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New Scientist 24-nov-18

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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open science

(ROBERT LAZENBY/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)HERE is a trivia question for you: what is the most profitable business in the world? You might think oil, or maybe banking. You would be wrong. The answer is academic publishing. Its profit margins are vast, reportedly in the region of 40 per cent.The reason it is so lucrative is because most of the costs of its content is picked up by taxpayers. Publicly funded researchers do the work, write it up and judge its merits. And yet the resulting intellectual property ends up in the hands of the publishers. To rub salt into the wound they then sell it via exorbitant subscriptions and paywalls, often paid for by taxpayers too. (Some readers may scent a whiff of hypocrisy, given New Scientist also charges for its…

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let radical ideas bloom

WHEN New Scientist first wrote to ecologist Monica Gagliano asking for an interview, her response was unexpected. She couldn’t commit to anything immediately because she was about to seal herself away in a pitch dark room for 40 days to meditate.When the interview eventually happened, she revealed more in the same vein. Once, in need of some research inspiration, she visited a shaman deep in the Amazon jungle, she said.Gagliano’s research itself is unorthodox too. She is known for a string of experiments that she claims show that plants can learn to associate a stimulus with a reward, just as Pavlov’s dogs did. Plant biologists may not like her use of the word “learn” one bit.But Gagliano is sticking to it, and plans experiments that might reveal the equivalent of…

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volcano of fire erupts

(ESTEBAN BIBA/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)THOUSANDS of people were evacuated from the area around the Volcano of Fire in Guatemala on Monday after it erupted for the fifth time this year. The eruption appears to have quickly died down.The authorities were taking no chances after around 200 people died in an eruption in June, during which fluid-like masses of ash and debris called pyroclastic flows struck several villages on the surrounding slopes. Such flows can reach up to 700 kilometres an hour.The Volcano of Fire, also called Vulcan de Fuego, is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. Numerous small eruptions occur each day but large ones are rare. ■…

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nasa picks mars rover landing site

AFTER four years of deliberation, NASA has picked its next Mars landing spot: Jezero crater. The hope is that it has the right environment to preserve signs of ancient life.Satellite images suggest the 50-kilometre-wide crater once had a river flowing along its rim and into a big lake. It is thought to hold rocks that can preserve organic molecules, such as clays and carbonates. It is located 18 degrees north of Mars’s equator.“Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionise how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life,” said NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen in a statement.If all goes to plan, NASA will launch its six-wheeled rover in July 2020 and it will land on Mars in February 2021. The lander will include a solar-powered drone to help pick…

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dry summer set the stage for camp fire

(LI YING/XINHUA/ALAMY)THE cost of California’s devastating wildfire known as the Camp Fire continues to rise. As New Scientist went to press, there were 79 confirmed deaths, with almost 700 people still unaccounted for.Authorities say the fire, which has hit the town of Paradise (below) and other parts of Butte County, will probably continue to burn until the end of the month. The first major rainfall in six months is expected this week, which may help to contain the blaze. However, wet conditions bring a threat of mudslides and could also hamper search and rescue efforts.This year has seen California’s most destructive wildfire season on record, with 7579 fires burning 1.7 million acres in total. The long dry spell and record summer temperatures created ideal wildfire conditions.Due to climate change, such…

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metrologists bid le grand k au revoir

THE kilogram is to be defined using fundamental constants instead of an old lump of metal, following a unanimous vote at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France, last week.Since 1889, the kilogram has been defined using a cylinder of platinum and iridium known as Le Grand K, or the International Prototype Kilogram. Copies of this weight have been distributed around the world, but discrepancies between these have revealed that Le Grand K has lost a little weight, and brought down the value of the kilogram with it.From May next year, the official kilogram will be defined by the Planck constant, which describes the size of the smallest possible packet of energy. The Planck constant is incredibly small, so it is measured using a specialised piece of…