Science news

The world’s most charismatic mathematician | Siobhan Roberts

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 06:00

John Horton Conway is a cross between Archimedes, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dalí. For many years, he worried that his obsession with playing silly games was ruining his career – until he realised that it could lead to extraordinary discoveries

On a late September day in 1956, John Horton Conway left home with a trunk on his back. He was a skinny 18-year-old, with long, unkempt hair – a sort of proto-hippie – and although he generally preferred to go barefoot, on this occasion he wore strappy Jesus sandals. He travelled by steam train from Liverpool to Cambridge, where he was to start life as an undergraduate. During the five-hour journey, via Crewe with a connection in Bletchley, something dawned on him: this was a chance to reinvent himself.

In junior school, one of Conway’s teachers had nicknamed him “Mary”. He was a delicate, effeminate creature. Being Mary made his life absolute hell until he moved on to secondary school, at Liverpool’s Holt High School for Boys. Soon after term began, the headmaster called each boy into his office and asked what he planned to do with his life. John said he wanted to read mathematics at Cambridge. Instead of “Mary” he became known as “The Prof”. These nicknames confirmed Conway as a terribly introverted adolescent, painfully aware of his own suffering.

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How science can help lessen the impact of storm surges on coastal communities – video

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 00:37
Australian scientists have used the example of the Cook Islands to look at how communities can prepare for violent storm surges. Across the South Pacific, tropical storms bring tidal surges that can devastate low-lying coastal communities. But complex modelling by researchers at the University of New South Wales is helping shed light on just how these wave systems work

Catastrophic Science is a science and technology series produced by the University of New South Wales Continue reading...









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New research debunks merits of global deworming programmes

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 00:19

Re-analysis of existing studies finds that deworming schemes may not improve educational attainment as previously claimed

Deworming children, once ranked by Nobel laureates as the fourth most effective intervention to solve the health problems of the whole world, offers very little benefit despite the millions of dollars spent on it, according to a re-analysis of evidence.

The World Bank and the UK government are among the big funders of deworming programmes that were claimed to improve not only children’s health and growth, but also their educational attainment and ultimately their country’s economic prosperity.

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Astronauts launch in mission to International Space Station - video

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-07-23 00:08
American NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, along with fellow astronauts Kimiya Yui of Japan and Russian crew commander Oleg Kononenko, launched on their Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a five-month mission on the International Space Station. Continue reading...









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Plantwatch: The pharmacy flourishing in gardens and fields

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-07-22 21:30

Plants famous for their drugs are out in flower. Perhaps most spectacular is the brilliant red field poppy, making a stunning splash of colour this summer. This common poppy has a type of opiate that was long used for mild pain relief for toothache, earache and sore throats, as well as a mild sedative. But far better known for opiates is the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, its lilac-coloured flowers infamous from the illegal drugs trade in Afghanistan. But the opium poppy is also grown for pharmaceutical morphine in parts of southern and eastern England, where the soil and climate are just right. Last summer saw a record harvest and the quality of morphine produced now provides some 50% of all the morphine used in the UK. Although the poppies are grown under a Home Office licence, they are no good for making illicit drugs because the variety grown in England needs a good deal of sophisticated refining to make into morphine.

Meadowsweet was the source of another important drug. This plant grows in damp places and is now in bloom with frothy white flower heads with a heady sweet fragrance. Meadowsweet has an especially proud history because it was used for relieving headaches thanks to a substance called salicylic acid. In 1897 these painkiller properties inspired the chemical synthesis of aspirin – named after the plant’s old scientific name, Spiraea.

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New Alzheimer’s drugs: What do they do and could they be a cure?

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 20:24
Promising results from a flurry of drug trials were announced today. Here's what you need to know about how these new drugs work









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Genetic engineering creates rice strain that makes less methane

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 20:08
A modified rice that borrows a gene from barley reduces its production emissions by starving paddy field microbes of the sugar they use to produce methane









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Cyborg cockroach and drone teams can locate disaster survivors

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Roaches with electronic implants and managed by drones can be tasked to locate trapped people in the aftermath of an earthquake









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The rise of on-body cameras and how they will change how we live

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
More people are wearing on-body cameras that film everything someone does. How will this alter your behaviour?









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Glow-in-the-dark trucks use plasma to reduce drag and save fuel

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Side-mounted electric panels cut fuel costs by reducing drag – and they look pretty cool too









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Semen has controlling power over female genes and behaviour

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Seminal fluid alters gene expression in females, including humans. It can even alter behaviour in fruit flies, but does it do the same in women?









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Two dolphin species band together to form unprecedented alliance

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Atlantic bottlenose and spotted dolphins are cooperating in unique mixed-species groups that are mostly platonic, but sometimes cross-species sex is involved









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Head and body lice splice their identical genes differently

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Head lice are harmless and body lice spread disease, yet they have the same genes - the difference is all in the way they splice them together









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Universal plaque-busting drug could treat various brain diseases

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
A drug that breaks up different types of brain plaque shows promising results in animals and could prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease









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60 seconds

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Turtle eggs at risk from sea level rise, space bling fly-by, mini brains grown in a dish and more









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Advice leaflet on whether to choose a caesarean accused of bias

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
The UK's Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has issued a leaflet for women thinking of choosing a C-section – but some have accused it of bias









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Garden of Eden dries as ISIS, Turkey and Iraq fight over water

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Iraq's fabled marshes are seeing some of the lowest water levels since Saddam Hussein drained them in the 1990s









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Philae may have moved – and Rosetta will start to look south

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
Philae has stopped phoning home and its parents are worried. Meanwhile, communication is getting more complicated as the Rosetta orbiter moves on to the comet's south









Categories: Science news

Genetic engineering creates rice strain that makes less methane

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
A modified rice that borrows a gene from barley reduces its production emissions by starving paddy field microbes of the sugar they use to produce methane









Categories: Science news

Quantum of solace – information can be rescued from a black hole

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-07-22 18:00
The weirdness of quantum teleportation offers a solution for getting information out of a black hole, should you have dropped something in there









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