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Science | The Guardian

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

Published: Sat, 22 Jul 2017 23:03:53 GMT2017-07-22T23:03:53Z

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

'A misuse of scarce funds': NHS to end prescription of homeopathic remedies

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:48:45 GMT2017-07-21T13:48:45Z

New guidelines mean homeopathic remedies and 17 other items will no longer be prescribed, for reasons ranging from low clinical effectiveness to low cost-effectiveness

Homeopathic remedies will no longer be available on prescription on the NHS according to newly-announced plans.

The move comes as part of the NHS England’s drive to save more than £190m a year through a new set of national guidelines, which are now open for public consultation.

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Nasa needs you: space agency to crowdsource origami designs for shield

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 17:19:58 GMT2017-07-20T17:19:58Z

In the search for ways to efficiently pack a radiation shield to protect manned spacecraft on deep space missions, Nasa is looking to the public for help

If you know your crane from your bishop’s mitre, Nasa needs you. The space agency is launching a challenge to crowdsource origami-inspired ideas for a foldable radiation shield to protect spacecraft and astronauts on voyages to deep space, such as missions to Mars.

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Australian dig finds evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 17:00:02 GMT2017-07-19T17:00:02Z

Artefacts in Kakadu national park have been dated between 65,000 and 80,000 years old, extending likely occupation of area by thousands of years

A groundbreaking archaeological discovery in Australia’s north has extended the known length of time Aboriginal people have inhabited the continent to at least 65,000 years.

The findings on about 11,000 artefacts from Kakadu national park, published on Thursday in the journal Nature, prove Indigenous people have been in Australia for far longer than the much-contested estimates of between 47,000 and 60,000 years, the researchers said. Some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80,000 years.

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Lifestyle changes could prevent a third of dementia cases, report suggests

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 04:00:10 GMT2017-07-20T04:00:10Z

Researchers admit prevention estimate is a ‘best-case scenario’, but stress that action can be taken to reduce dementia risk

More than a third of dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing, a new report suggests.

Approximately 45 million people worldwide were thought to be living with dementia in 2015, at an estimated cost of $818bn.

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Give robots an 'ethical black box' to track and explain decisions, say scientists

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:08:54 GMT2017-07-19T14:08:54Z

As robots start to enter public spaces and work alongside humans, the need for safety measures has become more pressing, argue academics

Robots should be fitted with an “ethical black box” to keep track of their decisions and enable them to explain their actions when accidents happen, researchers say.

The need for such a safety measure has become more pressing as robots have spread beyond the controlled environments of industrial production lines to work alongside humans as driverless cars, security guards, carers and customer assistants, they claim.

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Hearing voices: the science of auditory verbal hallucinations - Science Weekly podcast

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:28:18 GMT2017-07-19T14:28:18Z

What can advances in neuroscience and psychology reveal about this age-old phenomenon? And how might digital avatars help patients answer back?

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

Once thought to originate from the realm of the supernatural, auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) have a well-documented history, with more recent times often seeing them linked to mental health issues. But with recent surveys suggesting that up to 10% of the population report hearing voices that nobody else can hear, could these hallucinations reveal the way our brains distinguish voices? And if so, how might we use this knowledge to answer back?

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Senior doctors call for public inquiry into use of vaginal mesh surgery in UK

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 18:29:40 GMT2017-07-18T18:29:40Z

Experts draw comparisons with the thalidomide scandal as they reveal that traumatic complications are more common than official figures suggest

Senior doctors have called for a public inquiry into the use of vaginal mesh surgery amid mounting concerns that a significant proportion of patients have been left with traumatic complications.

Speaking at a meeting in parliament, Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, drew comparisons with the thalidomide scandal, saying that there was evidence that mesh procedures, used to treat complications from childbirth, carry significantly more risk than official figures suggest.

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Maryam Mirzakhani obituary

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:06:05 GMT2017-07-19T12:06:05Z

Iranian mathematician who was the first woman to win the Fields medal

In 2014 the Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, who has died aged 40 of cancer, was awarded the Fields medal, the discipline’s most celebrated prize. The 52 previous recipients had all been men. Maryam won it “for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces”.

Surfaces are basic objects in mathematics, appearing in many guises. The surface of our planet is a sphere, but from local observations alone one cannot be sure of this: the Earth could be shaped like a bagel, for example, or a bagel with a few handles attached. A bagel-like surface is known in mathematics as a torus.

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Paleoart: the strange history of dinosaurs in art – in pictures

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 06:00:12 GMT2017-07-19T06:00:12Z

Since the early 19th century, artists have depicted colourful – if sometimes fictional – dinosaurs and prehistoric environments, mingling science with unbridled fantasy. This art is the subject of a new book: Paleoart

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Beauty spot or landscape blot? Computer trained to judge scenery

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 06:01:12 GMT2017-07-19T06:01:12Z

Computer trained to determine what makes places beautiful could help design new towns and decide which areas should be protected, say researchers

Wordsworth found it in a host of daffodils; Nan Shepherd in the nooks of the Cairngorms. For Monet it popped up all over the place, from the windmills and canals of Amsterdam, to the sailing boats of Argenteuil.

What lends a scene beauty has long been left to the poets and painters to define, but that may be about to change. In a new study, researchers trained a computer to tell scenic views from blots on the landscape. One day it could help with decisions over what land to protect, and how better to design new towns and cities, the scientists claim.

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UK cancer survival rates lag behind those of other European countries – study

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 06:01:12 GMT2017-07-18T06:01:12Z

Experts highlight need for earlier diagnosis and improved access to treatments, as figures show UK healthcare spend is lower than the European average

Cancer survival rates in the UK continue to lag behind those of other European countries, research suggests, with experts flagging the need for earlier diagnosis and improved access to treatments.

The report is the latest to highlight the problem, with previous research suggesting that UK survival rates for breast cancer are a decade behind countries including France and Sweden.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: fighting science denial starts with people, not politicians

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 04:36:49 GMT2017-07-18T04:36:49Z

The astrophysicist talks about alien life, sci-fi and why he believes Australians shouldn’t get stuck in traffic

Albert Einstein has been called many things: a genius, a pioneer, a Nobel prize winner. Neil deGrasse Tyson just calls him a badass.

“I think it fits, right? It’s not a stretch,” he tells Guardian Australia before his appearance in Melbourne on Saturday night. “The dude’s a badass.”

