Science | The Guardian

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

Scientists seek drug to ‘rewire’ adult brain after stroke

Therapies may one day enable healthy part of brain to take over tasks from damaged areas

Adults who have experienced a stroke may one day be able to take a drug to help their brain “rewire” itself, so that tasks once carried out by now-damaged areas can be taken over by other regions, researchers have claimed.

The ability for the brain to rewire, so-called “brain plasticity”, is thought to occur throughout life; however, while children have a high degree of brain plasticity, adult brains are generally thought to be less plastic.

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02/19/2018 12:01 AM
Scientists unravel secrets of ‘superagers’

Researchers find elderly people with high cognitive function have more of a certain type of brain cell

“Superagers” have long puzzled scientists, but now researchers say they are unpicking why some people live beyond 80 – and still appear to be in fine fettle, with cognitive capacities on a par with adults decades younger.

Researchers have spent years studying superagers in an attempt to understand what sets the senior citizens apart.

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02/19/2018 12:01 AM
Artwork hidden under Picasso painting revealed by x-ray

Non-invasive imaging reveals landscape painting beneath Pablo Picasso’s The Crouching Beggar but who created it remains a mystery

Wrapped in a mustard coloured blanket with a white scarf and her head on one side, Pablo Picasso’s La Misereuse Accroupie (The Crouching Beggar) is a study of forlorn resignation. But researchers say that there is more to desolate character than meets the eye.

Beneath the mournful image lies another painting, a landscape, researchers have revealed after using non-invasive imaging techniques to examine the work.

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02/17/2018 03:00 PM
Breakthrough as scientists grow sheep embryos containing human cells

Advance brings us closer to growing transplant organs inside animals or being able to genetically tailor compatible organs, say researchers

Growing human organs inside other animals has taken another step away from science-fiction, with researchers announcing they have grown sheep embryos containing human cells.

Scientists say growing human organs inside animals could not only increase supply, but also offer the possibility of genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the immune system of the patient receiving them, by using the patient’s own cells in the procedure, removing the possibility of rejection.

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02/17/2018 09:00 PM
Earthlings likely to welcome alien life rather than panicking, study shows

Should aliens be discovered, public reaction is likely to be positive, say researchers – despite alarming fictional portrayals of contact

“The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror,” wrote HG Wells, describing his narrator’s response to a Martian invasion in War of the Worlds.

But despite such alarming portrayals, researchers say the discovery of alien life is more likely to be welcomed with open arms than panic.

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02/16/2018 07:00 PM
Sign up for Lab Notes - the Guardian's weekly science update

Get a weekly round-up of the biggest stories in science, insider knowledge from our network of bloggers, and some distractingly good fun and games

What’s going on in space? Has the world of medical research been rocked? And, good grief, hasn’t anyone found a dinosaur this week? For all the latest scientific breakthroughs, plus a bit of mucking about in the pursuit of knowledge, sign up for our weekly digest.

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06/07/2016 03:29 PM
Life after death: how we hatched live shark pups from dead parents

Six years ago, researchers asked a radical question: could eggcases taken from trawler-caught sharks still hatch live, healthy young?

Back in December 2012, I met up with Greg Nowell, co-founder of Sharklab-Malta, a non-profit NGO founded in 2008. Sharklab collaborates with shark researchers on a global and local scale, with an overall mission to highlight the current plight of sharks in our oceans whilst increasing awareness and education of the public.

Greg was interested in my experience working with neonate small spotted catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula) and the greater spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus stellaris); in the UK these are usually known as the lesser spotted dogfish and bull huss, respectively. At Macduff Marine Aquarium I’d worked with both species, as well as on the maintenance of viable eggcases, which resulted in successful hatching and rearing of shark pups.

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02/19/2018 03:34 PM
Mindless eating: is there something rotten behind the research?

A storm of retractions, corrections, data irregularities and controversy over duplicate publication are destroying the credibility of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab. It’s time for the university to be open about what’s going on

Most people probably haven’t heard of the beleaguered marketing professor, Brian Wansink, but chances are many will know about his work. Wansink is the mind behind the concept of “mindless eating” – the idea that the unconscious decisions we make about food can have profound effects on our diet and weight. Ideas like using smaller plates to eat fewer calories are pretty much engrained in our collective common sense, and stem from Wansink’s work over the past 20 years at the University of Illinois and now at Cornell University’s “Food and Brand Lab”. But for over a year, the veracity of Wansink’s research has been increasingly called into question, with five papers retracted (one of which was retracted twice), fourteen corrected, and over fifty others facing scrutiny.

