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Inga Vesper

Journalist, editor, writer

Need a creativity boost? Try listening to happy background music

Need inspiration? Happy background music can help get the creative juices flowing. Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have been studying the effect of silence and different types of music on how we think. A better understanding of how different types of music affect creativity is likely to be useful for many people, he says.

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Shipping pollution hotspots mapped with real-time data

Coastal areas around South East Asia suffer the most from pollution caused by ship traffic, according to a global study that estimates shipping emissions based on real-time, local activity for the first time. The study, published in Atmospheric Environment, sheds light on forces at play in a region where shipping pollution is believed to cause up to 24,000 deaths a year.

Stainless steel sinks may up your risk of legionnaires’ disease

A combination of rusty water and stainless steel taps, or faucets, can put people at risk of life-threatening legionnaires’ disease. It seems that the protective coating on stainless steel fixtures – currently a firm favourite for kitchen and bathroom sinks – can degrade over time, encouraging the growth of Legionella species.

Mud bricks best for cool, green houses, says study

Simple mud concrete bricks provide the most affordable and sustainable houses in the tropics, a Sri-Lankan study suggests. Comparisons of four different types of walling materials revealed that mud concrete bricks have the lowest environmental impact and keep houses cool. They are also the cheapest, and easiest to dispose of once a house is knocked down.

Living near noisy roads could make it harder to get pregnant

Living near a noisy road seems to affect couples who are trying get pregnant, increasing the likelihood that it will take them between six to 12 months. That’s according to an analysis of 65,000 women living in Denmark.

Trump’s budget jettisons ‘irreplaceable’ marine mammals agency

The US Marine Mammal Commission, an organisation charged with restoring mammal populations in the world’s oceans, is set for the chop in president Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal.

Romania’s science reforms prompt boycott

Researchers in Romania are stepping up protests against controversial government science reforms. Hundreds of scientists at leading research institutions say they will refuse to sit on national panels that assess and award grants, after the Romanian researchers’ association Ad Astra called for the boycott on 30 May. But not all scientists in the country support the move.

Bigger isn’t better for energy savings

Advances made in the energy efficiency of heating and transport are lost because of people’s desire to have bigger houses and cars, two research papers have shown. Researchers have found that houses in England, Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand are getting bigger as people want more space and extra rooms. This means there is more air to be heated, destroying any climate benefits gained by better heating systems and more efficient insulation, they say.

Changing climate to wreak havoc on Mediterranean soils

Climate change could reduce the amount of carbon stored in soil in the Mediterranean region by a third over the next 60 years, according to research undertaken at the University of Cordoba. This in turn could drive up food prices and endanger crop production in the region as soils become poorer and more and more fertiliser is needed to keep yields up.

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