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‘We are all mutants now’: the trouble with genetic testing

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 05:00:11 GMT2017-07-18T05:00:11Z

With so many unknowns in our DNA, using genetics in medical testing doesn’t always bring the answers – sometimes it brings only doubt. By Carrie Arnold

AnneMarie Ciccarella, a fast-talking 57-year-old brunette with more than a hint of a New York accent, thought she knew a lot about breast cancer. Her mother was diagnosed with the disease in 1987, and several other female relatives also developed it. When doctors found a suspicious lump in one of her breasts that turned out to be cancer, she immediately sought out testing to look for mutations in the two BRCA genes, which between them account for around 20% of families with a strong history of breast cancer.

Ciccarella assumed her results would be positive. They weren’t. Instead, they identified only what’s known as a variant of unknown or uncertain significance (VUS) in both BRCA1 and BRCA2. Unlike pathogenic mutations that are known to cause disease, or benign ones that don’t, these genetic variations just aren’t understood enough to know if they are involved or not.

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First double hand transplant involving a child declared a success

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 22:30:03 GMT2017-07-18T22:30:03Z

Zion Harvey had procedure in US in 2015 and can now use scissors and play baseball, but report highlights his difficult recovery

After almost 11 hours of surgery involving four teams of doctors, Zion Harvey had earned his place in medical history. The eight-year-old had become the first child in the world to receive two new hands in a procedure that seemed to herald a revolution in transplant medicine.

Related: UK's first double hand transplant patient delights in writing letter to thank surgeon

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Hearing loss could pose greater risk of potential dementia in later life – study

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:30:45 GMT2017-07-17T08:30:45Z

Auditory issues could be an early sign of future risk of memory and thinking problems but more research is required to unpick the link, researchers say

People who experience hearing loss could be at greater risk of memory and thinking problems later in life than those without auditory issues, research suggests.

The study focused on people who were at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, revealing that those who were diagnosed with hearing loss had a higher risk of “mild cognitive impairment” four years later.

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Let's twist again: the secrets of kissing angles revealed

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 23:01:34 GMT2017-07-16T23:01:34Z

Humans hard-wired to favour leaning to the right while locking lips with romantic partners, an international study has found

Humans are hard-wired to favour leaning to the right while kissing romantic partners, an international study by psychologists and neuroscientists has found.

The research, by the universities of Dhaka, Bath and Bath Spa, found that kiss recipients have a tendency to match their partners’ head-leaning direction.

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'Tired of medals': new letters reveal how Alfred Russel Wallace shunned Darwin's fame

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:20:21 GMT2017-07-14T16:20:21Z

From declining royal honour to refusing to sit for a portrait, correspondences show co-discoverer of evolutionary theory avoiding publicity

Darwin’s name is eternally linked to one of the most momentous scientific breakthroughs of all time, while his co-discoverer, Alfred Russel Wallace, who first coined the phrase “origin of species”, has been largely forgotten.

Now a newly revealed archive of Wallace’s letters provides a remarkable insight into how he came to be the underdog of evolutionary theory.

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Tardigrades: Earth’s unlikely beacon of life that can survive a cosmic cataclysm

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 09:00:19 GMT2017-07-14T09:00:19Z

Microscopic creatures reassure scientists complete eradication of life on the planet is extremely unlikely

Whether it is a supernova or an asteroid impact, should a cosmic calamity strike, it seems there will be at least one form of life left: a tubby, microscopic animal with the appearance of a crumpled hoover bag.

The creatures, known as tardigrades, are staggeringly hardy animals, a millimetre or less in size, with species living in wet conditions that range from mountain tops to chilly ocean waters to moss and lichen on land.

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Long working days can cause heart problems, study says

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 04:30:14 GMT2017-07-14T04:30:14Z

Chances of developing irregular heartbeat – atrial fibrillation – spikes up considerably with working more than 55 hours a week, research shows

A long hours office culture can affect more than just your social life – long days at work can be bad for your heart as well, according to a major study.

It’s been established that too many hours in the office can increase the risk of a stroke. Now it seems that clocking up more than 55 hours a week means a 40% higher chance of developing an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation (AF), when compared to those with a better work-life balance.

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Chemsex drugs and former legal highs targeted by Home Office

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 10:26:35 GMT2017-07-14T10:26:35Z

Experts praise return to harm-reduction in strategy aimed at cutting illicit drug use and improving dependence recovery rates

Drugs charities and critics have welcomed a shift away from an “abstinence-only” approach to drug treatment and a return to an emphasis on harm-reduction and recovery in the government’s revised drugs strategy.

The 2017 drug strategy, published on Friday by the Home Office, comes at a time of a sharp rise in drug-related deaths despite falling levels of use. It targets psychoactive substances – formerly known as legal highs – performance-enhancing drugs, including “chemsex” substances, and misuse of prescription medicines.

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Lab notes: Teleportation, encoding film into DNA and Jupiter's great red spot

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 14:54:34 GMT2017-07-14T14:54:34Z

Scientists hit a new milestone this week when they successfully exploited the properties of quantum entanglement – particles generated simultaneously existing in a single, shared quantum state – to teleport photons 300 miles into space from Earth. The implications of this are huge. While Star Trek-like teleportation of humans exists in realms of fiction only, achieving space-scale quantum entanglement distance opens up the possibility of building an unhackable quantum internet.

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Concorde was the flying Brexit: a different era but the same mistakes

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 07:00:11 GMT2017-07-21T07:00:11Z

Nationalistic fantasies about future export strengths, an ill-informed public debate and political deceit all masked the economic disaster that was Concorde

The idea that we now live in an age of ‘post-truth’ implies that once-upon-a-time politics was guided by objective reality. Clearly, this is nonsense. We shouldn’t mistake a period in which the media and political establishment offered more coherent stories for a time when politics was truthful. In the recent past, politics could be astonishingly dishonest, especially when it came to supporting national machines. Concorde, the fastest lame duck ever built, was a flying Brexit. The political establishment privately despaired about its costs, whilst knowingly pretending that the project would improve Britain’s place in the world.

Few politicians actually believed in the Concorde project. It was accepted inside Whitehall that the scheme would be an economic disaster. After Harold Wilson came to power in 1964, the Anglo-French supersonic airliner only survived because the government was concerned that unilaterally cancelling the project would lead the French to sue them for more than it would cost to continue to develop the machine.

