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Science | The Guardian

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

Published: Wed, 13 Dec 2017 02:00:34 GMT2017-12-13T02:00:34Z

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

Meet Dracula, the bloodsucking tick which feasted on dinosaurs 99m years ago

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 17:48:30 GMT2017-12-12T17:48:30Z

An Anglo-Spanish team of fossil hunters has found several perfectly preserved ticks amongst the remains of a feathered dinosaur nest

As if the dinosaurs didn’t have enough to look out for with volcanic eruptions, fearsome predators stalking the land and a huge, unstoppable asteroid hurtling across space to ruin their day.

Now scientists have found that the prehistoric beasts also had blood-sucking ticks to contend with, having spotted carcasses of the parasites lodged in 99million-year-old lumps of Burmese amber along with material left over from dinosaurs and their nests.

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Fossil hunters find bones of human-sized penguin on New Zealand beach

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:48:29 GMT2017-12-12T16:48:29Z

Remnants of a 1.77-metre-tall penguin who walked on earth 55m to 60m years ago have been found south of Christchurch

The remnants of an ancient penguin that stood as tall as a human have been found encased in rock on a beach in New Zealand.

Fossil hunters chanced upon the prehistoric bones in sedimentary rock that formed 55m to 60m years ago on what is now Hampden beach in Otago in the country’s South Island.

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New Zealand bans vaginal mesh implants

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:07:10 GMT2017-12-12T16:07:10Z

Ministry of Health asks suppliers to stop marketing the mesh until they have proven its safety

New Zealand has become the first major country to effectively ban vaginal mesh implants in response to safety concerns over the surgery.

The country’s Ministry of Health announced on Monday that it had written to leading mesh suppliers asking them to stop marketing the products from January – or prove that their products are safe.

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Risk of fatal motorcycle crash higher under a full moon, researchers find

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 23:30:18 GMT2017-12-11T23:30:18Z

Although reason for link remains unclear, data suggests extra care is needed when riding on nights with a full moon

Motorcyclists venturing forth under a full moon, beware – the risk of having a fatal crash is higher, researchers have found.

While the reason for the link is not clear the researchers say there could be several possibilities, including that the full moon could distract riders, or make it harder to gauge speed.

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Astronomers to check interstellar body for signs of alien technology

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 19:51:50 GMT2017-12-11T19:51:50Z

Green Bank telescope in West Virginia will listen for radio signals from ‘Oumuamua, an object from another solar system

Astronomers are to use one of the world’s largest telescopes to check a mysterious object that is speeding through the solar system for signs of alien technology.

The Green Bank telescope in West Virginia will listen for radio signals being broadcast from a cigar-shaped body which was first spotted in the solar system in October. The body arrived from interstellar space and reached a peak speed of 196,000 mph as it swept past the sun.

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Offer cash incentives to mothers to promote breastfeeding – study

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:41:14 GMT2017-12-12T00:41:14Z

Trial offering shopping vouchers to 10,000 mothers in northern England resulted in significant rise in breastfeeding levels

Cash incentives should be given to mothers to encourage breastfeeding, according to a “pioneering” pilot study.

More than 10,000 new mothers across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and north Nottinghamshire were involved in the trial, which offered shopping vouchers worth up to £120 if babies received breast milk – either by breastfeeding or with expressed milk – at two days, 10 days and six weeks old. A further £80 of vouchers were given if babies continued to receive breast milk at up to six months.

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Have we lost an Archaeopteryx but gained a new species of theropod dinosaur?

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 13:28:35 GMT2017-12-06T13:28:35Z

Worldwide, there are currently just 12 known Archaeopteryx fossil skeletons – but researchers believe one might in fact be a new species: Ostromia crassipes

A paper published earlier this week in BMC Evolutionary biology suggests that one of only 12 known Archaeopteryx fossil skeletons is not in fact an Archaeopteryx at all but a new species of theropod dinosaur, Ostromia crassipes. One Dutch newspaper, perhaps over-egging it slightly, went as far as likening the discovery to finding out that your Monet painting turned out to be a Van Gogh. So what is Archaeopteryx and why has this paper got palaeontologists (a bit) excited?

