in this issue on some of the fiddliest concepts in contemporary science and technology give a flavour of the difficulties (see page 34). Even physics, the branch of science with the greatest drive to simplify and reduce to fundamental statements of universal validity, rapidly introduces ideas beyond common comprehension: quantum uncertainty, dark energy and the big bang singularity, to name three we highlight. They are at least just challenges to our understanding – cosmic mysteries uncovered by…

1 minuti
new scientist

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2 minuti
deadly eruption

SIX people are confirmed dead and eight are missing and presumed dead after a volcanic island in New Zealand erupted. Police said that 47 people were on the island when the volcano erupted on Monday at 2.11 pm local time. Of those, 34 were evacuated and 31 had been or were being treated in hospital when New Scientist went to press. A camera set up by GeoNet, an agency that monitors volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, captured pictures of people at the crater just seconds before it erupted and the feed went dark. A police statement on Tuesday said there were “no signs of life” on White Island, also known as Whakaari, following visits by rescue teams. “Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued…

1 minuti
dna site sold to firm aiding police

ONE of the world’s biggest genetic genealogy websites has been bought by a company that aids law enforcement agencies with forensic DNA work. More than 1.2 million people have added the results of their DNA tests to GEDmatch, a site that US police used to find a suspected serial killer via genetic information from a relative. Now forensic genetics firm Verogen in San Diego, California, has announced that it has bought GEDmatch. Brett Williams, Verogen’s CEO, said GEDmatch’s users would continue to retain the ability to opt out from searches by law enforcement agencies. But he also indicated a vision for the site that focuses on solving crimes, not just connecting family members via DNA. The amount that Verogen paid for GEDmatch hasn’t been disclosed. BuzzFeed News reported that Verogen hopes to monetise the site…

3 minuti
the earliest storytellers

A STUNNING cave painting discovered in Indonesia may be the earliest evidence of storytelling. The artwork is at least 43,900 years old, and shows that humans were depicting scenes tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought. The painting is a 4.5-metre-wide hunting scene, discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 in Sulawesi in 2017 by Maxime Aubert of Griffith University, Australia, and his colleagues. Painted in a dark red pigment, it depicts at least eight small human-like figures hunting two pigs and four dwarf buffaloes with spears or ropes. “It’s a narrative scene,” says Aubert. He and his colleagues calculated the painting’s age by measuring the levels of uranium in calcite layers that cover the images (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1806-y). At 43,900 years old, it could be the…

2 minuti
concerns raised over india’s facial recognition plan

INDIA’S government wants to build one of the largest facial recognition systems in the world. But critics warn it could be a blow to citizens’ rights. The country’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has invited bids to develop a nationwide facial recognition system that can automatically identify people from CCTV feeds and images uploaded through a mobile app. The NCRB says it will help police catch criminals, find missing people and identify dead bodies. The technology works by scanning the structure of people’s faces and comparing the results with images in a database. But various trials have shown that it can be very inaccurate. A recent review of facial recognition use by police in London found that it made correct matches less than 20 per cent of the time, which the authors…