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Kyoto for commuters p971

Offset schemes are a small but potentially useful addition to the carbon balance sheet.


Peer review and fraud p971

Two assessments of the refereeing process highlight challenges for journals.


Days of Futures past p972

It's a time of change for Nature's venture into speculative fiction.



Research Highlights

Research highlights p974




Special report

Climate credits p976

Why change your lifestyle when you can pay a company to save your greenhouse-gas emissions for you? Quirin Schiermeier investigates whether carbon offsetting can really save the planet.


Green activists enlist penguins to save the world p978

Environmentalists hail 'Happy Feet effect'.

Katie McGoldrick & Emma Marris


Gravity probe falters p978

Instrumentation problems leave relativity test in the balance.

Geoff Brumfiel


Animal experiments under fire for poor design p981

Critics say trials do not translate well into human studies.

Jim Giles


Sidelines p982


NIH offers free access to wealth of disease data p982

Project aims to mine information on genotypes, phenotypes and lifestyle.

Gene Russo


News in brief p983


Correction p983




2006 Gallery: Brilliant display p985

From a jewel-like bird, rarer than any diamond, to the delicately poetic swirls generated inside aircraft engines, the pursuit of knowledge turns up its fair share of beauty. This issue, Nature wraps up the year with an arresting series of images from 2006. We've divided them into the art of the natural world, planet-scapes both domestic and extraterrestrial, and the splendour of modern technology. Just because something enhances our knowledge doesn't mean it can't also be bewitching.

Emma Marris




Better, faster - and easier to use p993

The Pentagon is sinking millions of dollars into developing the next generation of supercomputers — and plans to let non-military scientists and engineers share the benefits. Heidi Ledford reports.



News Features

Human evolution: How Africa learned to love the cow p994

The development of lactose tolerance in sub-Saharan Africa is a fascinating tale of genetic convergence, reports Erika Check.


Oceanography: Creating the perfect wave p997

Kerry Black travelled the world in search of the best surf spots. Then he decided to build them himself — on land. Mark Schrope meets the maverick oceanographer.


Physiology: Freaks of nature? p1000

Ultraendurance racers torture their bodies and minds to achieve near-impossible physical feats. Is it an exceptional genetic make-up or the vestiges of human evolution? Helen Pearson reports.


See also: Editor's summary



Life: perhaps we should take the porridge theory with a pinch of salt p1002

Peter Wigley


Life: porridge would be just right for each universe p1002

Ian Stewart


Biography of Crick aims to inspire a wider audience p1002

Michael Ashburner, Mark Bretscher & Peter A. Lawrence


Shellfish view of omega-3 and sustainable fisheries p1002

Anthony Robson




Measures for measures p1003

Are some ways of measuring scientific quality better than others? Sune Lehmann, Andrew D. Jackson and Benny E. Lautrup analyse the reliability of commonly used methods for comparing citation records.


See also: Editor's summary


Books and Arts

The ambiguity is the essence p1005

When we consider the Universe, are we trying to impose order on a meaningless jumble?

Alan Lightman reviews The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe by Michael Frayn


The beginning of wisdom p1006

Stuart Ross Taylor reviews Is Pluto a Planet? A Historical Journey Through the Solar System by David A. Weintraub


The next pandemic p1007

John Oxford reviews Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching by Michael Greger


Science in culture p1008

The snowflake man

Martin Kemp



News and Views

Physiology: Obesity and gut flora p1009

The intestinal bacteria in obese humans and mice differ from those in lean individuals. Are these bacteria involved in how we regulate body weight, and are they a factor in the obesity epidemic?

Matej Bajzer & Randy J. Seeley


See also: Editor's summary

Astrophysics: A burst of new ideas p1010

Gigantic cosmological gamma-ray bursts have fallen into a dichotomy of long and short bursts, each with a very different origin. The discovery of an oddball burst calls for a rethink of that classification.

Bing Zhang


See also: Editor's summary

Neurobiology: Auditory fidelity p1013

Detailed investigation of a molecule involved in an inherited type of deafness reveals a fresh facet to the mammalian auditory system — a hitherto unknown way for synapses to put calcium in a bind.

Thomas D. Parsons


Particle Physics: Neutrons radiating decay p1014

That neutrons can be transmuted to protons, electrons and antineutrinos through the process of beta decay is old hat. That photons sometimes also get in on the act was suspected, but until now never confirmed.