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UK-built pollution monitoring satellite ready for launch

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 15:29:15 GMT2017-07-20T15:29:15Z

The Sentinel-5P spacecraft is designed to monitor the pollution that causes a reported tens of thousands of deaths every year in the UK

Last year, the European Space Agency launched the Trace Gas Orbiter to Mars. It is designed to look for methane – a key tracer of life – to determine if Martian microbes are present on the red planet.

Now, ESA is preparing to launch another spacecraft to look at methane on another planet: our own.

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Cosmology and particle physics face surprisingly similar challenges

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 11:00:19 GMT2017-07-20T11:00:19Z

Philosophy of science has built an industry around confirmation theory. But unprecedented methodological challenges are forcing philosophers to go back to the drawing-board

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) concluded its biannual Collaboration meeting at University of Chicago in mid-June. DES is one of the largest surveys in cosmology searching for evidence of dark energy, the elusive entity that according to the so-called “concordance model” in cosmology should constitute 73% of the whole mass-energy of the universe. After years of observations at the Blanco Telescope in Chile, spanning the southern sky and mapping 200 million galaxies, DES Year 1 data will soon be publicly released; and there is a lot of anticipation as to whether the data will prove consistent with the current concordance model or not.

DES uses four different probes — baryonic acoustic oscillations (BAO), weak gravitational lensing, Supernova of type Ia, and galaxy clusters — to measure both how fast the universe is accelerating in its expansion and how clumpy the universe was at different epochs after the Big Bang. Precise measurements of both quantities are crucial for establishing whether dark energy is indeed a non-zero vacuum energy responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe; or, whether instead Einstein’s general relativity needs be modified to account for the observed accelerated expansion.

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The power of framing: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 09:18:51 GMT2017-07-20T09:18:51Z

The 2016 election and a wealth of psychological data show how much our reasoning can be influenced by how information is framed

In March 2016, before Trump was selected as the Republican nominee, cognitive scientist George Lakoff was already concerned about the emerging Trump phenomenon. So he wrote an article called “Understanding Trump” that details the ways in which Trump “uses your brain against you” – and sent it to every member of the Clinton campaign.

Lakoff researches how framing influences reasoning, or how the way we say something often matters much more than what we say. And he has used his research to inform how Democrats can better frame their party positions. He consolidated his advice for Democrats in his book, Don’t think of an elephant! The title conveys one of its main insights: if you negate a frame, you strengthen a frame. In other words, if you say “don’t think of an elephant,” you can’t help but think of one.

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Past extinctions point to a current and future biodiversity crisis

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 10:10:39 GMT2017-07-19T10:10:39Z

Rapid climate change is a unifying feature of ancient mass extinctions – how bad might it be now?

At one level extinction is normal and natural. Most of the diversity of life on Earth that has ever existed is now gone, and all species will one day pass from being extant to being extinct. But although it is normal for species to die out, the normal rate is considered to be quite low. On average perhaps just one or two species go extinct in any given year out of all of the bewildering diversity of beetles, mammals, plants, microbes, worms, fungi and fish. In short, a tiny percentage of the literally millions of species.

The current rate of loss though, while naturally hard to measure (not least when we have perhaps only described around 20% of the species on Earth) is considered to be considerably higher. There is a growing list of species we know have gone extinct in the last century and plenty of others are critically endangered or already doomed to extinction (some species have no known breeding animals, or are known from populations of only males). Even though many species are still apparently flourishing they are at a fraction of their previous distribution and populations – there may be tens of thousands left in one forest, but if they formerly numbered in the millions and were much more widespread, then they are now clearly very vulnerable to an outbreak of disease or a single disaster like a flood or fire. Naturally then, there is huge concern about what is happening to these species and what it might mean in the future and scientists are keen to show how bad this may be and for people to respond.

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Did human women contribute to Neanderthal genomes over 200,000 years ago?

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:34:46 GMT2017-07-18T14:34:46Z

A new Neanderthal mitochondrial genome supports a remarkable hypothesis – that there was interbreeding with an extremely early migration of African hominins

Keeping pace with new developments in the field of human evolution these days is a daunting prospect. It seems as though every few weeks there’s an announcement of exciting new findings from hominin fossils, or the recovery of an ancient genome that significantly impacts our understanding of our species’ history.

The best way to keep up is by regularly revisiting and reassessing a few core questions. When and where did our species first appear? How and where did we migrate? What was our relationship to our (now-extinct) hominin relatives? What evolutionary and cultural factors influenced our histories? How do new findings change the answers to these questions? Are they generally accepted by the relevant community of experts, or are they provisional or controversial?

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How British anxiety about European advances created a scientific prize | Rebekah Higgitt

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 12:50:09 GMT2017-07-18T12:50:09Z

Behind the Royal Society’s prestigious Royal Medals, whose 2017 winners were announced today, is a 200-year-old story of Britain’s fear of scientific decline in the face of international competition

The Royal Society today announced a slew of medal and award winners. I wrote previously about the curious history of the Society’s oldest prize medal, awarded earlier this year, but today press focus is on their next most prestigious, the Royal Medals. While the illustrious list of past winners may be recalled, few recognise the medals’ origin in a period of concern for British science and sustained attack on the Society.

As the Society’s website tells us, the Royal Medals were founded by George IV in 1825, to be offered annually for the two “most important contributions to the advancement of Natural Knowledge” in the physical and biological sciences. In the 20th century a third medal was added, for applied sciences. A full list of winners – boasting names like Dalton, Davy, Herschel, Faraday, Darwin, Crookes, Eddington, Dirac and Perutz – can be found here.

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Did you solve it? Are you smarter than an architect?

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:00:08 GMT2017-07-17T16:00:08Z

The solution to today’s 3D puzzle

In my puzzle blog earlier today I set you this puzzle:

Draw a 3-dimensional picture of a shape that goes through each of the holes above, exactly touching all sides as it passes through.

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Dear Lord Adonis, the summer is for working

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:40:44 GMT2017-07-17T15:40:44Z

Why academics feel aggrieved by Lord Adonis raising the old canard that they have too much time off in the summer

“Most academics don’t teach enough,” spouted Lord Adonis, former Labour Education Minister on Twitter last week. He cites his time in Oxford as “evidence”, though I think we might more accurately call it an anecdote. Adonis is perpetuating the myth that academics are lucky so-and-sos who have three months off in the summer. Like teachers. Like MPs even. Remind me: just how long is the parliamentary summer recess?

