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New Scientist Australian EditionNew Scientist Australian Edition

New Scientist Australian Edition 26-may-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.

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51 Issues


access_time2 min.
a matter of taste

(DAN DALTON/GETTY)THE idea that a long and healthy life starts in our shopping baskets is as tempting to consumers as it is to the food industry, which is usually keen to shout about the potential benefits of so-called superfoods. But a new wave of healthier products is making its way on to our dinner plates with a deafening lack of fanfare.The reason is simple: they are genetically modified. And for all the potential health benefits, they come served with a side helping of unwanted baggage.The first wave of GM foods were designed to benefit the farmers that grew them and the corporations that engineered them, rather than the people eating them. Now we are seeing GM produce that offers healthier alternatives to everyday staples like bread and oil, as well…

access_time1 min.
privacy over profit

IF STAYING on top of your inbox has been even harder than usual this week, blame the European Union. Organisations scrambling to comply with its new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have sent a tide of mind-numbing emails asking for your agreement to “please stay in touch”. The thing is, their senders are probably compliant already.The GDPR does, in some cases, require organisations to seek permission to keep sending marketing emails, but so do existing data laws (see page 22). The email avalanche is the result of cautious lawyers (does any other kind exist?) wanting to stay on the right side of the GDPR, not a massive legal overhaul.But as you hammer the delete button, don’t get too cross with the Eurocrats. Unlike in the US, where digital rights are…

access_time7 min.
woken up with a brain zap

Those in a minimally conscious state normally can’t communicate (RITA SAITTA/EYEEM/GETTY)PEOPLE in a minimally conscious state have been “woken” at home for the first time, using brain stimulation therapy delivered by their family.Some of those in the trial could respond to questions from their loved ones, having been unresponsive for years.“They were more present… laughing when someone was telling a joke or crying when they heard sad news,” said one family member. “It was nice to see them laugh at funny scenes on the TV.”People with severe brain trauma often fall into a coma. This can improve to a state of minimal consciousness, where they might show fluctuating signs of awareness but remain unable to communicate.In 2014, Steven Laureys at Liège University Hospital in Belgium and his colleagues discovered that…

access_time3 min.
half of earth’s life has vanished

The total biomass of wild mammals is dwarfed by that of humans– (DIANA ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY)THE amount of living matter on Earth has fallen by half since the beginning of human civilisation. This is one of the staggering facts from the most comprehensive global census of the mass of living organisms yet done.“Many things did surprise us,” says Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. His team defined biomass as the mass of carbon in living organisms. This reflects the molecules of life, such as proteins and DNA, and excludes the amount of water – which varies.Such a sweeping census has never been attempted before. “It’s based on hundreds and hundreds of papers,” says Milo.The team concludes that the total biomass on Earth is 550,000 million tonnes of…

access_time1 min.
weird asteroid is an interstellar interloper

AN ASTEROID out near Jupiter has been behaving strangely – perhaps because it isn’t from our solar system.Originally discovered three years ago, asteroid 2015 BZ509 orbits the opposite way to all the planets, including Jupiter, whose path it periodically crosses. A constant push-and-pull from those near passes with the gas giant has stabilised the asteroid’s orbit over billions of years.It probably arrived here early in our solar system’s history from another planetary system, and Jupiter simply kept a tight grip on it, according to work by Fathi Namouni at the University of Côte d’Azur in France and Maria Helena Moreira Morais at Estadual Paulista University in Brazil.The asteroid may have been ripped from its home star system, says Namouni. “Stars form in closely packed clusters. A large cluster density means…

access_time1 min.
grape skins and stems used to enhance plastic

THE leftovers of wine-making – skins, stems and seeds collectively called marc – could be an eco-friendly way to make better plastic.Grapes contain antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, ones that help prevent molecules losing electrons in an oxidation reaction. Such reactions can make plastics brittle when exposed to light and air for a long time, so the manufacturing process usually includes stabilisers containing antioxidants.Audrey Diouf-Lewis at the University of Clermont Auvergne in France and her colleagues have now made plastics last longer using a polyphenol cocktail. They put raw marc from Pinot Noir grapes in a microwave for 20 minutes and freeze-dried the resulting liquid into a polyphenol-rich powder. Then they mixed this into melted polypropylene, a plastic used widely in packaging and reusable containers.The team tested unstabilised plastic and found…