Riviste scientifiche

World’s most-spoken languages may have arisen in ancient Iran

New Scientist - Me, 23/05/2018 - 16:30
About 3 billion people speak Indo-European languages like English and Hindustani, and it seems the first such tongue was spoken south of the Caucasus mountains

Watch a badminton robot practice its game-winning trick shots

New Scientist - Me, 23/05/2018 - 16:25
A badminton robot could be the perfect sparring partner for pros. It has superhuman wrist speeds and has even mastered the tricky spin net shot

Those GDPR emails should stop soon, but our data nightmare won’t

New Scientist - Me, 23/05/2018 - 15:00
Your inbox is full of pleading emails because the EU’s new data rules come into force this week – but they might not actually do anything to improve your life

Changes in your sperm reveal if you’ve had a difficult life

New Scientist - Me, 23/05/2018 - 03:00
Men carry chemical clues to childhood traumas in their sperm, and these might be passed down to their sons – but we don’t know what effects these have yet

Quantum stopwatch could be the best in the universe

New Scientist - Me, 23/05/2018 - 02:01
Storing time from a quantum stopwatch with qubits – instead of losing accuracy by stopping and starting it – could give us the ultimate precision in timekeeping

Child morbidity and mortality associated with alternative policy responses to the economic crisis in Brazil: A nationwide microsimulation study

PLoS Medicine - Ma, 22/05/2018 - 23:00

by Davide Rasella, Sanjay Basu, Thomas Hone, Romulo Paes-Sousa, Carlos Octávio Ocké-Reis, Christopher Millett

Background

Since 2015, a major economic crisis in Brazil has led to increasing poverty and the implementation of long-term fiscal austerity measures that will substantially reduce expenditure on social welfare programmes as a percentage of the country’s GDP over the next 20 years. The Bolsa Família Programme (BFP)—one of the largest conditional cash transfer programmes in the world—and the nationwide primary healthcare strategy (Estratégia Saúde da Família [ESF]) are affected by fiscal austerity, despite being among the policy interventions with the strongest estimated impact on child mortality in the country. We investigated how reduced coverage of the BFP and ESF—compared to an alternative scenario where the level of social protection under these programmes is maintained—may affect the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) and socioeconomic inequalities in child health in the country until 2030, the end date of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Methods and findings

We developed and validated a microsimulation model, creating a synthetic cohort of all 5,507 Brazilian municipalities for the period 2017–2030. This model was based on the longitudinal dataset and effect estimates from a previously published study that evaluated the effects of poverty, the BFP, and the ESF on child health. We forecast the economic crisis and the effect of reductions in BFP and ESF coverage due to current fiscal austerity on the U5MR, and compared this scenario with a scenario where these programmes maintain the levels of social protection by increasing or decreasing with the size of Brazil’s vulnerable populations (policy response scenarios). We used fixed effects multivariate regression models including BFP and ESF coverage and accounting for secular trends, demographic and socioeconomic changes, and programme duration effects. With the maintenance of the levels of social protection provided by the BFP and ESF, in the most likely economic crisis scenario the U5MR is expected to be 8.57% (95% CI: 6.88%–10.24%) lower in 2030 than under fiscal austerity—a cumulative 19,732 (95% CI: 10,207–29,285) averted under-five deaths between 2017 and 2030. U5MRs from diarrhoea, malnutrition, and lower respiratory tract infections are projected to be 39.3% (95% CI: 36.9%–41.8%), 35.8% (95% CI: 31.5%–39.9%), and 8.5% (95% CI: 4.1%–12.0%) lower, respectively, in 2030 under the maintenance of BFP and ESF coverage, with 123,549 fewer under-five hospitalisations from all causes over the study period. Reduced coverage of the BFP and ESF will also disproportionately affect U5MR in the most vulnerable areas, with the U5MR in the poorest quintile of municipalities expected to be 11.0% (95% CI: 8.0%–13.8%) lower in 2030 under the maintenance of BFP and ESF levels of social protection than under fiscal austerity, compared to no difference in the richest quintile. Declines in health inequalities over the last decade will also stop under a fiscal austerity scenario: the U5MR concentration index is expected to remain stable over the period 2017–2030, compared to a 13.3% (95% CI: 5.6%–21.8%) reduction under the maintenance of BFP and ESF levels of protection. Limitations of our analysis are the ecological nature of the study, uncertainty around future macroeconomic scenarios, and potential changes in other factors affecting child health. A wide range of sensitivity analyses were conducted to minimise these limitations.

Conclusions

The implementation of fiscal austerity measures in Brazil can be responsible for substantively higher childhood morbidity and mortality than expected under maintenance of social protection—threatening attainment of Sustainable Development Goals for child health and reducing inequality.

