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Science | The Guardian



Latest Science news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice



Published: Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:10:44 GMT2017-10-17T12:10:44Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



Will a sugar tax work? Well, it did at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurants

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:05 GMT2017-10-17T05:00:05Z

Researchers say the chef’s 10p levy on sugary drinks led to a significant drop in sales – boding well for the government’s sugar tax plan

Jamie Oliver’s 10p tax on sugary drinks sold in his Italian restaurants has resulted in a significant drop in sales, a study has found.

The Jamie’s Italian chain introduced the sugary drinks tax to set an example as part of a campaign to persuade the government to take action. In June 2015, Oliver announced that every drink containing added sugar would cost 10p extra and that the money would help pay for food education and water fountains in schools.

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New frontier for science as astronomers witness neutron stars colliding

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 14:00:11 GMT2017-10-16T14:00:11Z

Extraordinary event has been ‘seen’ for the first time, in both gravitational waves and light – ending decades-old debate about where gold comes from

The collision of a pair of neutron stars, marked by ripples through the fabric of space-time and a flash brighter than a billion suns, has been witnessed for the first time in the most intensely observed astronomical event to date.

The extraordinary sequence, in which the two ultra-dense stars spiralled inwards, violently collided and, in all likelihood, immediately collapsed into a black hole, was first picked up by the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo).

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Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives' thanks to big brains, says study

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 18:02:44 GMT2017-10-16T18:02:44Z

The cultural brain hypothesis of human development could also explain cetaceans forming friendships – and even gossiping

Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play.

That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species’ brain, the more complex – indeed, the more “human-like” – their lives are likely to be.

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Whisper it – Greek theatre's legendary acoustics are a myth

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 18:34:34 GMT2017-10-16T18:34:34Z

Tour guides may tell you that a pin dropping can be heard in every seat of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus – but scientists disagree

It has been held up as a stunning example of ancient Greek sound engineering, but researchers say the acoustics of the theatre at Epidaurus are not as dazzling as they have been hailed.

Dating from the fourth century BC, and seating up to 14,000 spectators, the theatre has long been admired for its sound quality, with claims that audiences are able to hear a pin drop, or a match being struck, at any seat in the house. Even the British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler raved about the theatre, declaring in clipped tones in a 1958 broadcast: “Even a stage whisper could be picked up by the furthest spectator with the cheapest ticket.”

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The eyes have it: how technology allows you to speak when all you can do is blink

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 05:00:50 GMT2017-10-16T05:00:50Z

Developments in eye-gaze technology – which converts minute movements of the eye into spoken words – are opening up undreamed of opportunities for people with motor neurone disease

Steve Thomas and I are talking about brain implants. Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For a Hero is playing in the background and for a moment I almost forget that a disease has robbed Steve of his speech. The conversation breaks briefly; now I see his wheelchair, his ventilator, his hospital bed.

Steve, a software engineer, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neurone disease) aged 50. He knew it was progressive and incurable; that he would soon become unable to move and, in his case, speak. He is using eye-gaze technology to tell me this (and later to turn off the sound of Bonnie Tyler); cameras pick up light reflection from his eye as he scans a screen. Movements of his pupils are translated into movements of a cursor through infrared technology and the cursor chooses letters or symbols. A speech-generating device transforms these written words into spoken ones – and, in turn, sentences and stories form.

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Tiangong-1: Chinese space station will crash to Earth within months

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 00:43:22 GMT2017-10-14T00:43:22Z

Pieces weighing up to 100kg could make it to the surface, says expert, when out-of-control 8.5-tonne laboratory breaks apart in the atmosphere

An 8.5-tonne Chinese space station has accelerated its out-of-control descent towards Earth and is expected to crash to the surface within a few months.

The Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace” lab was launched in 2011 and described as a “potent political symbol” of China, part of an ambitious scientific push to turn China into a space superpower.

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University claims Viking burial clothes woven with 'Allah' discovered in Sweden

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 09:51:47 GMT2017-10-13T09:51:47Z

University researchers’ ‘staggering’ claim appears to contradict theories that Islamic objects in Viking graves are result of plunder

A Swedish university has claimed to discover Arabic characters for “Allah” and “Ali” woven into Viking burial clothes. Researchers at Uppsala University describe the finding of the geometric Kufic characters in silver on woven bands of silk as “staggering”.

Related: How the female Viking warrior was written out of history

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Astronomers find half of the missing matter in the universe

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 14:38:54 GMT2017-10-12T14:38:54Z

Scientists produce indirect evidence of gaseous filaments and sheets known as Whims linking clusters of galaxies in the cosmic web

It is one of cosmology’s more perplexing problems: that up to 90% of the ordinary matter in the universe appears to have gone missing.

Now astronomers have detected about half of this missing content for the first time, in a discovery that could resolve a long-standing paradox.

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Magic mushrooms 'reboot' brain in depressed people – study

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 09:00:28 GMT2017-10-13T09:00:28Z

Patients unresponsive to conventional treatments benefit when treated with natural psychoactive compound, but researchers warn against self medication

Magic mushrooms may effectively “reset” the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression, the latest study to highlight the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics suggests.

Psychedelics have shown promising results in the treatment of depression and addictions in a number of clinical trials over the last decade. Imperial College London researchers used psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat a small number of patients with depression, monitoring their brain function, before and after.

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More than 25 million people dying in agony without morphine every year

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 22:30:16 GMT2017-10-12T22:30:16Z

Concern over illicit use and addiction is putting morphine out of reach for millions of patients globally who need it for pain relief

More than 25 million people, including 2.5 million children, die in agony every year around the world, for want of morphine or other palliative care, according to a major investigation.

Poor people cannot get pain relief in many countries of the world because their needs are overlooked or the authorities are so worried about the potential illicit use of addictive opioids that they will not allow their importation.