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Trump's cuts to national monuments are an assault on our humanity – fight them

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 12:07:21 GMT2017-12-06T12:07:21Z

Reducing Utah’s national monuments is not simply about economics, archeology, ecology or grazing. The degradation of our public lands is a degradation of our humanity

Monday, 4 December, in a much anticipated announcement, US President Donald Trump called for the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument by 84%, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50%. This is just the latest in a series of assaults on cultural heritage under this administration.

In October President Trump announced that the US would pull out of Unesco. It was disheartening, to say the least. This was not an decision that went un-remarked. Many cultural groups and institutions have condemned the attacks, and both the Washington Post and the Guardian have discussed how this move is part of a larger pattern of protectionism and withdrawal from the international community – at a time when, arguably, we need international cooperation more than ever, with 21st century issues such as climate change crossing national borders.

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Did you solve it? This traffic teaser will drive you to distraction

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:00:12 GMT2017-12-04T17:00:12Z

The solution to today’s logic puzzle

In my puzzle blog earlier today I set you the following puzzle:

Five cars are driving round a roundabout. In order, the drivers are Akira, Basho, Chie, Daichi and Etsu. The cars have licence plates numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, but not necessarily in that order. Each driver can see only the licence plate of the car in front of them and the car behind them, but not of the car they are driving. All the drivers can speak to and hear each other via headphones.

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Echo chambers are dangerous –  we must try to break free of our online bubbles

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 11:27:35 GMT2017-12-04T11:27:35Z

Across the political spectrum we must all work harder to analyse our sources of information and our biases. The consequences of not doing so are dire

It has been little over a year since Donald Trump stunned the world by becoming US president. His election marked a severe upset to conventional wisdom, with his startling use of social media drawing particular attention.

A new nadir came last week, with Trump sharing videos from far-right group Britain First via Twitter. These were also shared by conservative Ann Coulter, one of only 45 people the president follows on Twitter.When asked by the BBC’s Nick Robinson to explain why the president might have retweeted videos from a far-right group, Coulter responded that Trump could not be expected to check the biography of people he retweeted and that “the video is the video, it’s not a faked video”.

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It's a sex robot, but not as you know it: exploring the frontiers of erotic technology

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 07:30:36 GMT2017-12-01T07:30:36Z

Sex tech isn’t all just ‘realistic’ robots and wifi-enabled marital aids. Girl on the Net reports from the innovative and surreal Goldsmith’s sex tech hack showcase

In an old church somewhere in South London, senior computing lecturer Dr Kate Devlin lies down on top of a sleeping bag and submits to a hug from a robot. But it doesn’t look how you’d imagine a robot to look: it has no face, no hands, and none of the porny characteristics common to sex robots we see in the mainstream media. It’s a pile of plastic inflatable tubes on top of a sleeping bag, which wrap around you and pulse with air – squeezing and hugging whoever has been brave enough to lie down and try it. In my opinion it’s one of the sexiest things to come out of the Goldsmith’s sex tech hack.

Although only in its second year, the sex tech hack has already managed to throw out ideas that radically challenge the way we think about sex and tech. Broadly, the products we’re used to seeing on sale offer a recognisable upgrade to our current sex toys – vibrators that connect over the internet to allow long-distance play, or sex robots which are basically sex dolls plus a simple Siri-style AI. But at the sex tech hack, the participants’ vision of the future is altogether more unusual: exploring the edges of sensual pleasure, and taking a new look at how we communicate intimately.

