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New Scientist International Edition 5-Jun-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 events The human story Of all the historical texts, few can be richer than the one we carry inside every cell. These days, we can not only read DNA in the living – we can extract it from people who died tens of thousands of years ago. In this talk, geneticist Adam Rutherford explains how the information encoded in ancient DNA is transforming our understanding of how we came to be who we are. Join him on 17 June at 6pm BST or watch on demand later. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly On the agenda this week is the coronavirus variant first detected in India. Is it capable of evading vaccines? The team also discuss the risks of solar geoengineering, why monkeys change their accents and how a form of gene therapy has partially restored the sight…

1 min
a note from the podcast editor

WE ARE delighted, for the first time in our 65-year history, to give you the option of imbibing New Scientist magazine in an entirely new way: through your ears. We have teamed up with audio production company Sound Understanding to bring subscribers professionally voiced and recorded versions of stories through the New Scientist app each week. That starts this week with our longer features, comment and culture articles and columnists. We will soon be expanding to cover news and analysis too. It is easy to take part in the New Scientist audio experience. Just install the app, download the issue you want to listen to and explore. Wherever you see a white headphones icon, that is where audio content is available. Or you can simply listen to all available audio content in…

2 min
change or be changed

IT WAS inevitably dubbed “Black Wednesday”. But for anyone with an interest in a sustainable future for humanity on the planet – that is, all of us – 26 May was a red-letter day. Strike one was a Dutch court ordering Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell to align itself with the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut its carbon emissions, including from the products it sells, by 45 per cent by 2030. Activist investors then voted to make US oil firm Chevron responsible for reducing the emissions from customers burning its products. And, in strike three, a small hedge fund forced ExxonMobil to accept two pro-environment members on its board. It was a “crushing day for Big Oil”, campaigner Bill McKibben of 350.org tweeted. Shell announced its intention to appeal the court…

2 min
indian variant goes global

CORONAVIRUS cases in India are now falling fast, but around the world several other countries are struggling to contain rising numbers of infections due to the variant first detected in India. In the UK, case numbers due to this variant – previously called B.1.617.2 but now named “delta” (see “Variants renamed”, right) – are rising exponentially, sparking fears of a third wave and threatening plans to end lockdown restrictions in England later this month. In China, parts of the city of Guangzhou, which has a population of 15 million, have been locked down and people banned from leaving without a negative covid-19 test. Meanwhile, Vietnam – one of the few countries that has prevented a major coronavirus outbreak – is trying to contain a cluster of cases that it says are due…

1 min
variants renamed

The names of coronavirus variants will finally be easier to remember. On 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a new variant naming system based on the Greek alphabet. Under the new scheme, the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK becomes “alpha”, the B.1.351 variant identified in South Africa is “beta”, the P.1 variant that originated in Brazil is “gamma” and the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India is “delta”. These Greek letter labels will only be given to “variants of concern” and “variants of interest” as defined by the WHO.…

7 min
did covid-19 come from a lab?

BEFORE heading off to China as leader of a World Health Organization (WHO) fact-finding mission into the origins of SARS-CoV-2, Peter Ben Embarek recorded an explainer video outlining the state of knowledge at the time, January 2021. “We know that the first human cases that were detected were detected in Wuhan in December 2019,” he said. “We also know that this virus belongs to a group of viruses that have their original niche in bat populations. In between these two points, we don’t know much.” Five months on, we actually know less, with the two “knowns” now being called into question. Even though Embarek’s investigation concluded that one of the possible origins of SARS-CoV-2 – accidental release from a laboratory – was “extremely unlikely”, that possibility still hasn’t been ruled out. If…