Science news from the Guardian


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

Last feed update: Tuesday May 17th, 2022 03:06:55 AM

Child’s 130,000-year-old tooth could offer clues to extinct human relative

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 10:46:51 PM Agence France-Presse
Researchers believe the discovery in a Laos cave proves that Denisovans lived in the warm tropics of southeast AsiaA child’s tooth at least 130,000 years old found in a Laos cave could help scientists uncover more information about an early human cousin, according to a new study.Researchers believe the discovery proves that Denisovans – a now-extinct branch of humanity – lived in the warm tropics of southeast Asia. Continue reading…

Plantwatch: the plants that kill their insect pollinators

Wednesday May 18th, 2022 05:00:41 AM Paul Simons
Jack-in-the-pulpit plants lure in gnats, cover them in pollen and trap them. As they struggle to escape they pollenate female flowersThere are two plant species with the most brutal flowers in the world, which deliberately kill their insect pollinators. The flowers of jack-in the pulpit, Arisaema angustatum, and its close relative Arisaema peninsulae are hidden inside a bowl-shaped wrapper with a narrow entrance, with a tall hood standing above. The floral dungeon lures in male fungus gnats, possibly by imitating the sexy scent of female gnats to fool the males into finding a mate. When the plants are small they only develop male flowers, which cover the gnats in pollen. The floral prison is too slippery for the gnats to climb out of, and their only escape is through a tiny hole in the chamber, before they can fly off and fall for the same trick on another plant. But as the plants grow larger, they develop female flowers and the escape hole closes and so gnats falling into the floral prison now become well and truly imprisoned. As they desperately try to escape they smother the female flowers with pollen, but with no escape route and no food, the gnats eventually die – quite possibly the cruellest cross-pollination strategy of any known flower. Continue reading…

Contact lens that can release drug could be used to treat glaucoma

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 03:00:23 PM Nicola Davis Science correspondent
Invention can deliver medication after detecting pressure in the eye from fluid buildup, scientists say A contact lens that can release a drug if it detects high pressure within the eye has been created by scientists who say it could help treat glaucoma.Glaucoma is an eye disease that involves damage to the optic nerve, and can lead to blindness if not treated. Continue reading…

Infertile men may be twice as likely to develop breast cancer, study suggests

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 12:00:42 AM Andrew Gregory Health editor
Researchers find link between fertility issues and cancer risk, but say biological reason unclearInfertile men may be twice as likely to develop breast cancer than those without fertility issues, according to one of the largest ever studies of the disease.Breast cancer in males is less common than in females and its relation to infertility had previously been investigated only in small studies. The new research was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research. Continue reading…

Achoo! The hay fever season lasts longer than ever. Here’s what we can do about it | Kate Ravilious

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 11:22:37 AM Kate Ravilious
The climate crisis is giving trees a bigger window to spread their pollen, but cleaner air and better early warning forecasts can help protect usIf you have sneezed your way through the last few days, you are not alone. About a quarter of the UK population are thought to suffer from hay fever, with numbers continuing to grow. And the latest research suggests that the climate crisis is going to make the hay fever season a whole lot longer and more intense, with up to three times as much pollen wafting around by the end of the century. Hold on to your antihistamines.For people with lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pollen bursts are a serious risk that can be deadly in the most extreme cases. In November 2016, a pollen outbreak caused by a thunderstorm fragmenting pollen into smaller pieces in Melbourne, Australia, overwhelmed the emergency services and resulted in at least nine deaths.Kate Ravilious is a freelance science journalist based in York, UK; she writes on Earth, climate and weather-related issues Continue reading…

Who owns Einstein? The battle for the world’s most famous face

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 05:00:49 AM Simon Parkin
Thanks to a savvy California lawyer, Albert Einstein has earned far more posthumously than he ever did in his lifetime. But is that what the great scientist would have wanted?In July 2003, the physicist and Pulitzer-prize-nominated author Dr Tony Rothman received an email from his editor bearing unwelcome news. Rothman’s new book was weeks from publication. An affable debunking of widely misunderstood stories from the history of science, the title, Everything’s Relative, was a playful nod to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Rothman had asked his publisher, Wiley, to put a picture of history’s most famous scientist on the cover.“An issue just came up,” the email read. Rothman’s editor had been warned that Einstein’s estate is “extremely aggressive and litigious”. Unless the publisher paid a hefty fee to use the image of Einstein, the editor explained, they could be sued. Rothman was dismayed. “I think this is ridiculous,” he replied via email. “If the estate went after everybody who used [Einstein’s image], they’d have no time on their hands for anything else. Are you sure they even own it?” Rothman’s editor was unwilling to investigate the legal technicalities. It was not the first time the publisher had encountered hostile heirs, he said, referring darkly to “the slavering jackals” who run the literary estate of one iconic 20th-century American writer. Continue reading…

