New Scientist Australian Edition 27-Nov-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.

Country:
Australia
Language:
English
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New Scientist Ltd
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Weekly
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51 Issues

in this issue

2 min
elsewhere on new scientist

Hybrid event New Scientist Live 2022, Manchester The mind-blowing festival of ideas is back, this time in a new venue and combining the best of live and virtual experiences. We will welcome 40 speakers and 30 exhibitors in person for amazing talks and hands-on demonstrations. Join us from 29 to 31 January 2022 at Manchester Central, UK. Find out what’s happening online. Online Covid-19 daily briefing Stay on top of all the most crucial developments in the pandemic with our briefing, updated at 12pm GMT every weekday. As well as a round-up of the latest coronavirus news, there are links to exclusive interviews and features. newscientist.com/coronavirus-latest Podcast Weekly The race to build a useful quantum computer continues, with IBM setting a new benchmark for processing power last week. The team asks what it means. Plus: Russia’s anti-satellite weapon test;…

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2 min
our true nature

IT IS sobering to think that if the Neanderthals had continued for 2000 more generations, they would still be sharing the planet with us today. Our other close relatives, the mysterious Denisovans, came even closer to surviving to modern times, and would have needed just 750 more generations of their lineage. Instead, we Homo sapiens find ourselves alone, the sole survivors out of the seven or more types of human that we once shared a planet with. It is easy to assume that we killed the others off, but the most likely explanation for their demise is that dramatic swings in the climate left these other humans – who evidence suggests lived in small, isolated groups – vulnerable to dying out. Another common assumption is that our early Homo sapiens ancestors led…

3 min
bulb collapses in uk

GREEN energy pioneer Bulb went from start-up to the UK’s seventh biggest energy supplier in six years by pricing electricity from wind and solar power at aggressively low levels. On 22 November, it effectively collapsed in the UK amid the ongoing shock of soaring gas prices, which have also fed into higher wholesale electricity costs. The large size of the company, which also supplied what it called carbon-neutral gas, means that its 1.7 million UK customers won’t immediately be switched to a rival supplier, but the firm will instead continue under a special administrator appointed by the country’s energy regulator, Ofgem. Bulb is the biggest UK energy supplier to fail in 19 years. On the face of it, this would seem to be a blow to the UK government’s new ambition to…

f0007-01
4 min
new variant gains ground

AFTER a period of relative calm in terms of the coronavirus’s evolution, further notable variants are now emerging. An offshoot of the delta variant, known as AY.4.2, appears to be slightly more infectious than the original delta, and could slowly replace it. Several other new variants are being monitored, including one that seems to have evolved undetected in Central Africa before spreading to Europe and beyond. None of these emerging variants appear to be hugely more infectious or better at dodging immunity than delta, so aren’t expected to trigger major waves of cases around the world. But the bad news is that it may be only a matter of time before such a variant evolves. “Something with delta-like transmissibility, but which escapes immunity better, is entirely possible, and in fact it may…

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2 min
tropical trees store less carbon during warmer years

TREES in tropical forests grow more slowly in years when the nights are warmer than average or dry-season days are unusually hot, according to a 21-year study. This suggests such forests will grow less as the world warms due to climate change – potentially taking up less carbon dioxide from the air and exacerbating warming. “For the first time, we have a window on what a whole tropical forest is doing,” says Deborah Clark at the University of Missouri-St Louis. “It is very scary.” Tropical forests contain an enormous amount of carbon, because the trees take in CO₂ from the air and use it to grow. Droughts, which are becoming more severe due to climate change, may harm the forests and release some of the stored carbon. For over two decades, Clark and…

f0009-01
2 min
hominin had curved spine that helped with upright walking

SPINAL bones of an extinct human relative have been found in lumps of rock blasted out of a South African cave and used to reconstruct one of the most complete back fossils of any hominin. The spine was curved, suggesting that Australopithecus sediba spent a lot of time walking on two legs. A. sediba was first described in 2010 by Lee Berger at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his team. They described two partially preserved individuals: a male child called Karabo and an adult female. Both were found in the Malapa cave system and lived about 2 million years ago. Malapa was first excavated by miners around a century ago, and some of the first A. sediba bones were found in chunks of rock that had been blasted…