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Daily briefing: Dive into the ocean’s twilight zone

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A B6 mouse at 58 weeks

Mice do not naturally develop Alzheimer's disease. Credit: The Jackson Laboratory

Alzheimer’s researchers seek better lab mice

After many of the Alzheimer’s drugs that worked in mice failed to live up to their promise in clinical trials, several projects are developing animal models that more closely mimic how the brain disease affects people. Researchers are engineering more genetically diverse mice as well as a host of animal models with different combinations of mutations to explore the complex causes of the disease.

Nature | 4 min read

‘Marsquake’ hunter prepares to land

On Monday, NASA’s InSight mission will attempt to touch down near the Martian equator. If it arrives safely, it will embark on the first mission dedicated to listening for seismic energy rippling through the red planet. Any ‘marsquakes’ it detects could yield clues to the planet’s mysterious interior, including how it is separated into a core, mantle and crust.

Nature | 4 min read

Watch the first flight of plane with no moving parts

A plane powered by an ion drive has flown for the first time. The drive uses high powered electrodes to ionize and accelerate air particles, creating an ‘ionic wind’ that drove a 5-metre-wide craft across a sports hall.

Nature | 5 min video

Reference: Nature paper

Automated peer reviewers chip in

A handful of academic publishers are piloting the use of artificial-intelligence tools to do everything from selecting reviewers to checking statistics and summarizing a paper’s findings. The goal is to help out the fraction of scientists who take on the reviewing burden and boost the quality of published papers.

Nature | 6 min read


America should give thanks for global talent

Visas for foreign specialists are falling in the United States, and the numbers of international students in the country isn’t growing as it is elsewhere. Increasingly hostile immigration-policy changes and political rhetoric are to blame, argues business researcher William Kerr. Irrespective of their political affiliation, Americans should be worried that the country is losing ground as the pre-eminent destination for tomorrow’s science and technology leaders, he says.

Nature | 4 min read

Into the twilight zone

Between 200 and 1,000 metres down, the ocean’s twilight zone is thought to be home to more animals by weight than the rest of the sea combined — but we know almost nothing about them. A recent expedition has revealed the some of the gleaming, glowing and fearsome-looking creatures that inhabit the zone, including a tiny fish called a bristlemouth — thought to be the most abundant vertebrate on Earth.

The New York Times | 5 min read

A soil microbe saved my life

When Emily Cassidy was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one of her treatments was known as the red devil: a bright red liquid derived from soil bacteria. It was just one of her medicines that she learnt had their origins in plants and animals, inspiring her work as an environmental journalist. “After nature helped me recover from cancer, I recognize the value of protecting it more than ever,” she says.

Ensia | 7 min read


“As humans, we have never built a city that big, anywhere.”

Entomologist Stephen Martin discovered a network of 200 million termite mounds in Brazil, built over thousands of years and spread across an area as large as Britain. (The New York Times)


Today I’m thankful for every reader of this Briefing, and wishing you all a warm and wonderful 22 November (since, as we all know, Thanksgiving is in October). ? ? ?

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