To celebrate the end of the year, our editors have picked New Scientist’s very best features of 2022. And as a gift from us to you, they are all free to read until 1 January
25 December 2022
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Some of our biggest-hitting stories this year asked mind-bending questions about physics, spoke to our readers about the issues facing their everyday lives or were in-depth exclusives uncovered by New Scientist staff. As a holiday gift to you, we have curated a selection of some of our best feature articles, from the latest anti-ageing research to hints of entirely new physics. These in-depth stories are usually only available to paid subscribers, but you will be able to read them for free between 25 December and the end of the year. Here is our pick of the best and why they made the cut.
1. The longevity diet that could add years to your life
It might sound obvious to say that what you eat can make you live longer. We all know that too much processed food, red meat and fat can send us to an early grave, but this article isn’t about that kind of accepted wisdom. Instead, it lays bare the latest research that, if followed, could see people who switch away from a typical Western diet add decades to their life. But this isn’t another flimsy fad diet. What makes this article so compelling is that the research it features brings together decades of biological studies into diet and ageing, including clinical trial data, epidemiological studies and research into centenarians. As well as being rigorous, with a healthy sprinkling of New Scientist scepticism, this article is also true news you can use, with plenty of information about what this new longevity diet really consists of. No wonder it became our most read feature of the year.
2. Tantalising hints of new physics from the Large Hadron Collider
You might have heard about the anomalies at the LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Intriguing hints of new physics had been teased back in 2021, but anyone holding their breath was in for an uncomfortable time. Then, earlier this year, New Scientist staff landed an exclusive preview of new results coming out of the LCHb experiments that suggested not only that the anomalies were firming up, but also that they pointed to a new force-carrying particle that could explain the peculiar patterns we observe in known matter particles.
In the longer run, it might even allow physicists to finally make progress towards a grand unified theory, showing that three of the four fundamental forces of nature are all manifestations of the same force. If the results really are confirmed, they would change our understanding of the universe as we know it. Written by particle physicist Harry Cliff at the University of Cambridge, who works on LHCb, this story gives you the inside track on what could be one of the biggest discoveries of the year, if not the decade.
3. A better understanding of insomnia and how to treat it
If you happen to have scrolled upon this article on your phone at an ungodly hour while the world around you sleeps, you are surely in good company. Around 10 per cent of people meet the criteria for insomnia, which can have a hugely debilitating impact on day-to-day life. The fruits of research into the condition have been frustratingly lacklustre. However, a new flurry of findings around the neurological and mental processes underlying insomnia is, at last, bringing with it powerful insights into how we can treat the condition. Indeed, as this article goes on to discuss, insomnia has become a solvable problem. So dig in, and if you are reading this because you can’t sleep, here’s hoping our article can help send you to sleep – in the best possible way.
4. The bold effort to reformulate physics to account for consciousness
This is a story that draws you in to engage with one of the deepest, most mind-bending questions around: what place is there for consciousness in our understanding of the universe? In their quest to explain the universe and everything in it, physicists strive for an objective “view from nowhere” – one that has nothing to do with the subjective perspective of observers. But the truth is that there is no such thing. We know from our efforts to make sense of quantum theory and time, for instance, that the role of the observer can’t be ignored. For this reason, some brave souls are trying to reformulate physics to include subjective experience as a physical constituent of the world. These ideas can be a tad bewildering, ranging from the idea that consciousness is an intrinsic property of matter to a new cosmology rooted in events and the relationships between them, rather than objects in space-time. But we like to think this article is as thought-provoking and entertaining as it is baffling.
5. AI unlocks the secrets of ancient cuneiform texts
With various anniversaries in Egyptology this year, researchers working on ancient Egyptian texts have been in the spotlight, but far less attention is paid to people who study the civilisations who wrote in the cuneiform script, such as the Sumerians and the Babylonians. The mesmerising marks in clay tablets that make up the world’s oldest written language are famously hard to decipher. Now, artificial intelligence is being deployed to crack cuneiform’s code, releasing the riches written within for the first time. This charming feature goes behind the scenes at London’s British Museum, giving an exclusive look at technology in action, as AI is used to piece together the tiny fragments of the greatest library of antiquity.
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