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39,907 articles from Guardian Unlimited Science

OpenAI’s new video generation tool could learn a lot from babies | John Naughton

The footage put together by Sora looks swish, but closer examination reveals its doesn’t understand physical reality“First text, then images, now OpenAI has a model for generating videos,” screamed Mashable the other day. The makers of ChatGPT and Dall-E had just announced Sora, a text-to-video diffusion model. Cue excited commentary all over the web about what will doubtless become known as...

‘Poisoned by chemicals’: citizen scientists prove River Avon is polluted

Charity blames the decline of invertebrates on farming, sewage and run-off from roads and homes, months after the Environment Agency told them the water in Wiltshire river was cleanA citizen science programme has revealed the decline of one of the country’s most significant chalk streams after claims by Environment Agency officials that it had not deteriorated. The SmartRivers programme run by...

Abandoned pipelines could release poisons into North Sea, scientists warn

Researchers say toxic chemicals pose a pollution risk as oil and gas companies are allowed to leave pipelines to rotDecaying oil and gas pipelines left to fall apart in the North Sea could release large volumes of poisons such as mercury, radioactive lead and polonium-210, notorious for its part in the poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, scientists are warning.Mercury, an extremely...

Weekend podcast: the Libertines’ tortured reunion, Marina Hyde on celebrity-dictator bromances, and the simple trick to enjoying life more

From Tucker Carlson to Johnny Depp, a celebrity bromance is the must-have accessory for modern dictators, says Marina Hyde (1m50); The Libertines on feuds, friendship and their tortured reunion by Simon Hattenstone (9m03); and how habituation, a simple behavioural trick, can help you experience less pain and more pleasure by Cass Sunstein and Tali Sharot (35m49). Continue...

US spacecraft on the moon ‘caught a foot’ and tipped onto side, says Nasa

Intuitive Machines CEO says Odysseus tipped over and ended up on its side as it landed onto south polar regionOdysseus, the first US-built spacecraft to touchdown on the moon in more than half a century, is tipped over on its side, according to an update from Nasa and Intuitive Machines, the company that built and operated the lander.The robotic lander descended onto the south polar region of the...


FRIDAY 23. FEBRUARY 2024


Quantum physics makes small leap with microscopic gravity measurement

Experiment records minuscule gravitational pull as a step to understanding how force operates at subatomic levelScientists have detected the pull of gravity on the microscopic scale in a feat that lays the groundwork for probing its nature in the mysterious quantum realm.In an experiment involving sophisticated superconducting apparatus cooled to within a whisker of absolute zero, and brass...

Felicity Grainger obituary

My father’s partner, Felicity Grainger, who has died aged 80, began her working life as a research scientist before moving into the world of academic libraries, eventually becoming head of the library services serving three major medical schools.Born in Bournemouth to Stuart Grainger, a bank manager, and Phyllis (nee Brett), after gaining a first-class honours degree in zoology in 1964 from...

Botanical gardens ‘most effective’ green space at cooling streets in heatwaves

Researchers hope the findings will inform policymakers planning cities for a warming worldFew things are as soothing on a hot summer’s day as a walk through a beautiful botanical garden, but they are not just oases of calm. As climate breakdown fuels soaring temperatures, they could prove crucial in moderating the heat in the streets around them.A comprehensive review of research into the...

‘Very rare’ clay figurine of Mercury discovered at Roman site in Kent

Previously unknown settlement in Small Hythe was once an important infrastructure linkA “very rare” clay figurine of the god Mercury, one of fewer than 10 ever found in Britain, has been discovered at a previously unknown Roman settlement that once sat next to a busy port – but is now 10 miles from the sea.The site of the settlement, in the modern hamlet of Small Hythe (or Smallhythe), near...

