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New Scientist


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.

United Kingdom
New Scientist Ltd
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51 Issues


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who will pay?

THIS week, protesters in England continued to call for access to a medicine called Orkambi. The drug delays the progression of the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis, but it carries a price tag of £104,000 a year. Like many other countries, England’s health service has baulked at this cost, and the drug is currently only available privately. Some families have now formed a “buyers club” (see page 9), which is hoping to source a cheaper, generic version of the medicine from Argentina. Such clubs are becoming more common: in recent years, groups have formed to source drugs that treat hepatitis C and lower the risk of contracting HIV. But even when clubs can source cheaper drugs, the costs remain unaffordable for many people. Some families are now calling for the UK government to…

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new scientist

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nasa is opening up the iss for business

ASTRONAUTS from private companies will be able to use the International Space Station for activities beyond research and development, NASA has announced. This means private firms will be able to manufacture products and even do marketing on the ISS. There are already more than 50 firms with research on the ISS, but NASA is now loosening restrictions on what activities will be allowed. “Approved activities must have a connection to the NASA mission, will stimulate the low-Earth-orbit economy, or need the unique environment of microgravity,” NASA’s Robyn Gatens said at a press conference on 7 July. NASA will also allow a private module to be added to the station, creating a “commercial destination” in anticipation of independent commercial space stations. Additionally, private astronauts will be allowed to visit the station for missions of up…

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salamander-eating plants

THE salamanders of Canada have an unlikely major predator: the pitcher plant. A survey between late August and mid-September 2018 revealed that a fifth of the pitchers in one bog in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park had caught at least one juvenile salamander. “That was a WTF moment,” says Alex Smith at the University of Guelph in Canada. His team estimates that the pitchers may kill up to 5 per cent of the area’s juvenile salamanders. Pitcher plants are famous for feeding on insects. The juvenile salamanders might be falling in by accident or entering to feed on trapped insects (The Scientific Naturalist, doi.org/c63x). The team now plans to confirm whether the plants do feed on them, rather than being overwhelmed by the glut of nutrients. Large tropical pitchers occasionally catch rodents and birds,…

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ai needs more energy than five cars

ARTIFICIAL intelligence is an energy-intensive technology. New estimates suggest that the carbon footprint of creating a single AI is equivalent to as much as 284 tonnes of carbon dioxide, five times the lifetime emissions of an average car. Emma Strubell at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her colleagues have assessed the energy consumption required to train four large neural networks used for processing language. Language-processing AIs underpin the algorithms that power Google Translate as well as text generators, which can write fake news articles when given a few lines of text (see page 15). These AIs are trained via deep learning, which involves processing vast amounts of data. “In order to learn something as complex as language, the models have to be large,” says Strubell. A common approach involves giving an AI…

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drug development

AN ARTHRITIS drug seems to significantly cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease – but there are no plans to find out if it really works. Last week, The Washington Post reported that pharmaceutical firm Pfizer has data showing that an arthritis treatment it owns called Enbrel may also lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s by 64 per cent. But, according to critics, Pfizer has elected not to develop the drug for this condition because the patent on it will soon expire, meaning the company won’t profit from pursuing it further. Pfizer, however, denies the patent was a factor. There are ways to extend patents if something appears profitable – and, with an estimated 37 million people with Alzheimer’s worldwide, a drug for this disorder surely would be. The company told The…