Nathal Severijns


See also: Editor's summary

Ageing: Too fast by mistake p1015

The intricate process of ageing involves numerous physiological pathways, together with genetic and environmental factors. Insight into this complex biology could come from studying a disorder that accelerates ageing.

Tom Kirkwood


See also: Editor's summary

Optics: A light touch p1017

Richard Webb


Mathematics: Proof at a roll of the dice p1018

The PCP theorem encapsulates the idea that randomization allows the immediate verification of any mathematical proof. A simple route to this striking result was proposed earlier this year.

Bernard Chazelle


50 & 100 Years Ago p1019


Structural biology: Dangerous liaisons on neurons p1019

Crystal structures show that botulinum toxins bind simultaneously to two sites on neurons. This dual interaction allows them to use a Trojan-horse strategy to enter nerve terminals, with deadly effect.

Giampietro Schiavo


See also: Editor's summary


Brief Communications

Parthenogenesis in Komodo dragons p1021

Should males and females be kept together to avoid triggering virgin birth in these endangered reptiles?

Phillip C. Watts, Kevin R. Buley, Stephanie Sanderson, Wayne Boardman, Claudio Ciofi & Richard Gibson


See also: Editor's summary

Microbial ecology: Human gut microbes associated with obesity p1022

Ruth E. Ley, Peter J. Turnbaugh, Samuel Klein & Jeffrey I. Gordon


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Bajzer & Seeley

Biomechanics: Rubber bands reduce the cost of carrying loads p1023

Lawrence C. Rome, Louis Flynn & Taeseung D. Yoo


Olfaction: Underwater 'sniffing' by semi-aquatic mammals p1024

Kenneth C. Catania




An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest p1027

Peter J. Turnbaugh, Ruth E. Ley, Michael A. Mahowald, Vincent Magrini, Elaine R. Mardis & Jeffrey I. Gordon


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Bajzer & Seeley

Blockade of Dll4 inhibits tumour growth by promoting non-productive angiogenesis p1032

Irene Noguera-Troise, Christopher Daly, Nicholas J. Papadopoulos, Sandra Coetzee, Pat Boland, Nicholas W. Gale, Hsin Chieh Lin, George D. Yancopoulos & Gavin Thurston


See also: Editor's summary

A new progeroid syndrome reveals that genotoxic stress suppresses the somatotroph axis p1038

Laura J. Niedernhofer, George A. Garinis, Anja Raams, Astrid S. Lalai, Andria Rasile Robinson, Esther Appeldoorn, Hanny Odijk, Roos Oostendorp, Anwaar Ahmad, Wibeke van Leeuwen, Arjan F. Theil, Wim Vermeulen, Gijsbertus T. J. van der Horst, Peter Meinecke, Wim J. Kleijer, Jan Vijg, Nicolaas G. J. Jaspers & Jan H. J. Hoeijmakers


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Kirkwood



A new bold gamma-ray burst classification scheme from GRB 060614 p1044

N. Gehrels, J. P. Norris, S. D. Barthelmy, J. Granot, Y. Kaneko, C. Kouveliotou, C. B. Markwardt, P. Mészáros, E. Nakar, J. A. Nousek, P. T. O'Brien, M. Page, D. M. Palmer, A. M. Parsons, P. W. A. Roming, T. Sakamoto, C. L. Sarazin, P. Schady, M. Stamatikos & S. E. Woosley


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Zhang

No supernovae associated with two long-duration bold gamma-ray bursts p1047

Johan P. U. Fynbo, Darach Watson, Christina C. Thöne, Jesper Sollerman, Joshua S. Bloom, Tamara M. Davis, Jens Hjorth, Páll Jakobsson, Uffe G. Jørgensen, John F. Graham, Andrew S. Fruchter, David Bersier, Lisa Kewley, Arnaud Cassan, José María Castro Cerón, Suzanne Foley, Javier Gorosabel, Tobias C. Hinse, Keith D. Horne, Brian L. Jensen, Sylvio Klose, Daniel Kocevski, Jean-Baptiste Marquette, Daniel Perley, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Maximilian D. Stritzinger, Paul M. Vreeswijk, Ralph A. M. Wijers, Kristian G. Woller, Dong Xu & Marta Zub


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Zhang

An enigmatic long-lasting bold gamma-ray burst not accompanied by a bright supernova p1050

