Belief in conspiracy theories is far more widespread than the stereotypes that dominate pop culture. Recently, QAnon, Covid-19 and 5G theories have gained traction and criticism while less controversial conspiracies like the faked moon landing have persisted for decades. We all share hardwired evolutionary traits that make us vulnerable to them, from the way we assign truth to new information to our tendency to find patterns in unrelated phenomena. But if we’re all potentially susceptible to conspiracy theories, how can we manage these cognitive shortcuts?
There are all sorts of different vaccines but many of them share specific types of ingredients. Josh Toussaint-Strauss talks to Professor Adam Finn to find out what is in most conventional vaccines, as well as what they do to our bodies when we take them – and why the mRNA Covid jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna work differently.
Over the course of the pandemic, scientists have been monitoring emerging genetic changes to Sars-Cov-2. Mutations occur naturally as the virus replicates but if they confer an advantage – like being more transmissible – that variant of the virus may go on to proliferate.
This was the case with the ‘UK’ or B117 variant, which is about 50% more contagious and is rapidly spreading around the country. So how does genetic surveillance of the virus work? And what do we know about the new variants? Ian Sample speaks to Dr Jeffrey Barrett, the director of the Covid-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to find out Coronavirus – latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage.
John le Carré, who forged thrillers from equal parts of adventure, moral courage and literary flair, has died aged 89.
Le Carré explored the gap between the west’s high-flown rhetoric of freedom and the gritty reality of defending it, in novels such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager, which gained him critical acclaim and made him a bestseller around the world.
On Sunday, his family confirmed he had died of pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on Saturday night. “We all deeply grieve his passing,” they wrote in a statement.
His longtime agent Jonny Geller described him as “an undisputed giant of English literature. He defined the cold war era and fearlessly spoke truth to power in the decades that followed … I have lost a mentor, an inspiration and most importantly, a friend. We will not see his like again.”
In his new book, Paul Nurse, Nobel prize winner and director of the Francis Crick Institute, addresses a question that has long plagued both philosophers and scientists – what does it really mean to be alive?
Speaking to Madeleine Finlay, Paul delves into why it’s important to understand the underlying principles of life, the role of science in society, and what life might look like on other planets.
Sir Paul Maxime Nurse FRS FMedSci HonFREng HonFBA MAE, is an English geneticist, former President of the Royal Society and Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute.
The actor Diana Rigg, known for her roles on stage and in film and television – including The Avengers and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – has died at the age of 82 after being diagnosed with cancer in March.
Rigg, who rose to prominence in the 1960s through her starring role as Emma Peel in The Avengers alongside Patrick Macnee, enjoyed a long and varied career, playing Lady Olenna Tyrell in HBO’s smash hit Game of Thrones, a show she admitted in 2019 that she had never watched.
She also played Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, or Tracy Bond, James Bond’s first and only wife to date, in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.
According to a recent study, obesity increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50%. Governments around the world are now hoping to encourage their citizens to lose weight. But with so much complex and often contradictory diet advice, as well as endless food fads, it can be hard to know what healthy eating actually looks like.
How many pieces of fruit and vegetables should you eat a day? Will cutting out carbs help you lose weight? Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Speaking to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London about his new book Spoon-Fed, Madeleine Finlay asks why we’re still getting food science wrong, and explores the current scientific evidence on snacking, supplements and calorie labels.
Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London and has recently been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He trained originally in rheumatology and epidemiology. In 1992 he moved into genetic epidemiology and founded the UK Twins Registry, of 13,000 twins, which is the richest collection of genotypic and phenotypic information worldwide. He is past President of the International Society of Twin Studies, directs the European Twin Registry Consortium (Discotwin) and collaborates with over 120 centres worldwide. He has demonstrated the genetic basis of a wide range of common complex traits, many previously thought to be mainly due to ageing and environment. Through genetic association studies (GWAS), his group have found over 500 novel gene loci in over 50 disease areas. He has published over 800 research articles and is ranked as being in the top 1% of the world’s most cited scientists by Thomson-Reuters. He held a prestigious European Research Council senior investigator award in epigenetics and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. His current work focuses on omics and the microbiome and directs the crowdfunded British Gut microbiome project. Together with an international team of leading scientists including researchers from King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University, Stanford University and nutritional science company ZOE he is conducting the largest scientific nutrition research project, showing that individual responses to the same foods are unique, even between identical twins. You can find more on https://joinzoe.com/ He is a prolific writer with several popular science books and a regular blog, focusing on genetics, epigenetics and most recently microbiome and diet (The Diet Myth). He is in demand as a public speaker and features regularly in the media.
THE GUARDIAN (David Gange, Aug 23, 2020): The journey can be done by several means, in trips of 10 days, two weeks or more. Experienced sea kayakers can tackle the whole route by water and sleep each night beside their boat, embracing in full Adam and Dunnett’s desire “to test the zest of physical living that town life denies us”. Non-kayakers can cycle between notable sites and stay in holiday accommodation along the route.
A first day’s journey moves from the mouth of the Clyde to the Isle of Bute. I’d plan to buy provisions at Helmi’s in the village of Rothesay: a glorious bakery founded by the island’s community of Syrian refugees. The next day doesn’t take the obvious route south round Arran, but turns north to “Britain’s most beautiful shortcut”.
The Crinan Canal bisects the Kintyre peninsula and ends among beautiful, wildlife-rich woodland at the picturesque village of Crinan. (If you’re travelling by road but would like to experience a little boating, this is the place to cover the gentlest nine miles of Adam and Dunnett’s journey.) From Crinan, a third day moves through the atmospheric Slate Islands. Timing tides well should mean there’s little need to paddle, as great salt rivers flush a kayak through remains of important industries that blend perfectly into dramatic seascapes.
With antibodies having implications for both our understanding of previous coronavirus infections and potential future immunity, Nicola Davis talks to Prof Eleanor Riley about how best to test for them and asks whether antibodies are the only thing we should be looking for.
A revealing look at Rembrandt’s most intimate portraits, on display in the locked-down National Gallery in London. The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones reveals his favourite portraits, of vulnerable and unpretentious people the artist had known and loved. Jones asks what we can learn from these great masterpieces, especially during lockdown.