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Coochy coo: why baby talk is more sophisticated than you might think

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:00:08 GMT2017-10-12T16:00:08Z

Research reveals subtle changes in sound patterns help babies recognise the voice of their mothers

Cooing to an infant might not seem like sophisticated speech, but it turns out that baby talk is more complex than previously thought.

While it has long been known the pitch and rhythm of speech changes when mothers talk to their babies, researchers have now found the timbre of their voice changes too – a quality that reflects properties such as how velvety, raspy or nasal a sound seems.

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The Party: how can gender affect autism spectrum disorders? – Science Weekly podcast

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:53:37 GMT2017-10-12T10:53:37Z

Why are so many women with autism often misdiagnosed? And how does this issue resonate with broader ideas of neurodiversity?

Subscribe & Review on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

Last week, the Guardian’s Virtual Reality team released their latest film; ‘The Party’, which allows the viewer to step into the shoes of a 16-year-old with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Importantly, the viewpoint is that of a female. Surprised? It’s little wonder. Autism is often discussed in relation to males, and misdiagnosis of ASDs with other conditions is more common in females. But why do so many females fall through the diagnostic net? What techniques might they employ to cope with autism? And how can we improve the situation?

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Lab notes: from missing matter to magic mushrooms, this week's mindblowing science

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:30:53 GMT2017-10-13T15:30:53Z

Obviously to a scientifically-minded human like myself, the news that astronomers have found half of the missing matter in the universe initially conjured up images of odd socks and lost car keys. It’s a little more complex than that, it seems: the findings could potentially resolve one of cosmology’s most perplexing problems. Scientists have also discovered that dwarf planet Haumea, a rugby ball-shaped planet which lies beyond Neptune, has a ring around it. Until now, ring-like structures had only been found around Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Returning to Earth, there’s optimistic news from a trial using psilocybin – the psychoactive compound that occurs naturally in magic mushrooms – to treat patients with depression. The study suggests that it might “reboot” the brain, although more trials are needed, and the researchers have warned against self medication. Also intriguing on the brain front is a piece of research that appears to confirm the stereotype that women are kinder and less selfish than men. Apparently our reward system is geared towards more “prosocial” and generous behaviour. That said, another study out this week seems to show that there is one area in which women are unwilling to compromise: household temperature. And on that chilly note, we’ll end with the cool news that in the wake of the loss of iceberg A68 from the Larsen C ice shelf, British Antarctic Survey researchers will study the damaged area, which has been hidden for up to 120,000 years.

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The scientists persuading terrorists to spill their secrets

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 05:00:24 GMT2017-10-13T05:00:24Z

Expert interrogators know torture doesn’t work – but until now, nobody could prove it. By analysing hundreds of top-secret interviews with terror suspects, two British scientists have revolutionised the art of extracting the truth. By Ian Leslie

In 2013, a British man was arrested for planning to kidnap and brutally murder a soldier. The suspect, who had a criminal history, had posted messages on social media in support of violent jihad. In a search of his residence, the police had found a bag containing a hammer, a kitchen knife and a map with the location of a nearby army barracks.

Shortly after his arrest, the suspect was interviewed by a counter-terrorist police officer. The interviewer wanted him to provide an account of his plan, and to reveal with whom, if anyone, he has been conspiring. But the detainee – we will call him Diola – refused to divulge any information. Instead, he expounded grandiloquently on the evils of the British state for 42 minutes, with little interruption. When the interviewer attempted questions, Diola responded with scornful, finger-jabbing accusations of ignorance, naivety and moral weakness: “You don’t know how corrupt your own government is – and if you don’t care, then a curse upon you.”

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Is Harvey Weinstein a sex addict?

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 06:00:33 GMT2017-10-12T06:00:33Z

Men caught up in scandals often claim to be sex addicts, but does that even exist? The science is debatable

Another day, another powerful man embroiled in a sinister sexual scandal decades in the making. This time it’s powerful Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein. The moral, ethical and political aspects of this whole mess have been covered extensively elsewhere, and will no doubt continue to be so over the coming days and weeks.

However, recent reports suggest that Weinstein has checked himself into a European rehab clinic for sex addiction. This has been met with some not-inconsiderable cynicism, but, even if it is true, wondering whether Weinstein is a sex addict overlooks a more fundamental question: is anyone a sex addict? Because that diagnosis, as commonplace as it may seem, is far from established psychiatric fact.

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Monday's gravitational wave observation is astronomical alchemy

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 14:00:11 GMT2017-10-16T14:00:11Z

Proof that celestial collisions called kilonovas create gold is the first wonder to arise from coordinated observations – expect more to come

If you are wearing a piece of gold jewellery, take a good, hard look at it and consider this: you are likely to be wearing the celestial debris of a cataclysmic stellar collision, a collision so devastating that it literally shook the universe. That’s the conclusion from Monday’s announcement of gravitational wave signal GW170817.

It is another reminder that we are intimately connected to the cosmos around us. At heart, astronomy is not really about remote and abstracted realms, instead it informs us about our own origins and the origins of those things we value.

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ITV's Victoria illustrates how 19th-century sexism helped syphilis to spread

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 12:17:46 GMT2017-10-16T12:17:46Z

With concealment common and women expected not even to show knowledge of the disease, infection of families by men was widespread across all classes

  • Spoiler alert! Plot points from Victoria are revealed in this blog

Historically, syphilis was extremely difficult to cure. Often patients would think that their disease had disappeared or been cured, only to be have their bodies betray them with a resurgence of symptoms. This was the story outlined in Sunday night’s episode of Victoria – but aside from the obvious scientific questions about drugs and treatment regimes, it also raises points about the treatment of women.

