Daily briefing: How to run a 500-year experiment

First, assume that science still exists. Plus: the unsung women behind the periodic table and scientists respond to the end of the US shutdown.

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The U.S. Capitol building

Leaders of the US House and Senate have reached a deal with President Trump to re-open the government.Credit: Alex Edelman/Getty

US shutdown is over — for now

The US government has re-opened, after a historic 35-day shutdown that paralysed key science agencies, left some researchers at home without pay and throttled research funding. But the reprieve might be temporary: the deal approved by Congress on Friday funds the government for only three weeks. “The shutdown overlays anxiety about what we can work on, what we can’t, how our work is valued, or more likely not,” says an anonymous senior scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nature | 6 min read

Chinese group stranded in Antarctica rescued

A South Korean research ship has rescued 24 Chinese workers who were stranded in Antarctica and running out of supplies. China asked for help after its icebreaker, on its way to collect the team, collided with an iceberg. The Chinese group was working on building the nation’s fifth Antarctic research base, on Inexpressible Island.

Nature | 2 min read

Academics brace for ethnic land swaps

A proposed land swap that would redraw the boundary between Serbia and Kosovo along ethnic lines has left academics facing an uncertain future. Two universities in the city of Mitrovica, near the border, currently offer rare opportunities for multi-ethnic collaboration and education. But it’s unclear which country Mitrovica will even be in if the swaps go ahead, much less what it will mean for the academics who call it home.

Nature | 7 min read

Sources: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia; Kosovo Agency of Statistics; UNESCO


Celebrate the women behind the periodic table

Meet Marguerite Perey (who discovered francium), Darleane Hoffman (who uncovered plutonium-244), Stefanie Horovitz (who proved isotopes exist), Reatha Clark King (who developed fluorine as a rocket fuel) and a score of other women who revealed the building blocks of matter.

Nature | 12 min read

A 500-year experiment is just getting started

How long can bacteria survive? Microbiologists aim to find out by sealing Bacillus subtilis into glass vials and checking on them regularly for 500 years. The project joins a number of similarly long-term experiments, from the beloved pitch drop to 30 years of Escherichia coli evolution. “Of course, for an experiment to go on like this, I’m assuming that science still looks somewhat like today, in the sense that universities will exist, there will be professors with labs, and so on,” says E. coli-wrangler Richard Lenski.

The Atlantic | 8 min read

Reference: PLOS One paper

Rethinking ‘The Right Stuff’

The Gallaudet Eleven was a group of Deaf pioneers that helped NASA to test whether humans could survive the vestibular rigours of spaceflight. The Eleven’s story reveals how we could rethink the physical requirements for astronauts and interplanetary explorers. “If there is a mission need for people with advanced spatial processing skills who do not get motion sick, then there are quite a few deaf people ready and willing to serve,” says Deaf-studies researcher Joseph Murray.

Wired | 11 min read


“Research can always wait. Life is irreplaceable.”

Astrophysicist John Wise put his work on supermassive black-hole formation — published last week in Nature — on hold during his wife’s cancer treatment. (Nature Research Astronomy Community blog)


Today I am happy to hear that the red panda that escaped from Belfast Zoo — police said it was “taking in the sights of beautiful Glengormley” — is home safe. Take care out there! Your feedback is always welcome at

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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