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We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet | Susanna Rustin

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/trump-administrationplay episode download
18 August, by Susanna Rustin[ —]
Hope alone won’t halt climate change but Al Gore’s latest film highlights the role optimism can play

“Hope is essential – despair is just another form of denial,” Al Gore said last week, in an interview to promote the sequel to his 2006 climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. As well as the very bad news of Donald Trump’s science-denying presidency, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opens in the UK today, brings good news: the plummeting cost of renewable electricity and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

In 2017, denial of the facts of climate change – and myriad linked dangers including air and ocean pollution, famine and a refugee crisis the likes of which we can hardly imagine – is in retreat, with the Trump administration the malignant exception. Virtually all governments know that climate change is happening, and polls show most people do too – with those living in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa particularly worried. The question is not whether global warming is happening, but what we are going to do about it. There are, and need to be, many answers to this. Gore believes the solutions to climate change are within reach, if people can only find the political will to enact them. Even if how to whip up sufficient zeal to make this happen remains a puzzle, his essential message is one of optimism.

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Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children's genes

18 August, by Helen Thomson[ —]

New finding is clear example in humans of the theory of epigenetic inheritance: the idea that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children

Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.

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Mother preferred Dr over Miss or Mrs | Brief letters

17 August, by Letters[ —]
Academic titles | Margarets as a dying breed | Big Ben | Girls’ and boys’ clothes | Dogs on escalators

Alison Hackett (Letters, 17 August) complains at the use of “Dr” and “Prof” titles. But they can prove useful. Our mother Anne McLaren (a single parent, and a biologist who, working with mice, created the world’s first IVF birth, and became the first woman officer of the Royal Society in their 300-year history, as foreign secretary and vice-president), was asked, “Is it ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’?”. We three kids watched and wondered how she would respond. “No,” she said firmly, “It’s ‘Dr’.”
Prof Jonathan Michie
President, Kellogg College, Oxford

• If the editor wants to fill the letters page with letters from Margarets (Letters, 17 August), she should act soon, as peak Margaret was in 1900 when it was third most popular name for baby girls. When I had come on the scene in the late 1930s it was eighth, and by the time politics became aware of Maggie Thatcher it lingered at 95th. We are a dying breed.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

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New sperm creation method could overcome genetic male infertility – study

17 August, by Press Association[ —]

Healthy sperm have been created in mice with a common form of infertility, raising hope for future treatment for men with extra sex chromosomes


A common genetic cause of male infertility has been overcome in mice using a technique that creates healthy sperm in the laboratory, scientists have shown.

The research raises the future prospect of hope for men who cannot father children because they have three instead of two sex chromosomes.

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Memories of fear could be permanently erased, study shows

https://www.theguardian.com/society/post-traumatic-stress-disorderplay episode download
17 August, by Nicola Davis[ —]

Research in mice reveals a new approach to wiping memories from the brain, demonstrating that specific memories can be weakened or strengthened

The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind has come one step closer, say researchers working on methods to erase memories of fear.

The latest study, carried out in mice, unpicks why certain sounds can stir alarming memories, and reveals a new approach to wiping such memories from the brain.

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Scientists reveal why whisky tastes better with water

17 August, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

How best to enjoy whisky has long been debated, but two chemists say they have discovered why diluting your dram might make it taste better

Neat, on the rocks, or with a dash of mineral water. Whisky enthusiasts have long disagreed about how the amber nectar is best enjoyed, but now a scientific paper has backed the idea that diluting whisky can enhance its flavour.

The work suggests that adding water boosts the concentration of flavour compounds at the surface of the drink, helping to unleash the rich mix of aromas.

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A 'murder' mystery with a toxic twist ... and pygmy goats

17 August, by Kathryn Harkup[ —]

Three victims, a country house and poison could be a case for Hercule Poirot. But this is a sad case of botanical ignorance rather than murder most foul

A recent report appeared in the news about the sad demise of Mirabel, Adele and Jet of Walton Hall, Cheshire. The deaths were initially suspected of being due to deliberate poisoning when it became clear that there had been intruders in the grounds of the hall. The case seemed to have all the ingredients for an Agatha Christie novel: multiple deaths, poison, suspicious circumstances and even a big country house setting.

Except in this case the unfortunate victims were not characters in a novel, or even people: they were African pygmy goats. Four other goats were affected by the poison but have since made a full recovery. And the source of the poison? Rhododendron leaves found in the goats’ enclosure.

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'Rivers of bones': rituals of life, death and hunting in the American west

17 August, by Holly Norton[ —]

Communal bison hunts were used by Native Americans for upwards of 11,000 years on the great plains to procure meat and other goods for the winter

It’s still morning, a slight chill in the air. You feel the rumbling of the earth before you even see the mass of bison pounding across the prairie toward the precipice, and toward you. As you stand beside the rock cairn, boughs of sage or juniper in your hands, and in the hands of your friends flanking you on either side, and across the way, you see the others draped in wolf skins, who lured the animals to this final moment. Your comrade starts the yelling just a moment before the bison reach you, and you join in, urging them towards the edge, reminding the beasts not to turn, before they thunder past, hurtling into the arroyo.

Below there are more people, to finish off the bison who survived the fall, and to start separating the useful from the non-useful, and hauling it nearby where even more people are waiting to butcher the sections properly.

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Porta-potties, police, prayers: how a tiny Idaho town prepares for the solar eclipse

17 August, by Maria L La Ganga in Weiser, Idaho[ —]

Weiser, Idaho, could see its population of 5,507 swell to 70,000 for the total solar eclipse. As the big day looms, will things go smoothly?

The portable toilets began arriving in Weiser, Idaho, on Tuesday, the first of around 70 orange outhouses ordered by local agengies for the Great American Eclipse.

They will serve a crowd that could reach 70,000 by the time this tiny town on the Oregon border is plunged into total darkness on Monday.

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Chilesaurus is the dinosaur discovery of the century | Brian Switek

17 August, by Brian Switek[ —]
This herbivorous creature could be the missing link in the dinosaur family tree, changing everything we think we know about their evolution

Chilesaurus doesn’t look like the kind of dinosaur that would kick up much of a fuss. The Jurassic saurian – named for the country, not the tasty peppers – was a small, bipedal herbivore that munched on plants over 150m years ago. It didn’t have nasty teeth, crazy horns, or the immense body size that typically launch the careers of Mesozoic celebrities. The creature’s secret is more subtle, and plays into a controversial reshuffling of the dinosaur family tree.

Related: 'Most bizarre dinosaur ever found' is missing evolutionary link – study

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