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New Scientist Australian Edition 9-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 Big Thinkers Throughout 2021, New Scientist is bringing you a series of 10 talks from the boldest and most compelling thinkers in science. Anil Seth will get into the nitty-gritty of consciousness. Susan Schneider will reveal how AI can change our lives. Michelle Simmons will take us inside the quantum computing revolution. There is plenty more – discover the wider range of talks online. Book individual talks now or save money by subscribing to the full series. newscientist.com/events Newsletters Launchpad Reporter Leah Crane’s look at space news, delivered free to your inbox each week. The latest edition checks out plans to visit the ice giant planets, Neptune and Uranus. newscientist.com/sign-up/launchpad Heath Check Clare Wilson’s weekly round-up of the most important news in health and fitness. The latest newsletter looks at what to expect as covid-19 vaccines are…

2 min
the riddle of the coronavirus

IN THE UK, back in July, covid-19 cases had dropped so much that politicians spurred people to dine out to boost the economy. Citizens were told that restrictions on daily life would be over “in time for Christmas”. That didn’t happen. Instead, as the northern summer ended, infections climbed, and kept on climbing despite complicated systems of protection levels and tiers, as did the number of people in hospitals. With hospitalisations now perilously high, nearly all parts of the UK are back under strict lockdown conditions. Of course, the UK isn’t the only nation struggling with second or even third waves. Many countries that felt they were on top of the virus are now struggling to keep it suppressed. Vaccines should provide an escape route – new variants and any other surprises…

3 min
global crisis worsens

CORONAVIRUS infections are on the rise in many countries around the world, with cases soaring in some nations and fresh outbreaks in several places where the virus was previously thought to be under control. This week, England and Scotland began new lockdowns, joining Wales and Northern Ireland, which already had similar restrictions in place. Without such action, the countries’ chief medical officers warned that hospitals would become overwhelmed within 21 days. Hospitals in England are treating 40 per cent more covid-19 patients than during the peak of the first wave. Elsewhere in Europe, several countries, including Greece and Germany, are extending existing lockdowns. The US is seeing recorded daily cases surge to their highest levels in the pandemic so far, at times over 250,000 a day, with California among the hardest hit. Some…

7 min
threats from new variants

SINCE the start of the pandemic, there have been concerns that the coronavirus could evolve to become more dangerous. Now, hospitals in the UK are at risk of being overwhelmed by surging numbers of covid-19 cases and there is growing evidence that this is partly due to a new variant of the virus that spreads more readily. This variant has already reached many other countries. Hospitals in South Africa are also being overrun, due to a resurgence of covid-19 being blamed on another variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible. It isn’t yet clear how much faster this variant, called B.1.351, spreads. Yet initial studies of the variant from the UK, known as B.1.1.7, estimate that it is around 40 to 74 per cent more transmissible. This may be because people infected with…

7 min
the significance of smell loss

A WEEK or so after Jackie Dishner lost both her sense of taste and smell, her diagnosis was confirmed – she had covid-19. Dishner, an artist living in Phoenix, Arizona, knew that anosmia was a possible symptom of the disease, but she never imagined that after six months, most smells would still elude her, except perhaps the whiff of a particularly strong cup of coffee. She would also occasionally detect phantom odours. Studies reveal that between 40 and 85 per cent of people with covid-19 experience the loss of their olfactory senses, making it one of the most consistent indicators of infection. “Unfortunately, if you can’t smell at the year mark, you probably won’t get your sense of smell back” Perhaps more importantly, anosmia often shows up days before more concerning, and sometimes life-threatening,…

1 min
smell tests for all?

Viral infection isn’t the only condition that can alter our sense of smell, and the risk of developing a defect increases with age. Recent research also shows that smell loss, or anosmia, is an early symptom in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. “Olfactory circuits are pretty vulnerable circuits, so it’s a place where the neurodegeneration pathology can manifest fairly early on,” says Mark Albers at Harvard Medical School. “Knowing that this happens often a decade before any other symptoms offers us a window where we could diagnose people early and then provide interventions before too much damage is done to the brain.” Self reports regarding the ability to smell can be unreliable: many people may not be aware they are losing the sense because it happens gradually in…