US returns to lunar surface for first time in over 50 years: ‘Welcome to the moon’

Intuitive Machines’ spacecraft Odysseus lands after a 73-minute descent, touching down near moon’s south poleThe United States has returned to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years after a privately-built spacecraft named Odysseus capped a nail-biting 73-minute descent from orbit with a touchdown near the moon’s south pole.But amid celebrations of what Nasa hailed “a...


THURSDAY 22. FEBRUARY 2024


Odysseus moon landing live updates: first US lunar attempt in 52 years

Carrying Nasa instruments, Intuitive Machines Odysseus lander aims to be the first US landing on the moon for over 50 yearsThe uncrewed Nova-C lander built by Intuitive Machines launched on 15 February. Its scheduled touchdown near the moon’s south pole would be the first lunar landing of a US spacecraft since Nasa’s final Apollo mission in December 1972, and the first by a non-government...

Switzerland calls on UN to explore possibility of solar geoengineering

Proposal focuses on technique that fills atmosphere with particles, reflecting part of sun’s heat and light back into spaceSwitzerland has initiated a global debate on whether the “risks, benefits and uncertainties” of dimming the sun should be studied by a United Nations expert group.It is proposing that the world body should gather information about ongoing research into solar...

Are male and female brains really that different? Surely, there are better questions to ask | Gina Rippon

Arguments about sex differences in the brain have raged for centuries. As intriguing as they are, it’s time we changed focusThere seems to be an insatiable public appetite for information about sex differences in the human brain, eagerly harnessed by the media in many forms. A paper out this week from a research group at Stanford University made headlines for its innovative contribution to this...

I discovered a way to identify the millions of species on Earth after a lightbulb moment in the supermarket

I developed DNA barcoding in my back yard using a UV light and a white sheet to collect the moths of my childhood. I believe it could help discover all life on the planetAs a child, I used to roam the countryside collecting moths and butterflies on the edge of the Great Lakes in Canada. It was as idyllic as it sounds: by day, I would scour the fields and forests for butterflies. At night, I would...

Long Covid ‘brain fog’ may be due to leaky blood-brain barrier, study finds

If barrier controlling substances entering and exiting brain is off balance, it can drive changes in neural functionFrom forgetfulness to difficulties concentrating, many people who have long Covid experience “brain fog”. Now researchers say the symptom could be down to the blood-brain barrier becoming leaky.The barrier controls which substances or materials enter and exit the brain. “It’s...

‘Taking the pulse of the planet’: how monitoring nature from space could keep Earth healthy

With current data on global biodiversity either lacking or flawed, a global satellite scheme aims to fill the gaps to target protection of our seas, soils and wildlifeFor the handful of people who get the chance to observe Earth from space, the impact is often profound. Called the “overview effect”, astronauts report being deeply moved by the experience, as the planet’s fragility and beauty...

Weatherwatch: how ‘sun queen’ Mária Telkes pioneered solar power

Hungarian-American physicist patented many pieces of technology that harness the sun’s rays to create clean energyDuring the second world war, American airmen and sailors shot down or torpedoed in the Pacific often became stranded on life rafts and died of dehydration before they could be rescued.The biophysicist Mária Telkes was drafted in from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to find...

Disappearing tongues: the endangered language crisis

Linguistic diversity on Earth is far more profound and fundamental than previously imagined. But it’s also crumbling fastAt the heart of linguistics is a radical premise: all languages are equal. This underlies everything we do at the Endangered Language Alliance, an eccentric extended family of linguists, language activists, polyglots and ordinary people, whose mission is to document endangered...

Mistakes, fakes, and a giant rat penis: why are so many science papers being retracted? – podcast

A record 10,000 research papers were retracted in 2023. To find out what’s driving this trend, Ian Sample speaks to Ivan Oransky, whose organisation Retraction Watch has been monitoring the growing numbers of retractions for more than a decade, and hears from blogger Sholto David, who recently made headlines when he spotted mistakes in research from a leading US cancer institute. Continue...