In Victoria, things were finally looking up for Prince Ernest (David Oakes). He was responding well to treatment and, consequently, had been given the all-clear by his doctor to marry. Moreover, the Duke of Sutherland had considerately fallen off his horse, making Harriet (Margaret Clunie) a merry widow and prospective bride. But that was before a coppery rash appeared across Ernest’s splendid shoulders.

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A day of xenon collisions at CERN

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 07:00:24 GMT2017-10-15T07:00:24Z

On Friday, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN had a day of smashing xenon nuclei together, a departure from its usual diet of protons or lead

The picture at the top shows what happened in the CMS particle detector when xenon nuclei were circulated in the LHC and brought into head-on collision. The yellow is made up of tracks of electrically-charged particles, produced in such numbers that the whole of the centre of the picture is a yellow blur, with individual tracks only visible near the edges. The blue and green blocks indicate energy deposited by both charged and neutral particles in the CMS calorimeter.

Collisions between protons look significantly less busy than this, with fewer particles produced. But both xenon and lead nuclei are packed with protons and neutrons, and though lead has more of them, by eye I don’t think anyone could tell the difference between a xenon-xenon collision and a lead-lead one.

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How ancient lentils reveal the origins of social inequality

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 07:30:06 GMT2017-10-11T07:30:06Z

Lentils might not sound like a spectacular archaeological find but at the prehistoric site of Gurga Chiya in Iraqi Kurdistan they hold the clues to social transformation

Related: Iraq: Kurdish leader Barzani claims win in independence referendum

I should be in the Kurdish region of Iraq right now knee-deep in Late Chalcolitic archaeology, but instead I’m watching Bake Off in Crewe. The autumn excavation season in the Kurdish region is cancelled and most of the international teams have left, including the University College London project I was working on and the British Museum’s training excavation at Qalatga Darband. The cessation of international flights into and out of Iraqi Kurdistan, imposed by Baghdad after the Kurdish independence referendum on 25 September, has put a stop to archaeology in the region just at the best time of the year for digging.

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Duck egg blue and oviraptor green: study reconstructs colour of dinosaur eggs

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 05:00:03 GMT2017-10-11T05:00:03Z

A new study of oviraptor eggshell fragments shows remarkable similarities between the reproductive biology of dinosaurs and birds

Bird eggs come in a variety of colours. From the creamy and chalky whites in doves and pigeons to spotted yellow lapwing eggs and brown chicken eggs, to the blues of blackbirds and American robins. The striking colours and patterns have inspired artists, scientists and home decor makers from Aristotle to high-end jewellers. Thanks to palaeontology, we can now add oviraptor blue-green to the spectrum.

Remarkably, only two chemical compounds bring about the whole spectrum of bird egg coloration and patterning: reddish-brown protoporphyrin IX and green-blue biliverdin. Both pigments have distinctly different chemical properties, and whereas biliverdin is distributed throughout the inner core layer of the eggshell, protoporphyrin IX is limited to the outermost eggshell layer.

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Experimental films? Putting movie science under the microscope

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 12:48:41 GMT2017-10-10T12:48:41Z

Love films and science? Science(ish) author and podcaster Rick Edwards answered our questions, but can you answer his in the quiz below?

Film and science have combined with varying degrees of success, from 50s B-movies all the way to Interstellar. But is science just a hokey hook from which to hang a plot? Or can films actually help to teach and encourage science?

Hoping to answer those questions, or at least gain an insight, I met up with Rick Edwards the day his book, Science(ish): the Peculiar Science Behind the Movies, was published to ask him. Based on the podcast of the same name, which he hosts with co-author Dr Michael Brooks, the idea behind Science(ish) is to take a serious look at big screen science, so he seems the ideal person to ask.

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What mysteries could be unlocked by new Antikythera shipwreck finds?

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 10:28:49 GMT2017-10-10T10:28:49Z

Excavation has revealed fragments of bronze sculpture and raises the possibility of several buried statues in the area. So what do these discoveries tell us?

The shipwreck at Antikythera, Greece, continues to reveal its secrets and surprise archaeologists. As reported last week, recent excavations on the 1st century BC shipwreck have revealed statue fragments, bronze ornamentation, and wooden remains from the ship’s hull. The finds are sensational, but the artifacts and the project have broader importance.

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Did you solve it? The pain and pleasure of Japanese puzzles

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 16:01:18 GMT2017-10-09T16:01:18Z

The solutions of today’s puzzles, and the results of the Nikoli Derby.

In my column earlier today I set five examples of a new Japanese puzzle called Snake Place and we also played a re-run of the Nikoli Derby, where I asked you to submit a number, with the winner being the person submitting the lowest number that no one else also submits.

The solutions to Snake place can be seen here (on a printable page).

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Can you solve it? The pain and pleasure of Japanese puzzles

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:07:08 GMT2017-10-09T06:07:08Z

A new logic puzzle from Japan, and another chance to be a number ninja

UPDATE: Click here for the solutions and the results of the Nikoli Derby

Hi guzzlers

Last column we played the Nikoli Derby, a Japanese game in which I asked you to submit the lowest number nobody else submits. The winner was 69. Honestly! It was such fun that we’re going play another round today, below. (Again, there’s a prize). Your strategy, however, may be different, since this time you can make a decision based on how people voted last time.

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Trump says he'll declare the US opioid crisis a national emergency 'next week'

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 19:32:20 GMT2017-10-16T19:32:20Z

  • Trump teases ‘major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis’
  • Says he could revisit Tom Marino nomination as drug czar

Donald Trump on Monday teased a long-awaited announcement on tackling the crisis of opioid addiction. He also suggested his choice to lead to lead the National Office of Drug Control Policy might be under review.