The reality is, as I’m sure he knows from his sojourn in academia, that the summer is the moment when academics can finally breathe and do all the vital work to keep them going during the teaching year. To tweet that the “Oxford’s estate and resource woefully underused from mid-June until early Oct (3.5 months!). Teaching year far too short,” means he hasn’t set foot in a university during those months recently. They are frequently heaving with academic conferences, summer schools for students of all kinds, open days and more. These summer months are the time when, for instance, physics teaching laboratory equipment in heavy use during the year can be overhauled, maintained and updated; when academics can get into the teaching labs to prepare new experiments. To dream up new experiments that fit within the budget, with robust and (dare I say it) fool-proof equipment for tens if not hundreds of first years is no mean feat. It takes time, and it needs to be a time when the teaching labs are empty – an important logistical detail that evidently escapes Adonis

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Could our approach to chemical weapons help reduce the threat of acid attacks?

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 13:14:12 GMT2017-07-17T13:14:12Z

UK expertise in preventing the misuse of chemical weapons should be applied to tackling the alarming rise in acid violence

On 13 July, five acid attacks occurred across north London in the space of ninety minutes, causing “life-changing” injuries in at least one case, with others severely injured. Two of the alleged attackers have been arrested, yet little is known about them. This follows several incidents of acid violence in London, including an attack last month against Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has sought to calm the brewing hysteria, stating that “I don’t want people to think this is happening all over London all the time, it is really not”. But the Met is now working with the Home Office to see if any changes in the law are required. Earlier this month the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) held a joint summit on acid attacks in which the government’s approach was laid out. This includes reviewing sentencing for such attacks, ensuring legislation is effectively used, and “working with retailers to…restrict access to the most harmful products.”

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Hear, boy? Pet translators will be on sale soon, Amazon says

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 07:00:32 GMT2017-07-22T07:00:32Z

Retailer backs futurologist’s claim that devices conversing in canine will be available in, ruffly speaking, a decade

Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah, as Dr Doolittle once sang – what a neat achievement that would be. Well, Amazon has revealed that the animal-loving doctor’s ambition might not be entirely fantasy.

Pet translators that can turn woofs into words and make sense of miaows, might really be on the horizon, according to a report backed by the internet retailer.

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Cancer patients' grey hair unexpectedly darkens in drug study

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:21:47 GMT2017-07-21T16:21:47Z

Spanish study suggests side effects of new immunotherapy drugs may include restoring hair pigment

A group of cancer patients’ grey hair has unexpectedly darkened after they took new types of drugs, researchers have revealed.

Chemotherapy is known to make patients’ hair fall out, but the 14 people involved were all being treated with new immunotherapy drugs that work differently and have different side effects from chemotherapy. A Spanish study suggests those may include restoring hair pigment, at least in patients with lung cancer.

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Indigenous archaeological find in Kakadu recasts Australian history – video

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 02:54:30 GMT2017-07-20T02:54:30Z

A dig at Madjedbebe on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people in northern Australia has unearthed thousands of artefacts, some as old as 80,000 years. The discovery upends decades-old estimates about the human colonisation of the continent (previously estimated at between 47,000 and 60,000 years) and adds western scientific evidence to Indigenous cultural knowledge about the length of time their ancestors have occupied the land

• Australian dig finds evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago

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Third-hottest June puts 2017 on track to make hat-trick of hottest years

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 05:12:54 GMT2017-07-19T05:12:54Z

June 2017 was beaten only by June in 2015 and 2016, leaving experts with little hope for limiting warming to 1.5C or even 2C

Last month was the third-hottest June on record globally, temperature data suggest, confirming 2017 will almost certainly make a hat-trick of annual climate records, with 2015, 2016 and 2017 being the three hottest years since records began.

The figures also cement estimations that warming is now at levels not seen for 115,000 years, and leave some experts with little hope for limiting warming to 1.5C or even 2C.

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Government offers £2m for scientific research into counter-terrorism

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 23:01:34 GMT2017-07-16T23:01:34Z

Security minister Ben Wallace set to launch competition seeking ideas on how ‘to keep people safe in crowds’

The government is to make up to £2m available to fund research into technology and behavioural science projects that could identify possible terrorists in crowds.

Ministers hope the competition will generate techniques to improve the surveillance and detection of potential terrorist threats.

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Stressful experiences can age brain 'by years', Alzheimer's experts hear

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 19:56:24 GMT2017-07-16T19:56:24Z

Child’s death, divorce or job loss linked to poorer cognition in later life, study finds, with African Americans more susceptible

Stressful life experiences can age the brain by several years, new research suggests. Experts led by a team from Wisconsin University’s school of medicine and public health in the US found that even one major stressful event early in life may have an impact on later brain health.

The team examined data for 1,320 people who reported stressful experiences over their lifetime and underwent tests in areas such as thinking and memory. The subjects’ average age was 58 and included 1,232 white Americans and 82 African Americans. A series of neuropsychological tests examined several areas, including four memory scores (immediate memory, verbal learning and memory, visual learning and memory, and story recall).

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Secrets of the mummies at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 12:14:18 GMT2017-07-16T12:14:18Z

Anthropologist Dario Piombino-Mascali discovers lessons for modern medicine among remains of 23 preserved people

The crypt under the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Vilnius has a vivid history.

The coffins hidden in the gloomy lair under the church’s altar were stripped by Napoleon’s army for wood. During the second world war, the Nazis used it as a makeshift bomb shelter. And in their time as the local overlords, the Soviets converted the crypt into a museum of atheism.

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Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win mathematics' Fields medal, dies at 40

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 04:05:21 GMT2017-07-16T04:05:21Z

  • Stanford professor had suffered from breast cancer
  • Prestigious Fields medal is considered maths’ equivalent of the Nobel

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Related: Maryam Mirzakhani: 'The more I spent time on maths, the more excited I got'

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'Quite odd': coral and fish thrive on Bikini Atoll 70 years after nuclear tests

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 05:54:11 GMT2017-07-15T05:54:11Z

Scientists say marine life has proved ‘remarkably resilient’ despite the Pacific island being declared a wasteland in the 1950s

The former island paradise of Bikini Atoll is slowing blooming back to life, 70 years after the United States dropped 23 nuclear bombs on it, including a device in 1954 that was 1,100-times larger than the Hiroshima atom bomb.