Cancer experts call on philanthropists to help fund ‘golden age’ of research

More than 50 top researchers sign letter asking for philanthropic support to transform cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatmentLeading cancer experts from around the world are calling on wealthy individuals and philanthropists to dig into their deep pockets to accelerate a new golden age of cancer research.More than 50 senior scientists from the UK, Europe, North America and Asia, including...


WEDNESDAY 21. FEBRUARY 2024


Air pollution could be significant cause of dementia – even for those not predisposed

People in areas of high PM2.5 concentrations had higher amounts of amyloid plaques in brainAir pollution from traffic is linked to some of the more severe forms of dementia, and could be a significant cause of the condition among those who are not already genetically predisposed to it, research suggests.Research carried out in Atlanta, Georgia, found that people with higher exposure to...

Scientists find link between brain imbalance and chronic fatigue syndrome

Scientists describe small study as long overdue deep dive into biology of conditionScientists have uncovered compelling evidence for abnormalities in the brain and immune systems of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).The findings, in one of the most rigorous investigations to date, begin to illuminate the biological basis for the illness that...

Covid death toll in US likely 16% higher than official tally, study says

Researchers think undercounting goes beyond overloaded health systems to a lack of awareness of Covid and low levels of testingThe Covid death toll in the US is likely at least 16% higher than the official tally, according to a new study, and researchers believe the cause of the undercounting goes beyond overloaded health systems to a lack of awareness of Covid and low levels of testing.The second...

Uncontrolled European satellite falls to Earth after 30 years in orbit

ERS-2 expected to break up into pieces and burn as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere probably over Pacific OceanAn uncontrolled satellite will plunge through Earth’s atmosphere on Wednesday after almost 30 years in orbit.The pioneering European satellite, known as ERS-2, is expected to break up into pieces on re-entry, the majority of which will burn up. The satellite will have a “natural”...

Binge watchers more likely to need multiple night-time loo breaks – study

Watching at least five hours of TV a day associated with higher risk of nocturia, or needing to get up and urinate twice or more a nightSitting down to binge watch the latest TV drama might seem like the perfect way to unwind, but researchers have found that people who spend lengthy periods in front of the box are more likely to need to pee multiple times a night.Writing in the journal...

Plantwatch: redwoods make amazing recovery after California wildfire

Fresh growth sprouted from buds under bark and deep inside trees, some buds having lain dormant for 1,000 yearsIn August 2020, wildfire burned almost the entire Big Basin Redwoods state park in California, scorching ancient redwood trees, some dating back more than 1,500 years and among the tallest living things on Earth.Redwoods are naturally fire resistant thanks to their thick bark, but the...

ADHD may have been an evolutionary advantage, research suggests

Traits associated with the neurodevelopmental disorder could have helped early humans when foraging for foodTraits common to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as distractibility or impulsivity, might have been an evolutionary advantage for our ancestors by improving their tactics when foraging for food, researchers have said.ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with symptoms...

Combining three healthy behaviours can lower IBS risk, study finds

People who tick at least three out of five boxes including not smoking and good sleep are found to have 42% lower riskCombining three healthy behaviours can reduce the risk of irritable bowel syndrome by 42%, a study suggests.IBS affects the digestive system and its symptoms include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. People can suffer for days, weeks or months at a time, and...


TUESDAY 20. FEBRUARY 2024


A year out of this world: Nasa seeks volunteers to simulate Mars mission

Four-person crew will inhabit 3D-printed replica of red planet to help develop and evaluate systems for missions slated for 2030sFor anybody already jaded by the news and joking about a trip to outer space to avoid it all, Nasa might just have you covered.The space agency is seeking four volunteers to spend a year living on Mars – or at least a 3D-printed replica of the red planet. Isolation is...

‘No one had done it before him’: the groundbreaking stories of Black astronauts

In documentary The Space Race, the people involved with major progress within Nasa talk about their highs and lowsIn space, Victor Glover orbited the Earth every 90 minutes, witnessing 16 sunrises and sunsets in a single day. In America, Victor Glover got behind the wheel of his car and knew that, as a Black man, he might be pulled over by police.“You still have to drive home from work and be...

