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  • Global heating ‘may lead to epidemic of kidney disease’
    by Natalie Grover on October 21, 2021 at 6:01 am

    Deadly side-effect of heat stress is threat to rising numbers of workers in hot climates, doctors warn‘You shouldn’t work if your kidneys are failing – but people can’t afford not to’Read more in the Harmed by heat seriesChronic kidney disease linked to heat stress could become a major health epidemic for millions of workers around the world as global temperatures increase over the coming decades, doctors have warned.More research into the links between heat and CKDu – chronic kidney disease of uncertain cause – is urgently needed to assess the potential scale of the problem, they have said. Continue reading…

  • Plantwatch: one of world’s rarest trees found near Welsh coast
    by Paul Simons on October 21, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Only 30 Menai whitebeam remain, all in a narrow strip of steep land in a nature reserveOne of the world’s rarest trees grows in north Wales. There are only 30 of the Menai whitebeam left in the world, all growing along a tiny strip of steep coast in a nature reserve by the Menai Strait.“I was amazed to realise that such a highly threatened tree could be found in the nature reserve not far from our university,” said Julia Jones, a professor of conservation science at Bangor University. Continue reading…

  • Deep within the UK’s shocking Covid data, there may be reasons for optimism
    by Ian Sample Science editor on October 21, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Analysis: soaring cases in schools are adding to the pool of the immune – which could soon see some community infections fallCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageIt is hard to be upbeat about the latest numbers. The government’s Covid dashboard is awash with red and upward-pointing arrows. New cases have climbed 17% on the week. Hospital admissions are up 11% and deaths have increased by 21%. This is not where we wanted to be nearly two years into the pandemic – and 10 months into the most successful mass vaccination campaign in the history of the NHS.So is this what we have to get used to? Nearly 1,000 hospital admissions a day, and nearly 1,000 deaths a week? There are so many forces at work in a pandemic, operating on different timescales, pushing in opposite directions, that reliable predictions are a fantasy. But delve into the data and there are, perhaps, some reasons for optimism. Continue reading…

  • Who are Insulate Britain and what do they want?
    by Presented by Shivani Dave and produced by Madeleine Finlay on October 21, 2021 at 4:00 am

    For the past few months Insulate Britain have been blocking roads in an effort to pressure the government into sealing up the UK’s leaky, draughty housing-stock. So why are a group of eco-activists facing confrontations from angry drivers, and even risking injury, for insulation? Shivani Dave speaks to environment correspondent Matthew Taylor about Insulate Britain’s demands and explores the possible health benefits of properly insulated homes with Dr James Milner Continue reading…

  • Solar storm confirms Vikings settled in North America exactly 1,000 years ago
    by Reuters on October 20, 2021 at 9:03 pm

    Analysis of wood from timber-framed buildings in Newfoundland shows Norse-built settlement 471 years before ColumbusLong before Columbus crossed the Atlantic, eight timber-framed buildings covered in sod stood on a terrace above a peat bog and stream at the northern tip of Canada’s island of Newfoundland, evidence that the Vikings had reached the New World first.But precisely when the Vikings journeyed to establish the L’Anse aux Meadows settlement had remained unclear – until now. Continue reading…

  • Why is it business as usual in England while Covid infections rise?
    by Heather Stewart Political editor on October 20, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    Analysis: a winter plan has been set out but implementing it could be hampered by political squeamishnessCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageMore than 20 months into the Covid pandemic and with a tough winter looming, the public could be excused for having a distinct sense of deja vu.Infection rates are rising sharply, scientists and senior NHS figures are sounding the alarm – but the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, was touring the broadcast studios on Wednesday morning ruling out a lockdown in England and telling people “absolutely” to book their Christmas parties. Continue reading…