Related: West Virginians struggle for answers in America's worst hit opioid epidemic state

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What did neolithic man eat after a hard day at Stonehenge? Sweet pork and rich cheese

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 23:05:14 GMT2017-10-14T23:05:14Z

Analysis of bones and pottery fragments shows special foods were consumed in feasts at the ancient site

Britons’ Stone Age ancestors possessed some unexpected talents, scientists have discovered. On top of their prowess in constructing great monoliths such as Stonehenge, they were also adept at staging first-rate parties.

Roast sweetened pork consumed with a range of rich dairy products including cheese and butter appear to have been commonplace at feasts – according to an English Heritage exhibition, Feeding Stonehenge, which will open this week at the stone circle’s visitor centre.

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Geoengineering is not a quick fix for climate change, experts warn Trump

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 07:00:01 GMT2017-10-14T07:00:01Z

Leading researchers and campaigners express concern that geoengineering research could be used as an excuse not to reduce CO2 emissions

Leading climate scientists have warned that geoengineering research could be hijacked by climate change deniers as an excuse not to reduce CO2 emissions, citing the US administration under Donald Trump as a major threat to their work.

David Keith, a solar geoengineering (GE) expert at Harvard University has said there is a real danger that his work could be exploited by those who oppose action on emissions, at the same time as he defended himself and colleagues from the claims GE strengthens the argument for abandoning the targets set by the Paris climate agreement.

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UK raids uncover suspected suppliers of deadly diet drug

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:10:42 GMT2017-10-13T17:10:42Z

Exclusive: US bodybuilding star and an ex-conman are linked to UK sales of the toxic diet drug DNP following searches on premises in Cumbria

A series of raids in northern England has uncovered an operation suspected of selling a deadly fat-burning chemical used by bodybuilders that has killed eight young people in Britain in the last two years.

Around 11 kilos of the chemical 2,4-dinitrophenol, known as DNP, was found last month at premises in Wigton, Cumbria, alongside other legal supplements and equipment that could be used for making tablets.

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The government wants a Brexit deal on science and research, says Jo Johnson

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:34:47 GMT2017-10-12T16:34:47Z

Universities urged to help the UK weather the post-Brexit economy through EU science collaborations and new incentives to commercialise their research

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, said the government wanted to secure “an ambitious agreement” with the EU to safeguard Britain’s science and innovation, and pledged to allow British universities to continue close research collaboration with their European peers.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), Johnson said that such collaborations are critical to the UK’s long-term economic development. “We want to remain a player in European science, research and innovation programmes. And we will continue to attract the best talent from across the world, including the EU,” he said.

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Wellbeing enhanced more by places than objects, study finds

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 14:30:55 GMT2017-10-12T14:30:55Z

Research using brain scans finds people experience feelings of contentment from places more than from objects such as photographs or wedding rings

The poet WHAuden is credited with first coining the word “topophilia” to describe a strong emotional pull to a special place.

Now scientific research, using cutting-edge brain imaging, suggests Auden was on to something. According to a study commissioned by the National Trust, people experience intense feelings of wellbeing, contentment and belonging from places that evoke positive memories far more than treasured objects such as photographs or wedding rings.

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Scientists discover ring around dwarf planet Haumea beyond Neptune

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:00:17 GMT2017-10-11T17:00:17Z

Rugby ball-shaped dwarf planet with two moons also has a ring around it and orbits in the outer solar system

A ring has been discovered around one of the dwarf planets that orbits the outer reaches of the solar system.

Until now, ring-like structures had only been found around the four outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

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House-sized asteroid will pass by Earth at just above satellite altitude

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 16:51:51 GMT2017-10-10T16:51:51Z

Nasa says there will be ‘no danger’ when the asteroid 2012 TC4 shaves past Earth at just above the altitude at which most satellites operate on Thursday

A house-size asteroid will give Earth a near-miss on Thursday, giving experts a rare chance to rehearse for a real-life strike threat as it passes inside the moon’s orbit.

Dubbed 2012 TC4, the space rock will shave past at an altitude of less than 44,000km (27,300 miles) – just above the 36,000km altitude at which hundreds of geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth.

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British Museum and BBC team up to explore belief through objects

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 15:50:32 GMT2017-10-10T15:50:32Z

Living With the Gods will include exhibition and 30-part radio series hosted by venue’s ex-director Neil MacGregor

Patterns of shared belief and ritual over 40,000 years, from the ice age to the present day, are to be explored in an ambitious 30-part radio series and exhibition at the British Museum.

Living With the Gods, presented by the former British Museum director Neil MacGregor, will air over six weeks, beginning this month, on BBC Radio 4. An exhibition of objects that form the core of the series will open on 2 November.

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Close your eyes to listen – you might understand more

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 14:20:09 GMT2017-10-10T14:20:09Z

People are better able to pick up on the emotions of others by focusing on a speaker’s voice, rather than their expression or gestures, study suggests

When it comes to understanding how another person thinks and feels, it might be best to close your eyes and listen.

A study by an American psychologist suggests that people are better able to pick up on the emotions of others when simply focusing on their voice, compared with both watching and listening to them, or just watching them.

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How your blood may predict your future health

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 08:11:12 GMT2017-10-10T08:11:12Z

New research into bloodstream ‘biomarkers’ aims to unlock the full impact of social status on people’s lifetime health outcomes. The key is exposure to stress

Health is a well-known inequality issue. While ageing is inevitable and most of us will get sick at some point, the rate of your decline is likely to be faster the lower down the socioeconomic ladder you started.

The intriguing thing is, nobody knows exactly why. Tempting though it is to blame the usual suspects – poor diet, obesity, smoking – they don’t account for the whole story.

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Why does the durian stink? Scientists unravel smelly fruit's DNA

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 01:18:26 GMT2017-10-10T01:18:26Z

Despite its stomach-churning aroma, the durian is an important tropical fruit crop and knowing more about its DNA may help protect it

Once described by a detractor as smelling of “turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock”, southeast Asia’s durian fruit leaves no one unmoved – you either adore or abhor it.