We need a definitive exit from our Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s the roadmap | Eric Topol

Monday May 16th, 2022 10:13:31 AM Eric Topol
Nasal or oral coronavirus vaccines, more and better drugs, and a variant-proof vaccine could catalyze a clear way outAs the virus accelerates its evolution, the humans capitulate. For two and a half years, Covid-19 has been outrunning our response, getting more and more transmissible, reaching a level of infectiousness that few pathogens have ever attained. Instead of taking a stance of getting ahead of the virus, and outsmarting it, people have succumbed.In recent months, we experienced a striking jump in transmissibility when the Omicron (BA.1) variant became dominant, with at least a threefold increase in reproductive number beyond Delta. Despite the hope that this might be reaching the upper limit of the virus’s spreadability, we quickly transitioned to a BA.2 wave, with at least another jump of about 30% transmissibility, and now we are heading, in the United States, to a dominant subvariant known as BA.2.12.1, which is another 25% more transmissible than BA.2 and already accounting for close to 50% of new cases. Continue reading…

‘We have to be careful’: why are masks still worn in Japan and South Korea?

Monday May 16th, 2022 07:06:58 AM Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Covid cases are stabilising in the countries but many may continue to wear face coverings, even if rules changeFor more than two years, the people of Japan and South Korea have been united by their embrace of little white rectangles. While the US and countries in Europe debated the efficacy of masks at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japanese and South Koreans quickly covered up, uncomplainingly and with few exceptions.Explanations for the wildly contrasting coronavirus death tolls in developed countries are many and varied, but in north-east Asia – more than anywhere else – mask-wearing has been at the forefront of the public health response to the virus. Continue reading…

Ending England’s Covid restrictions was divisive – but the data shows we were right | Raghib Ali

Thursday May 12th, 2022 10:06:46 AM Raghib Ali
Despite Omicron worries, England has fared no worse than other nations that kept restrictions in placeRaghib Ali is a clinical epidemiologistIt is now five months since the Omicron variant was first detected in the UK – and although its impact was less severe than many initially feared, it’s estimated that more than 30 million people in England have been infected, with 200,000 hospitalised and even more suffering with long Covid across the UK, and over 20,000 deaths. Behind these headline figures lies a more complicated reality, yielding important lessons about the impact of government-mandated restrictions that could help end disagreements between some scientists and help us deal with future waves.Raghib Ali is a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge and a consultant in acute medicine at the Oxford university hospitals NHS trustDo you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at guardian.letters@theguardian.com Continue reading…

Half of Covid-hospitalised still symptomatic two years on, study finds

Wednesday May 11th, 2022 10:30:46 PM Andrew Gregory Health editor
Research on Wuhan patients reveals effects of long Covid, with 11% still not having returned to workMore than half of people hospitalised with Covid-19 still have at least one symptom two years after they were first infected, according to the longest follow-up study of its kind.While physical and mental health generally improve over time, the analysis suggests that coronavirus patients discharged from hospital still tend to experience poorer health and quality of life than the general population. The research was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Continue reading…

E-cigarettes ‘as safe as nicotine patches’ for pregnant smokers trying to quit

Monday May 16th, 2022 03:47:23 PM Nicola Davis
Pregnant smokers were more likely to quit when using e-cigarettes than patches after four weeks, study showsE-cigarettes are as safe to use as nicotine patches for pregnant smokers trying to quit, and may be a more effective tool, researchers have revealed.Smoking in pregnancy can increase the risk of outcomes including premature birth, miscarriage and the baby having a low birth weight. But stubbing out the habit can be a struggle. Continue reading…

Endurance shipwreck threatened by global heating, says marine archaeologist

Sunday May 15th, 2022 03:50:54 PM Dalya Alberge
Exclusive: Mensun Bound warns of ocean acidification and melting ice, as well as robotic technology that could enable theftsAs a marine archaeologist, Mensun Bound headed the 2022 Antarctic expedition that discovered the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, more than a century after the legendary ship became trapped in ice and sank.Now he is warning that its protection cannot be guaranteed due to the combined threats of global heating and underwater robotic technology that could enable thefts from the historic site. Continue reading…

