Daily briefing: Measles public-health emergency declared in US anti-vaccination hotspot

Unvaccinated children hit by measles outbreak, how an ordinary camera can see around corners and human evolution’s ties to tectonics.

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Experimental setup for Computational Periscopy

Researchers reconstructed an image on a computer screen that was out of sight of a camera with the help of an obstacle.Credit: Charles Saunders

How an ordinary camera can see around corners

Electrical engineers have used an ordinary digital camera to reconstruct the image on a computer screen using just its reflection on a wall. The technique is entirely based on an algorithm and requires no special equipment. “Admittedly, it has some fun ‘gee-whiz’ applications, and it probably has some creepy applications, too,” says electrical engineer Vivek Goyal.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Spinal-cord treatment raises eyebrows in Japan

Japan has become the first country to conditionally approve a stem-cell treatment for spinal-cord injuries. But critics are worried, because the approval was based solely on a small clinical trial that was not double-blinded. The as-yet-unpublished trial found that 12 out of 13 people with recent spinal-cord injuries saw some improvement 6 months after receiving infusions of stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow.

Nature | 6 min read

Neglected-disease research funding hits record high

In 2017, funding for ‘neglected’ diseases that predominantly affect people living in poverty hit a ten-year high. “The amount of progress made in a short period of time after the Ebola outbreak might have brought in optimism about what is possible,” says health-policy specialist Anna Doubell. Still, the US$3.6-billion peak falls short of the estimated $8 billion per year needed to break the backs of diseases such as sleeping sickness, river blindness and cholera.

Nature | 4 min read

Measles emergency in US anti-vaccination hotspot

Clark County, Washington, has declared a public-health emergency in response to an escalating measles outbreak, mostly among unvaccinated children. The area has a particularly high rate of children who are not immunized for personal or religious reasons. “What keeps me up at night is we have a treatment or prevention vaccine that is 97 percent effective, is completely and utterly safe and is cheap and we shouldn't be seeing cases of measles given that,” says Alan Melnick, the Clark County public-health director.

The Washington Post | 7 min read & KATU News | 4 min read

EU postgrad numbers drop in the United Kingdom

The number of postgraduate researchers at UK universities who come from other European Union countries has fallen since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, reversing years of growth since 2008.

Nature | 3 min read



Where are the Ebola diagnostics from last time?

A big success that came out of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the approval of 14 new diagnostic tests. Health researcher Lieselotte Cnops and colleagues developed one of them. But that test, along with many others, is no longer available from the manufacturers, thanks to high costs and low financial returns. Cnops and colleagues argue for sustained efforts to ensure that investments made during one outbreak are not wasted.

Nature | 11 min read

Human evolution’s ties to tectonics

A stunning, provocative new book on the planet’s role in our biological and cultural development recalls Jared Diamond’s classic 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel, says reviewer Kevin Padian. From shifting tectonic plates to tilting planetary orbits, Origins: How The Earth Made Us reminds us of the impact and value of the planetary sciences.

Nature | 5 min read

Planet Nine from outer space

Searching for Planet Nine is like looking for a needle in a haystack “with the lights off and a bunch of fog and your calculations tell you that there should be one more needle in this room somewhere”, says astrophysicist Konstantin Batygin. Settle in for a long night of observing with Batygin and astronomer Mike Brown at the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, and discover how the joy of discovery keeps them going.

Longreads | 37 min read


“Let me put it this way: 304 stainless is what they make pots out of. There’s plenty of it.”

Car-launching zillionaire Elon Musk explains why his company SpaceX is building its suborbital test rocket out of stainless steel. (Popular Mechanics)

Learning why bar charts rule and pie charts drool is so yesterday. Today, I’m all about scrapping bar charts altogether (for continuous data), thanks to vascular physiologist Tracey Weissgerber. Send me your favourite chart type — or any other feedback — to

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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