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New Scientist 25-nov-17

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


access_time2 min.
the long trip to the clinic

(ILLUSTRATION YEHRIN TONG/RETOUCHING: WESTMAC) “Scientists are again making confident assertions that psychedelics are on the verge of medical approval” THERE’S an old joke in renewable energy circles: nuclear fusion is 30 years away, and always will be. This is slightly unfair, but it carries a whiff of truth. The breakthrough always seems tantalisingly close, yet never arrives.If biomedicine has a nuclear fusion of its own, it has to be psychedelic medicine. Every few years, there is a surge in scientific interest followed by breathless proclamations of the long-awaited psychedelic renaissance. The story always follows the same arc: psychedelic therapy showed huge promise in the 1950s, was crushed by the establishment in the late 1960s and is now being revived by a group of fearless visionaries. In five years,…

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light pollution to double

Spreading like wildfire (TRAN VU QUANG DUY/GETTY) ARTIFICIAL lighting is spreading fast. The area of the planet that is lit up grew by 9 per cent in four years. If that trend continues, the total illuminated area will double from its 2012 level well before 2050.The light disrupts natural day-night cycles, harming our health and nocturnal animals, and further obscures our view of the night sky.“Dark areas are being lost in places where nocturnal animals, insects and plants have adapted to darkness over billions of years,” says Franz Hölker at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin.Hölker, Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and their colleagues used satellite data to track changes in artificial lighting. From 2012 to 2016, the area illuminated…

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austerity deaths

DOES austerity kill? A landmark study of austerity policies found that 120,000 more people died in England between 2010 and 2017, following funding cuts to the National Health Service, than would have been expected if trends in death rates before the cuts had been maintained.If this effect continues, the researchers predict that a further 75,000 excess deaths could occur by 2020 (BMJ Open, doi.org/cght).After the financial crisis of 2008, annual funding increases for the NHS fell from 4 per cent a year to below inflation, even as a growing and ageing population increased demand for healthcare.Jonathan Watkins of King’s College London and colleagues found that after controlling for other economic changes, death rates rose after the cuts, especially among the over 65s. The two events were statistically associated in…

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radiation cloud

RUSSIAN authorities have confirmed reports of a spike in radioactivity in the air over the Ural mountains.The Russian Meteorological Service said it recorded the release of ruthenium-106 in the southern Urals in late September and classified it as “extremely high contamination”. France’s nuclear safety agency earlier this month said that it recorded radioactivity in the area between the Volga river and the Ural mountains from a suspected accident involving nuclear fuel or the production of radioactive material.At the time, Russia’s state-controlled Rosatom corporation said there had been no radiation leak from its facilities. The Russian meteorological office’s report, however, noted high levels of radiation in the villages adjacent to Rosatom’s Mayak plant for spent nuclear fuel.Mayak has denied being the source. Greenpeace said it would petition the Russian prosecutor…

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keystone oil spill

Oil leak (DRONEBASE/AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK) NEBRASKA has given the OK for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to run through the state – even though the existing pipeline sprang a leak last week.On 16 November, the Keystone pipe spilled 5000 barrels of oil – nearly 800,000 litres – in South Dakota. Despite concerns, water supplies seem unaffected.The Keystone pipeline is owned by TransCanada. It transports oil from Canada’s tar sands region to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, where the oil is turned into petrol and diesel.The South Dakota spill came days before the decision on the controversial proposed extension to the pipeline, called Keystone XL. But it didn’t affect the outcome. The Nebraska Public Service Commission chose on Monday to approve a route for the pipeline through their state.A 2014…

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saying no to coal

THE latest meeting to discuss action on climate change made modest progress, despite the US stating earlier this year that it will ditch the Paris agreement.“It showed that the rest of the world is steadfast in its support for the Paris agreement, despite the backwards steps being taken by the federal government in the United States,” said Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics.At the COP23 meeting in Bonn, Germany, last week, more than 20 governments called for a rapid phase-out of coal. The Powering Past Coal Alliance was led by the UK and Canada, which aim to phase out coal by 2025 and 2030 respectively. Other countries have not committed to a specific date.Coal is one of the dirtiest fuels, in terms of carbon dioxide and other…