Science news

Hidden viral protein brings universal flu jab closer

New Scientist - news - Tue, 2015-08-25 15:09
Flu subtly changes each year to stop us becoming fully immune. A normally hidden protein that stays the same in all flu viruses could make a universal vaccine

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Stephen Hawking says he has a way to escape from a black hole

New Scientist - news - Tue, 2015-08-25 12:57
Researchers have long struggled to resolve what happens to information when it falls inside a black hole, but the famous physicist says he has a solution

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Stealing jokes: why it happens, why it hurts | Dean Burnett

Guardian Science - Tue, 2015-08-25 12:55

There’s been a lot of news about joke thieves recently, but it’s a practice that’s been around for years. Why does it happen, and how do people get away with it so often? As someone who recently experienced it first-hand, here are some possible explanations.

Last year, my friend asked to use the one working USB port on my ageing (since replaced) computer to recharge his e-cigarette. However, I was currently using it to charge my Kindle. I then realised what a ridiculous scenario this would have been as little as 5 years ago, so I tweeted about it.

Last night my mate asked to use a USB port to charge his cigarette, but I was using it to charge my book. The future is stupid.

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App gives smartphone snaps more than 5 million different filters

New Scientist - news - Tue, 2015-08-25 12:33
A new app called Infltr taps into a smartphone's graphics processor to generate filters on the fly, allowing for the perfect shot in one step

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Edinburgh zoo says giant panda Tian Tian lost cub during pregnancy

Guardian Science - Tue, 2015-08-25 10:54

Giant panda had been expected to give birth last week, but experts now suspect she absorbed the foetus into the womb

Edinburgh zoo has said that its giant panda Tian Tian has again lost a cub during pregnancy, despite growing optimism in recent weeks that the zoo’s midwifery would finally pay off.

Staff at the zoo had been convinced that Tian Tian’s prospects were greater than ever this year after her hormone readings and behaviour showed her pregnancy was going to plan, following her artificial insemination with semen from her mate, Yang Guang, in March.

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Everything you always wanted to know about panda sex (but were afraid to ask) | Sam Knight

Guardian Science - Tue, 2015-08-25 07:00

After years of disappointment, staff at Edinburgh zoo hoped that this month would bring the birth of a baby panda. But is captive breeding really the way to save the species?

At about 5pm on 25 March, a cold, wet Wednesday earlier this year, Tian Tian, the female giant panda at Edinburgh zoo, stirred from the wooden platform in her outdoor enclosure and began to bleat. Tian Tian, who was born in Beijing zoo in 2003, has proved a terrific hit with visitors since she arrived in Britain with the zoo’s male panda, Yang Guang, in December 2011. Yang Guang, whose name means “Sunshine”, might be a larger and, to all appearances, more affable creature, but Tian Tian (“Sweetie”) is a panda with more edge, more wit and more dash.

These are unusual qualities. Pandas are vegetarian bears with slow metabolisms. They subsist almost entirely on bamboo, which they digest poorly. They do everything they can to avoid unnecessary exertion. If you give Yang Guang a ball, he will most likely see if he can eat it, then let it go. Tian Tian, on the other hand, has been known to skip after balls and do forward rolls. Sometimes she hangs from the bars on the top of her indoor den – a pose that her handlers call “ninja panda” – just for the hell of it. She is not all nice. Tian Tian has bullied keepers off the job, and sometimes takes sly swipes with her enormous claws at passing vets. “She has got her own mind, most definitely,” said Alison Maclean, the chief panda keeper at Edinburgh zoo, who seems to love her deeply for precisely this reason. “You have to be very, very careful around her.”

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Yellow gets greener in summer

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 21:30

Remember winter, when everything was cold and grey? Right now, when all around is lush and green, the contrast couldn’t be greater. But is everything really as it seems? New research shows that we see things differently in winter compared with summer.

Our eyes perceive four pure, unmixed colours – blue, green, red and yellow. People often find it hard to agree exactly what shade pure blue, green and red are, but curiously we tend to see pure yellow the same way, despite having different eyes. Lauren Welbourne, a psychologist at the University of York, wondered if that was because yellow is influenced more by the world around us than the biology of our eyes.

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Great Barrier Reef species more at risk from climate change, says study

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 21:23

Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions

Species native to the Great Barrier Reef are more likely to face extinction through climate change than marine life elsewhere that can adapt by “invading” new regions, according to new research.

The largest study to date on the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity found that many species would cope by finding new waters.

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Don’t judge politicians by their taste in vests | Letters

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 19:17

Gladstone collars, Anthony Eden hats, Wilson’s raincoats – now it’s Jeremy Corbyn vests. Why are male politicians judged by their clothing rather than their policies and principles?
Robert Solomon

• While there is outrage at taking drugs to improve athletic performance, apparently it’s fine to take drugs to improve academic performance (Modafinil hailed as the first safe “smart drug”, 20 August).
Jonathan Long

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Do Netflix, Spotify and Facebook know me as well as they think?

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 18:32

Websites try to suggest everything from your next best friend to your next best shirt. But are these recommendations a help or a hindrance? Four writers look at how algorithms shape their online lives

Alexis Petridis

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Hormones boost placebo effect by making you want to cooperate

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-08-24 18:20
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted

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Going Viral: scientific storytelling with contagious ideas

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 18:13

Talking to Daniel Bye about his Fringe First-winning performance lecture throws up some interesting ideas about the interaction between science and society

“I’d say it’s quite funny for about the first 5 mins then rapidly downhill “, says Daniel Bye of his Fringe First-winning Edinburgh show, Going Viral. “There are more laughs in it later on, but it is quite a bleak view of the world, or rather, a view which is bleak. Well. That’s really going to make people want to see it.”

