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Tiny pockets of forest are maintained by Ethiopia’s orthodox churches as a symbol of heaven on Earth in a nation that has given over most of its land to farming. Now the churches are starting to work with ecologists to preserve — and even expand — these refuges for the country’s dwindling biodiversity.
Uncertainty, lost data and months of catch-up work greet US scientists returning to work after the longest government shutdown in history. Adding to the stress is the fact that the government could shut down again on 16 February, when a temporary funding deal will expire. “It’s hard to plan to move forward when the worry in our minds is that this shutdown will happen again,” says an anonymous postdoc at the Environmental Protection Agency whose experiment was scuppered by the break.
The Indian supreme court has reinstated a Monsanto patent on genetically modified cotton that had been quashed by a lower court. Supporters say the decision will reverse a chilling effect on investment and innovation in the field. But the ruling is not the end of the legal road: the dispute has been kicked back to a lower court to re-examine the details of the patent.
A controversial US government proposal to change Title IX has drawn critical comments from scientists. The statute is the primary legal weapon for battling sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct in US academia. The proposal would change the law’s definition of sexual harassment, how an accuser is treated in hearings and possibly an institution’s responsibilities if an incident occurs off-campus. The 60-day public-comment period on the government's plan ends at 11:59 p.m. US Eastern time tonight.
The International Year of the Periodic Table celebrates 150 years of Dimitri Mendeleev’s achievement — but the table’s arrangement of elements is about the future of chemistry as well as its past.
• Research at the edge of the periodic table is shifting focus: rather than chasing new elements, some scientists are digging deeper into the bizarre properties of the superheavy elements. Among other prizes, they seek the fabled ‘island of stability’: a hypothesized region of element-land where some superheavy isotopes might exist for minutes instead of milliseconds. (15 min read)
• More than 2,000 years before the periodic table was conceived, ancient philosophers were already grappling with the nature of ‘stuff’. Science historian Jennifer Rampling traces how ideas of material essence and indivisibility evolved in the centuries before modern atomic theory. (7 min read)
• The placement and selection of elements on the periodic table are far from settled, explains historian and philosopher of chemistry Eric Scerri. A deep dive into quantum mechanics might reveal how the table should be set, once and for all. (9 min read)
• In 1937, element 43 — technetium — became the first to be discovered by synthesis in a laboratory and paved the way to the atomic age. (6 min read)
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