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Seven signs that you might be a mammal | Liam Drew

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 07:30:01 GMT2017-11-30T07:30:01Z

Are you 100% sure that you’re a mammal? Do you ever worry that you might be a moth or something? Well, fret no more, we’re here to help

You likely know that you’re a mammal. You have neither feathers nor a shell, you cannot breathe underwater and you only have to look at an ant to feel the vast spans of evolutionary time that lie between you and insects. But are you absolutely sure? Are you 100% confident that you’re a mammal, and not some exotic form of mollusc? Well, now you can be, with this easy-to-use guide!

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Gene discovery may reveal how scaly dinosaurs became feathery birds

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 07:19:16 GMT2017-11-29T07:19:16Z

A study shows that tweaking the genes of alligators can produce feather-like structures – we could be on our way to understanding how birds became birds

It is finally becoming common knowledge to the general public that birds really are dinosaurs. What’s more, an ever-increasing number of discoveries gives us incredible insight into the form and diversity of feathers in various non-avian dinosaurs and early birds. We have a growing understanding of how feathers spread and changed in various lineages, their functions, and why they might have evolved in the first place but a fundamental gap remains in our understanding – how did they evolve?

Feathers are composed of keratin, which also makes up scales (and for that matter claws and parts of skin – and, indeed, our own hair) and they are both growth of the skin, so presumably they have some kind of shared evolutionary history – but that is about as far as researchers have got. There are a number of suggested pathways to get from scale to feather, but while some are well thought of, none are especially well thought of. Complicating the process are the odd patterns that evolution has thrown up from time to time.

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What's the difference between explorers, anthropologists and tourists?

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 11:33:10 GMT2017-11-23T11:33:10Z

Criticism of explorer Benedict Allen, rescued in Papua New Guinea, raises an important question: when is it legitimate to travel to remote communities?

An anthropologist, an explorer and a tourist walk into a bar. They’re each clutching a spear. The anthropologist describes how it was presented to her on her seventh fieldwork season by the elders of the tribe. The explorer regales them with the tale of how he won the spear upon completing an initiation challenge the tribe had set for him, filmed for a documentary. The tourist explains that he paid $10 for his at the market, and needs to get back now otherwise the cruise ship will leave without him …

The media attention about the misadventure and recent rescue of British explorer Benedict Allen from Papua New Guinea, and the debate over whether his exploits are culturally appropriate in a post-colonial world, raise a question that’s at the heart of anthropology itself. Why do we travel to other cultures? Who, if anyone, gives permission? Are only some reasons for travel valid? And once you’re there, what understanding do you hope to achieve?

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Can a GM banana solve Uganda's hunger crisis? | Alon Mwesigwa

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 12:20:16 GMT2017-12-12T12:20:16Z

A law paving the way for GM crops is aimed at tackling the acute food shortages faced by almost 11 million Ugandans, despite experts’ fears over the technology

After an afternoon drizzle, Ephraim Muhereza carefully scouts his three-acre banana plantation in Gayaza, Wakiso district, plucking male buds from trees. This will stop his plants from catching the notorious banana bacterial wilt, which has destroyed many farms in Uganda.

“We have been told that to reduce the spread of the wilt. We have to cut them so that bees that visit them don’t spread the disease,” he says.

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Stop accusing men of overreacting – 'man flu' really does exist, doctor claims

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 08:14:36 GMT2017-12-12T08:14:36Z

A somewhat tongue-in-cheek BMJ article argues that men might experience worse cold and flu symptoms than women, and explores possible explanations

The fight against the ridicule of “man flu” has been taken up by a doctor who says, somewhat tongue-in cheek, that he delved into the issue after growing tired of being accused of overreacting.

In a treatise based on previous studies – some scientific, some notably less so – the Dr Kyle Sue not only puts the case that men might indeed experience worse cold and flu symptoms than women, but also explores why such a difference might have evolved.

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Jeremy Hunt launches opt-out organ donation plans in England

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:01:25 GMT2017-12-12T06:01:25Z

System would presume consent but experts criticise plans, saying there is no yet evidence that opt-out policies increase donation

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is to launch plans for an opt-out system of organ donation, asking people to overcome their “fatal reluctance” to discuss the issue with family and friends.

