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New Scientist Australian Edition 17-Apr-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 In a series of 10 talks this year, some of the world’s boldest minds will discuss their transformative research. Next up, on 22 April from 6pm BST, biologist Sean B. Carroll delves into the awesome mystery of how life began on Earth. Later in the year, Anil Seth will describe his new theory of consciousness. There are more fascinating talks still to come and three installments are already available to watch on demand. Get your discounted ticket to the whole series now. newscientist.com/events Podcasts Weekly A big step forward for synthetic life; how the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also set the stage for the Amazon as we know it; and an exciting anomaly in the physics of particles called muons. Escape Pod The podcast that provides a welcome distraction from everyday life. In…

2 min
safe for work

IN COUNTRIES where covid-19 is coming under some degree of control, those who have spent the pandemic working from home are beginning to return to their workplaces. For many, this will come as a relief after months of virtual interaction with colleagues. Others will mourn the return of the commute. Some will feel anxious about the changes ahead. Of course, first and foremost, workplaces will need to be made safe. So what will that involve? The business of covid-proofing a workplace can seem overwhelming and confusing: there are so many things to consider, from how to organise the working day so that people can socially distance, to improving the ventilation systems in buildings. Fortunately, a risk-management system called the Hierarchy of Controls offers a clear and logical way to think about it,…

3 min
india’s covid-19 surge

CORONAVIRUS cases are surging in many countries, with the highest number of new cases now being reported in Asia. India alone reported 161,736 new cases on 12 April. In the Indian city of Surat, parts of gas furnaces used for cremations melted after being used non-stop. Meanwhile, millions have been gathering for festivals across the country. The surge appears to be driven mainly by the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant from the UK, which is causing around 40 per cent of cases in Asia, according to pathogen-tracking project Nextstrain. Another 16 per cent of cases are due to the B.1.351 variant that evolved in South Africa. India’s daily case numbers are currently the highest in the world. Only the US has ever reported more daily cases, peaking at around 250,000 in January. However,…

8 min
how to make our offices safe

MANY more people in the UK are returning to their workplaces as coronavirus lockdowns ease. Some US companies are also attempting a return: Google is allowing workers to return on a voluntary basis, for instance. More will do so in coming months. Returning safely will involve a mix of strict measures and tailored arrangements to make employees feel safe and happy. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all problem,” says Michael Tildesley at the University of Warwick, UK. From 12 April, many premises in England were allowed to reopen, including all shops, hairdressers and libraries. UK prime minister Boris Johnson has argued that most people will return to their workplaces full-time and that there won’t be a permanent shift towards working from home. With more than 11,000 covid-19 cases in the UK in the past…

3 min
why going back to offices may affect mental health

A RETURN to the workplace can’t come soon enough for some people. Others, however, may be experiencing post-lockdown anxiety, triggered in part by thoughts of sharing indoor space, socialising with other people or commuting on crowded buses or trains. The covid-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on mental health. A study of more than 53,000 people in the UK that tracked mental health before the pandemic and into the first lockdown showed an immediate increase in mental distress in people aged 16 and older (The Lancet, doi.org/gg5ngp). Despite a slight improvement in anxiety levels over the past year, they are significantly worse than they were before the pandemic, according to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). The effect is stronger for people in a lower socio-economic bracket. Medical insurance company…

2 min
nuclear-powered rockets

THE US is taking steps to put a nuclear thermal rocket in orbit by 2025, paving the way for improved navigation in space. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to turn the long-studied concept of a nuclear thermal rocket into a reality. The technology isn’t powerful enough to launch a rocket from Earth, but could provide propulsion for an extended period once in space. This would make it ideal for manoeuvring in orbit or in deep-space missions. “In the air, on the ground and at sea, manoeuvrability is a critical capability,” says DARPA project manager Nathan Greiner. “Nuclear thermal propulsion will give us that agility in space.” Such rockets use nuclear power to heat cold propellants to high temperatures, which causes the propellant to expand and provide thrust. The idea for…