A team of scientists from Stanford University have been surprised to discover an abundance of marine life apparently thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, which was declared a nuclear wasteland after the bombings, with its 167 inhabitants relocated to other islands.

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'Truly unique': lioness adopts and nurses leopard cub

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:22:29 GMT2017-07-14T11:22:29Z

No wild cat has ever been observed nursing a cub from another species – the event may be the result of the Tanzanian lioness having lost her own litter

A lioness has been spotted nursing a tiny leopard cub in Tanzania, the first time a wild cat is known to have adopted a cub from another species.

The five-year old lioness, called Nosikitok is closely monitored by conservationists in the Ngorongoro conservation area and is known to have had a litter of her own in mid to late June.

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Getting to the bottom of the Higgs boson

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 13:11:10 GMT2017-07-17T13:11:10Z

As the Large Hadron Collider at CERN continues probing the high-energy frontier of physics, a new feature of its greatest discovery so far has come into view

In high-energy particle collisions we study the smallest known constituents of matter. According to our best knowledge of physics, these constituents have mass only because of the way they interact with a unique quantity which permeates all of space. This quantity, like practically everything else in the strange world of the very small, is a quantum field.

So much for the recap. Last week we learned something new about the Higgs boson

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Henry Marsh: ‘The mind-matter problem is not a problem for me – mind is matter’

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 07:00:15 GMT2017-07-16T07:00:15Z

The celebrated neurosurgeon and writer talks about 40 years inside our skulls, what’s wrong with the NHS – and the Zen of woodwork

Henry Marsh made the decision to become a neurosurgeon after he had witnessed his three-month-old son survive the complex removal of a brain tumour. For two decades he was the senior consultant in the Atkinson Morley wing at St George’s hospital in London, one of the country’s largest specialist brain surgery units. He pioneered techniques in operating on the brain under local anaesthetic and was the subject of the BBC documentary Your Life in Their Hands. His first book, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, was published in 2014 to great acclaim, and became a bestseller across the world. Marsh retired from full-time work at St George’s in 2015, though he continues with long-standing surgical roles at hospitals in the Ukraine and Nepal. He is also an avid carpenter. Earlier this year he published a second volume of memoir, Admissions: a Life in Brain Surgery, in which he looks back on his career as he takes up a “retirement project” of renovating a decrepit lock-keeper’s cottage near where he grew up in Oxfordshire. He lives with his second wife, the social anthropologist and author Kate Fox. They have homes in Oxford, and in south London, which is where the following conversation took place.

Have you officially retired now?
Well, I still do one day a week for the NHS, though apparently they want a “business case” for it, so I’m not getting paid at present.

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Moon Express in race against time

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 20:30:04 GMT2017-07-13T20:30:04Z

Commercial space company says it is still on track to land on the moon and bag Google’s $20m prize before the end of 2017

Moon Express, a private company founded in California in 2010, is living up to its name. This week in Washington DC, its chief executive, Bob Richards, said it was still on course to launch its lander by the end of the year.

To do this means sticking to a tight schedule. Moon Express is currently building the lander, termed the MX-1E, and hopes to be finished by the end of the summer so it can ship it to the launch site in New Zealand, where further challenges await.

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So long, Dippy: museum's blue whale seeks to inspire love of living world

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 16:10:50 GMT2017-07-12T16:10:50Z

Natural History Museum in London signals urgency of wildlife crisis by replacing dinosaur centrepiece with species alive today

In the hot summer of 1976, when Richard Sabin was 10, he went on a trip with his Birmingham primary school to the Natural History Museum in London. Blown away by the scale of what he was seeing, the wide-eyed schoolboy was told by an attendant that if he wanted to see something really big he should make his way to the mammal hall, where the skeletons of a number of whales, including an enormous blue whale, were displayed.

“Another gallery attendant went past, and I stopped her and said, ‘Are these real?’” recalls Sabin. “And she said, ‘Yes they are. They’re the real skeletons of animals that still live in our oceans today.’ That was the sentence that really grabbed me and carried me away. I didn’t know what to make of what I was seeing. I was transfixed.”

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The great American total solar eclipse

Sun, 09 Jul 2017 20:30:33 GMT2017-07-09T20:30:33Z

On 21 August the total eclipse makes landfall in Oregon at 10:17 PDT and speeds across the country to leave the coast of South Carolina at 14:48 EDT

If we have not made plans for the total eclipse of the Sun that crosses the USA on 21 August, our options are dwindling fast. Many rooms and campsites along the path of totality are already booked and it is only within that path, no more than 115km wide, that the full spectacle of totality is experienced.

After touching down in the NE Pacific, the centre of the Moon’s shadow makes landfall in Oregon at 10:17 PDT (18:17 BST) and speeds across the country to leave the coast of South Carolina at 14:48 EDT (19:48 BST). Totality ends SW of Cape Verde in the E Atlantic.

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Flight into the furnace of Mercury could bring us closer in hunt for alien life

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 23:05:08 GMT2017-07-08T23:05:08Z

Investigation will give clues about where to look for habitable planets

A tiny world that is battered by intense radiation and incredible heat, Mercury is one of the most inhospitable places in our solar system. Zinc would melt on its surface. Yet this scorched planet is set to play a crucial role in one of science’s most important quests: the search to find life on other worlds in our galaxy.

Astronomers believe that Mercury’s proximity to the Sun could provide them with crucial insights about the prospects of finding worlds that can support living organisms. And they hope these insights will be revealed by BepiColombo, a European-Japanese probe that was unveiled to the public last week at the European Space Agency’s research and technology centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

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Fizzy milk or crunchy cheese, anyone? The food of the future

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 09:00:04 GMT2017-07-08T09:00:04Z

Food scientists are battling to overcome dairy and carbs’ image problem – but will mealworms and 3D-printed pasta really win consumers back?

A man in skinny jeans and a bow tie is standing by a whiteboard with various buzzwords written on it: empathy, respect, create. He is leading a corporate bonding day for about 20 workers in an airy atrium, and moves over to start playing Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer on a keyboard, imploring staff to dance. “Come on, don’t be shy! We need to get the energy going! Grab your partner’s hand.”

