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New Scientist Australian Edition 2-Jan-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.

New Scientist Ltd
51 Issues

in this issue

1 min
elsewhere on new scientist

Virtual events Ten keys to reality with Frank Wilczek The first talk in our new Big Ideas in Physics series sees legendary scientist Frank Wilczek explain how we arrived at our modern understanding of reality – a bigger and stranger picture than ever before. Join us on 28 January from 6pm GMT. Tickets available now. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly The big science stories to watch in 2021, from Mars missions to coronavirus, climate change to microplastics. The team also shares cultural picks for the coming year. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Lost in space-time Our brand new monthly newsletter from executive editor Richard Webb covers all that’s hot in the world of fundamental physics. Sign up now. newscientist.com/sign-up/lost-in-space-time Online Covid-19 daily briefing All the most important developments of the pandemic in one essential briefing, plus links to our latest exclusive news, features and interviews. Updated daily at 6pm…

2 min
our big moment

IT MAY be a new year, but the same old question lingers: when will life get back to normal? This dominates the opening pages of our preview of 2021 (see page 8). A better question, though, is what kind of normal should we be striving for now? Because, as any climate scientist will tell you, the old one was doing us few favours in the long term. This is the focus of another part of our preview (page 16). It is understandable and right that governments are taking steps to get economies back on their feet, as mass vaccination programmes get going, hopefully marking the beginning of the end of the pandemic. What is key now is what kind of recovery politicians opt for, because this is what is going to decide…

11 min
when will life return to normal?

IF 2020 felt hellish, be warned that we aren’t out of the fire yet, even if we are moving in the right direction. Welcome to 2021, aka purgatory. There is little doubt that vaccines hold the key to ending the pandemic. A recent modelling study predicted that vaccinating just 40 per cent of US adults over the course of 2021 would reduce the coronavirus infection rate by around 75 per cent and cut hospitalisations and deaths from covid-19 by more than 80 per cent. But all this is still some way off. In the meantime, we will have to adapt to a middle ground where some people are protected but not others. As Adam Kleczkowski, a mathematical biologist at the University of Strathclyde, UK, points out, supplies of the various vaccines are…

1 min
unanswered questions

Back in March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a document setting out the known unknowns about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and covid-19, which also served as a global road map for research. A spokesperson for the WHO told New Scientist that while good progress has been made so far, “urgent questions remain”. These include: • The origin of the virus, and exactly how it spreads• The strength and duration of naturally acquired immunity• How best to treat people, and the development of highly effective treatments• How to win public acceptance for restrictive control measures• Development of low-cost, high-volume, rapid diagnostics for infection and immunity• Making absolutely certain the vaccines really are as effective in the real world as they have been in trials New questions have also arisen since March, especially around…

3 min
a swarm of spacecraft will arrive at mars

FOR Mars fans, February will be an exciting month. The Red Planet is getting three visitors from Earth, which all took off in July 2020. The Hope orbiter, the first Mars mission from the United Arab Emirates, was first to launch, followed by China’s Tianwen-1 mission, which includes an orbiter, a lander and a rover. The last to take off was NASA’s Perseverance rover. Hope will be the first to arrive at Mars, skimming into orbit around 9 February. It will check its instruments and then start taking scientific measurements in May. The orbiter will observe the atmosphere, with a focus on how gases are able to escape and float away into space – the same process that took early Mars from a wet world with a thick atmosphere to the…

3 min
just how harmful are these tiny pieces of plastic?

DESPITE mounting evidence that we eat, drink and breathe microplastics, it still isn’t clear whether these tiny particles get absorbed into our organs, tissues and cells and affect our health. In 2021, we will finally discover whether microplastic particles make it into our blood – the gateway to our organs and tissues – and, crucially, if they can infiltrate our cells. “We’re very, very close,” says Juliette Legler at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Legler is involved in two of four new research projects being funded by the European Commission that are investigating the impact of microplastics on human health. “I expect breakthroughs in the coming year for sure,” she says. Before we can understand how microplastics might affect health, we have to detect them in the first place. Most studies of…