Science news from the Guardian

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Science | The Guardian

Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2020

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

Last feed update: Friday October 23rd, 2020 05:22:43 AM

Brexit: £3bn standoff over UK-EU scientific collaboration

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 02:40:44 PM Lisa O'Carroll Brexit correspondent
Sector calls for compromise to ensure UK researchers stay in Horizon EuropeThe UK’s post-Brexit collaboration with European scientists hangs in the balance after it emerged that the EU offer of staying in the Horizon research programme could leave London with a £3bn deficit.“The financial negotiations are not in a good position and the offer that the [European] commission has made to the UK is not appealing,” Vivienne Stern, the director of Universities UK International, told a Lords Brexit committee on Thursday. Continue reading...

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Wednesday October 21st, 2020 11:01:10 PM Alexandra Topping
Archaeologists say killing of animals may have helped cement claim on new territoryThat the Inca sacrificed people to appease their gods is well known, but a discovery in Peru sheds new light on a far more common sacrificial practice: the ritual offering of highly prized and ornately decorated llamas.Four naturally mummified llamas have been uncovered during the excavation of Tambo Viejo, an Incan administrative centre. Continue reading...

Why hasn't space tourism taken off? – video

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 11:24:42 AM Richard Sprenger, Alex Healey, Simon Roberts, Ryan Baxter and Paul Boyd
Listening to Richard Branson over the past 20 years, you'd be forgiven for assuming that space was by now being frequented by lots of tourists. However, despite the Virgin Galactic chief's optimism, the space tourism industry has yet to take off. Up to now there have been only seven self-funded citizens in space. And with billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in the space race, why are there still no tourists in space? Continue reading...

Women aged 50-60 at greatest risk of ‘long Covid’, experts suggest

Wednesday October 21st, 2020 06:39:41 PM Linda Geddes
Study links age and number of symptoms to lasting health problems from coronavirusCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageWomen aged 50-60 are at greatest risk of developing “long Covid”, analysis suggests. Older age and experiencing five or more symptoms within the first week of illness were also associated with a heightened risk of lasting health problems.The study, led by Dr Claire Steves and Prof Tim Spector at King’s College London, analysed data from 4,182 COVID Symptom Study app users who had been consistently logging their health and had tested positive for the virus. Continue reading...

Scientists reveal how diabolical ironclad beetle can bear huge weights

Wednesday October 21st, 2020 03:00:01 PM Nicola Davis Science correspondent
Interlocking exoskeleton could provide inspiration for new methods of joining materialsIt can survive being run over by a car, pecked by predators and crushed underfoot. Now researchers have revealed the secrets behind the near-indestructibility of the diabolical ironclad beetle.Found in wooded areas of the US west coast, the beetle is about 2cm in length. Like some other species of flightless beetle, its wing covers, known as elytra, are not only hardened, but fused together. The upshot is a gnarly black armour that protects it from being crushed. Continue reading...

Diets rich in tea, berries and apples could lower blood pressure – study

Wednesday October 21st, 2020 11:06:41 AM Natalie Grover
Effect of greater flavan-3-ol intake is bigger in people with hypertension, research findsDiets rich in tea, berries and apples could lower blood pressure, according to the first study using objective measures of thousands of UK residents’ eating habits.Foods and drinks such as tea, apples, grapes, red wine, and cocoa contain flavan-3-ols, which are naturally occurring compounds found in plants known to be associated with lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Continue reading...

Coronavirus test results must come in 24 hours, says Sage scientist

Sunday October 18th, 2020 08:30:45 AM Michael Savage Policy Editor
Chair of modelling group urges curb on capacity in favour of speed if test-and-trace system is to workCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageA massive expansion of testing will still leave Britain struggling to keep Covid-19 infections under control unless the system can inform people they are positive within 24 hours, one of the government’s most senior scientific advisers has warned.Ministers have insisted that they are on course to hit a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of the month, with suggestions this weekend that capability of a million tests a day could be reached by Christmas. Continue reading...

Covid may cause sudden, permanent hearing loss – UK study

Tuesday October 13th, 2020 10:30:38 PM Nicola Davis Science correspondent
Study team says Covid-19 patients in intensive care should be asked about hearing lossCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageCovid-19 may cause sudden and permanent hearing loss, experts have found, adding that such problems need early detection and urgent treatment.The coronavirus has been found to affect the body in myriad ways, from a loss of taste and smell to organ damage. Continue reading...