  • UK Covid: Sajid Javid warns country could hit 100,000 cases per day and urges people to get jabs – as it happened
    by Kevin Rawlinson and Andrew Sparrow (earlier) on October 20, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    Health secretary says ‘pandemic is not over’ but confirms UK will not implement its ‘plan B’ measures just now. This live blog has now closed – for global Covid updates, please follow this live blogJavid vows to protect NHS but says Covid cases could hit 100,000 a dayNo 10 to buy new antiviral treatments for Covid in time for winterComplacency holding back booster rollout in England, says NHS bossJohnson says online harms bill will include criminal sanctions PMQs – snap verdictKwarteng claims net zero strategy does not make tax rises inevitableDame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, told the London assembly this morning that it was a mistake for the Met, at a briefing, to suggest that women stopped by an undercover lone officer could, as a last resort, flag down a bus if they were worried. When asked about this at a hearing this morning, Dick said that a colleague had used that line after being “pressed, pressed, pressed” as to what to do if all else failed. She went on:I completely understand why that ended up as the headline. It was not intended. And that is not how we see things.And, yes, we have reviewed it. And I think we would, hopefully, address the question differently were it to come again in the future. The prime minister thinks he can continue to hide behind the NHS’ successful vaccine rollout but he is undoing all of their hard work by proceeding with the careless attitude that this pandemic is over.In August the APPG on coronavirus warned how dropping all restrictions coupled with increased winter pressure could spell disaster and two months on, with case numbers and deaths continuing to rise, the government must act or risk of repeating the failures of last Christmas. Continue reading…

  • No 10 to buy new antiviral treatments for Covid in time for winter
    by Peter Walker and Ian Sample on October 20, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Trials show one of drugs cuts risk of hospitalisation or death for patients by halfCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageNo 10 has made deals to buy hundreds of thousands of doses of two new antiviral treatments for coronavirus, ministers have announced, at least one of which it is hoped will be approved for use in the UK ahead of the winter.One deal covers 480,000 courses of molnupiravir, which can be taken as a pill twice a day. In trials, the drug, made by Merck, known as MSD outside the US, has been shown to cut the risk of hospitalisation or death for patients not in hospital by half. Continue reading…

  • Your green credentials may be linked to your genes, study says
    by Sofia Quaglia on October 20, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Identical twins have more similar views on environmental issues than non-identical ones, research findsSome people are more environmentally conscious than others, and scientists say the reason could be in their genes.A study has found that identical twins have more similar views on conservation and environmentalism than non-identical twins. The researchers say this suggests there could be a link between people’s genetic makeup and their support for green policies. Continue reading…

  • Surgeons successfully test pig kidney transplant in human patient
    by Associated Press on October 20, 2021 at 6:51 am

    Researchers in US say trial on dead person is a ‘significant step’ toward animal-to-human organ transplantsSurgeons have attached a pig’s kidney to a human and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but a sugar in their cells, which is foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack. Continue reading…

  • Floating props and little sleep: Russians describe filming world’s first movie in space
    by Guardian staff with agencies on October 20, 2021 at 12:33 am

    Film crew say shooting was a ‘huge challenge’ and they had to learn to walk again after 12 days in orbitTheir movie props floated around, sleeping was difficult and they used Velcro to keep objects in place but Russia’s first film crew in space said they were delighted with the result and had “shot everything we planned”.Yulia Peresild, one of Russia’s most glamorous actors, and film director Klim Shipenko returned to Earth on Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting the first movie in orbit, in an effort to beat the United States. Continue reading…

  • Ben Jennings on the UK’s rising daily deaths from Covid — cartoon
    by Ben Jennings on October 19, 2021 at 6:41 pm

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  • Is a ‘negative microwave’ – a device that quickly cools food and drink – possible?
    on October 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

    The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical conceptsI’ve been grappling for decades about how you’d get a “negative microwave” to work, a device that very quickly cools things such as food or drinks without having to pre-fill it with something that’s already cold. I understand many of the reasons why it’s near impossible but is it actually impossible? Maybe quantum physics can mysteriously do it. George StewartPost your answers (and new questions) below or send them to nq@theguardian.com. A selection will be published on Sunday. Continue reading…

  • Earth’s demise could rid galaxy of meaning, warns Brian Cox ahead of Cop26
    by Tara Conlan on October 19, 2021 at 5:01 am