Taboo stops south Asian people in UK seeking help for dementia, says charity

Sunday May 15th, 2022 02:56:47 PM Andrew Gregory Health editor
Exclusive: Alzheimer’s Society says fear of embarrassment or misunderstanding stops thousands coming forwardThousands of south Asian people living with dementia in the UK are being denied access to help and support because stigma and taboo deter them from getting diagnosed, a charity has warned.People from south Asian communities are more likely to develop dementia than the general UK population due to being at higher risk of other illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, that increase the risk of dementia. Continue reading…

Blood moon: how to catch sight of dramatic eclipse in UK

Sunday May 15th, 2022 01:37:24 PM Emily Dugan
Earth’s shadow will turn moon brick red just before dawn on Monday, while US will be treated to evening eclipseAstronomy enthusiasts will be setting their alarms for the small hours of Monday morning to catch a glimpse of a dramatic super blood moon.The Earth will come between the sun and the moon just before dawn in western Europe, making the moon appear brick red as it falls into the Earth’s shadow. The effect is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere bending some of the sun’s light towards it. Continue reading…

Meet the former Nazi rocket scientist who all too accurately saw the future | John Naughton

Saturday May 14th, 2022 03:00:05 PM John Naughton
As well as serving in the SS and a second act as a Nasa engineer, Wernher von Braun wrote a Martian sci-fi novel with a prescient twist…I recently read (and greatly enjoyed) V2, Robert Harris’s absorbing second world war thriller about British attempts to locate and destroy the base in the Netherlands from which Hitler’s “Retaliation Weapon 2” – those devastating rocket-powered bombs aimed at London – were launched. Harris is famous for the meticulous research that underpins his plots and V2 is no exception. For me, a particularly interesting aspect of the novel was his portrayal of Wernher von Braun, the German aerospace engineer who was the leading figure in the development of Nazi rocketry and who was snaffled by the US (with a large number of his technical associates) to enjoy a splendid second career as the mastermind of the US space programme.Harris portrays Von Braun as an exceedingly shrewd operator who effectively used the Nazi regime to enable him to further his dream of space exploration. Although he joined the National Socialist party in 1937, he claimed that doing so was the only way of being allowed to continue his technical work on rocketry, which is perhaps plausible. Less so perhaps was his decision to join the SS, a decision that plays a useful role in Harris’s story. Continue reading…

Here’s another reason to donate blood: it reduces ‘forever chemicals’ in your body | Adrienne Matei

Thursday May 12th, 2022 10:18:00 AM Adrienne Matei
While the $4tn global wellness industry bends over backwards to sell us dubious detox products, there is an accessible, easy, and free way to genuinely rid our bloodstreams of toxinsAmong all the toxins in the Pandora’s Box of chemical pollutants that humans have released upon the world, PFAS are particularly disturbing.PFAS – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – are nicknamed “forever chemicals” for their ubiquity, persistence and toxicity. They are used in household items including non-stick pans, waterproof fabrics, and microwave popcorn bags, and can contaminate water, air, soil, crops and animal products. They accumulate in the blood, bones and tissues of living things and do not degrade. PFAS impair human immune systems, making us more susceptible to diseases – even those we’ve been vaccinated against. Researchers associate the chemicals with liver disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, and certain cancers, among other health problems. These observations generally pertain to the relatively few PFAS we have researched, including PFOA and PFOS; PFAS belong to a massive family of chemicals, thousands of them unstudied and potentially harmful.Adrienne Matei is a freelance journalist Continue reading…

Sweden? Japan? UK? Debates over who had a ‘good’ Covid won’t end | Francois Balloux

Sunday May 8th, 2022 06:30:21 AM Francois Balloux
The WHO has spoken but even its huge new report will not settle arguments about pandemic strategiesNational Covid death rates are, inevitably, political. How could they not be when they are viewed as evidence for good or bad government on matters of life or death? How did the UK fare compared with, say, Germany? Should both countries have been more like Sweden? However, when new data arrives, far from settling arguments over which pandemic mitigation strategies worked best, it tends to further inflame disagreements or harden pre-existing positions.So it is with the much-anticipated report by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Covid-associated deaths, released last week. The WHO estimates that around 15 million additional people died because of the pandemic in 2020-2021, about 2.7 times higher than officially recorded deaths. Continue reading…

