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New Scientist Australian Edition 6-Feb-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 How fast is the universe expanding? The universe began with an epic bang almost 14 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since. In this talk, astrophysicist Jo Dunkley will explain how we know this. She will also explore how our measurements disagree regarding just how fast that expansion is happening. Join us from 6pm BST on 6 May or watch on-demand later. Tickets available now. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly Our planet’s disappearing ice; vaccine roll-out; light-harvesting alien megastructures; gaslighting (how people can manipulate our perception of reality); plus much more. newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Health Check Get your weekly dose of health and fitness news delivered free to your inbox. This week, reporter Clare Wilson looks at the risks of reopening UK schools. newscientist.com/sign-up/health Video The queen’s dialect Naked mole rats are chatty, sociable animals that live in colonies headed by a queen.…

2 min
feeling the burn

ARE you suffering from burnout? Almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic was officially declared, the answer to that question for many will be an exhausted, “Well, duh!” Yet as we report in our cover story on page 34, while we may intuitively think we know what burnout feels like, it is actually a slippery concept. Originally used to describe people overwhelmed by work pressures, it is now understood to be something that can happen to anyone under pressure, even if it has nothing to do with work. And although burnout isn’t a clearly defined medical condition, we still need to take it seriously. Burnout is intricately connected to other mental health problems, and, critically, its effects, which include feelings of detachment, cynicism and unshakeable exhaustion, make it very hard for an…

3 min
uk variant gets nastier

SOME coronavirus variants are becoming increasingly concerning as they mutate. Samples of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first detected in the UK, show that it has acquired a mutation that will help it evade immune protection. It is the same mutation found in the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, which is now spreading globally. Local transmission of the B.1.351 variant has been confirmed in the US, in several European countries including the UK, and in Israel and much of sub-Saharan Africa. It isn’t yet clear if it is more transmissible, but it is certain that it can partly evade the immunity we develop from natural infection by older coronavirus variants and from vaccines. The big worry is that it could evolve further and completely evade immunity,…

10 min
how to tweak the vaccines

IT IS looking likely that covid-19 vaccines will have to be updated in the coming months to remain effective against new variants of the coronavirus. Several vaccine manufacturers have confirmed that they are already working on new versions of their vaccines to make sure they remain effective. But what does updating the vaccines involve and how long will it take? At least two vaccines are less effective against the B.1.351 variant of coronavirus that was first identified in South Africa. Interim results from UK trials of a vaccine developed by the US firm Novavax show that it was almost 90 per effective at preventing symptomatic infections in people in the UK (see “Next-generation vaccines that are nearing approval”, page 10), but just 60 per cent effective in South Africa. “It’s almost sure going…

1 min
next-generation vaccines that are nearing approval

JOHNSON & JOHNSON This vaccine is unique in that it has been trialled as a single shot. It can also be stored in a normal fridge. It works by using a common cold virus to transport the genetic code for the covid-19 spike protein – which the virus uses to enter cells – into cells that then produce the spike protein themselves, triggering an immune response. Interim results show it is 66 per cent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe covid-19. The vaccine offered complete protection against covid-19-related hospitalisation and death, starting 28 days after vaccination. Its efficacy rate in a trial in the US, at 72 per cent, is lower than the 95 per cent efficacy boasted by the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines already approved for use in the country. It is likely to…

3 min
how well do vaccines stop people catching and spreading coronavirus?

PEOPLE who have been vaccinated against covid-19 can still catch and transmit the virus, but are less likely to do so than unvaccinated people, the latest results suggest. The question of whether vaccines halt transmission is one of the biggest and most important unknowns of the pandemic. If they do, vaccine-induced herd immunity may be possible. If they don’t, the virus will still be able to circulate even in a fully vaccinated population and will continue to pose a deadly threat to people who haven’t been vaccinated (see page 13) or who don’t mount an immune response after receiving a vaccine. Circulating virus could also mutate and escape our defences, reigniting the pandemic. The latest news is mixed. “There have been several bits of data just in the last couple of weeks…