Popular in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the spiny, stinky delicacy is banned from public transport and many hotels because of its strong smell.

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Global cost of obesity-related illness to hit $1.2tn a year from 2025

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 23:01:32 GMT2017-10-09T23:01:32Z

Health bill will be ‘enormous burden’ without more preventative measures to check worsening epidemic, say experts

The cost of treating ill health caused by obesity around the world will top $1.2tn every year from 2025 unless more is done to check the rapidly worsening epidemic, according to new expert estimates.

Obesity and smoking are the two main drivers behind the soaring numbers of cancers, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes worldwide, grouped together officially as non-communicable diseases. They are the biggest killers of the modern world.

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Neutron stars collision: Australian science reacts – as it happened

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 22:52:04 GMT2017-10-16T22:52:04Z

Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel leads a panel discussing the extraordinary astronomical event witnessed for the first time

• New frontier for science as astronomers witness neutron stars colliding

• Gravitational wave observation is astronomical alchemy

And that concludes the press conference.

You can read our full story here:

Related: New frontier for science as astronomers witness neutron stars colliding

A journalist asks why observation in radio waves is so significant.

Tara Murphy explains: the radio emissions come from the shock as it passes through the gas and dust from the merger. “So you can build up a forensic picture of what the enviroment was like around the merger.”

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Fit in my 40s: ‘My DNA test results are in. How did I do?

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 05:58:01 GMT2017-10-14T05:58:01Z

I congratulate myself – but then spot the mistake in my analysis

Remember my DNA test a few weeks ago? I got my results back from FitnessGenes, and spent a couple of hours awed by my own capacities, before I realised how to interpret the information. Starting from the top: ACE is the endurance gene. You either have two copies of the long version, II; two copies of the short, DD; or one of each, ID. The long version is associated with endurance athletes, the short with being a power/strength athlete. I’m an II, so my endurance is epic.

I have these endurance genes in spades – in ACTN3, the gene for speed, I’m an RR, which is associated, in women, with higher-than-average baseline strength, and in older women, with better response to resistance training. (The letters are just the names of alleles – genetic-sequencing variations.) With the fat-burning gene, PPARA, I’m a GG, which is another endurance athlete’s trait.

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Why do we feel so guilty all the time? – podcast

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 12:03:39 GMT2017-10-16T12:03:39Z

Food, sex, money, work, family, friends, health, politics: there’s nothing we can’t feel guilty about, including our own feelings of guilt

Read the text version here

Subscribe via Audioboom, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Acast & Sticher and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

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Delving into a hidden world – in pictures

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:02 GMT2017-10-13T11:37:02Z

The winning and shortlisted entries for the the Royal Society of Biology’s 2017 Photographer of the Year and Young Photographer of the Year competitions. This gorgeous and intriguing series of images features species from across the globe, and ranges from microscopic insights into the development of frogspawn, to the incredible emerald hues of an Indian lake photographed from 30,000 feet

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Spacewatch: SpaceX reuses rocket to launch north American satellite

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 20:30:13 GMT2017-10-12T20:30:13Z

Elon Musk’s firm blasts previously flown Falcon 9 first-stage booster into space and recovers it safely back on Earth

SpaceX set a brisk pace this week, with two successful launches of the Falcon 9 rocket. The second launch by the company – whose chief executive is its billionaire founder, Elon Musk – re-used a previously flown first stage booster, increasing confidence that SpaceX could deliver re-useable rockets and so drive down launch costs.

The first launch took place on 9 October. The rocket lifted off from the Vandenberg airforce base in California at 05:37 PDT (12:37 GMT). It placed 10 communications satellites in a 400-mile-high orbit for Iridium, the telecommunications company.

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Plantwatch: Autumn and leaves are falling, but for the wrong reasons

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 20:30:40 GMT2017-10-15T20:30:40Z

A big tree can be infested with about 2m of these tiny leaf miners, just one of several new pests attacking British woodlands

The autumn tree colours are appearing, but all is not quite what it seems. Horse chestnut leaves started falling weeks ago like crispy brown pieces of paper, a sign of leaf miners infesting the trees.

These are the caterpillars of a tiny moth, and a big tree can be infested with about 2m of these pests, which weakens the tree. Even more pernicious is a disease of horse chestnuts called bleeding canker, which can kill the tree.

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Why women secretly turn up the heating

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 16:02:38 GMT2017-10-11T16:02:38Z

While male and female body temperatures are similar, subtle biological difference conspire to make household temperatures a perennial bone of contention

Forget negotiations over who takes out the bin, new research suggests that the ideal home temperature is the vexed question most likely to split households down gender lines.

A study found that one third of couples dispute this issue and that four in 10 women covertly turn up the heating behind their partner’s back.

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Could we dispose of nuclear waste on a rocket to the sun | Notes and queries

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:30:09 GMT2017-10-11T10:30:09Z

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts

Is it possible or ethical to gather all the nuclear waste the world produces, load it into a rocket, and blast it into the sun? I’m guessing it will burn up before reaching the sun, but would it have any adverse effects?

Stella Cloherty

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Starwatch: meteors and their icy origins in the heart of a comet

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 20:30:00 GMT2017-10-08T20:30:00Z

The Orionids meteor shower will brighten our skies later this month. What are meteors and where do they come from?

Spend an hour or so under a clear moonless sky and we will be unlucky not to spot a small number of meteors. Some are slow and graceful while others may be swift and glimpsed only out of the corner of our eye.

They occur when meteoroids, usually dusty clumps no larger than a grain of rice but moving in excess of 20km per second, disintegrate in the atmosphere at altitudes between 75 and 100km.

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Six Nobel prizes – what’s the fascination with the fruit fly?

