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Pluto, the Solar System’s largest dwarf planet, just became even more interesting with a report that icy lava flows have recently covered substantial tracts of its surface. In this context, “recently” means probably no more than a billion years ago. That’s old, of course – and there is no suggestion that volcanoes are still active – but it’s only a quarter the age of the Solar System and no one knows how Pluto brewed up the heat needed to power these eruptions.

The news, coming nearly seven years after NASA’s New Horizons probe made its spectacular flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015, is thanks to analysis of images and other data by a team led by Kelsi Singer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Thankfully, most people who get COVID–19 don’t become seriously ill – especially those who are vaccinated. But a small fraction do get hospitalized, and a smaller fraction do die. If you are vaccinated and catch the coronavirus, what are your chances of getting hospitalized or dying?

As an epidemiologist, I have been asked to respond to this question in one form or another throughout the pandemic. This is a very reasonable question to ask, but a challenging one to answer.

For more than a century, journalism education prepared young people for the role of full-time professionals employed by sizeable news organisations. But the advertising-based business model that sustained journalism is collapsing because of new technology, and jobs of the old kind are becoming scarce. The educational model, too, must change to accommodate the new realities.

Eighteenth-century socialites have been depicted as vain, silly women who were poisoned by their white lead makeup. The Countess of Coventry, Maria Gunning — a society hostess renowned for her beauty — is said to have refused to stop wearing foundation containing white lead, even as she lay dying. Why would women of that era knowingly choose to wear makeup that was killing them? Was beauty worth dying for? Or was the makeup not to blame?

Was Charles Darwin a one-hit wonder? According to scientists who take a gene’s-eye view of evolution, the 19th-century English naturalist contributed one crucial idea to understanding how species change: natural selection, or “design without a designer”.

However, a book of Darwin’s that is little read by modern evolutionists – The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals – turns out to contain valuable lessons for scientists seeking to understand how and why humans do what we do.

The rise of the omicron variant has caused havoc around the world, just as the emergence of the delta and alpha variants did before. A pattern has emerged, with the world scrambling to respond to a new form of the coronavirus every six or so months. How can we reduce the risk of new variants appearing again and again?

Firstly, let’s consider how they emerge. A virus reproduces by making copies of itself. Every time it replicates, there’s a tiny chance that an error occurs in the copying of the virus’s genetic sequence.