Seven days: 12–18 November 2010

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    The week in science.

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    Clean-energy cash A large fund for clean-energy projects in Europe, estimated at €4.5 billion (US$6.2 billion), launched its first call for proposals on 9 November. The fund, agreed by European member states in February, aims to support at least eight demonstration projects to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground. It will also cover at least 34 projects involving innovative technology for renewable sources such as solar power, bioenergy and wind, tidal and geothermal energy. Money will be raised by selling 300 million carbon credits from the European Union's emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases; the first projects will be chosen in 2012.

    Telescope woes The James Webb Space Telescope will cost at least US$6.5 billion — well over a previous $5-billion estimate — according to an independent review released on 10 November. See page 353 for more.


    Science statistics The slow decline of traditional science superpowers was analysed in two statistical reports published last week. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris put out its quinquennial science report (, noting that China, India and Korea's share of world research investment and researchers was rising relative to those of the European Union, Japan and the United States. Information company Thomson Reuters of New York City, meanwhile, released a report on the United States as part of a regular series profiling nations ( It noted the country's continued strength but waning influence in terms of scientific spending and publications.

    Rewarding impact UK universities must prepare for their research to be judged on its social and economic benefits, not just its quality, to gain funding. A year-long pilot study testing whether peer-review panels could judge the 'impact' of research was released on 11 November and concluded that the system was workable and robust. See page 357 for more.

    Climate media Climate science received only token coverage as journalists documented the 2009 United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, according to an analysis released on 15 November by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, UK ( Researchers analysed more than 400 articles in 12 countries, and found that nearly 80% of them mentioned climate science in less than 10% of their space. Just 9% of stories mentioned climate science in more than 50% of their space.



    Milky Way's double bubble

    Using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a team of astronomers declared last week that they had discovered two gargantuan 'bubbles' of γ-ray-emitting particles extending north and south of our Galaxy's centre (M. Su et al. Astrophys. J. 724, 1044–1082; 2010). Researchers think the structures, which measure 15,625 parsecs (50,000 light years) from end to end, formed from a single relatively rapid release of energy equivalent to that from 100,000 supernovae. The source might have been the birth and death of short-lived, massive stars, or a jet of energetic particles from the black hole at the Galactic Centre.

    First asteroid dust The Hayabusa space explorer has picked up dust from the Itokawa asteroid, from which it returned in June after a seven-year mission. Researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on 16 November that analysis of the mineral compositions of some 1,500 micrometre-sized grains recovered from Hayabusa's capsule showed that almost all the dust was extraterrestrial and came from Itokawa. This is the first material ever returned to Earth from an asteroid.

    Dengue control The release of male mosquitoes genetically engineered to be sterile can control dengue fever by suppressing the population of the insects that carry the disease, scientists at Oxitec, a UK-based company part-owned by the University of Oxford, told reporters on 11 November. They were reporting the results of a field trial of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a town on Grand Cayman, an island in the Caribbean Sea. Malaysia will begin field trials of the mosquitoes in the next few months. See for more.

    Rice research The world's leading rice-research institutions are joining forces to improve rice yields and breed better varieties. A 5-year, US$600-million initiative, the Global Rice Science Partnership, was officially launched on 10 November at the third International Rice Congress in Hanoi. It is led by the International Rice Research Institute, based in Los Baños, the Philippines, and part of a consortium of leading agricultural research centres called the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Most of the funding is not new money: current budgets from the centres will be reoriented towards the initiative's research goals. See for more.


    Fastest computer China now possesses the world's speediest supercomputer. As expected, its Tianhe-1A computer (pictured), housed in the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, has eclipsed the US Department of Energy's Jaguar system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In the latest update to the list of the world's top 500 supercomputers (, released on 11 November, Tianhe-1A was shown to have achieved 2.57 petaflops (2.57 × 1015 floating point operations per second), with Jaguar managing 1.75 petaflops. The United States still boasts five of the world's top ten fastest computers.

    Reactome retraction A hotly debated research paper that described a device called a 'reactome array' able to take rapid snapshots of enzyme activity in a cell (A. Beloqui et al. Science 326, 252–257; 2009) has been retracted by its authors. The retraction was recommended in July by an institutional ethics committee investigation. See for more.

    Ape deaths solved Japan's premier primate research centre says it has identified the cause of the mysterious series of deaths of its Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) that had puzzled researchers and worried citizens earlier this year (see Nature 466, 302–303; 2010). The Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University reported on its website on 11 November that the culprit was simian retrovirus-4 (SRV-4). The problem emerged when the institute housed southeast Asian crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis), which are natural carriers of the virus, with Japanese macaques. The report said the virus had never been passed to humans.


    Cholera in Haiti The escalating cholera epidemic in Haiti had claimed more than 900 lives and caused close to 15,000 infections by the start of this week, according to the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population. The cholera strain is most closely related to one from south Asia, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, has said, although it has not pinpointed the source.


    Genome market Complete Genomics, one of the handful of young US companies offering fast, cheap genome sequencing, completed its initial public offering (IPO) on 11 November — raising US$54 million at $9 per share, short of the $86-million target it set when first filing for an IPO in July. The company, based in Mountain View, California, says it has sequenced more than 400 complete human genomes this year alone. On its first day of public trading, its share price fell 11%.

    Fraud investigation The European Anti-Fraud Office in Brussels confirmed to Nature last week that it is investigating the alleged misuse of European research money by a group of Greek academics — although the agency would not comment on any details of the allegations. An article in the Greek weekly newspaper Proto Thema on 7 November reported that up to 20 professors have been accused of embezzling up to €200 million (US$273 million). See for more.

    Business watch

    Click for a larger version. Credit: SOURCE: WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK

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    Firms that tap unconventional natural-gas sources — such as in underground shale — are in demand. Atlas Energy of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the latest to be snapped up; on 9 November, oil group Chevron of San Ramon, California, said it would buy the firm in a US$4.3-billion deal. The moves are based on a belief that such sources will make up an increasing share of global gas production, as projected in the 2010 World Energy Outlook, released on 9 November (see chart).

    Coming up

    20 November

    US President Barack Obama's bioethics advisers reach their six-month deadline for completing recommendations on issues raised by synthetic biology. The presidential commission holds its fourth and final public meeting on synthetic biology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, on 16–17 November.

    21–24 November

    Officials from 13 countries with wild tiger populations meet at a global summit on conservation of the species in St Petersburg, Russia.

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    Seven days: 12–18 November 2010. Nature 468, 350–351 (2010) doi:10.1038/468350a

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