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 23:05:34 GMT2017-10-07T23:05:34Z

Drosophila share 60 per cent of human DNA, making them perfect for research that has led to vital strides in treating cancer, autism, diabetes and many other ills. Now scientists in the field have won yet another Nobel

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

With these lines, from The Fly, William Blake posed a question of unusual prescience for a poet writing 200 years ago. At first glance, there seem to be few similarities between Homo sapiens and airborne insects. Yet Blake was not so sure. He could see connections. And in recent years, science has found that he was probably correct. Fruit flies, it transpires, have common features with humans to a remarkable degree (we share 60% of the same DNA) – a point underlined last week when the Nobel committee awarded yet another prize to scientists who have used Drosophila melanogaster as the basis of groundbreaking research.

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'A new way to study our universe': what gravitational waves mean for future science

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 16:22:47 GMT2017-10-03T16:22:47Z

The 2017 physics Nobel prize was awarded for the detection of gravitational waves. But what else could be revealed now that this discovery has been made?

You wait 100 years for a gravitational wave and then four come along at once. Or so it must seem to those who spent decades designing and building the exquisite instruments needed to sense the minuscule ripples in spacetime that Albert Einstein foresaw in his 1905 theory of general relativity.

The first gravitational wave bagged by physicists reached Earth on 14 September 2015 and sent a quiver through the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo). The second hit three months later, on Boxing Day, followed by a third in January this year. When the fourth wave arrived in August, both Ligo and a second observatory in Italy, named Virgo, recorded the moment.

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Why last night's VD-laced episode of Victoria should worry modern audiences

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 06:00:23 GMT2017-10-02T06:00:23Z

The Victorians feared the moral and physical implications of venereal disease, but the problems of untreatable infection and inadequate health provision are all too familiar to modern viewers

  • Spoiler alert! Plot points from Victoria are revealed in this blog

In an age before antibiotics, contact tracing and the NHS, a diagnosis of venereal disease (VD) had devastating consequences. Today, confirmed cases of syphilis are at their highest in England since 1949, strains of gonorrhoea are resistant to last-line antibiotics and the NHS faces mounting financial pressures. We are far from meeting the WHO’s goal of ending sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as a major public health concern. Rather, the problems of untreatable infection and inadequate health provision that were all too familiar to the Victorians are again very real.

This is perhaps why viewers of ITV’s Victoria last night could share the apprehensions of Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (played by David Oakes). Hesitating on a damp, grey London morning outside the consulting rooms of a discreet doctor, he clearly suspects the worst.

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Austria is on the verge of electing a 31-year-old. Does his age matter? | Stefan Stern

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:36:45 GMT2017-10-16T16:36:45Z

World leaders seem to be getting younger. But whether youthful energy and verve can ever make up for lack of experience remains a vexed question

Grey power this is not. Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), looks set to become the world’s youngest head of government after Sunday’s elections. The country of elegantly dressed, respectably middle-aged ladies and gentlemen has handed the keys of the Mercedes to a fresh-faced kid.

Kurz may look young but he is not a new figure on the Austrian political scene. Four years ago he was made foreign minister. Clearly it was time for a new challenge if his career trajectory was to be maintained.

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How to be lucky on Friday the 13th | Nigel Kendall

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 12:39:45 GMT2017-10-13T12:39:45Z

Today is not a good day to be superstitious. My tip for sufferers of friggatriskaidekaphobia? Drive to the Netherlands, or Spain – avoiding the M25

There is a chance that you are reading this while curled up at home with the curtains drawn and doors locked, convinced that the best way to avoid the malevolent influence of Friday the 13th is to avoid all human contact. If so, you aren’t alone.

Related: The 13 worst things that have ever happened on Friday the 13th

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Elephants mourn. Dogs love. Why do we deny the feelings of other species?

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 15:00:14 GMT2017-10-11T15:00:14Z

Scientists are discovering more and more about the internal lives of animals. But what does this mean for the way humans behave?

Last week footage of five young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe to sell to zoos travelled round the world. Parks officials used helicopters to find the elephant families, shot sedatives into the young ones, then hazed away family members who came to the aid of the drugged young ones as they fell.

The film, shared exclusively with the Guardian, showed the young captives being trussed up and dragged on to trucks. In the final moments of footage, two men repeatedly kick a small dazed elephant in the head.

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What sound do pandas make? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Jules Howard

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 07:00:05 GMT2017-10-11T07:00:05Z

Every day millions of internet users ask Google life’s most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries

A great frustration for those who study natural history is that the sounds made by almost every extinct creature that ever lived will never be heard by human ears. The best we know of the call of the dodo, for instance, is that, perhaps, its name was an onomatopoeic allusion to a two-noted pigeon-like “cooo”. Likewise, the best we know of the great auk, a flightless penguin-like bird of the northern hemisphere, is that it may or may not have made a “gurgling noise when anxious”. My favourite of these extinct sounds is that of the Huia, a charming long-billed New Zealand bird which, although last seen in 1907, managed to stow its song into modernity because an elderly Maori man could remember the song from his childhood and recite it 50 years later, whistling it in front of audiences still saddened by its loss.

Related: Why are children so annoying? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Phil Daoust

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Tony Abbott dares us to reject evidence on climate, but reveals a coward | Graham Readfearn

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 17:00:02 GMT2017-10-10T17:00:02Z

The former Australian prime minister’s misleading speech to a London thinktank was full of climate denial mythology

Tony Abbott titled his London speech on climate change “Daring to Doubt” – a challenge, if you will, to reject mountains of evidence and instead lick your fingers and shove them into the plug socket of denial.

Go on, I dare you.