Under the plans, everybody in England would be presumed to be happy to donate their organs on their death, unless they have signed up to a register stating that they do not want that to happen. In practice, however, it is unlikely that organs would be taken against the wishes of the family.

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Thylacine DNA reveals weakness – and kinship with the kangaroo

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 17:00:10 GMT2017-12-11T17:00:10Z

Researchers sequence the Tasmanian tiger’s genome, showing it to be a closer relative of the kangaroo than the dingo

The first full genetic blueprint of the long-extinct thylacine has revealed the animal suffered from genetic weakness well before it was isolated on Tasmania 10,000 to 13,000 years ago.

An international team of researchers led by associate professor Andrew Pask from the University of Melbourne used DNA from the 106-year-old preserved remains of a juvenile thylacine or Tasmanian tiger to sequence the animal’s genome, making it one of the most complete genetic blueprints for an extinct species.

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Excitement as trial shows Huntington's drug could slow progress of disease

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 12:20:00 GMT2017-12-11T12:20:00Z

Hailed as ‘enormously significant’, results in groundbreaking trial are first time a drug has been shown to suppress effects of Huntington’s genetic mutation

A landmark trial for Huntington’s disease has announced positive results, suggesting that an experimental drug could become the first to slow the progression of the devastating genetic illness.

The results have been hailed as “enormously significant” because it is the first time any drug has been shown to suppress the effects of the Huntington’s mutation that causes irreversible damage to the brain. Current treatments only help with symptoms, rather than slowing the disease’s progression.

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Egypt announces discovery of 3,500-year-old tombs in Luxor

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 18:15:33 GMT2017-12-09T18:15:33Z

Country hopes find will boost tourism industry, which has been suffering since 2011 uprising

Egypt has announced the discovery of two small tombs in the southern city of Luxor dating back about 3,500 years, a find the government hopes will help revive the country’s ailing tourism sector.

The tombs, located on the west bank of the Nile in a cemetery for noblemen and top officials, are the latest discovery in the city famed for its temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.

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Laureates gather in Stockholm for 2017 Nobel prize ceremony

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 08:30:02 GMT2017-12-09T08:30:02Z

On Sunday the King of Sweden will present Nobel winners with their awards, amid criticism that this year’s science prizes lacked diversity

The 2017 Nobel laureates will be presented with their awards by the King of Sweden during a ceremony in Stockholm on Sunday.

The laureates include three American physicists who were recognised for their contributions to the first observations of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago. Another trio of American scientists won this year’s Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for their discoveries of the biology that underpins circadian rhythms.

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Windmill drawing found on wall of Isaac Newton childhood home

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:01:27 GMT2017-12-08T00:01:27Z

Scratched image discovered at Woolsthorpe Manor using method that reveals detail invisible to the naked eye

A friend of Isaac Newton once described him as a compulsive scribbler on walls. Almost 300 years after the scientist’s death, a wobbly drawing of a windmill has turned up, scratched into a wall at his childhood home.

The image was found during a conservation study at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, now owned by the National Trust, where there is also an apple tree said to be the one that inspired Newton’s theory of gravity.

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Pacific pop-up: island that rose from the ashes might last 30 years

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 05:29:27 GMT2017-12-12T05:29:27Z

Tongan volcanic island unofficially named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai was initially only expected to stay above sea level for a matter of months

A new Tongan island formed from the ash of a 2014 volcanic eruption in the South Pacific could exist for decades, according to a study released by Nasa.

The ash island, unofficially named Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, formed during a submarine volcanic eruption that lasted from late December 2014 to early January 2015. The new land mass, which has a 120m summit, was originally only predicted to last months.

