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New Scientist International Edition 29-May-21

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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51 Edities

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1 min
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual event How time works “Time” is the most used noun in the English language, yet some physicists don’t believe it is real. Sean Carroll thinks it is – even if it remains deeply mysterious. In this talk, he explains that time seems to move forwards because of increasing entropy, and reveals how scientists are starting to piece together the way in which this affects memory, ageing and more. Join us on 3 June at 6pm BST or watch on demand later. Tickets available now. newscientist.com/events Podcast Weekly This week, the team talk methane. Levels of this powerful greenhouse gas have been mysteriously rising. Also this week: how pigs can breathe oxygen through their anuses, a Chinese rover on Mars and the monogamous relationships of Californian mice. newscientist.com/podcasts Online Covid-19 daily briefing All the latest, most crucial coverage of the…

2 min
a quantum dilemma

WHEN a powerful new technology comes around, people often split into two camps: those captivated by its benefits and those worried by the trouble it could unleash. This has happened with everything from knitting machines in the 16th century to artificial intelligence today. It is, of course, a false dichotomy. As physicist and artificial intelligence researcher Max Tegmark put it in this magazine: “Are you the kind of person who thinks fire can kill people or the sort of person who thinks that fire can keep people warm in the winter? Both things are true, obviously.” (18 July 2020, p 34.) We are about to see this play out once again in the context of a technology that may come to define how we communicate in the 21st century: the quantum internet.…

3 min
call for joint vaccine push

THE head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on member countries to support a massive drive to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of each country in the world by September and at least 30 per cent by December. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, announced the drive – dubbed “the sprint to September” – at the World Health Assembly meeting on 24 May. “Sprinting to our September goal means we must vaccinate 250 million more people in low and middle-income countries in just four months, including all health workers and the most at-risk groups as the first priority,” he said. The global initiative for sharing vaccines equitably, COVAX, has shipped 72 million doses to 125 countries, said Ghebreyesus. That is only enough for about 1 per cent of…

6 min
vaccines vs variants

IT SEEMS that every time we think we are turning the tide in the coronavirus pandemic, another new variant emerges. The latest threat is the B.1.617.2 variant that is playing a large role in the terrible outbreak in India and is spreading in many other nations. The big question is, will existing vaccines work well enough to prevent major new outbreaks? We already know that several vaccines are somewhat less effective at preventing symptomatic infections by new variants. For B.1.617.2, the drop in efficacy appears to be small, but even a small drop matters when most people are only partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, says Deepti Gurdasani at Queen Mary University of London. “Any degree of escape at this point in time is concerning,” she says. A drop in efficacy not only means…

4 min
is it safe to breastfeed my baby after a coronavirus vaccine?

FOLLOWING a change in official guidance in April, people who are breastfeeding in the UK have been given the green light to receive a covid-19 vaccination. But in the absence of any clinical trials proving that it is safe to have such a vaccine while breastfeeding, the onus appears to be on new parents to decide for themselves whether to go ahead and get jabbed. What research do they have to go on? When it comes to safety for breastfed babies, “the vast majority of vaccinations are overwhelmingly safe”, says Natalie Shenker at Imperial College London. Shenker says there have only ever been two case reports of harm to an infant after a breastfeeding parent has been vaccinated, both from the live yellow fever vaccine. This vaccine, and the live smallpox vaccine,…

3 min
how evolution makes new organs

A BEETLE’S poisonous punch is helping to uncover how new types of cells can arise and co-evolve to create organs – and these mechanisms may apply to more complex organs in animals, including humans. A fundamental challenge that multicellular animals face is how to get different cell types to work together so that a higher-level function, such as that of an organ, emerges from their interactions, says Joe Parker at the California Institute of Technology. Yet biologists know relatively little about how this happens. Many organs that are common across animal groups are complex and evolutionarily ancient, making it hard to unpick their origins. But the defence glands of a family of insects known as rove beetles are simpler and only about 100 million years old, much younger than ancient cell types,…