New Scientist

New Scientist 26-oct-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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New Scientist Ltd
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51 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
the power to transform

IN HALF a century, the internet has transformed society. Billions of us can connect at the touch of a button. Access to information, banks, shops and memes has never been easier. The world has changed dramatically and continues to do so in ways we couldn’t have imagined. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first message sent across the precursor of the internet (see page 34), we salute the ingenuity of the people who built it, built it to last and built it to be freely available for all – not least Vint Cerf, co-author of the rules that run the internet, who we interview on page 42. The internet isn’t without downsides. It has unleashed forces that undermine things we hold dear. By design, it has no central authority, and…

2 min.
abortion laws relaxed

ABORTIONS and medical aftercare are now legal for people living in Northern Ireland, and the UK government will fund journeys to England for the procedure. While abortion in some cases has been legal throughout most of the UK since 1967, it had remained illegal in Northern Ireland even in cases of rape, incest and when the fetus was unlikely to survive. As a result, many women in Northern Ireland have travelled to England and Wales for abortions. In 2018, 1053 women did so. It isn’t known how many of those who were unable to travel bought abortion pills online. In 2015, Belfast’s High Court ruled that abortion laws in Northern Ireland broke human rights legislation. Earlier this year, MPs voted in Westminster to pass a law that lifted the ban on 22 October…

1 min.
quieter school run halves air pollution

CHILDREN travelling to school via back streets rather than main roads cut their exposure to air pollution by almost half, according to the largest study of its kind. Earlier this year, more than 250 children at five London schools wore backpacks with pollution sensors and GPS trackers, recording whether they were travelling by foot, car or bus. There was a clear difference in exposure to levels of the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) between those using main roads and quieter ones. The research highlights the impact of the school run on children’s exposure to NO2 – linked to asthma and other health concerns. On average, they faced levels of NO2 five times higher when going to school and four times higher on the way home, than while at school. Benjamin Barratt at King’s…

2 min.
dubbing with deepfakes

FAKE videos created by artificial intelligence are now so good that film-makers are taking note. Israeli tech firm Canny AI is one of several companies cashing in on so-called deepfakes, using the technology to edit videos into different languages. The firm is currently using its AI to dub advertisements and messages from celebrities for audiences in different countries. It plans to use the technology for television shows and films in the future. Deepfakes make it easy for people with a bit of technical know-how to create fake videos. So far, they have mostly been used to make pornographic films involving celebrities or to create videos where well-known figures appear to say something that they haven’t. Canny AI, for example, created a satirical deepfake of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that went viral in…

1 min.
ai could count how many people are in large crowds

ARTIFICIAL intelligence may be able to settle the debate over how many people attend protests or gatherings. Vast numbers of people took to the streets of London last weekend to call for a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. But exactly how many people were there is disputed. Protest organisers say there were 1 million people, but when similar claims were made earlier in the year, they were disputed by fact-checking organisations. A method developed by Reza Bahmanyar at the German Aerospace Center and his colleagues that uses artificial intelligence could improve counts in the future. To create the system, the researchers hand-counted nearly a quarter of a million people in 33 images taken from planes, drones and helicopters, then used this to train an algorithm called MRCNet. MRCNet…

1 min.
world’s loudest male bird bellows at nearby females

A BIRD that lives on mountains deep in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has the loudest voice of any bird species recorded so far. Both songs of the male white bellbird (Procnias albus) are loud, but one is extremely so – at an average of 116 decibels, it is on a par with a piledriver and beats all previously documented birds (Current Biology, doi.org/dczb). You really don’t want to perch next to a male white bellbird “It’s really, really distinctive and it’s unusual because it’s very simple. It’s one loud note, like a horn,” says Jeffrey Podos at the University of Massachusetts. It isn’t just the volume that is unusual, but also the fact that the males sing so loudly so close to the females. Most animals that make very loud sounds – such as…