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'You know that you’re gradually lessening': life with Huntington's

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 12:20:07 GMT2017-12-11T12:20:07Z

Huntington’s patient Peter Allen and his siblings – who also carry the gene – watched their mother and grandmother slowly die from the disease. But a new trial has given the family a glimmer of hope

Huntington’s has blighted Peter Allen’s family for generations. He watched his mother, Stephanie, slowly die from the disease and before that his grandmother, Olive, fell victim to the same illness. At 51 years old, Peter is the first of his generation to show signs of the illness, but his sister, Sandy, and brother, Frank, know they are also carrying the gene.

The onset of Huntington’s is insidious. Psychological changes typically come first – tiredness, mood swings, apathy and anger. Four years ago, Peter was formally diagnosed as symptomatic when he began suffering anxiety and panic attacks so severe he would become convinced that he couldn’t swallow. In retrospect, the depression he suffered in his thirties may have been an earlier manifestation of changes happening his brain.

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Struggling to express your feelings? Get an imaginary friend

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 14:10:33 GMT2017-12-12T14:10:33Z

Comedian and author David Walliams recently revealed he has clung on to the friends he invented as a child – something that can help even adults make sense of emotions, says psychotherapist Philippa Perry

Comedian and children’s author David Walliams recently said that the make-believe companions of his childhood were still with him. “They’re still my friends – they’re not imaginary, are they?”

Being a psychotherapist with no sense of humour, I am going to answer Walliams’s question seriously.

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Iter nuclear fusion project reaches key halfway milestone

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 17:00:22 GMT2017-12-06T17:00:22Z

After a series of set backs the international project is back on track, say scientists, giving tentative hope for a major new source of clean power by 2025

An international project to generate energy from nuclear fusion has reached a key milestone, with half of the infrastructure required now built.

Bernard Bigot, the director-general of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter), the main facility of which is based in southern France, said the completion of half of the project meant the effort was back on track, after a series of difficulties. This would mean that power could be produced from the experimental site from 2025.

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Starwatch: a sparkling year for the Geminids

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:30:03 GMT2017-12-10T21:30:03Z

Last year our most reliable meteor shower was swamped by the proximity of a ‘supermoon’. This year, weather permitting, it should be spectacular

The reliable Geminids meteor shower has returned to our sky and, with the Moon as an unobtrusive waning crescent before dawn, we are in for a spectacular display of meteors over the coming week.

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Having a high IQ is a curse ... just look at Donald Trump | Arwa Mahdawi

Sun, 10 Dec 2017 13:00:01 GMT2017-12-10T13:00:01Z

Research suggests that people with high IQ scores are more likely to have mood disorders, and a higher risk factor of ‘psychological overexcitabilities’ – perhaps that explains the behaviour of the man in the White House

My IQ is extremely, almost embarrassingly, high. I’ve never actually taken an IQ test, mind you, but my educated guess is that, if I did, my score would be whatever is the highest possible. No doubt your IQ is lower than mine, but please don’t feel stupid or insecure because of this, it’s not your fault. You’re probably just born that way. And you know what? Thank your lucky stars and subpar genetic makeup that you don’t bear the burden of brilliance like I have to. Being incredibly intelligent is a curse. This is not just one of the many astute observations I have every day, by the way, it is a fact recently confirmed by science.

Research published in the journal Intelligence, a very intelligent publication, has found having a superior IQ is a “risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities”. These results are based on a survey that researchers from Pitzer College, in California, and Seattle Pacific University sent to Mensa members. To join Mensa, you have to score in the top 2% of the population on an approved intelligence test, which normally means an IQ of 132 or higher (the average being around 100). You also, I imagine, have to have a higher than average Insufferable Quotient – but that is beside the point. The survey found Mensans were more likely than the rest of the population to have conditions such as mood and anxiety disorders, allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases.

