Science

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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Scientists say they've discovered a new member of the human family tree, revealed by a huge trove of bones in a barely accessible, pitch-dark chamber of a cave in South Africa. The creature shows a surprising mix of human-like and more primitive characteristics — some experts called it "bizarre" and "weird."

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Professor Lee Berger of Wits University 

And the discovery presents some key mysteries: How old are the bones? And how did they get into that chamber, reachable only by a complicated pathway that includes squeezing through passages as narrow as about 7½ inches (17.8 centimeters)?Prof Berger believes that the discovery of a creature that has such a mix of modern and primitive features should make scientists rethink the definition of what it is to be human - so much so that he himself is reluctant to describe naledi as human. 

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A new set of letters written by genius mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing in the '50s after his conviction for gross indecency and sentence of 'gay cure' hormone therapy offer insight into his state of mind, The UK Guardian reports.

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British Stamp Honoring Turing

The letters were written to Nick Burbank, the executor of Turing's estate and a literary scholar. "I have had a dream indicating rather clearly that I am on the way to being hetero," he wrote in one letter, "though I don't accept it with much enthusiasm either awake or in the dreams."

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Antibiotic misuse refers to the misuse or overuse of antibiotics, with potentially serious effects on health. It is a contributing factor to the development of antibiotic resistance, including the creation of multidrug-resistant bacteria, informally called "super bugs," relatively harmless bacteria that can develop resistance to multiple antibiotics and cause life-threatening infections.

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You need only go back 70 years to a time when a scratch and a common infection could prove deadly. Routine surgery and childbirth could be a hazardous business. Penicillin had been discovered in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming, but human trials did not begin for over a decade. The first patient was an Oxford policeman, Albert Alexander, who had scratched his face on a rose bush and the wound became seriously infected (another historical version has him injured in a bombing raid). He was treated with penicillin and his condition rapidly improved, but supplies ran out before he could be cured and he died. By the end of the war penicillin was being widely produced, and other drugs quickly followed - marking the start of the antibiotic era. So most of us have grown up with these miracle drugs readily available.

 

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US President Barack Obama has unveiled what he called "the biggest, most important step we have ever taken" in tackling climate change. The aim of the revised Clean Power Plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from US power stations by nearly a third within 15 years. The measures will place significant emphasis on wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources. However, opponents in the energy industry have vowed to fight the plan. "I'm convinced no challenge provides a greater threat to the future of the planet," Mr Obama said. "There is such a thing as being too late."  

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A vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has led to 100% protection and could transform the way Ebola is tackled, preliminary results suggest. There were no proven drugs or vaccines against the virus at the start of the largest outbreak of Ebola in history, which began in Guinea in December 2013.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said the findings, being published in the Lancet, could be a "game-changer".Experts said the results were "remarkable". This trial centred on the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which was started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and then developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck. It combined a fragment of the Ebola virus with another safer virus in order to train the immune system to beat Ebola. A unique clinical trial took place in Guinea. When a patient was discovered, their friends, neighbours and family were vaccinated to create a "protective ring" of immunity.