    Unique events that led to civilisation mean its demise could ‘eliminate meaning in galaxy for ever’Humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, so destroying our civilisation could be a galactic disaster, Prof Brian Cox has warned leaders in the run-up to Cop26.Speaking at the launch of his new BBC Two series Universe, the physicist and presenter said that having spoken to the scientists around the world advising the show, he thought that humans and sentient life on Earth “might be a remarkable, naturally occurring phenomenon” and that was something that “world leaders might need to know”.Universe starts on BBC2 on 27 October Continue reading…

  • Unfreezing the ice age: the truth about humanity’s deep past
    by David Graeber and David Wengrow on October 19, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Archaeological discoveries are shattering scholars’ long-held beliefs about how the earliest humans organised their societies – and hint at possibilities for our ownIn some ways, accounts of “human origins” play a similar role for us today as myth did for ancient Greeks or Polynesians. This is not to cast aspersions on the scientific rigour or value of these accounts. It is simply to observe that the two fulfil somewhat similar functions. If we think on a scale of, say, the last 3m years, there actually was a time when someone, after all, did have to light a fire, cook a meal or perform a marriage ceremony for the first time. We know these things happened. Still, we really don’t know how. It is very difficult to resist the temptation to make up stories about what might have happened: stories which necessarily reflect our own fears, desires, obsessions and concerns. As a result, such distant times can become a vast canvas for the working out of our collective fantasies.Let’s take just one example. Back in the 1980s, there was a great deal of buzz about a “mitochondrial Eve”, the putative common ancestor of our entire species. Granted, no one was claiming to have actually found the physical remains of such an ancestor, but DNA sequencing demonstrated that such an Eve must have existed, perhaps as recently as 120,000 years ago. And while no one imagined we’d ever find Eve herself, the discovery of a variety of other fossil skulls rescued from the Great Rift Valley in east Africa seemed to provide a suggestion as to what Eve might have looked like and where she might have lived. While scientists continued debating the ins and outs, popular magazines were soon carrying stories about a modern counterpart to the Garden of Eden, the original incubator of humanity, the savanna-womb that gave life to us all. Continue reading…

  • US ‘very concerned’ despite China denials over hypersonic missile
    by Vincent Ni, Julian Borger in Washington and agencies on October 18, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Disarmament ambassador casts doubt on ability to defend against technology after reports of test The United States is “very concerned” about China’s development of hypersonic technology, the US disarmament ambassador, Robert Wood, has said, after reports that Beijing had recently launched a hypersonic missile with a nuclear capacity.“We are very concerned by what China has been doing on the hypersonic front,” Robert Wood told reporters in Geneva. Continue reading…

  • Did you solve it? Hamiltonian ingenuity on the grid
    by Alex Bellos on October 18, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    The solutions to today’s puzzlesEarlier today I set you two puzzles based on Hamiltonian paths in a square grid. A Hamiltonian path is one which visits every cell exactly once. (If you want a print out of the puzzles, click here.)1. The Hamiltonian path Continue reading…

  • We put our child in charge for a day – it was both terrifying and freeing
    by Donna Ferguson on October 17, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    One day a year our daughter does as she pleases and it’s always great fun… and a good education for us allWe call it her “in-charge day”. A day when our nine-year-old daughter Flora is in charge, and we are, effectively, hers to command. A day when all the traditional hierarchies between parent and child are reversed, when she can fulfil her fantasies, refuse to do anything she doesn’t want to and experience a taste of power, authority and absolute freedom.OK, not absolute freedom. There are some ground rules. She can’t do anything we deem to be unsafe or illegal. She can’t ask us to buy anything “too expensive” (we keep this part deliberately vague). And, this year, we realised we needed to add one more sentence of small print to our contract: she cannot purchase any new pets. Continue reading…

  • Polygenic screening of embryos is here, but is it ethical?
    by Philip Ball on October 17, 2021 at 10:00 am