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Yale psychologist John Bargh: ‘Politicians want us to be fearful. They’re manipulating us for their own interest'

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 18:30:56 GMT2017-12-08T18:30:56Z

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have free will – a book by a US academic has analysed the unconscious, evolutionary instincts driving modern society and the results are a chilling indictment on how far we are yet to come

As the year’s end draws near, many of us look back and reflect on what we got right and got wrong during the past 12 months. For some, this will be a less agreeable experience than for others, but however you feel about your behaviour in 2017, you will almost certainly assume that the choices you made were your own.

You could not, according to John Bargh, be more wrong. The Yale psychologist has just written a book, Before You Know It, about the eye-opening extent to which our actions are dictated by forces within us to which we are almost entirely oblivious. Who knew, for example, that we feel less hostile to people different to ourselves after washing our hands? Or that the reason why you’re feeling so friendly is the cup of piping hot coffee you are holding? Or that parents who want to encourage their children to be generous will have more success by turning the room temperature up than by telling them to share? Bargh’s book, as Malcolm Gladwell puts it, “moves our understanding of the mysteries of human behaviour one giant step forward” – not least in helping make sense of some of the big stories of 2017.

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It's beloved, but Australia's magpie is an international bird of mystery | Leo Joseph

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 08:30:08 GMT2017-12-12T08:30:08Z

Our magpies are not the same as Europe’s, so why do they share a name? The bird of the year has a complicated back story

The Australian magpie has been crowned bird of the year but how much do we really know about it? Where do magpies fit in the evolutionary scheme of things? Why do we even call them magpies?

DNA sequencing technology has revolutionised biology. Our understanding of the evolutionary tree of bird life – that is how species and groups of birds are related to each other and how their evolution has unfolded on the planet’s changing continents – is no exception. We now have a much better understanding than we did just 30 years ago of where all the species of the world’s birds perch, so to speak, on that tree.

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Theresa May: It’s Britain’s duty to help nations hit by climate change

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:00:18 GMT2017-12-12T00:00:18Z

The benefits of clean growth lay at the heart of our industrial strategy. But we must be at the forefront of the effort to keep global temperature rises at manageable levels

Tackling climate change and mitigating its effects for the world’s poorest are among the most critical challenges the world faces. That is why I will join other world leaders gathering in Paris today for the One Planet Summit.

There is a clear moral imperative for developed economies such as the UK to help those around the world who stand to lose most from the consequences of manmade climate change. But by putting the UK at the forefront of efforts to cut carbon emissions and develop clean energy, we can also make the most of new economic opportunities. And by taking action to create a secure natural environment, we are fulfilling a duty we owe to the next generation.

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Why did climate scientists emit 30,000 tonnes of C02 this weekend? | Peter Kalmus

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:00:16 GMT2017-12-11T08:00:16Z

Around 25,000 of my colleagues flew to a conference, leaving a colossal carbon footprint in their wake. This makes our warnings less credible to the public

This weekend, 25,000 Earth, Sun, and planetary scientists from across the US and abroad flew to New Orleans for the annual American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. These scientists study the impact global warming is having on Earth. Unfortunately, their air travel to and from the meeting will contribute to that warming by emitting around 30,000 tonnes of CO2.

As an Earth scientist and AGU member myself, I know the importance of their work. Still, there’s something wrong with this picture. As scientists, our work informs us – with dreadful clarity and urgency – that burning fossil fuel is destroying the life support systems on our planet. There’s already more than enough science to know we need to stop. Yet most scientists burn more than the average American, simply because they fly more.

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Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death | George Monbiot

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 06:00:14 GMT2017-12-11T06:00:14Z

The Earth cannot accommodate our need and greed for food. We must change our diet before it’s too late

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is all the food going to come from?

By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

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Crime, terrorism and teen pregnancies: is it really all doom and gloom? Only in our minds | Bobby Duffy

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 12:30:02 GMT2017-12-08T12:30:02Z

An Ipsos Mori survey has found that it’s in our nature to dwell on the negative aspects of life, thinking things are worse than they are – but we must confront it

A new survey from Ipsos Mori reveals that the public in 38 countries have deeply inaccurate views about crime, terrorism and many other important social issues. And this is not just the result of random guessing – there is a systematic pattern to our errors. We tend to think things are worse than they are, and they’re going downhill fast.

