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New Scientist 30-mar-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.

United Kingdom
New Scientist Ltd
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51 Issues


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new scientist

Management Executive chairman Bernard Gray Chief executive Nina Wright Finance director Jenni Prince Chief technology officer Chris Corderoy Marketing director Jo Adams Human resources Shirley Spencer Non-executive director Louise Rogers Publishing and commercial HR co-ordinator Serena Robinson Facilities manager Ricci Welch Executive assistants Sarah Gauld, Lorraine Lodge Receptionist Alice Catling Display advertising Tel +61 404 237 198 Email displayads@newscientist.com Commercial director Chris Martin Lynne Garcia, Richard Holliman, Justin Viljoen, Henry Vowden, Helen Williams Recruitment advertising Tel +61 404 237 198 Email nssales@newscientist.com Recruitment sales manager Mike Black Key account managers Viren Vadgama, Isabelle Cavill, Nicola Cubeddu US sales manager Jeanne Shapiro Marketing Head of campaign marketing James Nicholson David Hunt, Poppy Lepora, Chloe Thompson Head of customer experience Emma Robinson Head of data analytics Tom Tiner Web development Maria Moreno Garrido, Tom McQuillan, Amardeep Sian New Scientist Live Tel +44 (0)20 7611 1206 Email live@newscientist.com Events director Adrian Newton Creative director Valerie Jamieson Sales director Jacqui McCarron Exhibition sales manager Charles Mostyn Event manager Henry Gomm Australian…

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earth’s junkyard

WHEN the Soviet probe Sputnik 1 started circling Earth on 4 October 1957, it was the only artificial satellite our planet had. That special status didn’t last long. There are now 20,000 identifiable objects in orbit around Earth, and many tens of millions that are too small to track. From flecks of paint to bits of old rocket and debris from accidental collisions, the skies over our heads are turning into a massive, floating junkyard. The situation has more than aesthetic drawbacks. Telescopes, space stations and thousands of communications satellites have to navigate this minefield every day, travelling at speeds that would make even the tiniest collision disastrous. Left unchecked, the situation could jeopardise the future of space travel, with humans trapped in a cage of their own devising. Cleaning up our…

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high-tech hancock

HEALTH minister Matt Hancock wants to transform the UK’s National Health Service into a cutting-edge healthcare machine, and his current obsession is using genetic tests to assess people’s risks of developing a range of diseases (see page 10). His own test showed an elevated risk of prostate cancer, he said – although experts pointed out that it was pretty ordinary. It isn’t the first time Hancock has been distracted by something shiny, new and of uncertain value. The politician is a keen supporter of Babylon, which says its artificial intelligence can provide health advice on a par with human doctors. A review published in The Lancet says there is no convincing evidence that this is the case, and the AI might actually be far worse. That said, Hancock doesn’t like all technology. He…

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energy emissions rise

GLOBAL carbon emissions from energy use climbed to a record high last year, as demand for energy grew at its fastest pace this decade. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week that emissions from energy use in 2018 rose by 1.7 per cent to a high of 33 gigatonnes. The increase is equivalent to the carbon released from all air travel doubling in a single year. This is the first official confirmation that energy-related emissions have risen two years in a row. It now seems that a plateau between 2014 and 2016 was a blip. “One could take a negative stance and say we’re doing everything wrong. I think it’s not as bad as the absolute number suggests. It could have been higher,” says Laura Cozzi, the IEA’s chief energy modeller. Overall, the…

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crashed jets lacked safety upgrades

MORE details have emerged about the two recent Boeing 737 Max 8 jet crashes. Both planes lacked two optional safety upgrades that could have warned the pilots of problems contributing to the crashes, The New York Times reported last week. The upgrades were linked to the Max 8’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was introduced to help avoid the plane pointing too far upwards and entering a mid-air stall. A report on the Lion Air crash, the first of the two crashes, suggested pilots had to repeatedly fight against MCAS as the plane pitched its nose into a dive 26 times. A part recovered from the Ethiopian Airlines flight, the second crash, hints MCAS may also have been involved. Additionally, the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the national regulator…

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tough times for britain’s insects

A THIRD of wild bee and hoverfly species are in decline across Great Britain, raising concerns about decreasing biodiversity and the potential loss of pollinators. An analysis of 700,000 naturalist records going back to 1980 has found that about 33 per cent of 353 species studied had declined in the extent of their range across the island. The grey-banded mining bee (pictured below left) is among the losers, down 38 per cent. By contrast, the common carder bee (below right) increased its range by 82 per cent. The assessment found that the key group of 22 wild bees and hoverflies for crop pollination had been doing relatively well. Overall, 11 per cent of the species studied increased their range between 1980 and 2013 (Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08974-9). That is no reason for complacency…