I am just outside Aarhus in Denmark, in the new innovation centre of one of Denmark’s oldest food companies: Arla, a dairy cooperative, which started life in the 1880s. The centre, which opened in May this year, aims to have more in common with Legoland – just an hour away in Billund – than with a traditional office. A stream runs through the building, which is almost entirely glass-walled, allowing you to peer into various meeting rooms, laboratories and a dairy-processing plant to one side of the building. Here, close to 5km of pipe runs along the walls above men wearing hairnets, who are sticking a probe into a large block of cheese. A large sign painted on to the wall in English reads: “Arla’s Innovative Playground.”

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Jennifer Doudna: ‘I have to be true to who I am as a scientist’

Sun, 02 Jul 2017 06:00:20 GMT2017-07-02T06:00:20Z

Crispr inventor Jennifer Doudna talks about discovering the gene-editing tool, the split with her collaborator and the complex ethics of genetic manipulation

Jennifer Doudna, 53, is an American biochemist based at the University of California, Berkeley. Together with the French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, she led the discovery of the revolutionary gene-editing tool, Crispr. The technology has the potential to eradicate previously incurable diseases, but also poses ethical questions about the possible unintended consequences of overwriting the human genome.

Were you nerdy as a child? What got you hooked on science?
Yes, I was nerdy. My father was a professor of American literature in Hawaii and he loved books. One day I came home from school and he had dropped a copy of The Double Helix on the bed, by Jim Watson. One rainy afternoon I read it and I was just stunned. I was blown away that you could do experiments about what a molecule looks like. I was probably 12 or 13. I think that was the beginning of starting to think, “Wow, that could be an amazing thing to work on.”

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How Antarctica became home to a new kind of scientific diplomacy

Sat, 01 Jul 2017 08:00:09 GMT2017-07-01T08:00:09Z

The International Geophysical Year in 1957 paved the way for the Antarctic treaty, an accord born amid the cold war that continues to reserve an entire continent for peace and science

It all started over dinner: on 1 July 1957, the International Geophysical Year began, paving the way for an international agreement like no other – the Antarctic treaty – which reserves an entire continent for peace and science.

Today’s Antarctica is a tightly regulated continent surrounded by equally carefully managed and cared-for oceans. The Antarctic treaty ensures that Antarctica is used only for peaceful purposes, and that there is freedom of scientific investigation.

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We can cure Alzheimer’s – if we stop ignoring it | Joseph Jebelli

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 11:20:50 GMT2017-07-19T11:20:50Z

The disease is now the leading cause of death among the oldest people. Given focus and funding, however, Alzheimer’s will yield to science and reason

• Joseph Jebelli is a neuroscientist and author

The terror of Alzheimer’s is that it acts by degrees, and can therefore bewilder family members as much as its victims. Those who first notice the onset of Alzheimer’s in a loved one tell of forgotten names and unsettling behaviour, of car keys found in the fridge and clothing in the kitchen cabinet, of aimless wanderings.

Naturally, they want to understand the boundaries of normal ageing and whether these are being crossed. Often, the answer arrives when they’re greeted as complete strangers, when the patient’s mind becomes irrevocably unmoored from its past. The disease is terrifying for its insidiousness as well as its long-term manifestations.

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Governments have to invest in the fourth industrial revolution | Larry Elliott

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 13:11:02 GMT2017-07-16T13:11:02Z

Despite the unprecedented speed of current breakthroughs investment is weak and money is either stashed away or distributed to shareholders

Prepare for the age of the driverless car and the robot that does the housework. That was the message from the World Economic Forum earlier this year as it hailed the start of a new industrial revolution. According to the WEF, the fourth big structural change in the past 250 years is upon us.

The first industrial revolution was about water and steam. The second was about electricity and mass production. The third harnessed electronics and information technology to automate production. Now it is the turn of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, 3D printing and quantum computing to transform the global economy.

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Let’s treat online abuse as a public health hazard | Sonia Sodha

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 05:05:12 GMT2017-07-16T05:05:12Z

Social media bullying is getting the parliamentary attention it deserves – but politicians must focus on what’s going on behind this toxic behaviour

One of the most important breakthroughs in public health came in 1847, when a Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, discovered that surgeons could dramatically cut mortality rates by disinfecting their hands. At the time, he was ridiculed by his medical contemporaries. But today, hand washing remains the cornerstone of lifesaving medical hygiene.

I wonder if we’ve got something important to learn from Semmelweis when it comes to online abuse. Last week, MPs debated a new cross-party report on the rising levels of abuse levelled at election candidates. It found people on all sides of politics being subject to terrible abuse, but particularly women and ethnic minority candidates. While abuse has always been a feature of our politics, there is no doubt it has been turbocharged by the internet and social media.

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Brexit threatens Britain’s place at the nuclear top table | Ian Chapman

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 23:04:05 GMT2017-07-15T23:04:05Z

The UK is currently a world leader in fusion research; leaving Euratom would be calamitous

In the south of France, the largest scientific experiment mankind has ever embarked upon is rising out of the ground. This facility, the Iter project, will demonstrate nuclear fusion power on a commercial scale, involving the European Union, US, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and India. Fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars, and bringing it to Earth has long been a staple of science fiction fantasies.

It is an energy source that, instead of burning fossil fuels, uses water; it produces no long-lived waste and can operate alongside solar, wind and other renewables to power the world to a carbon-free future. Iter will be operational within a decade and will represent a huge step towards fusion, revolutionising the way we generate electricity in the middle part of this century.

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The Guardian view on biodiversity: the lightness of the whale | Editorial

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 17:48:59 GMT2017-07-14T17:48:59Z

Experts warn that Earth’s sixth mass extinction has begun – and humans are to blame. Can Hope help us to confront biological annihilation?

A single blue whale, even with a skeleton of 4.5 tonnes, weighs imperceptibly in the world’s scales when biological annihilation is set on the other side. Yet perhaps the “new” 126-year-old star of the entrance hall of Natural History Museum in London may play some tiny part in tipping the balance. By replacing “Dippy” – the much-loved cast of a diplodocus skeleton – with a creature whose relatives still swim the oceans, the museum seeks to remind us of the glories that remain in the natural world, and the urgent need to conserve them.

