New Scientist Australian Edition 25-Sep-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.

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51 Issues

in this issue

2 min
elsewhere on new scientist

Academy Consciousness: the world’s deepest mystery Great minds have struggled to understand consciousness for centuries. Now, we are finally inching towards an explanation, which makes this the perfect time to take our new neuroscience course that looks at how the human brain conjures up our unique subjective experiences. Register your interest or sign up online. Event Creating a sustainable future Join us on 25 September for a superb one-day online event about the greatest existential challenge we face: climate change. Hear what we must do to create a sustainable future and learn about the science and technology needed to enable those shifts. Podcast Weekly In some parts of the world, taking a stand for the planet can be dangerous. Laura Furones at campaign group Global Witness tells us about the 227 environmental activists who were murdered in 2020.…

2 min
time to look beyond gas

MANY critiques of the UK’s unfolding gas supply crisis have focused on the peculiarities of how its energy market is regulated (see page 15). But that is to ignore the global scope of this crisis. In Europe, for example, gas prices are up 170 per cent since this January. The UK is particularly vulnerable to gas volatility due to its “dash for gas” to replace coal for electricity generation since the 1990s. That was largely driven by economics, with a happy by-product of reducing carbon emissions. Now countries the world over are attempting to replicate it. In 2019, demand for gas rose more than any other energy source. It is forecast to be up strongly this year and to keep growing until 2024. Gas advocates like to push the fuel as a “bridge”…

3 min
call for cleaner air

MILLIONS of deaths could be avoided if the world adopts tough new air pollution limits set out this week by the World Health Organization (WHO). The guidelines call for much lower daily and annual levels of exposure to six pollutants from cars, power stations and other sources, in the first major overhaul of the recommendations in 16 years. The stricter ceilings are due to an increase in research on the health impacts from even low levels of pollution. “We have even stronger evidence than before on the effect of air pollution on health. Before our evidence was huge, now it’s even stronger,” says Maria Neira at the WHO. Stephen Holgate at the University of Southampton, UK, says population-based studies have shown “there are no safe levels of air pollution”. The WHO’s air quality guidance…

4 min
how many hospitalisations?

PEOPLE in England who thought the pandemic was all but over had a rude awakening last week. A government scientific advisory committee said that the number of people in England admitted to hospital with the coronavirus could rise to between 2000 and 7000 a day over the next few months. That compares with just under 1000 a day presently, and a little over 4000 at the height of the second wave in January. Given that so many people have now been vaccinated against covid-19 and case numbers have recently been declining, why are predictions for winter in England so bleak? One factor that can get overlooked is that even in places with good vaccine uptake, like the UK and parts of the US and Europe, vaccines don’t provide complete protection. There…

3 min
quantum computer helps design a better quantum computer

A QUANTUM computer has been used to design an improved quantum bit, or qubit, that could power the next generation of quantum computers. Using the new qubit, it should be possible to build quantum computers that are smaller, higher-performance and more reliable. As classical computer chips became more complex, it quickly became impractical to design them manually. For decades, it has instead been commonplace to use computers themselves to help optimise new chip designs for the next generation of computers. But it is unfeasible to simulate the operation of all but the simplest quantum processor inside a classical computer. This is because the computing resources required grow exponentially as each new qubit is added. Now, Chao-Yang Lu at the University of Science and Technology of China and his colleagues have used a quantum…

1 min
cuttlefish seen gathering to migrate and defend others

THE cuttlefish has a reputation for being a rather solitary cephalopod. But new footage reveals that groups of wild cuttlefish form shoals to migrate, suggesting they are more social than we thought. Grouping is common across the animal kingdom, providing a range of benefits including help with foraging, fending off predators and meeting to mate. In cephalopods, the behaviour is mostly associated with squids, which form schools of thousands. Like octopuses, cuttlefish mostly prefer to explore the world on their own, and sightings of social behaviour among them are rare. Christian Drerup at the University of Cambridge and Gavan Cooke at The Cephalopod Citizen Science Project have collected a series of reports, photos and videos from scuba divers in waters off the south coast of the UK that show 10 examples of…