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‘Behavioural economics’ may sound dry – but it can change your life | David Halpern

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 15:23:02 GMT2017-10-10T15:23:02Z

The work of economists such as Nobel prize winner Richard Thaler has profound implications for society. A nudge is sometimes all we need

Richard Thaler’s Nudge opens with a story about a school cafeteria in the US. Not for the first time, a headteacher was grappling with the question of how to encourage the kids to eat better.

Should the school ban sugary sweets altogether? Subsidise the salads? Eventually, the head found the answer was simple – just put the healthier foods at eye level, and watch as more students reach for carrot sticks over fries.

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My cat is a monster. Why do I love him so much? | Jules Howard

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 13:55:03 GMT2017-10-10T13:55:03Z

Be it the tale of the Grenfell fire survivor being reunited with her cat, or the ‘refugee cat’ lost in Greece and found in Norway stories of pets draw us in like no other

What could be more heartening than the story of the Grenfell fire survivor who was reported this week to have been reunited with the cat she thought she’d lost in the blaze? What could warm the cockles more than the story, also reported this week, of the “refugee cat” lost in Greece and reunited with its family in Norway courtesy of a global social media campaign. For stories of cats and dogs, be they heroes or victims, draw us in like no other. What magic was cast upon us to seemingly love them so?

Related: Miaow! Row over harm done by domestic cats sends fur flying

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It’s official – women are nicer than men. Is this really science? | Anne Perkins

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 13:53:23 GMT2017-10-10T13:53:23Z

A new study by neuroeconomists suggesting that women’s biology could make them a soft touch covers overly familiar gendered ground

Richard Thaler has just won the Nobel prize for economics for his work explaining how human choice can be influenced. The insight that people make decisions for all sorts of reasons, not all of them based on a cool assessment of the consequences, led Professor Thaler to global acclaim as the slayer of homo economicus. Homo economicus was an entirely fictional character who decided whose turn it was to put the bin out on rational grounds. Thaler was, among his lesser achievements, David Cameron’s favourite economist, his nudge theory credited with encouraging people to stop smoking and eat more healthily.

What Professor Thaler, in his moment of glory, may not yet realise is that his insights may already be on their way to extinction, just like homo economicus. He is being nudged out of the future by biology: to be precise, by neuroeconomics, which like his is an interdisciplinary science but one that studies brain activity, or the lack of it, to draw conclusions about why people behave as they do.

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If the ‘antibiotic apocalypse’ happens, it’ll be because our politicians let it | Nick Dearden

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 13:33:16 GMT2017-10-09T13:33:16Z

Agribusiness and big pharma prioritising profits could lead to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 – but political intervention can prevent this disaster

An antibiotic apocalypse is coming. It threatens to reverse medical practice by 100 years by making life-saving operations impossible and turning routine infections into killers again. Rather than panic and head to the hills, we need to understand the heart of the problem, and transform two of the most antisocial industries in the global economy: agribusiness and pharmaceuticals.

Related: Act now to tame the superbugs that are killing 700,000 a year

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We all need psychoanalysis – it would make Britain a happier, kinder place | Susanna Rustin

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 07:46:58 GMT2017-10-09T07:46:58Z

With one in four teenage girls being depressed, it’s clear that there is no shortage of people needing help. It needn’t cost the earth – and it certainly worked for me

Was I mentally ill? I suppose I was, though the first time someone in my family used the phrase “verge of a nervous breakdown”, or something like it, I was taken aback. Probably I was about as far from well as it was possible to be while still going about my business: essays, lectures, friends and so forth (I was a student at the time). A broken heart – that, is, a rejection so disappointing I couldn’t bring myself to accept it – was the trigger. But it brought up all manner of shit. By the time I went to talk to a psychoanalyst, I had feelings so muddled that sharing them with anyone else would have been weird.

Related: 'After, I feel ecstatic and emotional': could virtual reality replace therapy?

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SpaceX successfully launches reused Falcon 9 rocket – video

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 05:43:33 GMT2017-10-12T05:43:33Z

SpaceX launched a partially used Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk has hailed the twin achievement of salvaging a used rocket and re-launching it yet again as a revolutionary step in his quest to slash launch costs and shorten intervals between space shots

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Our Restless Earth: photography competition winners 2017 – in pictures

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 10:51:36 GMT2017-10-09T10:51:36Z

The Geological Society of London has announced the 12 winners of its photography competition. The chosen images represent the dynamic processes which have shaped the UK and Ireland over its tectonic history, from ancient volcanic activity to ice age glaciers. The pictures will feature in a free exhibition at the Geological Society to mark Earth Science Week, 7-15 October.

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Month-old meerkat triplets make their way in the world – video

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 05:27:36 GMT2017-10-05T05:27:36Z

Staff at Symbio wildlife park, located on the southern outskirts of Sydney, have announced the arrival of meerkat triplets. Born on 31 August to first-time parents Aya and Penfold, and weighing in at an estimated 25g and just 8cm, the pups have now emerged from the comfort of their den and are beginning to discover the world beyond. Still finding their feet, they are shadowing their parents’ every move and will continue to do so for up to 12 weeks, as they learn the ropes of being a meerkat

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Why discovering gravitational waves was a big deal – video

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 14:14:02 GMT2017-10-03T14:14:02Z

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime and were anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.  Three American physicists have won the Nobel prize in physics for the discovery. We explain why it is so important

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Elon Musk: we can launch a manned mission to Mars by 2024 – video

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 10:48:47 GMT2017-09-29T10:48:47Z

Elon Musk gives an update on the progress SpaceX, his commercial space agency, is making on interplanetary space travel. Musk tells the audience that he believes a cargo mission to Mars will be possible by 2022, with a manned mission following in 2024. He envisages the creation of an inhabited city on the planet, with up to 100 people able to travel to the base per trip

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Work in progress: from ants to zika, scientists photograph their research – in pictures

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 10:00:22 GMT2017-09-29T10:00:22Z

Researchers from around the world submitted photos of the various forms of life they study to the BMC Research in Progress Photo Competition; the winners and their weird and wonderful subjects have now been revealed

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Modern Toss – cartoon

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 11:00:14 GMT2017-09-23T11:00:14Z

Wanna live like comma people? Well, it’s National Punctuation Day in the US on 24 September!

