Newspaper round-up

The Times - 7 April 2021

Oxford pauses child trial of AstraZeneca vaccine

A trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British children has been paused while regulators investigate possible links to rare blood clots in adults. The announcement came after a day of confusion over whether the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had found a link between the vaccine and the clots, which have been associated with the deaths of seven vaccinated people in Britain. Boris Johnson has urged people to get their vaccines as science advisers estimate whether younger people’s fears over the Oxford jab could threaten a resurgence of the virus.

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The Sun - 7 April 2021

China Mars probe sends back eerie photos of red planet as it prepares for touchdown

China’s Martian probe has sent back eerie images of the red planet looming large. Tianwen-1 is currently orbiting Mars – but its rover will soon make a hair-raising descent to the planet’s desert surface. While it awaits the perilous journ1ey, the probe has been capturing valuable data about Mars. If all goes well, China will become only the second country to land successfully on the red planet.

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The Guardian - 7 April 2021

Great Britain’s electricity system has greenest day ever over Easter

Great Britain’s electricity system recorded its greenest ever day over the Easter bank holiday as sunshine and windy weather led to a surge in renewable energy. On Easter Monday, wind turbines and solar farms generated 60% of all electricity as households enjoyed a bank holiday lunch. At the same time the UK’s nuclear reactors provided 16% of the electricity mix, meaning almost 80% of the grid was powered from low-carbon sources. The low-carbon power surge, combined with lower than average demand for electricity over the bank holiday, kept gas-fired power in Great Britain to 10% of the electricity mix and caused the “carbon intensity” of the electricity system to plummet to its lowest on record.

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The Daily Mail - 7 April 2021

GPs are told not to prescribe pills for chronic aches with no known cause... and recommend exercise instead, latest guidelines say

Millions of patients suffering chronic pain with no known cause should not be prescribed painkillers, say new health guidelines. NHS watchdog Nice said they should instead be offered exercise programmes or therapies. In a victory for a Daily Mail campaign, it said there is ‘little or no evidence’ that painkillers make a difference to sufferers’ quality of life, pain or psychological distress.

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The Financial Times - 7 April 2021

Brain disorders affect 1 in 3 COVID survivors, large UK study shows

One in three people who have suffered from Covid-19 was diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within six months of infection, according to scientists who have carried out the largest study of the mental health effects of coronavirus. They found that Covid-19 was 44% more likely to cause neurological and mental problems than a case of influenza of comparable severity.

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The Times - 6 April 2021

UK medicines watchdog ‘considers limiting use of Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in young’

The medicines watchdog is considering restricting the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in younger people. The move comes from concerns that the vaccine can potentially lead to clots and that this could be more common in younger people. Last week, there were are reported 22 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and 8 other cases of clotting issues from recipients of the vaccine, however, a link has not been fully established and regulators claim the benefits still heavily outweigh the risks.

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The Telegraph - 6 April 2021

Thousands of tonnes of microplastic shed from tyres end up in water system

Thousands of tonnes of tyre microplastics are washed into UK waters each year, a report has warned, as electric vehicles could make the problem worse. Analysis by waste firm SUEZ revealed that 63,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 9,000 standard car tyres, is being shed on UK roads each year, and these end up in our water systems. There are fears this could be even worse when we make the switch to electric vehicles, which are heavier and have longer braking distances.

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The Guardian - 6 April 2021

Nasa Perseverance rover drops off first ever Mars helicopter ahead of historic flight

Researchers are hoping to unmask the reality of ethically controversial emotion recognition systems in an effort to boost public debate. The technology, which uses machine learning algorithms to identify human emotions, has a variety of uses, including market research and road safety. However, critics state it raises privacy issue, is inaccurate and is racially biased. A team of researchers have created a website – – where the public can try out emotion recognition systems through their own computer cameras. One game focuses on pulling faces to trick the technology, while another explores how such systems can struggle to read facial expressions in context.

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The Daily Mail - 6 April 2021

Chinese robotics firm shares 'terrifying' video of its four-legged robots moving in unison that Twitter users say could be the start of a robot takeover

A clip has surfaced from Chinese-based Unitree robotics firm, that shows a squadron of four-legged machines moving in unison. The clip, which has been likened to various tech-based dystopian films, shows AI-powered, canine-like robot, named, Aliengo, which has been designed with depth perception, high explosive sport performance and an advanced protection level – among other features.

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The Financial Times - 6 April 2021

Pandemic brought surge in French cyber attacks, warns Thales CEO

The number of cyberattacks hitting French businesses increased fourfold last year, as hackers took advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to make money, said the boss of French security and technology group Thales. France’s cybersecurity agency, the ANSSI, clocked 200 large-scale cyberattacks on so-called Operators of Vital Importance in 2020 compared to just 50 the year before, according to the company. The ANSSI keeps a list of around 250 such companies across 12 areas of critical infrastructure such as banking, health and defence.

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The Financial Times - 1 April 2021

Microsoft wins US army contract for augmented reality headsets worth up to $21.9bn

Microsoft has been awarded a $21.9bn contract to deliver around 120,000 augmented reality headsets to the US army. The headsets, which use a “Integrated Visual Augmentation System”, will be used to help soldiers train and  home in on targets that are ‘overlayed’ on top of the real world.

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The Daily Mail - 1 April 2021

Microscopic 'living robots' created from frog embryo stem cells have memories and could be used to clean up microplastics or detect diseases

A microscopic 'living robot' made from frog embryo stem cells have been designed with self-healing powers and the ability to keep memories. The innovation pulls from previous work released last year, called Xenobots, but has been upgraded to move more efficiently and perform more complex tasks. Dubbed Xenobots 2.0, the machines are able to self-propel using hair-like 'legs' of cilia, while its predecessor relied on a muscle to move, allowing it to travel faster along surfaces. However, the greatest advancement is the ability to recall things such as radioactive contamination, chemical pollutants or a disease condition in the body that can be reported back to researchers for further analyses.

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The Guardian - 1 April 2021

UK scientists warn of 'catastrophic' impact of funding cuts

Senior scientists fear that deep cuts to government research spending will have “catastrophic” consequences for the UK, with projects cancelled midway through and some of the brightest minds moving to other countries.

Hundreds of research projects tackling issues from the Covid pandemic to antimicrobial resistance and the climate crisis are already being axed after the country’s main science funder, UK Research and Innovation, told universities its budget for official development assistance (ODA) grants had been cut from £245m to £125m.

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The Telegraph - 1 April 2021

Demand for digital experts will supersede traditional aircraft engineers within 20 years

Demand for digital experts will supersede traditional aircraft engineers within 20 years, the head of the Royal Air Force has said. Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston states that the current ratio of traditional mechanical engineers to digital and cyberspace experts hired four-to-one, but he expects this to be reversed by 2040. Part of the change will be due to an increased fleet of crewless drones and aircraft.

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The Times - 1 April 2021

GPs raise concerns over Covid passport scheme

Covid status certificates, available to those who have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or who have developed antibodies after contracting the virus, are being taken increasingly seriously at the top of government as a way of returning to normality. Currently, ministers are developing a list of “essential” places where certification won’t be necessary, such as hospitals, supermarkets and GP surgeries. However, The Royal College of GPs shared concerns that Covid passports for places like pubs could be used in a discriminatory manner.

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