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New Scientist Australian Edition 20-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 event Your physics questions answered Our staff panel will tell you what’s hot in physics at this subscriber-only event, from 6pm GMT on 18 March. Submit your questions in advance. newscientist.com/marchevent4 Podcast Weekly New variants of the coronavirus; why interstellar object ‘Oumuamua might really be alien technology; is it ever OK to eat fish? newscientist.com/podcasts Newsletter Fix the Planet Get a dose of climate optimism from chief reporter Adam Vaughan direct to your inbox. In a recent edition, he looks into “energy islands”. newscientist.com/sign-up/fix-the-planet Online Covid-19 daily briefing All the latest, most crucial coverage of the pandemic, with news, features and interviews. Updated each day at 6pm GMT. newscientist.com/coronavirus-latest…

2 min
a note from the executive editor

This year is an absolutely crucial moment for the environment. In November, pandemic permitting, the UK will host the COP26 climate change conference, in which the world’s nations must finally come good on the commitments made in Paris a little over five years ago to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. In May, a crunch meeting in China has been planned to establish global targets for conserving biodiversity over the next 10 years, which the UN has declared to be the “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration”. As you would expect, New Scientist will be ramping up its coverage of all things environmental over the year, examining the issues, talking to the people who matter and seeking the solutions that work. “New Scientist will be ramping up its coverage of all things environmental over the…

2 min
the value of nature

FOR a government-backed report, the recently published Dasgupta Review on the economics of biodiversity, commissioned by the UK Treasury in 2019, is blunt in its critique of mainstream economic thinking. “We may have increasingly queried the absence of Nature from official conceptions of economic possibilities, but the worry has been left for Sundays,” the distinguished University of Cambridge economist Partha Dasgupta writes in his preface. “On week-days, our thinking has remained as usual.” The naturalist David Attenborough is still blunter about the consequences in the report’s foreword. “We are facing a global crisis. We are totally dependent upon the natural world. It supplies us with every oxygen-laden breath we take and every mouthful of food we eat. Yet we are currently damaging it so profoundly that many of its natural systems…

3 min
two variants combine

TWO variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic. The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant first seen in California. This second variant may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies. The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that…

6 min
new variants vs normality

WHEN the first trial results for covid-19 vaccines were announced back in November, it seemed that the end of the coronavirus pandemic was in sight. But then came news of first one dangerous new virus variant and then another. So where does that leave us? Will new variants scupper efforts to get life back to normal? No one can say for sure what will happen next, of course. But many researchers are optimistic that in countries that get hold of enough vaccine, life could mostly return to normal in around a year or less. And in the long run, rather than us facing a never-ending battle with increasingly dangerous new variants, the expectation is still for covid-19 to turn into a mild disease. “If it becomes endemic and mild in the way…

4 min
did the virus come from frozen food?

COULD the virus that caused a worldwide pandemic have made the jump to humans via frozen food? That was one hypothesis put forward on 9 February by a joint World Health Organization and Chinese investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Frozen animals were found on sale at Huanan market in Wuhan, China, the place where the virus was initially detected, the team behind the inquiry said. In a press conference, Peter Ben Embarek, the head of the investigation, said: “We know the virus can survive in conditions that are found in these cold, frozen environments, but we don’t really understand if the virus can transmit to humans.” The idea that the coronavirus was carried inside or on the surface of frozen food, which has been advanced by Chinese state media, could place…