‘Medical tourists’ are travelling the world in search of the elixir of life | Peter Ward

Thursday May 5th, 2022 11:00:34 AM Peter Ward
There have always been charlatans offering a cure for ageing, and cheap travel and lax laws have made it even easier for themEvery year millions of people cross borders to undergo medical treatments that are either unavailable in their home country or too expensive. For many, this is a last resort to ease the pain of a debilitating disease or defy a terminal diagnosis; for others the goals are purely cosmetic. But in the past few years a new type of “medical tourist” has emerged: those seeking to radically extend their lives.There are more older people than ever before – and more people in search of longevity. In the UK, people over the age of 65 made up 19% of the population in 2019, a jump of 23% from 2009, in a period when the total population only increased by 7%. And recent advancements in the science of ageing have given them hope that they don’t have to go so gently into that good night after all. The Price Of Immortality by Peter Ward (Melville House, £20). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply. Continue reading…

Why aren’t women getting diagnosed with ADHD?

Thursday May 12th, 2022 04:00:53 AM Presented by Madeleine Finlay, produced by Anand Jagatia, sound design by Tony Onuchukwu; the executive producer was Isabelle Roughol
It’s estimated that a million women in the UK could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – but according to the ADHD Foundation, 50–75% of them do not know they have it. Going without a diagnosis can impact someone’s education, employment and physical and mental health. So why are women being left behind? Madeleine Finlay speaks to Jasmine Andersson about her experience of getting a late diagnosis, and Prof Amanda Kirby on why the condition is so often missed in women and girls. Continue reading…

‘It’s a hellfire!’: how are India and Pakistan coping with extreme heat?

Tuesday May 10th, 2022 04:00:27 AM Presented by Ian Sample with Shah Meer Baloch, produced by Madeleine Finlay, sound design by Rudi Zygadlo, and the executive producers were Max Sanderson and Isabelle Roughol
India and Pakistan have experienced their hottest April in 122 years. Temperatures are nearing 50C. Such extreme heat dries up water reservoirs, melts glaciers and damages crops. It’s also deadly. Ian Sample hears from Pakistan reporter Shah Meer Baloch about the situation on the ground, and speaks to Indian heat health expert Abhiyant Tiwari about what such temperatures do to the body and how south Asia is adapting to ever more frequent – and ever more extreme – heatwaves.Archive: WION, CBC News, BBC News Continue reading…

Why is the UK suffering HRT shortages? – podcast

Thursday May 5th, 2022 04:00:26 AM Presented by Madeleine Finlay with Nicola Davis, produced by George Cooper, sound design by Tony Onuchukwu, and the executive producers were Isabelle Roughol and Max Sanderson
From hot flushes and flooding to memory problems and depression, for many the menopause can be both distressing and debilitating. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can alleviate some of these symptoms by boosting levels of hormones that wane as women get older. But the UK is experiencing an acute shortage of certain HRT products, leaving some without the medication they need.Madeleine Finlay hears from Guardian reader Sara about the impact of HRT shortages on her life, and speaks to science reporter Nicola Davis about why demand isn’t being met and what’s being done to fix the problem Continue reading…

New US lab to create versions of atoms never recorded on Earth

Monday May 16th, 2022 02:51:53 PM Linda Geddes Science correspondent
By studying isotopes scientists hope to gain insight into how elements within exploding stars came to beFrom carbon to uranium, oxygen to iron, chemical elements are the building blocks of the world around us and the wider universe. Now, physicists are hoping to gain an unprecedented glimpse into their origins, with the opening of a new facility that will create thousands of peculiar and unstable versions of atoms never before recorded on Earth.By studying these versions, known as isotopes, they hope to gain new insights into the reactions that created the elements within exploding stars, as well as testing theories about the “strong force” – one of the four fundamental forces in nature, which binds protons and neutrons together in an atom’s nucleus. The facility could also yield new isotopes for medical use. Continue reading…

NSW announces new inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s conviction over her children’s deaths

Wednesday May 18th, 2022 04:35:54 AM Michael McGowan
Scientists had called for Folbigg’s release after it was discovered two daughters had a genetic variant that can cause sudden deathFollow our Australia news live blog for the latest updatesGet our free news app; get our morning email briefingThe New South Wales attorney general has ordered a second public inquiry into the conviction of the woman dubbed “Australia’s worst female serial killer”, amid claims that new scientific evidence could clear Kathleen Folbigg over the deaths of her four children.On Wednesday the NSW attorney general, Mark Speakman, announced the inquiry would consider whether there was “question or doubt” over her conviction in 2003 for the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of a fourth.Sign up to receive an email with the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning Continue reading…