The latest paper to fall under the spotlight is also one of Wansink’s most famous experiments. The 2005 paper, titled Bottomless bowls: Why visual cues of portion size may influence intake, was a landmark study for Wansink. In it, participants were sat down at a table in groups of four, each in front of bowl of tomato soup. They were given twenty minutes to eat as much as they wanted, and then asked to rate, among other things, how much soup they thought they had actually eaten. The key manipulation was that while two of the participants had been sat in front of a normal soup bowl, the other two had bowls that could be covertly filled from the bottom. Wansink and his team claimed that although the participants given the self-refilling bowls ate about three quarters more soup, they didn’t believe that they had eaten any more than the other people around the table. This idea formed a core component of the well-known diet book Mindless Eating, and even won an Ig Nobel prize in 2007.

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02/16/2018 11:21 AM
Friends, Romans, naked wolf-men ... why an ancient festival is still controversial

The annual Lupercalia festival turned society upside down – and the location of its starting point is still hotly debated

Scenes from films like Gladiator and series such as HBO’s Rome might lead you to think that the ancient Romans were liberal in their view of nudity. In fact the opposite was true. It was only during exceptional occasions that Romans were freed from their social norms – and the most spectacular occasion was the annual Lupercalia festival.

From the earliest days of Rome, 15 February was reserved for this strange festival. It was so unusual that Cicero disparaged the festival as savage and uncivilised remnants of primitive times. A closer look at the rituals might explain his attitude: men of the nobility stripped down to their underwear in order to strike women with strips of goatskin. Classed as priests, these were not men of the cloth as we would understand it – Roman religion was nothing like modern Christianity or Islam – but young men of military age who showed off their muscles running around the Palatine hill and the Forum, the city centre of ancient Rome.

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02/15/2018 07:00 AM
What fossils reveal about the spider family tree is far from horrifying | Susannah Lydon

Recent fossils in amber tell us how spiders evolved into their modern groups, but the fossil record for arachnids goes much deeper

The discovery of a 100m-year-old spider ancestor with a whip-like tail, bearing a more than slight resemblance to everyone’s favourite parasitoid alien – the facehugger – gained a lot of media interest last week. Some arachnologists were upset by both the language of fear in the coverage (“creepy” and “horrifying” were popular descriptions) and by some folks expressing a desire to nuke it from orbit. It seems that despite (or perhaps because) of the intense responses that spiders evoke in people, there is always an interest in where and how they evolved.

The newly described species, Chimerarachne yingi, was based on two specimens found in amber of about 100 My old from Myanmar. Unusually, the new find was revealed in two simultaneously-published papers in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. The rules for the naming of species mean that only one of the papers, by Bo Wang and colleagues, gets to be the formal description and naming of the species (and new genus, the next level up in classifying organisms). Both Wang’s paper and that of Diying Huang and colleagues, aimed to place the new find in terms of the spider family tree. The new species has features of modern spiders, known as the Araneae: a male pedipalp (sensory appendage) modified for sperm transfer, and well-defined spinnerets for silk spinning. But, it also has its distinctive tail, a feature not found in modern spiders, but associated with an ancient grouping of “almost-spiders” known as the Uraraneida.

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02/14/2018 01:09 PM
Why it's too soon to classify gaming addiction as a mental disorder

Concerns over the addictive properties of video games are reasonable but there is a lack of rigorous research behind the WHO’s expected classification

Video games played on smartphones, tablets, computers and consoles have been a popular form of leisure for some time now. In Europe, recent figures indicate that games are played by more than two thirds of children and adolescents, and a substantial number of adults now play games – 38% in the UK, 64% in France, 56% in Germany and 44% in Spain.

The WHO will publish the next revision of its manual – the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) – by mid-2018 and gaming disorder has been included in the draft for the first time.