The whale was unveiled as the Guardian revealed that researchers believe a sixth mass extinction is under way (marginally more optimistic scientists think we are merely on the verge of such an event). Estimating overall populations – not just the number of exterminated species – they conclude that up to 50% of all land animals have been lost in recent decades. Unlike the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, which saw off Dippy et al, this one is manmade. Scientists blame human over-population and consumption and expect the challenges to intensify, “painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life”. We are not just threatening the creatures with whom we share the world; we are risking our own future. Admittedly, other new research assures us that life on Earth is secure even in the event of cosmic calamity. But while the endurance of the portly micro-animals known as tardigrades may console those thinking on such a grand scale, most of us would rather these creatures have company – including ours.

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The cynical and dishonest denial of climate change has to end: it's time for leadership | Gerry Hueston

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 23:24:30 GMT2017-07-13T23:24:30Z

Absence of climate and energy policy has left Australia lagging dangerously behind, missing out on investment and facing major electricity disruptions.

  • Gerry Hueston is chairperson of the Climate Council and former BP president

Australia has enough renewable energy to power the country 500 times over. With South Australia a step closer to unveiling the largest lithium ion battery storage facility in the world, it is clear just how fast we can make the transition to large-scale renewables when the right policy settings are in place and investors have certainty.

More than a decade ago, as the head of BP Australasia I pushed for action on climate change.

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To hell with sympathetic sexism. ‘Busy mums’ don’t need your patronising help | Sian Townson

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:54:36 GMT2017-07-13T09:54:36Z

We have learned to think critically about obviously biased statements – but against prejudice dressed up as kindness, we are more defenceless

• Sian Townson is a biomedical scientist

Sometimes a rule is merely implied by its exceptions – that’s what the exception that proves the rule actually means. “No swimming outside the flags” tells you it’s OK to swim between the flags. “Closed Sundays” means “Open Monday to Saturday”.

A Royal Society campaign telling you that “women can be scientists, engineers and mathematicians too” tells you that most of the time, scientists, engineers and mathematicians aren’t women.

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Turning the climate crisis into a TV love child of Jerry Springer and Judge Judy | Planet Oz

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 00:49:54 GMT2017-07-13T00:49:54Z

As a Trump appointee pushes for televised slanging match, a New York magazine cover story sparks a different debate – should we talk about how bad global warming could actually get?

In the United States, people who refuse to accept even some of the basic tenets of climate science are calling for a heated debate.

“Who better to do that than a group of scientists … getting together and having a robust discussion for all the world to see,” the boss of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, told Reuters.

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The great red spot of Jupiter as never seen before – in pictures

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 04:32:42 GMT2017-07-13T04:32:42Z

Nasa’s Juno mission has captured stunning images of Jupiter’s great red spot in its first up-close flyby of the huge storm. The raw data has been released to the public, allowing for the never-before-seen images to be creatively brought to life

• See the JunoCam website for more processed images

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Mike Pence: Trump will put ‘American boots on the face of Mars’ – video

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 14:39:23 GMT2017-07-08T14:39:23Z

During a visit to Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida the US vice-president, Mike Pence, says President Trump will return Americans to the moon and put a human presence on the face of Mars, branding space the ‘next great American frontier’. Pence says that frontier will be settled by Americans in order to protect the country’s security

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New Zealand launches 3D-printed rocket into space – video

Thu, 25 May 2017 09:41:27 GMT2017-05-25T09:41:27Z

Stunning images from New Zealand’s North Island as Rocket Lab, a Silicon Valley-funded company, launches the maiden space flight of its battery-powered, 3D-printed rocket from the Mahia peninsula

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The Antikythera mechanism: the world's first computer? – video

Wed, 17 May 2017 14:22:54 GMT2017-05-17T14:22:54Z

The 2,000-year-old Antikythera shipwreck is considered the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century. It included ancient, ornate pottery, weapons, a skeleton that provides scientists with their first real hope of sequencing DNA from a shipwreck victim, and the famous Antikythera mechanism - thought to be the world’s first computer

Images and footage courtesy of Michael Tsimperopoulos and Brett Seymour/EUA/WHOI/Argo.

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Riders on the storm: the scientists who chase tornadoes - in pictures

Wed, 17 May 2017 12:26:50 GMT2017-05-17T12:26:50Z

With funding from the US National Science Foundation and other government grants, scientists and meteorologists from the Center for Severe Weather Research try to get close to supercell storms and tornadoes. They’re trying to better understand tornado structure and strength, how low-level winds affect and damage buildings, and to learn more about tornado formation and prediction.

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Eighteen-foot nodosaur unveiled at Alberta museum – video

Mon, 15 May 2017 20:54:36 GMT2017-05-15T20:54:36Z

An 18ft nodosaur, one of the world’s best preserved armoured dinosaurs, has been unveiled at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada. The fossil was found in 2011 in Alberta’s oilsands, and was subject to 7,000 hours of reconstruction work before being put on display

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Narwhals: new footage reveals possible purpose for mysterious tusk – video

Fri, 12 May 2017 11:55:20 GMT2017-05-12T11:55:20Z

Drone footage in Canada captures the behaviour of rarely-seen narwhals which appear to use their long tusks to tap and stun fish, making them easier to catch. Narwhals, a type of whale, live in remote locations, meaning very little is known about them. WWF and Fisheries and Oceans Canada have been working together to monitor the creature to better protect it from industrial development

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75m-year-old 'Ghostbuster' dinosaur discovered – in pictures

Tue, 09 May 2017 23:01:04 GMT2017-05-09T23:01:04Z

Scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum have identified a new species of anklylosaurid. Named Zuul crurivastator in a nod to a demon dog-like creature from the film Ghostbusters and its potentially shin-bruising armoured anatomy, the skeleton is one of the most complete and best preserved of this group of dinosaurs ever found.