Covid vaccine studies call for more black and Asian volunteers in UK

Monday October 12th, 2020 11:01:53 PM Haroon Siddique
More over-65s also wanted to ensure potential coronavirus vaccines can work for everyone Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageMore people from black and Asian backgrounds, as well as over-65s, are being urged to volunteer to help ensure potential coronavirus vaccines work for everyone.Researchers say 270,000 people across the UK have signed up for vaccine studies but thousands more are needed, in particular from groups more vulnerable to Covid. Continue reading...

Covid-19: training dogs to sniff out the virus

Tuesday October 13th, 2020 04:00:01 AM Presented by Nicola Davis and produced by Madeleine Finlay and David Waters
What does a disease smell like? Humans might not have the answer, but if they could talk, dogs might be able to tell us. Able to sniff out a range of cancers and even malaria, canines’ extraordinary noses are now being put to the test on Covid-19. Nicola Davis hears from Prof Dominique Grandjean about exactly how you train dogs to smell a virus, and how this detection technique could be used in managing the spread of Covid-19 Continue reading...

Coronavirus live news: remdesivir approved as Covid treatment by US FDA; France sees record new cases

Friday October 23rd, 2020 05:12:15 AM Helen Sullivan
Antiviral treatment is first to treat coronavirus approved by FDA; France extends curfew; Study finds between 130,000 and 210,000 US deaths could have been avoided. Follow the latestSurge ‘very serious’ in Germany and ‘out of control’ in SpainBelgium’s deputy PM in intensive care with coronavirusPresidential debate live: Trump and Biden to face off in final clash – liveSee all our coronavirus coverage 6.12am BST Here are the key developments from the last few hours: 5.48am BST Nicola Sturgeon will on Friday announce a five-tier plan of measures for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland, PA media reports. The new set of restrictions has been anticipated since a similar three-tiered system was introduced in England by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If approved at Holyrood next week, the new measures will come into force in Scotland on Monday, 2 November.The Scottish First Minister will discuss the tiered system at her daily coronavirus briefing on Friday afternoon as well as plans to increase testing capacity north of the border.Ms Sturgeon has already said the three middle tiers will be broadly similar to the English system, where areas are classed as either “medium”, “high” or “very high” risk.Since 9 October, bars and licensed restaurants in five health board areas - Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley - have been forced to close for all but takeaways.Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes elsewhere in Scotland are only allowed to serve indoor customers between 6am and 6pm with a ban on alcohol inside, although alcoholic drinks can be served until 10pm in outdoor areas. Continue reading...

Covid slump in medical charity donations 'puts research at risk'

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 11:01:38 PM Ian Sample Science editor
Report calls for government to set up partnership to support sector facing up to £4bn lossCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageA slump in donations to medical charities will result in potentially life-saving research being shelved unless the government steps in to support the organisations, a leading thinktank has said.The closure of charity shops, suspension of fundraising events, such as the London to Brighton cycle ride, and wider economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant medical charities stood to lose more than £4bn between now and 2027, according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Continue reading...

Covid-19 blood plasma therapy has limited effect, study finds

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 11:01:38 PM Linda Geddes
Authors agree other trials using higher antibody levels may prove more effectiveCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageIt has been touted as a breakthrough treatment by Donald Trump, and there are hopes that blood plasma containing coronavirus antibodies may help British patients during the second wave of Covid-19 as well.But a study, which is published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Friday, suggests “convalescent plasma” has only limited effectiveness and fails to reduce deaths or stop the progression to severe disease. Continue reading...

Curfew imposed in Greece – as it happened

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 10:41:59 PM Jessica Murray (now); Lucy Campbell, Archie Bland, Damien Gayle and Helen Sullivan (earlier)
This blog is now closed. We’ve launched a new blog at the link below: Coronavirus news – live 11.41pm BST We’ve launched a new blog at the link below – head there for the latest: Related: Coronavirus live news: remdesivir approved as Covid treatment by US FDA; France sees record new cases 11.04pm BST Here’s a quick recap of the latest developments over the past few hours Continue reading...

Glitter is an environmental abomination. It's time to stop using it | Adrienne Matei

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 10:21:23 AM Adrienne Matei
This year, several British brands announced they’d ban glitter from holiday products. US companies should follow suitGlitter is notorious for getting everywhere – touch one sparkly Christmas card and you’ll be finding flecks of the stuff in your food, hair and carpet for months. It’s so obnoxious some people even slather a mixture of it and Vaseline on political yard signs to punish thieves. But the real issue with glitter isn’t that it’s annoying – it’s that it truly does get everywhere: not just in your home, but also into the furthest-flung corners of the Earth. Related: Doe your bit: Japan invents bags deer can eat after plastic-related deaths Continue reading...