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02/14/2018 12:25 PM
Hot stuff: the thermal cameras giving us a new way of seeing our bodies

How do our bodies regulate themselves – and is it even true that we have a single body temperature? New technology will tell us

I’m one of those people who always feels cold. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the chilly north, or maybe it’s down the quirks of my own physiology, but I’m reliably found next to the fire, hiding from draughts that no-one else had noticed, or buried inside enough jumpers to stock a small shop. At the other end of the scale, when everyone else is sweating buckets, I’m basking smugly because I’m finally at a comfortable temperature.

Like most of us, my attitude towards my body temperature is similar to Goldilocks’ attitude to porridge – it’s either too cold, too hot, or 37C, which is just right. But I’ve rarely considered the fascinating details of exactly how our bodies regulate their temperature, and whether it’s even true that we have a single body temperature anyway.

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02/14/2018 08:01 AM
How to be an academic without working 60 hours a week | Lucy Foulkes

A Twitter argument about how many hours academics should work prompted Lucy Foulkes to seek out advice for early career researchers

Last week a tweet about academics’ working hours went viral:

I tell my graduate students and post-docs that if they’re working 60 hours per week, they’re working less than the full professors, and less than their peers.

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02/13/2018 03:24 PM
Crack and cheese: do things really affect your brain 'like drugs'?

Claims that cheese, sex and Facebook affect your brain in the same way as drugs fundamentally misunderstand how it all works

The internet is a weird place. Part of this is due to how things linger rather than disappear, as they tended to do with more “traditional” media. Nowadays, people’s jobs can (rightly or wrongly) be endangered for tweets they wrote years ago. The adage about “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip papers” seems no longer to apply.

This is particularly true when a headline or story from years ago can be found by a group or community on a social network that missed it previously, so they share it widely and it ends up in your feeds long after it’s been “forgotten”. It can be a bit confusing for those of us who grew up solely with televised news. It’s like watching the weekend football roundup when it’s suddenly interrupted by a report that the Berlin Wall has come down.

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02/13/2018 01:51 PM
Did you solve it? The joy of grids

The solutions to today’s puzzles

On my puzzle blog earlier today I set you the following three problems about this grid:

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02/12/2018 05:00 PM
WHO warns over measles immunisation rates as cases rise 400% across Europe

2017 saw more than 21,000 cases and 35 deaths, with large outbreaks in one in four countries, says World Health Organisation

Measles cases have soared across Europe over the last year, with large outbreaks affecting one in four countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is concerned by low rates of immunisation against the disease.

WHO Europe says there has been a 400% increase during 2017, with more than 21,000 cases and 35 deaths. That will be a major disappointment following the record low in 2016, when there were just 5,273 cases in Europe.

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02/19/2018 11:38 AM
New test can detect autism in children, scientists say

Blood and urine test, believed to be first of its kind, could lead to earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders

Scientists in Britain say they have developed a blood and urine test that can detect autism in children.

Researchers at the University of Warwick said the test, believed to be the first of its kind, could lead to earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children who could then be given appropriate treatment much earlier in their lives.

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02/19/2018 01:05 AM
Want to monitor air pollution? Test a pigeon

Feral pigeons are exposed to the same environmental factors as humans, so help explore the affect of contaminants, say researchers

Pigeons might be seen as the scourge of cities, but researchers say they could help us explore both the levels and impacts of a host of toxins in the air, from lead to pesticides.

Scientists say feral pigeons are a valuable way of probing contaminants in environment, since they are exposed to the same air, water, food and other factors as humans, and don’t venture far from home.

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02/16/2018 09:00 PM
A child's gender can be detected in their speech from age five, research says

University of Minnesota academics say boys and girls pick up speech cues from adults around them, resulting in differences

The gender of children can be picked up from their speech from as young as five years old, researchers have revealed.

While male and female children have no physiological reason for sounding different before puberty, when changes to the larynx kick in, researchers say boys and girls pick up telltale speech cues from adults around them, resulting in perceptible differences in their speech.

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02/16/2018 05:00 PM
Guilt over household chores is 'harming working women's health'

Worries over whether women are doing their ‘fair share’ has a clear impact on their health, according to a new analysis

Guilt about not doing enough housework may be harming working women’s health, according to new analysis of data from the International Social Survey Programme.

Over a two-year period, women in 24 countries were asked to rate the amount of household chores they do each day in terms of their perceived “fair share”. They also ranked their physical health levels.

