Seven days: 26 October–1 November 2012

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    The week in science: Fisheries fund deal disappoints, Siemens sells solar business and China lifts ban on new nuclear reactors.

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    Canada quake An earthquake off the west coast of Canada on 27 October triggered tsunami warnings for the Pacific. The magnitude-7.7 quake, centred close to the Queen Charlotte Islands, caused no major damage, however, and ultimately produced waves of only about a metre in Hilo, Hawaii. See for more.

    Credit: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA/Rex Features

    Titanic storm batters US east coast Hurricane Sandy, which was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as wind speeds dropped from about 145 kilometres per hour to around 105 kilometres per hour, made landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey, at about 8 p.m. Eastern time on 29 October. The storm knocked out power to millions and closed public transport in numerous cities, including New York, which was among the hardest hit. More than 15,000 flights have been cancelled, and estimates of the damage run to well over US$10 billion. See for more.


    Verdict shock wave The six-year manslaughter sentences handed to six scientists and a government official for advice they gave preceding the 6 April 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, have triggered concerns worldwide over the future of science advice. Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser to the European Commission, is among scientists warning that the verdict could mean researchers are less likely to agree to advise governments. See page 15 for more.

    Electronics boost India unveiled an electronics policy that aims to build a domestic chip-manufacturing industry, creating 2 million jobs by 2020. Proposed initiatives include a fund to promote electronics research and development, and an institute focusing on semiconductor chip design. The government also plans to bolster postgraduate education to produce about 2,500 PhDs annually in electronics by 2020.

    Biofuels warning Pushing up the proportion of alga-based biofuels used for transport to 5% of the total US requirement “would place unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients”, says a report from the US National Research Council. Consumption of water and fertilizer for the cultivation of algal biofuels can be prohibitive, and such concerns need to be addressed if these fuels are to fulfil their promise, adds the report, released on 24 October. See for more.

    Nuclear restart China will start approving new reactors again, ending a 19-month ban triggered by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the Chinese government announced on 24 October. But enhanced safety standards and a temporary ban on inland reactors, which account for one-third of those planned, mean that nuclear reactors will supply 40 gigawatts of power by 2015, rather than 50 gigawatts as planned. China currently has 15 reactors supplying 12.5 gigawatts, or 1.8%, of its power.

    Fisheries trade-off  A proposal that would have placed the European Union’s fisheries policies on a sounder scientific footing was watered down at a meeting of ministers on 23 October. Conservationists have criticized the decision to spend money from a new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund on modernizing fishing fleets, arguing that such measures will not improve the sustainability of fish stocks and that more funds should be spent on data collection and monitoring fishing fleets. See for more.

    Credit: I. Toledo, M. Kornmesser/VVV Consortium


    Starry, starry night The European Southern Observatory (ESO) unveiled a 9-gigapixel image of the centre of the Milky Way (pictured) on 24 October. If printed at the standard resolution of a book, the image, from the ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope in Chile, would be 9 metres long and 7 metres high. Astronomers used the telescope data to create a catalogue of 84 million stars — the largest such catalogue compiled to date.

    Radiation study The US National Academy of Sciences is undertaking a pilot study to look for cancer risks around six nuclear power plants and a nuclear fuel facility. The study was called for by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in response to long-standing public concerns about radiation affecting the health of people living around the plants (see Nature 472, 15; 2011). Announced on 23 October, the academy study is expected to continue into at least 2014 and will cost around US$2 million.

    Coastline review An eight-year survey of coastal regions by China’s State Oceanic Administration was completed on 26 October. Of 52 cities surveyed, 28 have serious water shortages, according to the assessment, which included 19,057 kilometres of continental coastline and 10,312 islands.

    Shanghai telescope China unveiled a radio telescope at the base of Sheshan Mountain in Shanghai on 28 October. The telescope will be used with three others across China for very-long baseline interferometry, a technique that combines data from different telescopes to produce images of higher resolution than any of the telescopes can provide alone.


    Synchrotron chief Three years after converting its 3-kilometre-long linear particle accelerator into an X-ray laser, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California, named Chi-Chang Kao as its director, on 24 October. Kao, who develops applications of synchrotron radiation and was an associate laboratory director at SLAC, is the first scientist who is not a particle physicist to lead the facility. Having transformed itself from a particle-physics stronghold into an X-ray light source, SLAC now draws structural biologists, material scientists and other researchers.


    Re-enter the Dragon A commercial resupply capsule has returned safely from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft, built by SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, splashed down some 400 kilometres off the California coast on 28 October. It was carrying around 750 kilograms of return cargo, including scientific samples. This is the first of at least 12 commercial resupply missions that SpaceX will send to the station as part of a US$1.6-billion contract.

    Solar exit German engineering company Siemens announced that it would sell its solar business on 22 October. The Munich-based company also said that it was ending its participation in DESERTEC, a project seeking to produce power by tapping solar energy in the Sahara and other deserts. See page 16 for more.

    Nuclear rights Hitachi has bought the rights to build nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom. The Japanese firm announced the purchase of the Horizon nuclear project from German owners E.ON and RWE for a reported £700 million (US$1.1 billion). The deal clears the way for Hitachi to seek licensing approval for up to three 1,300-megawatt advanced boiling water reactors at each of two sites in Anglesey and Gloucestershire.

    Credit: Source: J. West/Univ. Washington


    An analysis of the gender of authors in research articles shows that women are not only under-represented as authors, but are also much less likely to be in the prestigious position of last author in all surveyed science fields except mathematics (see chart), in which authors tend to be listed alphabetically. The study, based on millions of articles in the academic journal archive JSTOR, was led by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and New York University (see


    2–3 November A Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute symposium will focus on unanswered questions in cancer sequencing.

    4–7 November Updates from the Mars Curiosity rover will be discussed at the Geological Society of America meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    5–7 November The Fourth Canadian Science Policy Conference will discuss issues including how fundamental research can drive innovation.

    7–8 November The European Food Safety Authority gathers scientists in Parma, Italy, to discuss challenges in risk assessment.

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    Seven days: 26 October–1 November 2012. Nature 491, 12–13 (2012) doi:10.1038/491012a

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