It might sound less attractive than a hazmat suit, but if you’re at all interested in science and ideas you should catch it.

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Universal flu vaccine a step closer as scientists create experimental jabs

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 16:53

Annual vaccinations could be a thing of the past as scientists have successfully tested vaccines on animals infected with different strains of influenza

A universal flu vaccine that protects against multiple strains of the virus is a step closer after scientists created experimental jabs that work in animals.

The vaccines prevented deaths or reduced symptoms in mice, ferrets and monkeys infected with different types of flu, raising hopes for a reliable alternative to the seasonal vaccine.

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Look into my eyes: can 10 minutes of staring make you hallucinate?

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 16:39

Gaze adoringly at your loved one, and they will soon look deformed, monstrous or like your mother, according to a study. One writer puts it to the test

The first two minutes are the trickiest. My partner, C, and I are seated opposite one another in our bedroom, staring into each other’s eyes. As she does every single morning after finishing her breakfast, our dog saunters in and burps resonantly, as close to our faces as she can aim. We burst into laughter but do not break eye contact. Only another eight minutes to go …

We’re doing something we’ve never done in our 11 years together: looking into each other’s eyes without pausing, smiling or talking for 10 minutes. No, this is not some Relate-endorsed attempt to save our relationship, though I wouldn’t put it past C, who has just qualified as a Gestalt therapist and does this sort of thing for larks, to suggest it. “Ten minutes?” she splutters when I instruct her to come home immediately and look into my eyes. “Last time I did it, it was only four and I was in love with the man by the end!”

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Want to read this article later? Maybe you should just print it out | Oliver Burkeman

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 16:17

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of online reading material. That’s why physical print-outs sometimes trump a digital copies

I’ve spent many, many hours – I’m sure most people would say too many hours – devising geeky personal systems for managing information in the digital era. For example, I’ve reached certain conclusions about how to deal with email overload; how to manage your to-do list; or how to resist the distractions of social media. And fortunately, because I’m a journalist, I have an excuse to tell you about them, whereas otherwise I’d just be that appallingly tedious guy at social events who won’t stop telling you about his favorite lifehacks. (To be clear, I am also that guy, but this needn’t concern us here.)

Still, there’s one big challenge I’ve never been able to master: how to keep track of all the interesting reading-matter I encounter online, or in ebooks, and then how to store and usefully refer to the notes I make on it. If you’ve had 27 tabs open in Chrome for the last four months, or 322 bookmarks in Firefox, or if you habitually highlight passages on your Kindle then promptly forget all about them, you’ll know what I mean.

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Octopuses seen throwing things may be using shells as weapons

New Scientist - news - Mon, 2015-08-24 15:40
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons

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Ashley Madison hack: do victims deserve to be punished? | Girl on the Net

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 12:15

A recent article stated that (male) victims of the Ashley Madison hack deserve their fate. Real life, however, is far from being so clear cut.

I’ve heard a lot of gloating in the light of the Ashley Madison hack - most of it along the lines that the cheaters on the site deserved to be outed because cheating on your partner is an awful thing to do. It was only today that I saw the first solid ground laid for the “well they shouldn’t have been so stupid” argument.

Yesterday, Barbara Ellen explained that she isn’t sorry for any of the men who were exposed in the Ashley Madison hack because they were just plain stupid:

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Can we reverse the ageing process by putting young blood into older people? – Podcast

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 11:36
A series of experiments has produced incredible results by giving young blood to old mice. Now the findings are being tested on humans. Ian Sample meets the scientists whose research could transform our lives

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Heroes, monsters and people: When it comes to moral choices, outstanding physicists are very ordinary

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 08:26

Did German physicists have a plan in the 1930s? And if so, was their physics any help?

Last week, on the plane back from Chicago, I finished Philip Ball’s book about physics in Germany in the nineteen-thirties and -forties. I’m still thinking about it, and I’m trying to work out why it has left such a strong impression. I think it is because the compromises, recriminations and judgements formed have echoes, weak but clear, in so many other arguments going on today.

It is difficult to be nuanced about Nazis. There are obvious reasons for this, but it is nevertheless sometimes important to try. That genocidal ideology came from somewhere, and looking back on the period through a lens which colours everyone as hero or monster is not necessarily helpful for gaining understanding, and therefore not necessarily a good approach to the prevention of such abominations in future.

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Why the secrecy, Mr Javid? Tell us more about the McKinsey review

Guardian Science - Mon, 2015-08-24 07:36

Despite a freedom of information request, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills refuses to share details of the funding review it has commissioned from the consultancy McKinsey.

Openness and transparency can save money, strengthen people’s trust in government and encourage greater public participation in decision-making. Or so says the website. But that doesn’t seem to be the modus operandi in Sajid Javid’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Over the summer, rumours have been swirling (first published by the Guardian’s Political Science blog) that the consultants McKinsey & Company have been called in by BIS to advise where cuts could be made to the department’s budget, which includes £4.7 billion of annual investment in science, research and innovation. This is an internal review, and hasn’t been officially announced, but we understand it is due to report in early September, in time to inform spending review negotiations.

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