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02/16/2018 04:35 PM
Stress in fathers may alter sperm and affect behaviour in offspring

Research shows male mice exposed to a mildly stressful event produced sperm richer in certain types of molecules called microRNAs

Stressed fathers may end up with changes to their sperm that could affect behaviour in their offspring, research in mice has shown.

Previous work by the team found that male mice who were exposed to a mildly stressful event, such as being restrained, produced sperm that was richer in certain types of molecules called microRNAs.

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02/16/2018 04:00 PM
Ammonia emissions rise in UK, as other air pollutant levels fall

Levels of powerful air pollutant rose by 3.2% from 2015 to 2016 according to government statistics

Emissions of ammonia have been on the rise in the UK, new statistics from the government show, even while the amount of other pollutants entering the atmosphere has fallen.

Levels of the powerful air pollutant rose by 3.2% from 2015 to 2016, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to a report published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Thursday morning. The rise came despite an overall fall of 10% in ammonia emissions since 1980.

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02/16/2018 11:38 AM
DIY faecal transplants carry risks including HIV and hepatitis, warn experts

Faecal transplants have been used in medical settings to tackle superbugs, but following YouTube videos at home is too risky, say researchers

Concerns have been raised about the growing trend for DIY faecal transplants, with experts fearing such attempts could put individuals at an increased risk of HIV and hepatitis as well as conditions ranging from Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis to obesity and sleep disorders.

The transfer of faeces from one human to another has gained attention as a growing number of studies have suggested links between microbes in the gut and a host of health problems, from autoimmune diseases to anxiety.

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02/15/2018 07:00 PM
Starwatch: a chance to bask in earthshine

A lunar phenomenon that is sometimes called the old moon in the new moon’s arms may be visible on Monday

This evening’s crescent moon brings with it a good chance of seeing earthshine. This is the faint glow that appears on the unlit portion of the moon’s disc. It is sometimes referred to as the old moon in the new moon’s arms because of the way the sunlit crescent appears to cradle the dimmer circle.

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02/18/2018 09:30 PM
World’s most controversial fruit depends on giant bats for pollination

While we debate whether the durian is the best or worst food on the planet, it turns out this wonderful oddity requires healthy populations of flying fox for survival

Durian. Depending on whom you talk to it’s either the most beloved or the most despised fruit on the planet. It suffers no moderation, no wishy-washiness. It is the king of fruits or the worst thing you’ve ever tasted. Due to its potent odour – delicate and sweet to its advocates and sewage-like to its detractors – durian has been banned from airplanes, subways, and hotels (though punishments appear light if non-existent). But a recent study in Ecology and Evolution finds there may be no durians at all without bats: big, threatened bats. The scientists found that flying foxes – bats in the Pteropus and Acerodon genus and the largest in the world – are likely vital pollinators for the polarising durian.

“We already knew that flying foxes feed on durian flowers, but there was this unsubstantiated belief, even among some researchers, that flying foxes just destroyed the flowers,” said Sheema Abdul Aziz, the lead researcher on the project that was done as part of her PhD at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in France. “It doesn’t help that a durian flower only blooms for one night, then falls off the tree naturally, regardless of whether it’s been pollinated or not. When people see all the flowers on the ground in the morning, they think it’s the bats.”

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02/19/2018 02:48 PM
Are we poisoning our children with plastic?

The chemical BPA is widely added to food and drink packaging, and more than 80% of teenagers have it in their bodies. But how dangerous is it?

Can exposure to plastics harm your health? It’s a question currently being explored by researchers after a recent study suggested that traces of a synthetic chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA) can be found in more than 80% of teenagers. BPA is added to plastic to create a special form called polycarbonate plastic, used in making robust, impact-resistant materials for everything from food and drink packaging to DVD cases and medical devices. First created in 1891, it has been used commercially since the 1950s and is now one of the most commonly produced chemicals in the world, with 3.6bn tonnes of BPA generated every year.

The problem is that BPA can be ingested or absorbed through skin contact, meaning that humans are regularly exposed through the chemical leaching out of packaging into food and drink – and over the past 20 years various studies have linked BPA to a variety of adverse health effects. The biggest concerns have been the impact on foetuses and young children, who have underdeveloped systems for detoxifying chemicals – the consequences being that the younger you are, the higher the levels of BPA in your body.