    The first child born using the technique arrived last year. But can it really help reduce diseases in a new generation, or is it ‘techno-eugenics’?The birth of the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978 provoked a media frenzy. In comparison, a little girl named Aurea born by IVF in May 2020 went almost unnoticed. Yet she represents a significant first in assisted reproduction too, for the embryo from which she grew was selected from others based on polygenic screening before implantation, to optimise her health prospects.For both scientific and ethical reasons, this new type of genetic screening is highly controversial. The nonprofit California-based organisation the Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) has called its use here “a considerable reach by the assisted-reproduction industry in the direction of techno-eugenics”. Continue reading…

  • ‘Johnny’ll love that’: Ringo Starr wishes Nasa Lucy mission well – video
    on October 16, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    The Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr, was among those asked to add their messages to a Lucy mission plaque. The spacecraft has set off on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids, mostly around Jupiter’s orbit. The mission was named after the 3.2m-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half a century. Dr Donald Johanson discovered the remains while the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was playing, passing on the name to his discovery Continue reading…

  • The world finally has a malaria vaccine. Why has it taken so long? – podcast
    by Presented and produced by Anand Jagatia on October 14, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Last week the World Health Organization approved the world’s first malaria vaccine. It’s been hailed as a historic breakthrough that could save tens of thousands of lives each year. But researchers have been trying to create one for more than a century – so why has it taken so long? Anand Jagatia speaks to Dr Latif Ndeketa and Prof Chris Drakeley about how the new RTS,S vaccine works and why it’s been so difficult to produceArchive: WHO, ITV News Continue reading…

  • Prince William: great minds should focus on saving Earth not space travel – video
    on October 14, 2021 at 8:27 am

    The Duke of Cambridge has criticised the space race and space tourism, saying the world’s greatest minds need to focus on fixing the Earth instead. In an interview with Newscast on BBC Sounds before his Earthshot prize awards, Prince William also warned about a rise in ‘climate anxiety’ among younger generations. His comments come the day after William Shatner, 90, made history by becoming the oldest person in spacePrince William criticises space race and tourism’s new frontier Continue reading…

  • How my ivermectin research led to Twitter death threats | Dr Andrew Hill
    by Andrew Hill on October 13, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    I was sent images of coffins and hanged Nazi war criminals after finding medical fraud in clinical trialsThe story of online threats and abuse is very dark. In early 2021, my research team was analysing a new drug called ivermectin. In the first clinical trials, this drug seemed to prevent new infections and improve survival. When I first wrote about this, I started getting regular threats on Twitter, demanding that ivermectin should be approved worldwide and questioning the safety of vaccines.In March 2021, I received my first vaccine dose and posted a photo on Twitter from the clinic. Within minutes I was receiving strange messages: “Why would you do that?”, “not safe”, “why not use ivermectin instead”, “you are paid by the Gates Foundation”. One person even sent a link to a suction device to remove the vaccine fluid from my arm. Any message I sent promoting the benefits of vaccines led to threats and abuse. Continue reading…

  • Bezos’ Blue Origin is at odds with everything Star Trek represents | Akin Olla
    by Akin Olla on October 13, 2021 at 10:18 am

    The entire premise of Star Trek was utopian: it pushed the limits of diversity, progressivism and inclusion on television and the science fiction genreThe 90-year-old actor William Shatner, best known for his leading role as Captain James Tiberius Kirk of Star Trek: The Original Series, is headed to space, for real this time. Shatner will be launched off this Wednesday by on-again-off-again richest man in the world Jeff Bezos’s private aerospace company Blue Origin.The entire premise of Star Trek was utopian: it pushed the limits of diversity, progressivism and inclusion on television and the science fiction genre. That Shatner would be affiliated with Bezos feels like a contradiction. And yet, colonialism and capitalism are too embedded within the culture of the United States for even sacred projects like space travel or Star Trek to remain unsullied. Continue reading…