Ape ‘midwives’ spotted helping female bonobos give birth

New Scientist - Ma, 22/05/2018 - 18:45
When female bonobos went into labour, other females gathered around to keep them safe, swatting away flies and even seemingly trying to catch the baby as it emerged

Why the UK’s plan to tackle air pollution is mostly hot air

New Scientist - Ma, 22/05/2018 - 15:15
A ban on using polluting wet wood isn’t nearly enough to halt the rise in dangerous particulates from trendy wood burners

We’ve measured the pressure inside a proton and it’s extreme

New Scientist - Ma, 22/05/2018 - 13:00
The pressure inside a proton is a billion billion billion times the pressure in the Mariana Trench, and 10 times higher than in the core of a neutron star

Let’s all heed the health benefits of a month without alcohol

New Scientist - Ma, 22/05/2018 - 11:00
Drinkers in particular need to be more aware of mounting evidence of links between alcohol and cancer, and make judgements accordingly

How your name shapes what other people think of your personality

New Scientist - Ma, 22/05/2018 - 10:00
Is Hannah nicer than Howard, but worse at her job? People link names with personalities – find out how yours compares and why everybody should be called David

Clinical, socioeconomic, and behavioural factors at age 50 years and risk of cardiometabolic multimorbidity and mortality: A cohort study

PLoS Medicine - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 23:00

by Archana Singh-Manoux, Aurore Fayosse, Séverine Sabia, Adam Tabak, Martin Shipley, Aline Dugravot, Mika Kivimäki

Background

Multimorbidity is increasingly common and is associated with adverse health outcomes, highlighting the need to broaden the single-disease framework that dominates medical research. We examined the role of midlife clinical characteristics, socioeconomic position, and behavioural factors in the development of cardiometabolic multimorbidity (at least 2 of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke), along with how these factors modify risk of mortality.

Methods and findings

Data on 8,270 men and women were drawn from the Whitehall II cohort study, with mean follow-up of 23.7 years (1985 to 2017). Three sets of risk factors were assessed at age 50 years, each on a 5-point scale: clinical profile (hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, overweight/obesity, family history of cardiometabolic disease), occupational position, and behavioural factors (smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity). The outcomes examined were cardiometabolic disease (diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke), cardiometabolic multimorbidity, and mortality. We used multi-state models to examine the role of risk factors in 5 components of the cardiometabolic disease trajectory: from healthy state to first cardiometabolic disease, from first cardiometabolic disease to cardiometabolic multimorbidity, from healthy state to death, from first cardiometabolic disease to death, and from cardiometabolic multimorbidity to death. A total of 2,501 participants developed 1 of the 3 cardiometabolic diseases, 511 developed cardiometabolic multimorbidity, and 1,406 died. When behavioural and clinical risk factors were considered individually, only smoking was associated with all five transitions. In a model containing all 3 risk factor scales, midlife clinical profile was the strongest predictor of first cardiometabolic disease (hazard ratio for the least versus most favourable profile: 3.74; 95% CI: 3.14–4.45) among disease-free participants. Among participants with 1 cardiometabolic disease, adverse midlife socioeconomic (1.54; 95% CI: 1.10–2.15) and behavioural factors (2.00; 95% CI: 1.40–2.85), but not clinical characteristics, were associated with progression to cardiometabolic multimorbidity. Only midlife behavioural factors predicted mortality among participants with cardiometabolic disease (2.12; 95% CI: 1.41–3.18) or cardiometabolic multimorbidity (3.47; 95% CI: 1.81–6.66). A limitation is that the study was not large enough to estimate transitions between each disease and subsequent outcomes and between all possible pairs of diseases.

Conclusions

The importance of specific midlife factors in disease progression, from disease-free state to single disease, multimorbidity, and death, varies depending on the disease stage. While clinical risk factors at age 50 determine the risk of incident cardiometabolic disease in a disease-free population, midlife socioeconomic and behavioural factors are stronger predictors of progression to multimorbidity and mortality in people with cardiometabolic disease.

China launched a satellite to help explore the moon’s far side

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 22:58
A satellite launched on 21 May will allow China's upcoming moon lander – the first to visit the far side – to receive commands and send data back to Earth

Half of life on Earth has vanished since we arrived on the scene

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 22:00
The biomass of living organisms on the planet has halved since human civilisation began, and humans now outweigh all wild mammals tenfold

Chinese giant salamanders may already be virtually extinct

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 20:05
Researchers spent four years looking for Chinese giant salamanders and only found 24 – and that’s not even the worst bit of news

Babies should mix with other children to lower leukaemia risk

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 20:00
Cancer researcher Mel Greaves has suggested that a lack of exposure to microbes in a baby’s first year can make children more likely to get a form of leukaemia

Cause of polycystic ovary syndrome discovered at last

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 19:45
Polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects one in five women, seems to be caused by a hormonal imbalance. An IVF drug may fix this, and will be trialled soon

How Theresa May’s plan for an AI-powered NHS could go very wrong

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 18:25
Trials of artificial intelligence show it can spot diseases that doctors miss – but rolling the tech out across the UK might prove more difficult

Why Saturn’s inner moons look like ravioli, cigars and potatoes

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 18:00
The small moons that orbit in Saturn’s rings have a range of odd shapes, all of which may have come from smaller moonlets crashing into one another and merging

The volcanic eruption on Hawaii is now making an acidic fog

New Scientist - Lu, 21/05/2018 - 17:35
As lava from Kilauea plunges into the Pacific Ocean, clouds of hot acidic steam are being blasted off – and the eruption shows no signs of slowing down
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