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02/19/2018 06:00 AM
Why don’t the Carillion bosses seem embarrassed?

My father warned me about scoundrels in business. Now bad behaviour can be called out online, but international shame still doesn’t stop rogues

As my father had been seriously ripped off three times during his life in business by people he trusted, he often warned me about the surprising number of rogues and scoundrels swanning around, ready to use any vile trick to relieve me of my money.

Just my father’s bad luck, I thought, until about a decade ago, when I came across one of these villains. He was a rather grand agent, who asked me to give an after-dinner talk at a serious conference on education. Flattering, but scary, because I had never done such a thing before – a long, serious speech. I asked how much I would be paid.

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02/19/2018 11:21 AM
China’s great leap forward in science
Chinese investment is paying off with serious advances in biotech, computing and space. Are they edging ahead of the west?

I first met Xiaogang Peng in the summer of 1992 at Jilin University in Changchun, in the remote north-east of China, where he was a postgraduate student in the department of chemistry. He told me that his dream was to get a place at a top American lab. Now, Xiaogang was evidently smart and hard-working – but so, as far as I could see, were most Chinese science students. I wished him well, but couldn’t help thinking he’d set himself a massive challenge.

Fast forward four years to when, as an editor at Nature, I publish a paper on nanotechnology from world-leading chemists at the University of California at Berkeley. Among them was Xiaogang. That 1996 paper now appears in a 10-volume compendium of the all-time best of Nature papers being published in translation in China.

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02/18/2018 09:00 AM
George Church: "Genome sequencing is like the internet back in the late 1980s."

The pioneering geneticist on why he wants us to earn money by sharing our genomic data, his plans to resurrect the woolly mammoth and how narcolepsy helps him generate ideas

• How can I make money from my DNA?

A new genetic testing company called Nebula Genomics wants to help people profit from their own genomes. The Observer talks to Harvard University DNA sequencing pioneer George Church about his latest venture, what’s cooking in his lab and how falling asleep on the job can sometimes be a godsend.

What is the value of getting your genome sequenced? Why do it?
One very compelling argument that I think justifies almost everybody in the population getting sequenced is reproductive decision making: who to date, who to marry, whether or not to have gamete [egg/sperm] donors. Anybody that is of reproductive age, whether they intend to or not, are at risk of producing 5% of babies that are very severely affected with genetic disorders. Longer term, sequencing can enable the development of therapies that could provide years of enhanced quality of life.

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02/18/2018 07:30 AM
How can I make money from my DNA?
If you have your DNA sequenced, someone somewhere will be making money from the data. A new start-up aims to make sure that you get your share

• A share in the future of DNA: Prof George Church Q&A

If you unlock the secrets of your DNA by paying a company to read your genes, behind the scenes it is probably making money by selling on your data for research. Companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA charge consumers under £150 to learn about their health and/or origins, while others do whole genome sequencing for a little over £1,000 (although in the US it is cheaper at just under $1,000). The model works like this: send in a saliva sample, receive the results and provided you consent, which most people do because they want to help research efforts, the company retains control of the data. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies hoping to develop new drugs become their customers – off the back of your genetic information.

Nebula Genomics, a US based startup, wants to upend this exploitation. It will offer whole genome sequencing, but allow customers to keep custodianship of their data, which they can then rent to the drug companies they choose, potentially making a profit in the process.

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02/18/2018 07:30 AM
Weatherwatch: Extreme flooding on rise in Europe over past 20 years

Scientists track global statistics and conclude past events are not reliable predictors for future risk

For the inhabitants of the Cumbrian village of Glenridding, the winter of 2015/16 was a miserable one. Storm Desmond brought the first deluge in December, turning the river into a raging torrent, sweeping through many properties, and cutting the village off from the outside world for a full two days. Storm Eva barrelled in a few weeks later, and Glenridding ended up awash three times in the space of four weeks.

So what is going on? Are extreme climate events becoming more frequent, or were the residents of Glenridding suffering a series of unlucky rolls of the dice?

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02/12/2018 09:30 PM
Is the answer that we have run out of good questions? | Kenan Malik

We are supposed to be inquisitive and yet …

John Brockman has run out of questions. Brockman, a literary agent, runs the science and philosophy site Every year for 20 years, he has asked leading thinkers to answer a particular question, such as: “What questions have disappeared?” or: “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” This year, though, Brockman announced that he has no more questions left. So he asked his final question: “What is the last question?”

