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Science & Technology

What you need to know about the new COVID-19 variants

B117, the SARS CoV-2 variant that was first detected in the U.K., has been found to be 30%-80% more transmissible. Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library via Getty Images David Kennedy, Penn State Editor’s note: Two new strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 called B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 have been found in the U.K. and South Africa and are thought to be …

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Finds in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge reveal how ancient humans adapted to change

The research site at the Olduvai Gorge. Author supplied Julio Mercader Florin, University of Calgary The ability to adapt to changing environments has deep roots. In a technology-driven world, people tend to conflate adaptability with technological change, especially when it comes to navigating adverse climates and places. But not every technological revolution is a result of environmental change. Sometimes existing …

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Are the brains of atheists different to those of religious people? Scientists are trying to find out

Do atheists think differently? patrice6000/Shutterstock Miguel Farias, Coventry University The cognitive study of religion has recently reached a new, unknown land: the minds of unbelievers. Do atheists think differently from religious people? Is there something special about how their brains work? To illustrate what they’ve found, I will focus on three key snapshots. The first one, from 2003, is probably …

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Fake news: bold visual warnings needed to stop people clicking – new research

Shutterstock/dencg Fiona Carroll, Cardiff Metropolitan University A senior doctor in charge of the NHS anti-disinformation campaign has said that language and cultural barriers could be causing people from ethnic minorities to reject the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr Harpreet Sood told the BBC it was “a big concern” and officials were working hard to reach different groups “to correct so much fake …

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Mutant roots reveal how we can grow crops in damaged soils

Lidiane Miotto/Shutterstock Malcolm Bennett, University of Nottingham; Bipin Pandey, University of Nottingham, and Sacha Mooney, University of Nottingham For years, conventional wisdom has held that roots don’t grow as deep in hard soil because it’s just too difficult for them to physically push through it. But our new research has unearthed another reason: their growth is controlled by a biological …

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What is a protein? A biologist explains

Just 20 amino acids for chains in various combinations to create the thousands of varieties of proteins in our body. David Goodsell/ProteinDatabase, CC BY-SA Nathan Ahlgren, Clark University Editor’s note: Nathan Ahlgren is an assistant professor of biology at Clark University. In this interview, he explains exactly what proteins are, how they are made, and the wide variety of functions …

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How explainable artificial intelligence can help humans innovate

Understanding how artificial intelligence algorithms solve problems like the Rubik’s Cube makes AI more useful. Roland Frisch via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA Forest Agostinelli, University of South Carolina The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has created computers that can drive cars, synthesize chemical compounds, fold proteins and detect high-energy particles at a superhuman level. However, these AI algorithms cannot explain …

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Galaxies eject gas when they merge, preventing new stars forming – new research

Elliptical galaxies are filled with extremely old stars. Igor Chekalin/Shutterstock.com Annagrazia Puglisi, Durham University Most stars in the universe today are found in massive galaxies called ellipticals, named for their stretched-out-circle shape. Unlike our own galaxy, which is a spiral with arms extending out from the centre, the edges of elliptical galaxies are smooth. At first glance, these galaxies might …

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Six ways to ‘reboot your brain’ after a hard year of COVID-19 – according to science

It’s time to snap out of bad habits. Jolygon/Shutterstock, CC BY-SA Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, University of Cambridge; Christelle Langley, University of Cambridge, and Jianfeng Feng, Fudan University There’s no doubt that 2020 was difficult for everyone and tragic for many. But now vaccines against COVID-19 are finally being administered – giving a much needed hope of a return to normality …

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