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Did you solve it? The Three Switches puzzle

23 March, by Alex Bellos, Ian Anderson, Paul Boyd, Tash Reith-Banks[ —]
Are you as smart as a Norwegian crime writer? Have you had a lightbulb moment and solved Alex's classic Three Switches puzzle? Here's the solution Continue reading...

Stunning 'new' cloud formations captured in updated atlas – in pictures

23 March, by Guardian Staff[ —]

Roll clouds and wave-like asperitas are among the additions to the new digital International Cloud Atlas, that dates back to the 19th century. It features hundreds of images captured by meteorologists and cloud lovers from around the world

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'World's largest artificial sun': German scientists activate Synlight

23 March, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

Scientists hope experiment, which can generate temperatures of around 3,500C, will help to develop carbon-neutral fuel

German scientists are switching on “the world’s largest artificial sun” in the hope that intense light sources can be used to generate climate-friendly fuel.

The Synlight experiment in Jülich, about 19 miles west of Cologne, consists of 149 souped-up film projector spotlights and produces light about 10,000 times the intensity of natural sunlight on Earth.

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Decades of TB progress threatened by drug-resistant bacteria, warn experts

23 March, by Sarah Boseley Health editor[ —]

Rise of multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis could derail global efforts to eradicate the disease, according to a new report


The rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria threatens to overturn decades of progress on tuberculosis (TB), experts are warning.

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Living and looking for lavatories – why researching relief is so relevant

23 March, by Lauren White[ —]

Toilets are a source of interaction, social structures, organisation, norms and values. So why aren’t sociologists discussing them more?

It may be a turn of the stomach, a nervous flutter, a morning coffee or a sudden, unpredictable rush. You may look for a sign, if you are lucky enough to live in a society where they are readily available. There may or may not be a queue, often depending on the room of your gender. You may look for disabled access, whether you are in a wheelchair or have an invisible illness. You may select a space based on who is there, or your perception of its cleanliness. For some, it is an unwritten rule that one cannot go next to another person relieving themselves. What are you looking for?

A lavatory.

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To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell review – solving the problem of death

23 March, by Paul Laity[ —]

A captivating exploration of transhumanism features cryonics, cyborgs, immortality and the hubris of Silicon Valley

Max More runs Alcor, an American company which, in exchange for $200,000, will store your corpse in liquid nitrogen until the science exists to revive you. Tim Cannon is a computer programmer who implanted a device the size of a pack of cards into his arm, without the aid of anaesthetics. Zoltan Istvan recently ran for US president and publicised his campaign by driving across the country in a huge vehicle modified to look like a coffin.

These are among the unusual individuals Mark O’Connell interviews in his travelogue-style exploration of transhumanism, the movement that campaigns for the direct incorporation of technology into our bodies and minds, and strives to remove ageing as a cause of death. “What are my chances, would you say, of living to a thousand?” the author asks Aubrey de Grey, an established figure in this strange world: “I would say perhaps a little better than fifty-fifty,” is the serious reply. “It’s very much dependent on the level of funding.”

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Scotland holds the key to understanding how life first walked on land

23 March, by Elsa Panciroli[ —]

A major gap in the fossil record is slowly being filled

I was looking at Romer’s Gap the other day. No this isn’t a dirty confession, although I did come back with sand in my hiking boots. Just before Christmas I found myself digging into the fine shingle of a beach opposite Bass Rock, near Edinburgh, in the pouring rain. Beside me were three burly men with shovels, who were undoubtedly making faster progress than I. We were digging down 350 million years into Scotland’s past, in search of bones from a time when the fossil record falls eerily silent: this is Romer’s Gap.

There are often periods of geological time where conditions were not good for fossil preservation, or the creatures that lived didn’t preserve well (such as the very earliest boneless, squishy lifeforms over 540 million years ago). In some cases we haven’t found the right rocks of that age yet, or we can’t access the rocks, for example if someone has peskily built a city on top of them. Occasionally these fossil gaps represent true low points in diversity – there simply weren’t very many animals in existence to then die and become fossilised – but often the fossils have just not been uncovered yet.

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Moderate drinking can lower risk of heart attack, says study

23 March, by Haroon Siddique[ —]

Drinking in moderation helps protect heart, with study finding it lowers risk of many conditions compared with not drinking

Moderate drinking can lower the risk of several heart conditions, according to a study that will further fuel the debate about the health implications of alcohol consumption.

The study of 1.93 million people in the UK aged over 30 found that drinking in moderation – defined as consuming no more than 14 units of alcohol a week – had a protective effect on the heart compared with not drinking.

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Rotavirus vaccine could save lives of almost 500,000 children a year

22 March, by Kate Hodal[ —]

Positive outcome of trials in Niger fuels hope that vaccine can protect children in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond from infection that causes often fatal diarrhoea

A vaccine capable of enduring scorching temperatures for months at a time could strike a decisive blow in the fight against rotavirus, preventing nearly half a million children around the world from dying of diarrhoea each year.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has hailed successful trials of the BRV-PV vaccine in Niger as a “game changer” in tackling rotavirus infection, which is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea globally and claims the lives of an estimated 1,300 children daily, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Smartphone app could allow men to test their fertility at home

22 March, by Hannah Devlin Science correspondent[ —]

Gadget designed to clip onto a smartphone able to detect abnormal sperm samples with 98% accuracy in trials

Men may soon be able to measure their own sperm count and quality at home, using a smartphone app developed by scientists.

In early tests the gadget, designed to clip onto a smartphone, detected abnormal sperm samples with an accuracy of 98%.

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