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers,” Voltaire insisted. Questions help us define what we don’t know and force us or others to justify what we think we do know.

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02/18/2018 12:03 AM
How long can we treat the suffering of animals as an inconvenient truth? | Michael Brooks
A revolution is coming in our relationship with ‘lower’ creatures, provoked by a greater knowledge of their cognition. Labour’s new plans for animal welfare are just a start

Scientific insight is a powerful thing, but will it ever override the human lust for health, prosperity and, saddest of all, convenience? This question entered my head as I read of the Labour party’s newly announced policies for animal welfare “informed and underpinned by the latest evidence on animal sentience”. Such an approach would lead to laudable bans on foie gras imports and nonsensical badger culling. But let’s be careful what we wish for: further down the line, it would also lead to some uncomfortable dilemmas. In fact, how we redraw our relationship with animals promises to be one of the dominant themes of the coming decades.

Those alert to animal sentience already find themselves in difficult situations. Richard Dawkins, for example, has declared: “We have no general reason to think that non-human animals feel pain less acutely than we do.” This, Dawkins says, should change our cultural habits. Practices such as branding cattle, castration without anaesthetic and bullfighting, for instance, “should be treated as morally equivalent to doing the same thing to human beings”.

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02/18/2018 12:02 AM
The media exaggerates negative news. This distortion has consequences | Steven Pinker

Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will make us think that it is

Every day the news is filled with stories about war, terrorism, crime, pollution, inequality, drug abuse and oppression. And it’s not just the headlines we’re talking about; it’s the op-eds and long-form stories as well. Magazine covers warn us of coming anarchies, plagues, epidemics, collapses, and so many “crises” (farm, health, retirement, welfare, energy, deficit) that copywriters have had to escalate to the redundant “serious crisis.”

Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is.

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02/17/2018 09:00 AM
Performance-driven culture is ruining science | Anonymous Academic

I was told impact metrics could make or break careers. Instead, they broke my faith in scientific research

The first time I heard about the impact factor I was a few weeks into my PhD. A candidate due to finish in a couple of months warned me emphatically: “It makes or breaks careers.” In my innocence, I didn’t think much about it and returned to concentrating on my research. A decade later, metrics such as these came to dominate my work and ultimately drove me to give up my permanent academic post and move into industry.

Since leaving academia, I have found myself wondering about the effect of these metrics on the profession and practice of science.

Related: Pressure to publish in journals drives too much cookie-cutter research

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02/16/2018 07:30 AM
Does the Illuminati control the world? Maybe it’s not such a mad idea | Julian Baggini

Questioning the hidden power of elites – whether big pharma or secret societies – is really quite sane

If the Illuminati is real, it’s got to be the least secret secret society in the universe. It’s so bad at keeping itself hidden that its existence is proclaimed all over the internet by people whose investigative toolkit consists entirely of Google and a lively imagination.

The most recent would-be whistleblower, however, is far from your usual ex-sports commentator. Paul Hellyer, a former Canadian minister of defence, has blamed the Illuminati for suppressing technology brought to Earth by aliens that could end our reliance on fossil fuels.

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02/14/2018 07:49 PM
Detailed thermal imaging reveals heat map of a badminton player – video

Technology behind thermal imaging is advancing, enabling cameras to produce a detailed heat map of the human body. In this sequence the blood vessels of a badminton player can been seen expanding, becoming brighter and lighter as the body becomes hotter with movement

Photography: Robert Hollingworth

Camera loan: FLIR

Thanks to Stuart Wardell and Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club. 

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02/14/2018 08:00 AM
Watch ants rescue their wounded comrades – video

Researchers have observed African Matabele ants treating their wounded comrades. The ants, frequently injured by termites, appear to apply an antibiotic saliva to the wounds of their injured. 