M. Della Valle, G. Chincarini, N. Panagia, G. Tagliaferri, D. Malesani, V. Testa, D. Fugazza, S. Campana, S. Covino, V. Mangano, L. A. Antonelli, P. D'Avanzo, K. Hurley, I. F. Mirabel, L. J. Pellizza, S. Piranomonte & L. Stella


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Zhang

A novel explosive process is required for the bold gamma-ray burst GRB 060614 p1053

A. Gal-Yam, D. B. Fox, P. A. Price, E. O. Ofek, M. R. Davis, D. C. Leonard, A. M. Soderberg, B. P. Schmidt, K. M. Lewis, B. A. Peterson, S. R. Kulkarni, E. Berger, S. B. Cenko, R. Sari, K. Sharon, D. Frail, D.-S. Moon, P. J. Brown, A. Cucchiara, F. Harrison, T. Piran, S. E. Persson, P. J. McCarthy, B. E. Penprase, R. A. Chevalier & A. I. MacFadyen


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Zhang

A deep dynamo generating Mercury's magnetic field p1056

Ulrich R. Christensen


See also: Editor's summary

Observation of the radiative decay mode of the free neutron p1059

Jeffrey S. Nico, Maynard S. Dewey, Thomas R. Gentile, H. Pieter Mumm, Alan K. Thompson, Brian M. Fisher, Isaac Kremsky, Fred E. Wietfeldt, Timothy E. Chupp, Robert L. Cooper, Elizabeth J. Beise, Kristin G. Kiriluk, James Byrne & Kevin J. Coakley


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Severijns

Fortnightly variations in the flow velocity of Rutford Ice Stream, West Antarctica p1063

G. Hilmar Gudmundsson


See also: Editor's summary

Intrasexual competition and sexual selection in cooperative mammals p1065

T. H. Clutton-Brock, S. J. Hodge, G. Spong, A. F. Russell, N. R. Jordan, N. C. Bennett, L. L. Sharpe & M. B. Manser


See also: Editor's summary

Axonal site of spike initiation enhances auditory coincidence detection p1069

Hiroshi Kuba, Takahiro M. Ishii & Harunori Ohmori


See also: Editor's summary

Early events in the thymus affect the balance of effector and regulatory T cells p1073

Daniel J. Pennington, Bruno Silva-Santos, Tobias Silberzahn, Mónica Escórcio-Correia, Martin J. Woodward, Scott J. Roberts, Adrian L. Smith, P. Julian Dyson & Adrian C. Hayday


The mechanism by which influenza A virus nucleoprotein forms oligomers and binds RNA p1078

Qiaozhen Ye, Robert M. Krug & Yizhi Jane Tao


See also: Editor's summary

Inhibition of Dll4 signalling inhibits tumour growth by deregulating angiogenesis p1083

John Ridgway, Gu Zhang, Yan Wu, Scott Stawicki, Wei-Ching Liang, Yvan Chanthery, Joe Kowalski, Ryan J. Watts, Christopher Callahan, Ian Kasman, Mallika Singh, May Chien, Christine Tan, Jo-Anne S. Hongo, Fred de Sauvage, Greg Plowman & Minhong Yan


See also: Editor's summary

Essential role for collectrin in renal amino acid transport p1088

Ursula Danilczyk, Renu Sarao, Christine Remy, Chahira Benabbas, Gerti Stange, Andreas Richter, Sudha Arya, J. Andrew Pospisilik, Dustin Singer, Simone M. R. Camargo, Victoria Makrides, Tamara Ramadan, Francois Verrey, Carsten A. Wagner & Josef M. Penninger


Botulinum neurotoxin B recognizes its protein receptor with high affinity and specificity p1092

Rongsheng Jin, Andreas Rummel, Thomas Binz & Axel T. Brunger


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Schiavo

Structural basis of cell surface receptor recognition by botulinum neurotoxin B p1096

Qing Chai, Joseph W. Arndt, Min Dong, William H. Tepp, Eric A. Johnson, Edwin R. Chapman & Raymond C. Stevens


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Schiavo




Prospects p1101

NIH programme offers possibilities of independence for young researchers.

Paul Smaglik



Opportunities: The National Institutes of Health


Career View

A pivotal year

This year has been a rollercoaster, both personally and professionally. I've left a relationship, bought a flat and started writing a popular-science book. I've participated in a choir competition and a ski trip to Slovakia. And somewhere in between, I've managed to finish a PhD.

Katja Bargum




Hotdogs at the end of the world p1104

So long, and thanks for all the sausages.

Jeff Crook


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