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Galaxy's centre tastes of raspberries and smells of rum

24 September, by Ian Sample, science correspondent[ —]
The hunt for chemicals in deep space that could seed life on other planets has yielded a large, fruity molecule

Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it would taste vaguely of raspberries.

The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life.

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Fighting the flu can be a matter of life and death – so what more can we do?

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/australia-newsplay episode download
24 September, by Melissa Davey[ —]

Australia is coming out of its most deadly influenza season for more than 10 years and experts say increased vaccination alone will not help enough

As Australia endures one of its worst flu seasons in more than a decade, questions are being raised about how the public can be better prepared and what can be done to protect the most vulnerable.

At least 170,000 influenza cases have been confirmed this season, almost two-and-a-half times more than in 2016. The federal health department logged 72 flu-related deaths by Thursday, including that of eight-year-old Rosie Andersen in Melbourne. Experts say Australia is on track for a record number of confirmed cases.

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Unpalatable truths about laboratory-grown food | Letters

24 September, by Letters[ —]
Synthetic meat and fish can’t, on their own, provide an answer to climate change, argues Iain Climie, while David Ridge envisages technical problems in taking the technology out of the lab, and onto people’s plates

Synthetic meat and fish (Is ‘Frankenfish’ the start of a food revolution?, G2, 21 September) could have huge benefits – although there are cheaper and simpler ways to improve food supplies, including better livestock practices, conservation plus careful use, integrated methods, silviculture and using different animals fed more sensibly. These ideas, technology and cutting waste could massively reduce livestock’s impact, but nobody wants the bill while benefits could still be lost.

Even dramatic reductions in human emissions may not stop the climate change trend. Those most at risk won’t benefit from technological advances, and the response to climate refugees approaching richer countries can be imagined. More food from less space doesn’t guarantee more room for wildlife; environmentalists often estimate western lifestyles for all would require at least three fully exploited planets. And it isn’t just burgers: biofuels, other cash crops, mineral extraction, suburban sprawl, dams and other developments could outweigh potential gains.  Underlying these concerns are free market idiocies. Resources are looted for short-term gain, having enough is an alien concept and “make more money, buy more stuff” rules. Maybe the world needs to chill in more ways than one.
Iain Climie
Whitchurch, Hampshire

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UK invests £65M in Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment in US

24 September, by Jon Butterworth[ —]

There were a lot of happy neutrino physicists around the UK and the US on Wednesday, as the long-standing partnership between the two countries in particle physics was bolstered by a new agreement

DUNE is one of the better particle physics acronyms. The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment involves a large, sensitive detector which will indeed be deep underground - in the Sanford Lab at the Homestake goldmine in South Dakota – and will study neutrinos produced from a high-intensity beam of protons at Fermilab in Illinois. UK scientists from several universities are already deeply involved in the experiment, and Cambridge’s Prof. Mark Thomson is one of the two spokespeople who lead the experiment internationally.

The science of neutrinos is fascinating, with wide implications for our understanding of the universe and how it operates. Neutrinos are produced copiously in the Sun, and are the second most abundant particle in the universe. In the original conception of the “Standard Model” of particle physics, they were taken to be massless. The discovery that they actually have a - very tiny but non-zero - mass remains the only major modification forced upon the Standard Model since it was established. Fittingly, the first measurement leading to that discovery took place in the Homestake mine, which will now be reoccupied by one of the DUNE detectors. A goldmine in more than one sense.

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The Naked Ape at 50: ‘Its central claim has surely stood the test of time ‘

play episode
24 September, by Robin Dunbar, Angela Saini, Ben Garrod, Adam Rutherford[ —]

In October 1967, Desmond Morris published his landmark study of human behaviour and evolution. Here four experts assess what he got right – and wrong

Professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford

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Why it’s never too late for humans to change

24 September, by Niels Birbaumer[ —]

With an almost boundless capacity to learn, people are more able to change than we think

Panta rhei. Everything flows. This aphorism was supposedly coined by Heraclitus nearly 3,000 years ago. It was his belief that nothing remains as it is; the only constant is change. Most of us would agree unreservedly with this idea. After all, we see the world changing every day as we go about our lives – and that’s not only true of everything, but of everyone, too.

Children become adults, eloquent professors turn into care-dependent dementia patients, high-school dropouts transform into dotcom billionaires and wallflowers grow into showstopping stars. But we have a tendency to “freeze-frame” our fellow human beings in certain situations. We speak of born orators, artists, or thinkers, but also born losers and born criminals.

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How did that get there? Plastic chunks on Arctic ice show how far pollution has spread

24 September, by Jamie Doward[ —]
Discovery by UK scientists prompts fear that melting ice will allow more plastic to be released into the central Arctic Ocean – with huge effects on wildlife

A British-led expedition has discovered sizeable chunks of polystyrene lying on remote frozen ice floes in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

The depressing find, only 1,000 miles from the north pole, is the first made in an area that was previously inaccessible to scientists because of sea ice. It is one of the most northerly sightings of such detritus in the world’s oceans, which are increasingly polluted by plastics.

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Modern Toss – cartoon

23 September, by Modern Toss[ —]

Wanna live like comma people? Well, it’s National Punctuation Day in the US on 24 September!

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'Some days I think I was molested and others I'm sure it didn't happen': a controversial case of repressed memory

23 September, by Holly Watt[ —]

At 17, Nicole Kluemper recovered memories of being abused by her mother – and sparked one of the fiercest debates in modern psychology. She tells her story for the first time

Nicole Kluemper’s home is filled with mementoes: navy medals, a collage of photographs, a portrait of her old dog. Every wedding anniversary has been carefully celebrated, most recently with a small bronzed statue, for eight years. From her bedroom window, she can see the hill where she and her husband married, and can recite every moment of the day. There is a reason for this careful archive. “My memory,” she says, “is a matter of some debate.”

In precise tones, Kluemper, 39, explains how she came to be part of one of the most controversial cases in modern psychology. This is the first time she has talked to the media about her story. For years, she was known only as Jane Doe.

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Nasa facility honors African American woman who plotted key space missions

https://www.theguardian.com/world/raceplay episode download
22 September, by Lauren Gambino[ —]

Research center named after Katherine Johnson, 99, whose story was told in the film Hidden Figures: ‘I liked work. I liked the stars and the stories we were telling’

Katherine Johnson, the mathematician whose calculations influenced some of the most important missions of the space age, on Friday helped Nasa open a new research and development facility that bears her name.

Related: Hidden figures: the history of Nasa’s black female scientists

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