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02/14/2018 07:06 AM
Single atoms, soap bubbles and soil: scientists capture their research – in pictures

The winning entries from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) photo competition 2018, which allows researchers and doctoral students to share another side of their work

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02/12/2018 01:23 PM
Timelapse of Elon Musk's dummy astronaut orbiting Earth in a Tesla – video

Elon Musk's Starman can be seen sitting in $100,000 Tesla Roadster navigating Earth. Musk's plan is for the car, with the message 'don't panic' on the dashboard and David Bowie playing through the speakers, to cruise through high-energy radiation belts that circuit the planet, towards deep space

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02/07/2018 09:42 AM
Falcon Heavy, world’s most powerful rocket, successfully launches – video

SpaceX launch Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, into space from its launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The successful liftoff makes it the most powerful in operation and second only to the Apollo era

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02/06/2018 10:34 PM
Super blue blood moon 2018 - gallery

Many parts of the globe caught a glimpse of the moon as a giant crimson globe, thanks to a rare lunar trifecta that combines a total eclipse with a blue moon and super moon. The spectacle, which Nasa has coined a “super blue blood moon,” will grace the pre-dawn skies in the western US as the moon crosses into the shadow of the Earth and turns blood red.

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02/01/2018 07:05 AM
Super blue blood moon seen across the globe – video

Many parts of the globe managed to catch a glimpse of the moon as a giant crimson globe, thanks to a rare lunar trifecta that combines a total eclipse with a blue moon and super moon. From Jerusalem to Melbourne, here's how it looked across the world.

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02/01/2018 01:45 AM
Laser scanning reveals 'lost' ancient Mexican city 'had as many buildings as Manhattan'

Groundbreaking lidar scanning reveals the true scale of Angamuco, built by the Purépecha from about 900AD

Archaeology might evoke thoughts of intrepid explorers and painstaking digging, but in fact researchers say it is a high-tech laser mapping technique that is rewriting the textbooks at an unprecedented rate.

The approach, known as light detection and ranging scanning (lidar) involves directing a rapid succession of laser pulses at the ground from an aircraft.

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02/15/2018 04:00 PM
Ultra-processed foods may be linked to cancer, says study

Findings suggest increased consumption of ultra-processed foods tied to rise in cancers, but scientists say more research is needed

“Ultra-processed” foods, made in factories with ingredients unknown to the domestic kitchen, may be linked to cancer, according to a large and groundbreaking study.

Ultra-processed foods include pot noodles, shelf-stable ready meals, cakes and confectionery which contain long lists of additives, preservatives, flavourings and colourings – as well as often high levels of sugar, fat and salt. They now account for half of all the food bought by families eating at home in the UK, as the Guardian recently revealed.

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02/14/2018 11:30 PM
First modern Britons had 'dark to black' skin, Cheddar Man DNA analysis reveals

The genome of Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago, suggests that he had blue eyes, dark skin and dark curly hair

The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed.

The fossil, known as Cheddar Man, was unearthed more than a century ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset. Intense speculation has built up around Cheddar Man’s origins and appearance because he lived shortly after the first settlers crossed from continental Europe to Britain at the end of the last ice age. People of white British ancestry alive today are descendants of this population.

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02/07/2018 06:01 AM
Ancient Greeks 'may have inspired China's Terracotta Army'

Archaeologists say design of clay warriors suggests close contact between east and west 1,500 years before Marco Polo

Greek craft workers may have helped inspire the most famous Chinese sculptures ever made – the 8,000 warriors of the Terracotta Army who have been watching over the tomb of the first emperor of China for more than 2,000 years.

Archaeologists and historians working on the warriors say they now believe that the figures’ startlingly lifelike appearance could have been influenced by the arrival in China of ancient Greek sculptures, and even that Greek sculptors made their way there to teach their designs.

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10/12/2016 06:19 PM
How dangerous is Jordan B Peterson, the rightwing professor who 'hit a hornets' nest'?

Since his confrontation with Cathy Newman, the Canadian academic’s book has become a bestseller. But his arguments are riddled with ‘pseudo-facts’ and conspiracy theories

The Canadian psychology professor and culture warrior Jordan B Peterson could not have hoped for better publicity than his recent encounter with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News. The more Newman inaccurately paraphrased his beliefs and betrayed her irritation, the better Peterson came across. The whole performance, which has since been viewed more than 6m times on YouTube and was described by excitable Fox News host Tucker Carlson as “one of the great interviews of all time”, bolstered Peterson’s preferred image as the coolly rational man of science facing down the hysteria of political correctness. As he told Newman in his distinctive, constricted voice, which he has compared to that of Kermit the Frog: “I choose my words very, very carefully.”