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US should get to Mars during my presidency, Trump tells astronaut – video

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:49:59 GMT2017-04-25T08:49:59Z

Astronaut Peggy Whitson, who broke the US record for the most time in space, has received a congratulatory call from Donald Trump. The US president has urged Nasa to ‘speed up’ its Mars mission despite announcing plans to cut the space agency’s spending by about $200m

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Lyrid meteor shower illuminates sky over China – timelapse video

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:34:18 GMT2017-04-24T08:34:18Z

Stargazers were treated to a spectacle when the Lyrid meteor shower lit up the night sky over the north-eastern province of Jilin at the weekend. The annual event usually occurs between 19 and 23 April when the Earth passes through the dusty tail of comet Thatcher

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Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 05:00:21 GMT2017-06-27T05:00:21Z

It is an industry like no other, with profit margins to rival Google – and it was created by one of Britain’s most notorious tycoons: Robert Maxwell. By Stephen Buranyi

In 2011, Claudio Aspesi, a senior investment analyst at Bernstein Research in London, made a bet that the dominant firm in one of the most lucrative industries in the world was headed for a crash. Reed-Elsevier, a multinational publishing giant with annual revenues exceeding £6bn, was an investor’s darling. It was one of the few publishers that had successfully managed the transition to the internet, and a recent company report was predicting yet another year of growth. Aspesi, though, had reason to believe that that prediction – along with those of every other major financial analyst – was wrong.

The core of Elsevier’s operation is in scientific journals, the weekly or monthly publications in which scientists share their results. Despite the narrow audience, scientific publishing is a remarkably big business. With total global revenues of more than £19bn, it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more profitable. In 2010, Elsevier’s scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year.

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Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 05:00:32 GMT2017-07-04T05:00:32Z

Scientists have cracked the secret to Roman water-based structures’ strength – and findings could help today’s builders

Their structures are still standing more than 1,500 years after the last centurion snuffed it: now the Romans’ secret of durable marine concrete has finally been cracked.

The Roman recipe – a mix of volcanic ash, lime (calcium oxide), seawater and lumps of volcanic rock – held together piers, breakwaters and harbours. Moreover, in contrast to modern materials, the ancient water-based structures became stronger over time.

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Beam me up, Scotty! Scientists teleport photons 300 miles into space

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 16:27:38 GMT2017-07-12T16:27:38Z

Star Trek tech is still way off but successful test of quantum entanglement at Earth-space distance boosts hope for building an unhackable quantum internet

Chinese scientists have teleported an object from Earth to a satellite orbiting 300 miles away in space, in a demonstration that has echoes of science fiction.

The feat sets a new record for quantum teleportation, an eerie phenomenon in which the complete properties of one particle are instantaneously transferred to another – in effect teleporting it to a distant location.

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Oldest Homo sapiens bones ever found shake foundations of the human story

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 17:00:03 GMT2017-06-07T17:00:03Z

Idea that modern humans evolved in East Africa 200,000 years ago challenged by extraordinary discovery of 300,000-year-old remains in Moroccan mine

Fossils recovered from an old mine on a desolate mountain in Morocco have rocked one of the most enduring foundations of the human story: that Homo sapiens arose in a cradle of humankind in East Africa 200,000 years ago.

Archaeologists unearthed the bones of at least five people at Jebel Irhoud, a former barite mine 100km west of Marrakesh, in excavations that lasted years. They knew the remains were old, but were stunned when dating tests revealed that a tooth and stone tools found with the bones were about 300,000 years old.

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Solar eclipse blocks sun in Australia – video

Wed, 14 Nov 2012 09:04:00 GMT2012-11-14T09:04:00Z

Tens of thousands of people, including scientists, tourists and amateur astronomers, gather in the north of the Australian state of Queensland to witness a total eclipse of the sun. The sun, moon and Earth aligned and plunged tropical northern Australia into darkness just after dawn on Wednesday Continue reading...In this photo provided by Tourism Queensland, the moment of a total solar eclipse is observed at Cape Tribulation in Queensland state, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Starting just after dawn, the eclipse cast its 150-kilometer (95-mile) shadow in Australia's Northern Territory, crossed the northeast tip of the country and was swooping east across the South Pacific, where no islands are in its direct path. (AP Photo/Tourism Queensland) EDITORIAL USE ONLY Photograph: APIn this photo provided by Tourism Queensland, the moment of a total solar eclipse is observed at Cape Tribulation in Queensland state, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Starting just after dawn, the eclipse cast its 150-kilometer (95-mile) shadow in Australia's Northern Territory, crossed the northeast tip of the country and was swooping east across the South Pacific, where no islands are in its direct path. (AP Photo/Tourism Queensland) EDITORIAL USE ONLY Photograph: AP

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Can you solve it? Are you smarter than an architect?

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 06:13:02 GMT2017-07-17T06:13:02Z

A puzzle that tests 3D thinking

UPDATE: The solution is now uploaded here

Hi guzzlers,

Today’s puzzle was sent in by a reader who remembers it from his days as an architecture student.

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Scientists discover brain's neural switch for becoming an alpha male

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:00:01 GMT2017-07-13T18:00:01Z

Timid mice turn bold after their ‘alpha’ circuit is stimulated as results show ‘winner effect’ lingers on and mechanism may be similar in humans

Brash, brawny and keen to impose their will on anyone who enters their sphere of existence: the alpha male in action is unmistakable.

Now scientists claim to have pinpointed the biological root of domineering behaviour. New research has located a brain circuit that, when activated in mice, transformed timid individuals into bold alpha mice that almost always prevailed in aggressive social encounters.

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Lab notes: from space origami to ancient Oz, we've hunted high and low for this week's science

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:11:54 GMT2017-07-21T13:11:54Z

I can’t even fold t-shirts neatly (yes, yes, I’ve seen the online tutorials, I’m ham-fisted, ok?) but if you’re or origami expert or a whizz at folding, Nasa might have just the challenge for you. The space agency is crowdsourcing ideas for ways to efficiently pack a radiation shield to protect manned spacecraft on deep space missions. Potentially more achievable for the majority of us, however, are some of the lifestyle changes highlighted in a new report on dementia prevention. The researchers say that potentially over a third of dementia cases could be prevented, although they admit that’s a best case scenario. Still, with 2015 figures showing 45 million people worldwide living with dementia, it’s a ray of hope. Ageing of a different kind has caused excitement this week in Australia, as an archaeological dig has found evidence of Aboriginal habitation from up to 80,000 years ago. The artefacts discovered in Kakadu national park have been dated as being between 65,000 and 80,000 years old, extending the likely occupation of the area by thousands of years. And finally, what once seemed like impossible science fiction is now happening - and causing ethical dilemmas. Robots are now starting to enter public spaces and work alongside humans, bringing with them a need for additional safety measures, say academics, who are calling for robots to be given ‘ethical black boxes’ to track and explain their decisions. Continue reading...[...]

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