If the poorest Americans are selling their blood, the US is in serious trouble | Arwa Mahdawi

Wednesday October 21st, 2020 06:00:28 AM Arwa Mahdawi
There is something fundamentally sickening about the US blood plasma industry. A meaningful welfare state could put a stop to such desperate measuresLooking to make extra cash? Don’t want to retrain in “cyber” but need a new gig? Good news! All you need to do is contract Covid-19, try not to die, then sell your antibody-rich blood plasma. Blood centres in the US are currently paying Covid-19 survivors a premium for their plasma, the yellowish liquid that makes up about 55% of blood. Apparently, you can get $100-$200 (£75-£155) a pop.It would seem some enterprising students have cottoned on to this money-making scheme. Administrators at Brigham Young University’s campus in Idaho recently announced that they are “deeply troubled” by accounts of students who have “intentionally” exposed themselves to coronavirus in order to get that sweet, sweet blood money. “There is never a need to resort to behaviour that endangers health or safety in order to make ends meet,” the school said. Continue reading...

No one wants a lockdown - so why are we hearing about 'lockdown cheerleaders'? | Stephen Buranyi

Tuesday October 20th, 2020 05:00:59 AM Stephen Buranyi
The UK government fumbled its sophisticated tools in its efforts to tackle Covid-19, so now it’s reaching for the blunt oneNobody wants a lockdown. You’d think that would go without saying. As England faces a three-tier system of regionally unequal lockdowns or the possibility of a national “circuit breaker”, there is no one sitting around thinking, “Oh good, time to tank the economy, halt NHS services, and wreck everyone’s mental health, again. I love this.” That’s perverse, and such a person surely doesn’t exist.And yet I’ve been hearing a lot about this supposedly pro-lockdown person lately. There is certainly a vocal, self-identified anti-lockdown position: pro-business, anti-disruption, with a sudden interest in both herd immunity and Sweden. But who, according to those in the anti-lockdown camp and their supporters in the media, opposes this position? Continue reading...

The Guardian view on Boris Johnson's Covid gamble: not a winning wager | Editorial

Monday October 19th, 2020 06:20:49 PM Editorial
The prime minister needs to rebuild a political consensus for his pandemic plans, not least because a Tory revolt would see him need Labour support to pass new measuresLike a gambling addict, Boris Johnson racks up losses but keeps laying larger bets, convinced a last big win awaits him. In a casino, this plan might hurt his wallet and his pride. In a pandemic wrapped around the shock of Brexit, such a strategy could cost, unnecessarily, lives and livelihoods. But Mr Johnson has won against the odds before. Faced with a political opponent, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, who is able to marshall Mr Johnson’s own Conservative backbenchers against him, the prime minister has opted to double down on his plan to test his way out of the coronavirus crisis. But it is not a winning wager.The prime minister has pinned his hopes on a new saliva-based test that can tell whether a person is Covid-positive within 15 minutes. Speed is essential to contain a pandemic. With wait times for diagnostic test results not coming down fast enough, contact tracers have too short a window to identify coronavirus patients before they have a chance to infect others. The centralised, privately run test-and-trace system is clunky and relies on specialised laboratories. By comparison, the new tests can be done on the spot. Continue reading...

From the archives: How do we save society? - podcast

Thursday October 22nd, 2020 04:00:15 AM Presented by Ian Sample and produced by Max Sanderson
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to highlight health and economic inequalities, and the US election fast approaching, this week we return to the archive to explore how divisions in society arise and what we can do about them. In this episode from 2017, Ian Sample investigates where group splits come from, how we can connect to those we disagree with, and what could happen if we fail Continue reading...

Covid-19: what can we learn from the HIV/Aids pandemic? – podcast

Tuesday October 20th, 2020 04:00:56 AM Presented by Sarah Boseley and produced by David Waters
Prof Ravi Gupta’s career has informed HIV treatment and curative strategies in the UK and at the Africa Health Research Institute. His treatment of a London patient is, to date, only the second ever successful treatment of an HIV patient, where the person remains long-term virus free. Gupta talks to Sarah Boseley about how a career in HIV research is informing the testing and treatment for Covid-19 and what we can learn in any parallels between the two viruses Continue reading...