The Perils of Perception study found that only 7% of people think the murder rate is lower in their country than it was in 2000 – but it is actually significantly down in most countries, and, across the countries overall, it’s down 29%.

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Supermoon trilogy begins – in pictures

Sun, 03 Dec 2017 23:16:33 GMT2017-12-03T23:16:33Z

A series of three supermoons will start on the 3rd December 2017, continuing on the 1st and 31st of January 2018. The lunar phenomenon occurs when a full moon is at its closest point to earth so it appears larger than usual

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'It's a delicate place': Nasa captures 20 years of Earth's seasonal changes – video

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 02:50:26 GMT2017-11-18T02:50:26Z

A Nasa oceanographer explains how the US space agency successfully captured 20 years of changing seasons to form a striking new global map. The projection of the Earth and its biosphere is derived from two decades of satellite data from September 1997 to September 2017

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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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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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Polish up your pecs: women prefer strong men, say scientists

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:01:04 GMT2017-12-13T00:01:04Z

Researchers asked 160 women to rate the attractiveness of headless male torsos and every single woman chose the stronger men over the weak

Some women may claim that chiselled abs and giant biceps are not what they are seeking in a man. But a scientific study suggests that if your female partner tells you this, she is probably just being kind.

The study, on the subject of male bodily attractiveness, has found that the most Herculean bodies were universally the most appealing, according to the 160 women doing the rating.

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Mysterious object confirmed to be from another solar system

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:59:13 GMT2017-11-20T19:59:13Z

Astronomers have named interstellar object ’Oumuamua and its red colour suggests it carries organic molecules that are building blocks of life

Astronomers are now certain that the mysterious object detected hurtling past our sun last month is indeed from another solar system. They have named it 1I/2017 U1(’Oumuamua) and believe it could be one of 10,000 others lurking undetected in our cosmic neighbourhood.

The certainty of its interstellar origin comes from an analysis that shows its orbit is almost impossible to achieve from within our solar system.

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Mystery bird: black-and-red broadbill, Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos | @GrrlScientist

Tue, 07 Aug 2012 16:30:00 GMT2012-08-07T16:30:00Z

This lovely southeast Asian mystery bird is a distant relative of another mystery bird that I shared this week.

Black-and-red broadbill, Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos (protonym, Todus macrorhynchos), Gmelin, 1788, also known as the black-red broadbill, common rouge-et-noir bird, Arakan black-and-red broadbill or as the allied broadbill, photographed along the Menanggul River, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Image: Alex Vargas, 16 November 2010 (with permission, for GrrlScientist/Guardian use only) [velociraptorise].
Nikon D5000, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR 1/160s f/4.0 at 420.0mm iso500 with a Nikon 1.4X Teleconverter on.

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'Would you be willing?': words to turn a conversation around (and those to avoid)

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 12:00:09 GMT2017-12-04T12:00:09Z

Choose your words carefully and you can get someone to change their mind, or see you in a new light

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it – isn’t it? According to language analysts, we may have this wrong. ‘‘We are pushed and pulled around by language far more than we realise,” says Elizabeth Stokoe, professor of social interaction at Loughborough University. Stokoe and her colleagues have analysed thousands of hours of recorded conversations, from customer services to mediation hotlines and police crisis negotiation. They discovered that certain words or phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation.

Some of these words are surprising, and go against what we’ve been taught to believe. (For example, in a study of conversations between doctors and patients, evidence showed that doctors who listed “options” rather than recommended “best-interest” solutions, got a better response, despite the suggestion from hospital guidelines to talk about the best interests of the patient.) But, from conversation analysts such as Stokoe to FBI negotiators and communication coaches, we’re learning which words are likely to placate or persuade us. Here are some of the biggest dos and don’ts.

