Ian Johnston, The Independent

Ian Johnston

The Independent

United Kingdom

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Past articles by Ian:

Treating gunshot wounds in US hospitals costs $2.8bn a year, study finds

Treating people for gunshot wounds in American hospitals costs about $2.8bn every year, according to new research. Nearly 705,000 people arrived alive at US emergency departments in the nine years to 2014 with 37 per cent later admitted as an inpatient, the study found. More than eight per cent died while in the hospital. → Read More

Life first emerged in ‘warm little ponds’ almost as old as the Earth itself

Life on Earth began up to 4.5 billion years ago as carbon-rich meteors bombarded the planet and leached the essential elements into “warm little ponds”, according to new research. It was in this nutrient-rich broth that the first self-replicating molecules, with the first genetic code for life, were born. While the idea we are descended from something that emerged in “warm little ponds” was… → Read More

Scientists cure blindness in mice with 'simple' genetic procedure that could work on humans

The most common form of blindness in young people could be at least partially cured using gene therapy, a new study in mice suggests. Researchers managed to restore sight to mice affected by retinitis pigmentosa after reprogramming their remaining retinal nerve cells. These were not light-sensitive but were altered by the technique to give the mice a degree of vision. A separate study, also in… → Read More

Unhealthiest US counties made 'dramatic' switch from Obama to Trump in 2016, study finds

People living in the sickest parts of the United States switched political allegiance “dramatically” to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new study. The researchers said they found this trend across the country, particularly in states that changed from Democrat to Republican. However, they said the reasons behind the link were unclear. Healthcare was a major… → Read More

NHS privatisation exposed: Scale of treatment for paying patients at NHS hospitals revealed

An investigation by The Independent has exposed the extent of creeping NHS privatisation, leaving experts warning that state patients risk being sidelined as beds are diverted to private users. Data obtained under Freedom of Information law shows income from private patients at one of London’s best-known cancer-specialist hospitals doubled in six years as the law was changed to allow NHS trusts… → Read More

Picture of heart-shaped cancer cells wins science photography prize

A photograph entitled I Heart Research – showing cancerous cells – has won a new science photography prize. The BMC Research in Progress Photo Competition received submissions from around the world, such as Australia, Nepal, Iraq, China and Brazil. The entries included images of flowers, birds, butterflies, a bear living in captivity, and diseases like Zika and Dengue being studied in a lab. The… → Read More

Scientists hold world's first intercontinental video conference using quantum encryption

Two scientists in Austria and China have held the first intercontinental video conference to have been encrypted using quantum technology. → Read More

Losing sense of smell in later life could be early sign of dementia, scientists warn

Losing the ability to smell peppermint, fish, orange, rose and leather could be an accurate early warning sign of dementia, according to a new study. The ability of nearly 3,000 people aged 57 to 85 to detect these five odours were tested by scientists. When they returned about five years later, almost all of the people who had not been able to name a single one of the five scents had dementia,… → Read More

Losing sense of smell in later life could be early sign of dementia, scientists warn

Losing the ability to smell peppermint, fish, orange, rose and leather could be an accurate early warning sign of dementia, according to a new study. The ability of nearly 3,000 people aged 57 to 85 to detect these five odours was tested by scientists. When they returned about five years later, almost all of the people who had not been able to name a single one of the five scents had dementia,… → Read More

How plastic is damaging planet Earth

Cheap, capable of being made into any conceivable shape, strong and durable, plastic is something of a wonder material. It has proved so useful to humans that since the 1950s we have produced an estimated 8.3 billion metric tonnes of the stuff. However, the victim of this success appears to be much of life on Earth. And humans, one day, could find themselves among them. → Read More

Renewable energy sets new record by producing nearly a third of UK electricity

Nearly a third of all UK electricity came from renewable sources in the second three months of this year, setting a new record for clean energy generation, the Government has revealed. Wind, solar and other forms of low-carbon power were responsible for 29.8 per cent of the total amount of electricity generated in the UK, beating the previous record of 26.9 per cent set in the first three months… → Read More

Earth's creation was a 'cowboy-building job' that means this planet is unique, say scientists

The formation of the Earth was a “cowboy building job” that means this planet is likely to be unique, scientists have said. Planets are created as material orbiting a star collides. During the cataclysmic collisions that created the Earth, vast amounts of rock would have been vaporised, forming a temporary atmosphere, the researchers concluded. But planets can only keep a permanent atmosphere… → Read More

Third of elderly Americans take sleeping pills amid ‘catastrophic’ and deadly insomnia epidemic

More than a third of older adults in the United States are taking pills to help them sleep, according to new research, amid a ‘catastrophic’ and deadly epidemic of insomnia in modern society. The US National Poll on Healthy Aging, which spoke to more than 1,000 people aged 65 to 80, found that 14 per cent regularly took prescription sleep medication, prescription pain medication,… → Read More

Ministers who fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions should face legal action, says former chief government scientist

Ministers should face legal action unless they agree to cut greenhouse gases in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, a former chief government scientist has said. The UK currently has a legally binding target to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, even though they must be brought down to net zero by that date to meet the country’s international obligations. → Read More

New species of giant rat that can crack open coconuts with its teeth discovered in Solomon Islands

A new species of rat that is nearly half a metre long and can reputedly crack open coconuts with its teeth has been discovered on the Solomon Islands. However the animal, unique to the remote Pacific islands, may soon become extinct as forestry companies are cutting down the rainforest where it lives. For years, local people had told scientists about the “vika”. But, after searching without… → Read More

Life on Earth could be nearly four billion years old, suggests new fossil discovery

Life on Earth could be nearly four billion years old, new fossil evidence suggests. Researchers analysed rocks found in Saglek in northern Labrador, Canada, which were dated to at least 3.95 billion years ago. At that time, the Earth was still relatively young – it was formed about 4.5 billion years ago – and was probably still being bombarded by asteroids. Tests on grains of graphite found in… → Read More

Water evaporation could provide vast amounts of renewable energy, find scientists

A new source of vast amounts of renewable energy – the evaporation of water – has been discovered by scientists. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Columbia University estimated that lakes in the US could generate 325 gigawatts of power, equivalent to about 70 per cent of the country’s total electricity generation. → Read More

New solar power plant is first in UK built without Government subsidy

The first solar power plant to be built in the UK without any subsidy from the Government has been opened by the Climate Change Minister, Claire Perry, in which she described as a “significant moment for clean energy”. Clayhill solar farm near Flitwick, Bedfordshire, will provide enough power for 2,500 homes and also features battery storage to enable the electricity to be used at any time of… → Read More

David Attenborough says Brexiteers are spitting in the faces of Europeans

Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist and broadcaster, has expressed dismay at the Brexit referendum vote, saying he would rather people "embrace one another than spat in one another's face". In an interview with Greenpeace’s Unearthed website, Sir David also attacked the idea – put forward by Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary, during the Brexit debate – that the public have "had… → Read More

Quarter of Seattle cancer patients turn to marijuana to help cope with pain, stress and nausea

Nearly a quarter of cancer patients had used cannabis in the past year to help cope with symptoms including physical pain, nausea and depression, according to a new study in the US. Researchers surveyed 926 patients at the Seattle Cancer Centre Alliance in the state of Washington, where personal use of the drug is legally allowed. → Read More