News & Comment

  • Comment
    | Open Access

    The European Space Agency (ESA) recently selected Comet Interceptor as its first ‘fast’ (F-class) mission. It will be developed rapidly to share a launch with another mission and is unique, as it will wait in space for a yet-to-be-discovered comet.

    • Colin Snodgrass
    •  & Geraint H Jones
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    As climate change thaws the Arctic’s foundations, new subterranean waterways form and threaten to wash away and decompose carbon once locked in permafrost. In this Comment, Vonk and co-authors outline a cross-disciplinary strategy--with hydrology at the forefront--to better understand the fate of Arctic carbon.

    • J. E. Vonk
    • , S. E. Tank
    •  & M. A. Walvoord
  • Q&A
    | Open Access

    Professor Marie Edmonds is a volcanologist at the University of Cambridge. She is interested in the role of magmatic volatiles in magma genesis, volcanic eruptions, and volatile geochemical cycling. Dr. Robert Hazen is a geologist at Carnegie Science and executive director of the Deep Carbon Observatory. His latest research has focused on the co-evolution of the geospheres and biospheres, and mineral diversity and distribution. Marie and Robert apply their research to help understand the chemical and biological roles of carbon in Earth.

  • Q&A
    | Open Access

    Dmitri Strukov (an electrical engineer, University of California at Santa Barbara), Giacomo Indiveri (an electrical engineer, University of Zurich), Julie Grollier (a material physicist, Unite Mixte de Physique CNRS) and Stefano Fusi (a neuroscientist, Columbia University) talked to Nature Communications about the opportunities and challenges in developing brain-inspired computing technologies, namely neuromorphic computing, and advocated effective collaborations crossing multidisciplinary research areas to support this emerging community.

  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Plastic pollution is a purely anthropogenic problem and cannot be solved without large-scale human action. Motivating mitigation actions requires more realistic assumptions about human decision-making based on empirical evidence from the behavioural sciences enabling the design of more effective interventions.

    • Lili Jia
    • , Steve Evans
    •  & Sander van der Linden
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Understanding complex functional materials suffers from needing to capture structural features on many length scales. By quantitatively combining complementary experimental measurements, realistic models can now be generated. Here, I discuss the strengths and limits of this approach, but also advocate focusing on the interactions that drive structural complexity instead.

    • Andrew L. Goodwin
  • Editorial
    | Open Access

    Originally designed for measuring isotope abundances and elemental masses, mass spectrometry is becoming a mainstay across life sciences. As electrospray ionization of biomolecules turns 30 and the Orbitrap mass analyzer 20, we take this opportunity to highlight the role of both inventions in stirring mass spectrometry from physics into biology and discuss the advances and challenges that may impact the future applications of biomolecular mass spectrometry.

  • Comment
    | Open Access

    John Fenn’s electrospray mass spectrometry (ESMS) was awarded the chemistry Nobel Prize in 2002 and is now the basis of the entire field of MS-based proteomics. Technological progress continues unabated, enabling single cell sensitivity and clinical applications.

    • Matthias Mann
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    The establishment of the Orbitrap analyzer as a major player in mass spectrometry based proteomics is traced back to the first public presentation of this technology 20 years ago; when a proof-of-principle application led the way to further advancements and biological applications.

    • Alexander Makarov
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    The health of the city depends on how well all the elements of this system are interconnected and operating in harmony. Here the authors introduced the concept of urbanome which is analogous to the human genome that can be used to characterise the form and functioning of cities.

    • Lidia Morawska
    • , Wendy Miller
    • , Matt Riley
    • , Sotiris Vardoulakis
    • , Yong-Guan Zhu
    • , Guy B. Marks
    • , Prachi Garnawat
    • , Prashant Kumar
    •  & Marie Thynell
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Forecasting is beginning to be integrated into decision-making processes for infectious disease outbreak response. We discuss how technologies could accelerate the adoption of forecasting among public health practitioners, improve epidemic management, save lives, and reduce the economic impact of outbreaks.

    • Dylan B. George
    • , Wendy Taylor
    • , Jeffrey Shaman
    • , Caitlin Rivers
    • , Brooke Paul
    • , Tara O’Toole
    • , Michael A. Johansson
    • , Lynette Hirschman
    • , Matthew Biggerstaff
    • , Jason Asher
    •  & Nicholas G. Reich
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    While the crisis of statistics has made it to the headlines, that of mathematical modelling hasn’t. Something can be learned comparing the two, and looking at other instances of production of numbers.Sociology of quantification and post-normal science can help.

    • Andrea Saltelli
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Using a sensitizing genetic model, Moon and colleagues provide compelling data for a determinant role of microenvironment in tumorigenesis, and lend support to the notion that such influences can be pharmacologically dampened to reduce the onset of cancers.

    • Wa Xian
    •  & Frank McKeon
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    The ore-forming magmas in post-subduction copper deposits are thought to be derived from the lower crust. The Au-Te fingerprints of post-subduction magmas reveal an important role for the metasomatized sub-crustal lithospheric mantle in the formation of porphyry and epithermal copper deposits.

    • Zengqian Hou
    •  & Rui Wang
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Thermal radiation is a ubiquitous physical phenomenon that has been usually described with the help of Planck’s law, but recent developments have proven its limitations. Now, experimental advances have demonstrated that the far-field thermal radiation properties of subwavelength objects drastically violate Planck’s law.

    • Juan Carlos Cuevas
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Infectious disease modeling has played a prominent role in recent outbreaks, yet integrating these analyses into public health decision-making has been challenging. We recommend establishing ‘outbreak science’ as an inter-disciplinary field to improve applied epidemic modeling.

