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People in FBI tshirts walk into courthouse

The long reach of law enforcement could now extend into our DNA.Credit: Rick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Police could search DNA links of most Americans

It could soon be possible to search crime-scene DNA for links to nearly all people of European descent who live in the United States. A new study reveals how easy it is to identify a particular person on the basis of their DNA, by connecting them to very distant relatives who have chosen to use consumer-genetics services. The technique works best for Americans with European ancestry, because they make up the vast majority of those services’ customers.

A separate study showed a method for extrapolating the kind of DNA profile used by consumer services from the type used by the FBI. Although it has restrictions, the technique would make it even easier to tap large, public genetic databases for forensic investigations.

Nature | 7 min read

Reference: Science paper & Cell paper

Mice born from same-sex parents have their own pups

For the first time, researchers have used the DNA from two female mice to create healthy pups, some of which matured and had their own offspring. The scientists also produced baby mice using the combined genetic material from two male mice, although those pups lived for only a couple of days. Researchers deleted genetic regions from stem cells to create the test-tube pups, illuminating how healthy embryos develop. Most of the embryos did not survive, making it unlikely that the technique would ever be applied to humans.

Nature | 4 min read

Economic woes hit Argentina’s scientists

Science and technology are “collapsing” under austerity measures and rising inflation, say researchers in the country. Fewer grants, a weakening of buying power and delayed payments are all having an effect. “There are research centres that cannot pay for illumination or gas. Their lab rats and cell lines are dying,” says physicist Fernando Stefani. Officials with the government say they hope to ease the pain, but it has been hard for them to react quickly enough to the slide of the peso.

Nature | 5 min read

The average person recognizes 5,000 faces

Researchers quizzed people on images of famous faces to extrapolate that humans seem to recall about about 5,000 faces, on average. Even the most face-blind among the participants knew about 1,000 faces.

Nature Research Highlights | 1 min read

Reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper

Get more of Nature’s Research Highlights: short picks from the latest papers.


Biotech leaders stand up for a free press

This week’s issue of Nature Biotechnology features an open letter signed by 169 of the field’s leaders in support of a free press. They are speaking out because biotech in particular benefits from a robust media that can highlight bad science and disseminate new research advances in a trustworthy way, says an accompanying editorial. “In this context, partisan attacks undermining the mainstream media — and alienating the public from journalists — pose an existential threat to the biotech industry,” argues the editorial.

Nature Biotechnology | 5 min read

Read more: Statement by biotech leaders

“He could have been given three Nobels”

Chemist Thomas Steitz, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for illuminating the structure and function of the ribosome, has died aged 78. Colleagues describe his “indescribable” talent, his terrible puns and his wide-ranging influence on the field.

The New York Times | 9 min read

Straight talk with Nobel laureate Donna Strickland

“I will have to practise not just saying the first thing that comes into my mind,” says physicist Donna Strickland about the platform that comes with winning the Nobel prize. Happily for us, we got to her before that happened, and the result is a delightful interview with the straight-talking scientist in this week’s Nature podcast. Also in this episode, how a vestigial organ turned out to have a key role in ant castes, a hiccup halts the Hubble and how to prod a superconductor.

Nature Podcast | 23 min listen

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Shell engraving no.751 from the Historiae Conchyliorum

A shell from Historiae Conchyliorum by Martin Lister. The illustrations were engraved by Lister’s daughters, Anna and Susanna.Credit: Wellcome Coll./CC BY 4.0

Two sisters’ exquisite scientific contributions

Historian Beth Fowkes Tobin applauds a book on naturalist Martin Lister and his brilliant daughters, Anna and Susanna. For nearly a decade, the sisters mastered drawing, etching and engraving to produce hundreds of beautiful illustrations of all known shells for their father’s work Historiae Conchyliorum.

Nature | 6 min read

Trailblazers of science fiction’s golden age

A new book offers a portrait of four people who helped to shape modern science fiction: John W. Campbell — long-time editor of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction — and three of his key writers: genre giants Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein, and pulp author L. Ron Hubbard. Rob Latham, a science-fiction editor himself, lauds the book as a “rich, gripping cultural and historical study of how a small cadre of talents in a minor commercial genre became some of the most influential figures of the second half of the twentieth century”.

Nature | 6 min read


If you read only one science story this week, surely it must be the IPCC report calling for urgent global action to reduce the impact of climate change. Happily, clean-energy adviser Michael Liebreich has summarized it for us in emojis:

A series of emojis showing causes and possible solutions for climate change


Mourning the best PhD supervisor

Infrastructure engineer Emma Kathryn White pays homage to her supervisor, geologist and ecohydrologist Justin Francis Costelloe, who died in June. She describes the way in which he did “what great mentors do: expand minds”.

Nature | 4 min read

Meet the co-pro maestro

Co-production expert Tina Coldham explores how involving the public in decision-making can help scientists to broaden their reach and improve their research. “It’s about getting everybody around the table so you’re valuing the knowledge everybody has”.

Nature | 4 min read


A coin loaded onto the Mars Curiosity rover covered in dust

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

An image taken by the Curiosity rover on 4 September shows a US 1-cent coin covered in Martian dust. The coin is used as a target by Curiosity to calibrate the Mars Hand Lens Imager, a camera fastened to the end of the rover’s robotic arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

See more of the best science photos of the month, chosen by Nature’s picture editors