The confrontation has worked wonders for Peterson. His new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has become a runaway bestseller in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany and France, making him the public intellectual du jour. Peterson is not just another troll, narcissist or blowhard whose arguments are fatally compromised by bad faith, petulance, intellectual laziness and blatant bigotry. It is harder to argue with someone who believes what he says and knows what he is talking about – or at least conveys that impression. No wonder every scourge of political correctness, from the Spectator to InfoWars, is aflutter over the 55-year-old professor who appears to bring heavyweight intellectual armature to standard complaints about “social-justice warriors” and “snowflakes”. They think he could be the culture war’s Weapon X.

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02/07/2018 03:20 PM
Melanie’s Marvelous Measles: the detrimental power of anti-vaccination rhetoric | Pete Etchells

A children’s book claiming that measles is good for you and a measles outbreak in Disneyland both highlight the need for clear and accessible information about vaccines

Dean Burnett: Terrible books for ruining children’s health

You only need to look at the title of the book to know that something’s wrong. “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles” is an anti-vaccination book aimed at children, written by Australian activist Stephanie Messenger. Although it’s been around for a few years, it’s garnered attention recently following the Disneyland measles outbreak in December - the book has had nearly 1000 1-star reviews on Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Melanie’s Marvelous Measles was written to educate children on the benefits of having measles and how you can heal from them naturally and successfully. Often today, we are being bombarded with messaged from vested interests to fear all diseases in order for someone to sell some potion or vaccine, when, in fact, history shows that in industrialised countries, these diseases are quite benign and, according to natural health sources, beneficial to the body.

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02/12/2015 09:02 AM
Why last night's VD-laced episode of Victoria should worry modern audiences

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

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

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

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

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10/02/2017 06:00 AM
Eurosceptics could damage British science and innovation | Mike Galsworthy

In the debate about Britain’s membership of the EU, we shouldn’t forget science. Here, Mike Galsworthy argues that Europe offers clear benefits for science and innovation.

The EU’s academic output is 20% higher than the US. This shouldn’t really be a surprise given the EU’s combined population of over 500m versus America’s 300m. In fact, Europe produces a third of the world’s research outputs and, like China, investment is being ramped up while UK and US investments are treading water.

It is widely known in British science and industry that the EU’s now-impressive engine is providing a boon for UK research and innovation. The bureaucracy is being stripped away and being replaced with a “can do” attitude. Yet our current government is hardly communicating this to the British people. They have not even told our small businesses that billions of euros in competitive funds are now available from the EU for them to collaborate with universities and develop marketable products. The Conservatives have recently been accused of burying, behind flood news, government documents showing a strong positive impact of the EU on British science and business, whilst last month a Conservative think-tank bizarrely accused the EU of being “anti-science”. Add this to anti-immigration noises that scientists have long warned is damaging, and the result is that Eurosceptics are compromising critical UK innovation opportunities.

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02/18/2014 02:53 PM
10 grammar rules you can forget: how to stop worrying and write proper
Guardian Style Guide author David Marsh set out to master perfect grammatical English – but discovered that 'correct' isn't always best. Here are the 10 grammar laws you no longer need to check

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

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

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

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09/30/2013 04:44 PM
'Paramedic ants' observed treating injured comrades

The social insects have been seen cleaning wounds and possibly administering antibiotics to prevent infection

When the battle is done the victors head home, their march broken only to gather the wounded, who are hauled back to base for life-saving treatment.

Not a heroic scene from the second world war, but the daily grind for African Matabele ants, which leave their nests in the hundreds to launch raids on feeding termites – and risk life and limb in the process.

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02/14/2018 12:01 AM
SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars

A Starman sitting in a tin can is currently navigating the heavens, soundtracked by David Bowie. How did it – and we – get there?

It takes a beat or two for the brain to compute. The image is startling, incongruous, barmy. A car floats in space. At the wheel is a spacesuit, seatbelt on. Earth hangs behind it. The two objects don’t work together. The image jars like bad Photoshop. But it is real.

The photograph was beamed down to Earth courtesy of Elon Musk’s ego, bravado and taste for the absurd. It is human folly and genius rolled into one, a picture that sums up 2018 so far. Life on Earth feels precarious, so we look to the stars.

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02/07/2018 09:29 AM