NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: Maxwell’s demon and the hunt for alien life

Informational life, conservation drones and a Doomsday Clock update

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A 34-kiloton blast conducted by France at Mururoa Atoll

A 1971 nuclear test at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia.Credit: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty

Doomsday Clock stalls at two minutes to midnight

The symbolic Doomsday Clock that measures humanity’s risk of annihilation will remain at two minutes to midnight. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says that its decision to leave the clock in the same position as in 2018 reflects a “new abnormal” of inaction on climate change and increased nuclear threats, as well as a worsening cyberwarfare situation.

Nature | 2 min read

Drones unleashed against invasive rats in the Galápagos

A conservation group is using drones to eradicate invasive rats by dropping poison on two Galápagos islands — the first time such an approach has been used on vertebrates in the wild.

Nature | 4 min read

French court bans Roundup weedkiller

A French court has extended the ban on the sale of Roundup Pro 360 to professional gardeners and farmers. The weedkiller contains the controversial ingredient glyphosate, which the World Health Organization says is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, although other studies disagree.

Nature | 2 min read

Aquifers could store renewable energy

Saltwater aquifers could act as batteries for renewable energy, storing surplus supply in the form of compressed air. Researchers calculated that aquifers below the North Sea have room to store enough energy to power the United Kingdom for two months.

Nature Research Highlights | 1 min read

Reference: Nature Energy paper

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

FEATURES & OPINION

The dawning of the age of Estonia

In the past quarter of a century, Estonia has revamped its science system and created one of the world’s most advanced digital infrastructures. Nature explores how the tiny country shrugged off the gloomy days of Soviet rule, and what’s in store for the future.

Nature | 11 min read

Where supermassive black holes come from

Supermassive black holes sit at the centre of most galaxies, but it’s a mystery how they evolved in the early Universe. In this week’s podcast, discover how scientists are simulating these cosmic monsters to find the answer.

Nature Podcast | 23 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

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BOOKS & ARTS

DIC micrograph of a section through a moss plant leaf, showing the chloroplasts (round, green) within the cells (hexagonal).

Chloroplasts inside moss cells. These organelles conduct photosynthesis, a process that relies on quantum effects.Credit: John Durham/SPL

Maxwell’s demon and the hunt for alien life

A new book from boundary-transcending cosmologist and writer Paul Davies presents a case that life’s defining characteristics can be understood in terms of information. Davies weaves the disparate threads of information theory, James Clerk Maxwell’s thought experiments, and extraterrestrial life into a thought-provoking read.

Nature | 5 min read

INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

Surprisingly, when the economy prospers in the developed world, more people die.

SCIENTIFIC LIFE

Postdoctoral mentorship key to career success

Scientists who incorporate ideas and techniques from multiple mentors while still forging their own paths are the most likely to succeed in academia, according to a study of 18,865 biomedical researchers. The authors also suggest that mentoring received during postdoctoral training has a bigger impact than mentoring received during graduate school.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: Nature Communications paper

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Water flows around ice, formed on the American Falls in Niagara Falls, New York, due to subzero temperatures

Subzero temperatures froze Niagara Falls this week: these are the American Falls viewed from the Canadian side. (Moe Doiron/REUTERS)

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Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

Nature Briefing

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