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Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 winners – in pictures

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:53:33 GMT2017-09-15T11:53:33Z

Awe-inspiring views of the universe were celebrated at the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 awards ceremony, held at the Royal Greenwich Observatory

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China's Tiangong-1 space station 'out of control' and will crash to Earth

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 02:03:16 GMT2016-09-21T02:03:16Z

Chinese authorities confirm the eight-tonne ‘Heavenly Palace’ lab will re-enter the atmosphere sometime in 2017 with some parts likely to hit Earth

China’s first space station is expected to come crashing down to Earth next year, fuelling concerns that Chinese space authorities have lost control of the 8.5-tonne module.

The Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace” lab was described as a “potent political symbol” of China’s growing power when it was launched in 2011 as part of an ambitious scientific push to turn China into a space superpower.

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Gravitational waves: breakthrough discovery after a century of expectation

Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:27:44 GMT2016-02-11T17:27:44Z

Scientists announce discovery of clear gravitational wave signal, ripples in spacetime first predicted by Albert Einstein

Physicists have announced the discovery of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.

“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington.

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New gravitational wave detection shows shape of ripples from black hole collision

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 16:30:14 GMT2017-09-27T16:30:14Z

For the first time, astronomers have detail on the 3D pattern of warping that occurs when black holes with masses of 31 and 25 times that of the sun collide

Astronomers have made a new detection of gravitational waves and for the first time have been able to trace the shape of ripples sent through spacetime when black holes collide.

The announcement, made at a meeting of the G7 science ministers in Turin, marks the fourth cataclysmic black-hole merger that astronomers have spotted using Ligo, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. The latest detection is the first to have also been picked up by the Virgo detector, located near Pisa, Italy, providing a new layer of detail on the three dimensional pattern of warping that occurs during some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe.

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Antikythera shipwreck yields bronze arm – and hints at spectacular haul of statues

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 11:56:49 GMT2017-10-04T11:56:49Z

Arm points to existence of at least seven statues from Greek shipwreck, already the source of most extensive and exciting ancient cargo ever found

Marine archaeologists have recovered a bronze arm from an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, where the remains of at least seven more priceless statues from the classical world are believed to lie buried.

Divers found the right arm, encrusted and stained green, under half a metre of sediment on the boulder-strewn slope where the ship and its cargo now rest. The huge vessel, perhaps 50m from bow to stern, was sailing from Asia Minor to Rome in 1BC when it foundered near the tiny island between Crete and the Peloponnese.

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'Western society is chronically sleep deprived': the importance of the body's clock

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 14:41:40 GMT2017-10-06T14:41:40Z

The 2017 Nobel prize for medicine was awarded for the discovery of how our circadian rhythms are controlled. But what light does it shed on the cycle of life?

The cycle of day and night on our planet is age-old and inescapable, so the idea of an internal body clock might not sound that radical. In science, though, asking the questions “why?” and “how?” about the most day-to-day occurrences can require the greatest leaps of ingenuity and produce the most interesting answers.

This was the case for three American biologists, Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young, who earlier this week were awarded the Nobel in medicine or physiology, for their discovery of the master genes controlling the body’s circadian rhythms.

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10 grammar rules you can forget: how to stop worrying and write proper

Mon, 30 Sep 2013 16:44:00 GMT2013-09-30T16:44:00Z

Guardian Style Guide author David Marsh set out to master perfect grammatical English – but discovered that 'correct' isn't always best. Here are the 10 grammar laws you no longer need to check

Plus: five rules you should remember
What pop music can teach you about building sentences
A few words on punctuation

Every situation in which language is used – texting your mates, asking for a pay rise, composing a small ad, making a speech, drafting a will, writing up an experiment, praying, rapping, or any other – has its own conventions. You wouldn't expect a politician being interviewed by Kirsty Wark about the economy to start quoting Ludacris: "I keep my mind on my money, money on my mind; but you'se a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind." Although it might make Newsnight more entertaining.

This renders the concept of what is "correct" more than a simple matter of right and wrong. What is correct in a tweet might not be in an essay; no single register of English is right for every occasion. Updating your status on Facebook is instinctive for anyone who can read and write to a basic level; for more formal communication, the conventions are harder to grasp and this is why so many people fret about the "rules" of grammar.

Continue reading...'To go boldly?' 'Negative, Captain, it's fine to split an infinitive.' Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar'To go boldly?' 'Negative, Captain, it's fine to split an infinitive.' Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar


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Why bingeing on health foods won’t boost your immune system

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 07:30:01 GMT2016-01-24T07:30:01Z

There are only two ways the human body can deal with the invading pathogens and infections that can cause colds and other illnesses – and neither involves vitamins or ‘superfoods’ that claim to offer protection

Walk through the aisles of any health food shop and you’ll see pots of echinacea or zinc that promise to “support your immune system” or “maintain its healthy function”. Read new age health blogging sites and you’ll find posts on how drinking hot lemon water or knocking back a shot of wheatgrass juice or the current green goo du jour will “boost your immune system” and make you less likely to get ill. These are tempting prospects at this time of year, but ones that are foiled by an inconvenient truth: they don’t work. The idea that any dietary supplement can boost your immunity makes very little scientific sense. And because of the way your immune system works, even if they did what they say they did, you definitely wouldn’t want them to.

“People have this idea that the immune system is some kind of internal force field that can be boosted or patched up,” says Charles Bangham, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Imperial College London. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. As the name suggests it’s not a single thing but a system incorporating many organs and biological functions.”

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