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Mysterious object seen speeding past sun could be 'visitor from another star system'

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:27:45 GMT2017-10-27T14:27:45Z

If its origins are confirmed, the asteroid or comet, named A/2017 U1, will be the first object known to come from elsewhere in the galaxy, say astronomers

A mysterious object detected hurtling past our sun could be the first space rock traced back to a different solar system, according to astronomers tracking the body.

While other objects have previously been mooted as having interstellar origins, experts say the latest find, an object estimated to be less than 400m in diameter, is the best contender yet.

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36m-year-old fossil discovery is missing link in whale evolution, say researchers

Thu, 11 May 2017 16:03:04 GMT2017-05-11T16:03:04Z

Mystacodon selenensis, found in Peru, is the oldest known cousin of modern baleen whales and offers unprecedented evolutionary insights

Fossil hunters say they have unearthed a missing link in the evolution of baleen whales after digging up the remains of a creature thought to have lived more than 36 million years ago.

The whales, known as mysticeti, sport a bristling collection of sieve-like plates known as baleen that they use to filter water for food. Species include the enormous blue whale, the gray whale and the humpback whale.

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No, there hasn’t been a human 'head transplant', and there may never be

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 14:20:06 GMT2017-11-17T14:20:06Z

Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is in the news again, claiming to have performed the first successful human head transplant. But even cursory analysis reveals that he hasn’t. And scientific logic suggests he never will

In February 2015, Sergio Canavero appeared in this very publication claiming a live human head will be successfully transplanted onto a donor human body within two years. He’s popped up in the media a lot since then, but two years and nine months later, how are things looking?

Well, he’s only gone and done it! As we can see in this Telegraph story from today, the world’s first human head transplant has been successfully carried out. Guess all those more timid neurobods who said it couldn’t be done (myself included) are feeling pretty foolish right now, eh?

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Giant penguin fossil shows bird was taller than most humans

Mon, 04 Aug 2014 16:39:48 GMT2014-08-04T16:39:48Z

Analysis of 37m-year-old fossil unearthed in Antarctica shows species would have dwarfed today’s biggest living penguins

A penguin species that lived millions of years ago would have dwarfed today’s biggest living penguins and stood as tall as most humans, according to analysis of fossils by a team of researchers from the La Plata Museum in Argentina.

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii has already been dubbed the “colossus penguin”, and is the most complete fossil ever uncovered from the Antarctic. The unearthed bones are 37m years old and include the longest recorded fused ankle-foot bone as well as parts of a wing bone.

Continue reading...Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) walking on ice, Prydz Bay, eastern Antarctica, 11 November 2011. Photograph: Tui De Roy/CorbisEmperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) walking on ice, Prydz Bay, eastern Antarctica, 11 November 2011. Photograph: Tui De Roy/Corbis

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Alien search detects radio signals from dwarf galaxy 3bn light years from Earth

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:38:55 GMT2017-09-01T17:38:55Z

Stephen Hawking’s Breakthrough Listen project picks up radio pulses that could be from black holes, neutron stars or, some speculate – UFO beacons

Astronomers searching for signals from alien civilisations have detected 15 powerful, repeated radio pulses coming from a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light years away from Earth.

The source of the mysterious signals, known as fast radio bursts, is unknown. Some have proposed they could be emanating from black holes or rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields. A more speculative possibility is that they are beacons from extraterrestrial spacecraft.

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Scientists unravel mystery of the loose shoelace

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 23:15:19 GMT2017-04-11T23:15:19Z

Researchers discover how laces come undone and offer alternative way to tie them that does knot involve your granny

Things can start to unravel at any moment, but when failure occurs it is swift and catastrophic. This is the conclusion of a scientific investigation into what might be described as Sod’s law of shoelaces.

The study focused on the mysterious phenomenon by which a shoe is neatly and securely tied one moment, and the next a flapping lace is threatening to trip you up – possibly as you are running for the bus or striding with professional purpose across your open-plan office.

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