Daily briefing: Spying signs of a mega black-hole merger

A glut of gravitational-wave results, a petition backing a plan to do away with paywalled research, and the first healthy birth from a womb transplanted from a deceased donor.

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The black-hole merger dubbed GW170729 appears to be a huge 80-solar-mass monster.Teresita Ramirez/Geoffrey Lovelace/SXS Collaboration/LIGO-Virgo Collaboration

Astronomers spy signs of mega black-hole merger

A cataclysmic cosmic collision created a black hole more than 80 times as massive as the Sun, according to new data reported by astronomers. It is one finding from the latest batch of gravitational wave discoveries released by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), which made the first historic detection of these ripples in space-time in 2015. The release brings the tally to ten black-hole mergers, and a collision between two neutron stars.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: LIGO data 1, LIGO data 2

Brexit: One out, one in (again)

For those not transfixed by the Brexit turmoil, here’s the latest science-specific developments: last week, science minister Sam Gyimah resigned over the Brexit deal. Today, there’s a new science minister (the fifth since 2010): Conservative-party loyalist Chris Skidmore. Oxford-educated Skidmore is an Oxford-educated historian who has written several books on British monarchs, and will take over responsibility for the universities and science portfolio.

Nature | 1 min read

First baby born after womb transplant from dead donor

For the first time, a healthy baby has been born using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor. There have been 39 womb transplants using a live donor, but previous attempts using organs from a dead donor had failed. The successful transplant took place in Brazil in 2016, and the baby girl was born in December 2017.

BBC | 2 min read

Reference: The Lancet paper

Researchers sign petition to end paywalls

More than 1,400 researchers have signed an online letter backing the principles of Plan S. The bold open-access initiative, led by European research agencies, pledges that papers resulting from their funding should be immediately free to read on publication.

Nature | 3 min read

3D image of peripheral nerves in an eight week old human embryo

3D image of peripheral nerves (green) in a tissue-cleared 8-week-old human embryo.Credit: Alain Chédotal/Morgane Belle

Transparent tissues bring cells into focus

Techniques that render tissues as clear as glass and swell them to several times their original size are giving researchers unprecedented access to the inner workings of biological systems.

Nature | 12 min read

The rules of planet building are changing

As astronomers collect a growing menagerie of exoplanet systems, they are struggling to square their observations with current theories on how the Solar System formed. The Solar System has rocky planets near the Sun and giant gas balls farther out, but the panoply of exoplanets obeys no tidy patterns.

Nature | 13 min read


“Picture our bafflement if weather forecasts said “there is a non-statistically significant chance of rain tomorrow” rather than “there is a 60% chance of rain”."

Scientists who make a claim should include an easy-to-understand estimate of the chance that it’s true, argues epidemiologist Steven Goodman. (Nature)


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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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