    • Caitlin Rivers
    • , Jean-Paul Chretien
    • , Steven Riley
    • , Julie A. Pavlin
    • , Alexandra Woodward
    • , David Brett-Major
    • , Irina Maljkovic Berry
    • , Lindsay Morton
    • , Richard G. Jarman
    • , Matthew Biggerstaff
    • , Michael A. Johansson
    • , Nicholas G. Reich
    • , Diane Meyer
    • , Michael R. Snyder
    •  & Simon Pollett
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    The genomic and host factors that drive the progression of pre-invasive lesions in non-small cell lung cancer are poorly understood. Studying these factors can advance our knowledge of lung cancer biology, aid in the development of better screening strategies and improve patient outcomes.

    • Siddhartha Devarakonda
    •  & Ramaswamy Govindan
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Qualitative psychological principles are commonly utilized to influence the choices that people make. Can this goal be achieved more efficiently by using quantitative models of choice? Here, we launch an academic competition to compare the effectiveness of these two approaches.

    • Ohad Dan
    •  & Yonatan Loewenstein
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Insufficient purification and incomplete characterization pose a serious problem for attributing photoluminescence properties to carbogenic nanodots, especially those synthesized by bottom-up approaches. Here, we provide a roadmap for the successful future of these nanodots.

    • Navneet C. Verma
    • , Aditya Yadav
    •  & Chayan K. Nandi
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Biofoundries provide an integrated infrastructure to enable the rapid design, construction, and testing of genetically reprogrammed organisms for biotechnology applications and research. Many biofoundries are being built and a Global Biofoundry Alliance has recently been established to coordinate activities worldwide.

    • Nathan Hillson
    • , Mark Caddick
    • , Yizhi Cai
    • , Jose A. Carrasco
    • , Matthew Wook Chang
    • , Natalie C. Curach
    • , David J. Bell
    • , Rosalind Le Feuvre
    • , Douglas C. Friedman
    • , Xiongfei Fu
    • , Nicholas D. Gold
    • , Markus J. Herrgård
    • , Maciej B. Holowko
    • , James R. Johnson
    • , Richard A. Johnson
    • , Jay D. Keasling
    • , Richard I. Kitney
    • , Akihiko Kondo
    • , Chenli Liu
    • , Vincent J. J. Martin
    • , Filippo Menolascina
    • , Chiaki Ogino
    • , Nicola J. Patron
    • , Marilene Pavan
    • , Chueh Loo Poh
    • , Isak S. Pretorius
    • , Susan J. Rosser
    • , Nigel S. Scrutton
    • , Marko Storch
    • , Hille Tekotte
    • , Evelyn Travnik
    • , Claudia E. Vickers
    • , Wen Shan Yew
    • , Yingjin Yuan
    • , Huimin Zhao
    •  & Paul S. Freemont
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    In research studies, the need for additional samples to obtain sufficient statistical power has often to be balanced with the experimental costs. One approach to this end is to sequentially collect data until you have sufficient measurements, e.g., when the p-value drops below 0.05. I outline that this approach is common, yet that unadjusted sequential sampling leads to severe statistical issues, such as an inflated rate of false positive findings. As a consequence, the results of such studies are untrustworthy. I identify the statistical methods that can be implemented in order to account for sequential sampling.

    • Casper Albers
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Diluting a base element with small amounts of another has served as the basis for developing alloys for thousands of years since the advent of bronze. Today, a fundamentally new idea where alloys have no single dominant element is giving new traction to materials discovery.

    • D. B. Miracle
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Recent publications have raised concerns regarding the actual feasibility Negative Emission Technologies (NETs). Here the authors commented on the financial viability of large-scale late century NETs and suggested that expenditure peak will occur in the end of the century, which would require massive global subsidy program.

    • Johannes Bednar
    • , Michael Obersteiner
    •  & Fabian Wagner
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Sharing activities are under wide debate regarding the environmental impacts. Here the authors reviewed their benefits and problems and suggested that a simultaneous improvement of both ecological and economic efficiency is necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    • Zhifu Mi
    •  & D’Maris Coffman
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    Are scale-free networks rare or universal? Important or not? We present the recent research about degree distributions of networks. This is a controversial topic, but, we argue, with some adjustments of the terminology, it does not have to be.

    • Petter Holme
  • Comment
    | Open Access

    When translating photovoltaic technology from laboratory to commercial products, low cost, high power conversion efficiency, and high stability (long lifetime) are the three key metrics to consider in addition to other factors, such as low toxicity, low energy payback time, etc. As one of the most promising photovoltaic materials with high efficiency, today organic–inorganic metal halide perovskites draw tremendous attention from fundamental research, but their practical relevance still remains unclear owing to the notorious short device operation time. In this comment, we discuss the stability issue of perovskite photovoltaics and call for standardized protocols for device characterizations that could possibly match the silicon industrial standards.

    • Lei Meng
    • , Jingbi You
    •  & Yang Yang
  • Editorial
    | Open Access

    A quantitative improvement in the performance of a technology in the applied physical sciences, whether it be a solar cell with higher conversion efficiency or a detector with greater sensitivity, is an important stamp on progress which can strengthen an application. However, it is often unclear how performance improvements alone can enable real-life applications; an improvement in a particular performance metric doesn’t necessarily bring realization of that technology any closer. Conversely, new ideas that could open the door to new functionality aren’t necessarily accompanied by immediately impressive metrics. How can laboratory findings be effectively translated into technological advances that become useful in everyday life? While we support the publication of performance improvements, we also wish to encourage authors to look beyond performance metrics alone when reporting their technological improvements and think about the pathway to a practical technology.