Long read: New Scientist’s five best in-depth articles from 2022

To celebrate the end of the year, our editors have chosen New Scientist’s very best features of 2022. And as a gift from us to you, they’re all free to read until January 1


25 December 2022

New Scientist 5 Best Long Reads 2022

To read our top 5 feature articles of 2022, click through to an article and follow the instructions to sign up with New Scientist free.

Some of our most striking stories this year asked thought-provoking questions about physics, spoke to our readers about the problems they face in their everyday lives or were in-depth exclusives uncovered by New Scientist staff. As a Christmas gift to you, we’ve rounded up a selection of some of our best feature articles, from the latest anti-aging research to hints at brand new physics. These in-depth stories are usually only available to paid subscribers, but you’ll be able to read them for free between December 25th and the end of the year. Here’s our pick of the best and why they made the cut.

1. The Longevity Diet That Can Add Years to Your Life

It may 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 is not about that kind of accepted wisdom. Instead, it reveals the latest research that, if followed, could see people moving away from a typical Western diet add decades to their lives. But this is not another flimsy fad. What makes this paper so compelling is that the research it contains brings together decades of biological studies of diet and aging, including data from clinical trials, epidemiological studies, and research on centenarians. As well as being strict, with a healthy sprinkling of New Scientist skepticism, this article is also true news for you to use, with lots of information about what this new longevity diet really consists of. No wonder it was the most read feature of the year.

2. Exciting hints of new physics from the Large Hadron Collider

You may have heard about the anomalies at the LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Exciting hints of new physics had been teased back in 2021, but anyone holding their breath was in for an unpleasant time. Then, earlier this year, New Scientist staff received an exclusive preview of new results from the LCHb experiments that suggested not only that the irregularities were strengthened, 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 term, it may even allow physicists to finally make progress toward a grand unified theory, showing that three of the four fundamental forces of nature are all manifestations of the same force. If the results are indeed confirmed, they will change our understanding of the universe as we know it. Written by University of Cambridge particle physicist Harry Cliff, who works on the LHCb, this story gives you the inside scoop 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 through this article on your phone at an ungodly hour while the world around you sleeps, you are guaranteed to be in good company. Around 10 percent of people meet the criteria for insomnia, which can have a hugely devastating impact on everyday life. The fruits of research into the condition have been frustratingly lacking. But a new body of discovery about the neurological and mental processes underlying insomnia is finally bringing powerful insights into how we can treat the condition. In fact, as this article goes on to discuss, insomnia has become a solvable problem. So dig in, and if you’re reading this because you can’t sleep, hopefully our article can help you sleep—in the best possible way.

4. The bold effort to reformulate physics to account for consciousness

This is a story that draws you to engage with one of the deepest, most thought-provoking 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 understand quantum theory and time, for example, that the role of the observer cannot 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 somewhat confusing, ranging from the idea that consciousness is an inherent 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 that this article is as thought-provoking and entertaining as it is confusing.

5. AI unlocks the secrets of ancient cuneiform texts

With various anniversaries in Egyptology this year, researchers working with ancient Egyptian texts have been in the spotlight, but far less attention is paid to people who study the civilizations that wrote in cuneiform, such as the Sumerians and Babylonians. The fascinating marks on clay tablets that make up the world’s oldest written language are notoriously difficult to decipher. Now artificial intelligence is being deployed to crack the cuneiform code, and for the first time the riches written within are being released. This fascinating feature goes behind the scenes at London’s British Museum and offers an exclusive look at technology in action, as AI is used to piece together the tiny fragments of antiquity’s greatest library.

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