/Australia has come to France’s rescue in Antarctica (via Qpute.com)

Australia has come to France’s rescue in Antarctica (via Qpute.com)

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French icebreaker 'L'Astrolabe' moored on the edge of the fast ice off Dumont D'Urville station, Antarctica.

French icebreaker L’Astrolabe off the coast of Dumont d’Urvilleis station in Antarctica. The ship is unable to travel there this summer because of damage to its propeller.Credit: NPL/Alamy

Australia has offered its icebreaker to transport researchers and vital supplies to France’s Antarctic research stations next month. The Dumont d’Urville and Concordia stations were in danger of being left without a way to obtain more food, fuel and equipment this summer, after the French navy discovered a critical defect in its transport ship L’Astrolabe, which is docked in Hobart, Australia. L’Astrolabe was scheduled to travel to Antarctica before the fault was detected last week, in the ship’s propeller.

Nature | 2 min read

Rich countries are not cutting their carbon emissions quickly enough, according to the annual climate update from the United Nations Environment Programme. Of the 20 wealthiest regions, which produce the vast majority of carbon emissions, only China, the European Union and Mexico are on track to meet their climate promises. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the United States were called out as needing to take more action to fulfil their current commitments.

BBC | 5 min read

Reference: Emissions Gap Report 2019

Research highlights: 1-minute reads

Common thread links all music

Researchers analysed songs from 315 cultures and found that every one fitted into one of four distinct, recurrent types: dance tunes, healing songs, love ballads and lullabies. Analysis also showed that songs of a specific type share characteristics across cultures — dance tunes, for example, are faster and more rhythmic than lullabies.

‘Bilingual’ molecule speaks DNA and protein

Scientists have melded nature’s two fundamental programming molecules — DNA and peptides — into one versatile structure that can store molecular blueprints and identify specific chemical structures.

Greenhouse-gas nitrous oxide is on the rise

Global emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, seem to be rising much faster than scientists had thought. The gas is a by-product of nitrogen-based fertilizers, and to cut back on it, we must change how we grow food and what we eat, say researchers.

Children buried wearing other youngsters’ skulls

Scientists excavating the Salango archaeological site in western Ecuador have discovered the remains of two infants that were buried with the skulls of older children placed over their heads. The helmets were probably affixed before burial and might have been intended to protect the souls of the children who wore them.

Get more of Nature’s research highlights: short picks from the scientific literature.

Features & opinion

A child can learn how to find a rare diamond in Minecraft after watching a 10-minute demonstration on YouTube. Artificial intelligence (AI) is nowhere close (nor are many adults, to be fair). In a unique computing competition ending this month, researchers hope to shrink the gap between machine and kid— and in doing so, help to reduce the computing power needed to train AIs.

Nature | 8 min read

China’s dramatic increase in scientific productivity has outstripped the country’s ability to promote rigour and curb academic misconduct, argues science policy researcher Li Tang. Based on global retraction data and surveys of researchers and major stakeholders in China, Tang outlines a five-part plan to bolster research integrity. Align norms, forgive, and be tough — are among her prescriptions.

Nature | 8 min read

Source: L. Tang/Web of Science

We are at a tipping point for the World Wide Web, says computer scientist Tim Berners Lee, who invented it. What we do now will decide whether it lives up to its potential as a force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia. Berners Lee announces a plan of action for governments, companies and individuals to reclaim people’s control over their data, lessen the spread of misinformation and reduce the malign influence of poorly-designed software.

The New York Times | 5 min read

Reference: Contract for the Web website

Image of the week

A whale being devoured by deep-sea octopuses off the coast of California

Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust/NOAA ONMS/Cover Images

Deep-sea octopus, eelpouts and bone-eating Osedax worms were spotted feeding on a whale carcass on the sea bed off the coast of California. Researchers at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the non-profit organization Ocean Exploration Trust captured the footage at a depth of more than 3,000 metres, during the last dive of the organization’s 2019 Nautilus Expedition.

See more of the month’s best science images, selected by Nature’s photo team. (Ocean Exploration Trust/NOAA ONMS/Cover Images)


A strike among staff at 65 UK universities is a battle for the soul of academia, argues a Guardian editorial.

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