How to trick your brain into better eating habits

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 12:00:06 PM Clare Finney
Ditching the cutlery, scoffing a big first bite and discussing the carrots can help rewire our brains and make us more mindful of our mealsBefore diving in at a dinner party, my friend Lizzie always makes a point of asking the host to describe each dish they’ve made. It’s a way of acknowledging their efforts – but, according to food psychology, she could also be helping herself and her fellow diners eat better by making them more mindful of their meal.Charles Spence is a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, who researches the factors that influence what we choose to eat and what we think about the experience. His research highlights the extent to which those choices are shaped by the ways in which we engage with our food; in short, what our meals look and smell like, whether we eat them with forks or fingers – even the music we’re listening to while eating or food shopping can all play a role in how healthily we eat. The following techniques will help you “trick” your brain into making better decisions for your body. Continue reading…

Did you solve it? The funniest jokes in maths

Monday May 16th, 2022 04:00:33 PM Alex Bellos
The answers to today’s rib-tickling riddlesEarlier today I set you the puzzles below, chosen by Irish mathematician Des MacHale, a prolific writer of joke and puzzle books. You can read some of his jokes here.The puzzles were a mixture of word, number and lateral thinking puzzles. They all give some ‘haha’ with the ‘aha!’. Continue reading…

Can you solve it? The funniest jokes in maths

Monday May 16th, 2022 06:13:45 AM Alex Bellos
An Irish professor walks into a barUPDATE: the solutions can be read hereWhat do you call an engaged toilet on a Jumbo jet? A HYPOTENUSE!The Theory of Relativity in a nutshell – time spent with your relatives seems longer. Continue reading…

Did you solve it? Are you a match for Britain’s teenage geniuses?

Monday May 2nd, 2022 04:00:02 PM Alex Bellos
The solution to today’s puzzleEarlier today I set you this problem from last year’s British Mathematical Olympiad (BMO), the UK’s top maths competition for pre-university students, which is taken by almost 2,000 teenagers a year.The question was attempted by 90 per cent of the contestants, and about 1 in 3 got full marks. How did you get on? Continue reading…

Can you solve it? Are you a match for Britain’s teenage geniuses?

Monday May 2nd, 2022 06:23:36 AM Alex Bellos
Smash this perplexing ping pong poserUPDATE: To read the solution click hereToday’s puzzle appeared in last year’s British Mathematical Olympiad (BMO), a competition taken by almost 2,000 school pupils in the UK.The BMO is the top national maths contest for pre-university students, and is part of the selection process for the British team at the International Mathematical Olympiad and the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad. Continue reading…

Is the world keeping Cop26’s climate promises?

Tuesday May 17th, 2022 04:00:47 AM Presented by Ian Sample with Fiona Harvey, produced by Madeleine Finlay, sound design by Rudi Zygadlo, and the executive producer was Isabelle Roughol
Last November in Glasgow, countries agreed to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial averages. Six months on, the world has changed, with the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and the cost of living crisis threatening to derail us from achieving our climate goals. Ian Sample speaks to the Guardian’s environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey, about what promises are still on the table and what else needs to be done to address the climate emergency as we approach the next conference, Cop27.Archive: Channel 4 News, Deutsche Welle, PBS News, 9 News Australia, ABC News, Euronews, COP26 Continue reading…

Super flower blood moon – in pictures

Monday May 16th, 2022 10:09:15 AM
Dramatic total lunar eclipse coincided with a super moon, when the moon is at its closest point to Earth and reflects a red and orange light Continue reading…

Scientists develop a moving, shape-shifting magnetic slime – video

Friday April 1st, 2022 06:42:08 AM
Scientists have created a magnetic slime that is capable of squeezing through narrow spaces, encircling smaller objects and healing itself. The slime can be controlled by magnets and can act as both a solid and a liquid. The dark blob has been compared on social media to Flubber, the eponymous substance in the 1997 sci-fi film, and described as a ‘magnetic turd’ and ‘amazing and a tiny bit terrifying’. The scientists envisage the slime could potentially be useful in the digestive system, for example in reducing the harm from a small swallowed battery.► Subscribe to Guardian Australia on YouTube‘Magnetic turd’: scientists invent moving slime that could be used in human digestive systems Continue reading…






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