Astronomers discover universe’s brightest object – a quasar powered by a black hole that eats a sun a day

Light from the celestial object, which is 500tn times brighter than our sun, travelled for more than 12bn years to reach EarthFollow our Australia news live blog for latest updatesGet our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcastThe brightest known object in the universe, a quasar 500tn times brighter than our sun, was “hiding in plain sight”, researchers say.Australian...

Nitazenes and xylazine: what’s behind the rise of dangerous synthetic drugs? | podcast

Social affairs correspondent Robert Booth tells Madeleine Finlay why a class of synthetic opioids called nitazenes, first developed in the 1950s, is leading to a worrying number of fatal overdoses in the UK. And she hears from toxicology and addiction specialist Dr Joseph D’Orazio about a tranquilliser called xylazine that has been showing up in alarming volumes in the US illegal drug supply and...

Solar storms, ice cores and nuns’ teeth: the new science of history

Advances in fields such as spectrometry and gene sequencing are unleashing torrents of new data about the ancient world – and could offer answers to questions we never even knew to askScythians did terrible things. Two-thousand five-hundred years ago, these warrior nomads, who lived in the grasslands of what is now southern Ukraine, enjoyed a truly ferocious reputation. According to the Greek...


MONDAY 19. FEBRUARY 2024


Women benefit more than men from same amount of regular exercise – study

Authors hope data encourages women who may not get enough exercise that even relatively small amounts can be beneficialWomen experience greater benefits than men from the same amount of regular exercise, research suggests when it comes to avoiding an early grave.According to the NHS, men and women aged 19 to 64 should clock up at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 of vigorous exercise a...

Sir Anthony Epstein obituary

British pathologist who helped to uncover the first evidence that cancer in humans could be caused by a virusIt did not seem like a good thing when a precious consignment of human tumour samples on its way from Kampala, Uganda, to Heathrow was diverted to Manchester. When the samples finally arrived at the Middlesex hospital in London, they were swimming in murky fluid in their vials as though...

The big idea: this simple behavioural trick can help you get more out of life

Habituation is a key component of human nature, and knowing how to manipulate it can make the things you enjoy even betterImagine you’re out for dinner at your favourite restaurant and the waiter seats you at the best table. It is nice and quiet, so you can have a pleasant conversation with your partner. The table is also right next to a window with great views. You drink your wine and enjoy...


SUNDAY 18. FEBRUARY 2024


Peter McGuffin obituary

Researcher who established the value of genetics for understanding psychiatric conditionsPeter McGuffin, who has died aged 74, showed the importance of trying to establish how genetic and non-genetic factors act together to predispose people to psychiatric disorders: so-called gene-environment interplay. He was also one of the first to see the potential of the DNA revolution for understanding...

‘It is shameful’: why the return of Victorian-era diseases to the UK alarms health experts

There has been a surge in cases of scabies and measles – both highly contagious – as well as rickets and scurvy, conditions we thought had been eradicated. Are public health cuts to blame?Before Covid-19, Dr Farzana Hussain says, it was rare for her to see a case of scabies at her GP surgery in Newham, east London, but since the pandemic, the number of patients with the parasitic skin...

I’ve always loved new hobbies and horses – then, two years ago, my equine dream came true

My obsession with trying new activities finally led me to my greatest passion – horse riding – when the last lockdown liftedGrowing up, I thought of myself as a “horse girl”. I knew the importance of keeping your heels down and your back straight, how to braid your horse’s mane for dressage, and that real horse girlies mucked out the stalls themselves. I could navigate the febrile...