How do animals undergo metamorphosis, and why? – podcast

Thursday October 15th, 2020 10:59:55 AM Presented by Natalie Grover and produced by Madeleine Finlay
Metamorphosis – where a creature remodels itself between life stages – is one of the most astounding and bizarre feats of biology. It’s also surprisingly common. Why do animals bother undertaking this huge transformational change, and how do they rebuild their bodies from one form to another? Natalie Grover investigates Continue reading...

Soup and wine with Roger Penrose, master of gravity, light and infinity

Sunday October 11th, 2020 05:30:03 AM Carlo Rovelli
In an extract from his new book, a colleague recalls a meal with the mathematician who shared the 2020 Nobel prize in physicsI had the pleasure of meeting Roger Penrose, the great mathematician from Oxford, when he was passing through Italy for the Festival of Science in Genoa. Penrose is a polyhedral intellectual. Readers know him for several books, among them the dense and wonderful The Road to Reality, a great panorama of contemporary physics and mathematics, a popular work that is not easy and that shines with intelligence and profundity on every page.Among his main contributions to our knowledge of the universe are theorems showing that Einstein’s theory implies that the universe we see originated from a big bang and black holes form generically. In the field of pure mathematics, he is better known for his study of “quasi-periodic” structures, tessellations composed of a few elements that can be repeated to infinity but that, however, are not periodic: they never repeat identically. They are also known as “quasi-crystals” and exist in nature, but they have also been used in fields that range from design of floor tiles to a children’s game devised by Penrose himself. Continue reading...

Counting the species: how DNA barcoding is rewriting the book of life

Wednesday October 7th, 2020 10:38:52 AM Patrick Greenfield
We do not know how many species live on Earth. Barcoding could change that – and open the way for incredible discoveries Support Guardian journalism today, by making a single or recurring contribution, or subscribing Guanacaste conservation area in north-west Costa Rica is the most DNA barcoded place on Earth. On its western frontier, jaguars hunt turtles from the mangrove swamps that line the Pacific coast. Endangered spider monkeys swing through dry tropical forest, the remnants of a rapidly disappearing ecosystem that once ran from northern Mexico to Panama. Continue reading...

Can you solve it? The bat, the ball and the bamboozle

Monday October 19th, 2020 06:10:11 AM Alex Bellos
You’ll be hit for sixUPDATE: To read the answers click hereHere’s a famous puzzle:A bat and a ball cost £1.10. The bat costs £1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Continue reading...

Did you solve it? The art of illusion

Monday October 5th, 2020 04:00:44 PM Alex Bellos
The grand ‘reveal’ of today’s magic tricksEarlier today I showed you four optical illusions, and asked you to explain how the effect was achieved. None of the images were digitally altered.1. The Soup Tin Continue reading...

Can you solve it? The art of illusion

Monday October 5th, 2020 06:10:12 AM Alex Bellos
A magician asks you to explain his tricksUPDATE: Read the solutions hereToday’s puzzles are four optical illusions devised by the magician Matt Pritchard. He calls them ‘perspec-tricks’. Each image is a photograph that seems to show something impossible. The puzzle is to work out exactly how Matt created the illusion.The magic he used is old school: none of the photographs has been digitally modified. What you see is exactly what the camera saw. All the illusions involve mirrors in some way. Continue reading...

Did you solve it? Puzzlebombed!

Monday September 21st, 2020 04:00:49 PM Alex Bellos
The solutions to today’s teasersEarlier today I set a logic problem and a word problem from Puzzlebomb, a monthly problem sheet.I’ll start with the word problem. Continue reading...

‘I’m proud of my gender’: two women win Nobel chemistry prize – video

Wednesday October 7th, 2020 05:34:19 PM
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have been awarded the 2020 Nobel prize in chemistry for the discovery of the Crispr genetic scissors used to edit the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.The genome editing method has revolutionised the field of genetic engineering, with its impact felt across biomedical research, clinical medicine, agriculture and wider society.The researchers will share the 10m Swedish kronor (£870,000) prize announced on Wednesday by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm – the first time that two women have shared the prizeScientists win Nobel chemistry prize for ‘genetic scissors’The biggest revolution in gene editing: Crispr-Cas9 explained – video Continue reading...

Astronomy photographer of the year (2020) winners – in pictures

Friday September 11th, 2020 06:00:47 AM
Images of the Milky Way, California nebula and Andromeda galaxy are among the winners of the Insight Investment astronomy photographer of the year award. An exhibition of the winning pictures can be viewed at National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south-east London, from 23 OctoberThis gallery was amended on 13 September 2020 to correct the name of Julie F Hill’s work, Dark River. Continue reading...

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