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A group of microlasers self-assembled into a honeycomb lattice

A group of microlasers — including two that are emitting laser beams — are arranged in a honeycomb-like lattice. Credit: A. Fernandez-Bravo et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Optics and photonics

A mini-laser that can light up living tissues

Tiny device produces a continuous beam for more than five hours.

Researchers have created microscopic beads that produce long-lasting laser beams, even when the beads are immersed in liquid.

The development of micrometre-scale lasers that emit a continuous beam has proved challenging. To design a continuous mini-laser, James Schuck at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, and his colleagues coated polymer beads with ceramic nanoparticles. When the researchers illuminated the beads’ interiors with low-energy light, each five-micrometre sphere reflected the light along its internal surface to create a laser beam, while the nanoparticles boosted the light to higher energies.

The beam excited neighbouring atoms in the nanocoating, setting off an energy cascade. This allowed the lasers to fire continuously for more than five hours.

The lasers functioned even when the beads were immersed in blood serum, showing that such lasers could be used as biological sensors, the authors write.

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Light micrograph of a human egg cell during fertilisation

As a human egg cell is fertilized, two chromosome-containing cellular structures (dotted circles, centre) merge into one — a process that often goes wrong. Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library

Developmental biology

The error-prone step at the heart of making an embryo

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Satellite image of broken iceberg B-44.

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Climate change

Antarctic rocks on the rebound could raise sea level much more than expected

When the ice covering the west of the continent disappears, the bedrock could rise up and shove extra water into the ocean.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

Mist wafts through the trees at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve in Costa Rica. Cloud forests around the world are threatened by development, wood collection and climate change. Credit: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

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Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
Aerial photograph of beef cattle standing at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas

Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty


Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

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A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
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