The perfect storm for small talk? Weather forecasters aim at long-range accuracy

In the 70s, weather forecasts were accurate just one or two days ahead. Now a specialist university project at Reading is trying to get them right a month into the futureThe mainstay of casual conversation – the unexpected state of the weather – is under existential threat. Scientists plan to make forecasts so accurate they will be able to determine weather patterns a month into the...

The week in TV: Alice & Jack; The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth; The New Look; Bring the Drama – review

Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson convince as a perma-turbulent couple; a devastating docuseries pays homage to the doomed Columbia space shuttle crew. Plus, ill-fitting wartime drama with Coco Chanel and Christian Dior and a sweet, old-school reality showAlice & Jack (Channel 4) | channel4.comThe Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth (BBC Two) | iPlayerThe New Look (Apple TV+)Bring the Drama...

Can you solve it? The magical maths that keeps your data safe

How to protect machines against random failuresI’ve temporarily moved to Berkeley, California, where I am the “science communicator in residence” at the Simons Institute, the world’s leading institute for collaborative research in theoretical computer science.One nano-collaboration is today’s puzzle – told to me by a computer scientist at Microsoft I befriended over tea. It’s about...

Cancer charity warns of pharmaceutical firms holding up brain tumour research

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, whose sister died of a glioblastoma tumour, is to present a bill calling for new laws for clinical trialsPotential new treatments for brain cancer are being hampered by the failure of pharmaceutical companies to provide the drugs required for research and by regulatory delays, a leading cancer charity has warned.Brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 in...

Go with your gut: the science and psychology behind our sense of intuition

From deciding where to have lunch to choosing to walk away from a danger you haven’t even identified yet, intuition plays a part in all our livesOn a rainy night in London, a young woman walks towards the entrance of a sidestreet, smiling to herself as she recalls the evening spent with the friend she just farewelled at the train station. She’s about to walk down the poorly-lit shortcut that...


SATURDAY 17. FEBRUARY 2024


Japan to launch world’s first wooden satellite to combat space pollution

The environmentally friendly LignaSat probe – set to orbit this summer – has been created to combat harmful aluminium particlesJapanese scientists have created one of the world’s most unusual spacecraft – a tiny satellite that is made of timber.The LignoSat probe has been built of magnolia wood, which, in experiments carried out on the International Space Station (ISS), was found to be...

Ancient faces brought back to life at Scottish museum – video

A bronze age woman who suffered lower back pain 4,000 years ago and an iron age Pictish man who lived a life of hard labour 1,500 years ago are among our ancient ancestors who have been brought to life in dramatic facial reconstructions. Cutting-edge technology will enable visitors to Scotland’s new Perth Museum to come face to face with four individuals from our past in modern-day...

Ancient faces brought back to life at Scottish museum

Dramatic reconstructions of local people who lived up to 4,000 years ago will go on display thanks to advanced DNA techniquesA Bronze Age woman who suffered lower back pain 4,000 years ago and an Iron Age Pictish man who lived a life of hard labour 1,500 years ago are among our ancient ancestors who have been brought to life in dramatic facial reconstructions.Cutting-edge technology will enable...

‘There are no serious safeguards’: can 23andMe be trusted with our DNA?

The at-home genetic testing company is dealing with financial woes and a security breach. What does that mean for customers?What’s next for 23andMe? Most people know the biotech company as a genetic testing service. Stories of people sending their cheek swabs off in the mail only to discover that a parent who raised them wasn’t their biological one have become a kind of millennial horror...

The week in audio: The Gatekeepers; Million Dollar Lover; Radical Empathy and the Devil; Barry Humphries: Gloriously Uncut – review

How social media companies have become the new information gatekeepers; a gripping real-life love affair – or is it?; a psychiatrist reflects on her work with violent offenders; and remembering the late, great Steve WrightThe Gatekeepers (Radio 4) | BBC SoundsIntrigue: Million Dollar Lover | BBC Sounds Heart and Soul: Radical Empathy and the Devil (BBC World Service) | BBC SoundsArchive on 4:...