  • The Covid report should damn this government: it’s tragic that it won’t | Marina Hyde
    by Marina Hyde on October 12, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    It is a clear indictment of Boris Johnson’s administration and its scientific advisers. How jolly he’s still riding high in the pollsYou will note that good news bear Boris Johnson has given the old swerve-a-roo to the release of the Covid select committee report. Doubtless the prime minister would like to respond in full to this tragic indictment of the UK’s catastrophic response to the pandemic, but he is sadly prevented from doing so by being on his holibobs in Marbs. I hear the paella’s great, if that helps?Anyway: the report. Given that one of its milder conclusions is “pandemics like Covid-19 will become more common”, it feels like something to which we should pay attention. Then again if our overlords actually cared about “lessons being learned” from mass avoidable tragedy, we would have had a speedy inquiry into what went wrong in the first wave in summer 2020, as plenty of people were demanding at the time, which might have prevented tens of thousands more dying in the second wave. Hey ho. A real public inquiry is apparently scheduled for spring 2022. I haven’t got a date for the inquiry into the winter that we’re about to have, but will keep you posted.Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist Continue reading…

  • Is gene editing the future of food? – podcast
    by Presented and produced by Madeleine Finlay on October 12, 2021 at 4:00 am

    The world’s harvests are coming under increasing pressure from extreme weather events, disease and deteriorating soil health – problems that are set to get worse in the next few decades. Could one solution be to genetically edit our food to make it more resilient? With the UK’s recent announcement that it will ease the rules for growing gene-edited crops in England, Madeleine Finlay investigates what it will mean for scientists researching the technology, and why it could become a critical tool for the future of our food Continue reading…

  • More people are dying at home than in the past | David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters
    by David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters on October 10, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Did they receive care and compassion from loved ones or did they die alone, fearful of getting infected in hospital?From the start of the pandemic to 24 September 2021, deaths at home in England and Wales have been 37% higher than the 2015-2019 average, according to the Office for National Statistics.For every three people who used to die at home, four now do. That’s more than 71,000 “excess” deaths, only 8,500 of which involved Covid. Even as mortality elsewhere fell back to past levels, dying in private homes has persistently remained above average. A natural question arises: are these “extra” deaths or a shift from other locations? Continue reading…

  • Covid-19: will there soon be a pill that stops us getting sick? – podcast
    by Presented by Madeleine Finlay and produced by Anand Jagatia with reporting from Hannah Devlin on October 7, 2021 at 4:00 am

    Last week the pharmaceutical company Merck released promising early data on a pill for Covid-19, which trials suggest halves hospitalisations and deaths. So what do we know about this experimental treatment? Madeleine Finlay talks to the Guardian’s science correspondent Hannah Devlin about whether this antiviral could be a gamechanger. And as some UK experts warn ‘there isn’t much A&E capacity left’, we also hear from Prof Peter Horby on the importance of drugs in the fight against Covid-19Archive: NBC News Continue reading…

  • Did you solve it? Another game of brutal genius from South Korea
    by Alex Bellos on October 4, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    The solutions to today’s puzzlesEarlier today I set you the following puzzles, designed by the South Korean puzzle master Han Dongkyu. The first two are a slow build up to what is one of the most fiendishly brilliant geometrical puzzles I have ever seen.If you want a print out of the puzzles, click here. Continue reading…

  • Can you solve it? Another game of brutal genius from South Korea
    by Alex Bellos on October 4, 2021 at 6:10 am

    Will you make the cut?UPDATE: The solution can be seen here.Today’s three challenges are from Han Dongkyu, a talented young puzzle designer from South Korea. The first two will warm you up for the third, which is probably the most stunning example of a dissection puzzle I have ever seen. Prepare to be awed – and have your brain twisted inside out.1. Librarian’s Nightmare Part I Continue reading…

  • Did you solve it? Russia’s Prime Minister sets a geometry puzzle
    by Alex Bellos on September 20, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    The answer to today’s teaserEarlier today I set you the following puzzle, which was a challenge Russia’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, gave to a class of Russian sixth formers earlier this month.Construct a perpendicular from the (red) point on the circle to the diameter, without using any measuring devices. Continue reading…