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Daily briefing: Gut bacteria linked to depression

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A glacier in Antarctica

Antarctica's vast ice sheet and surrounding sea ice will be monitored by a joint US-India satellite mission called NISAR.Credit: Jason Edwards

Arctic scientists iced out of satellite mission

Polar-ice researchers are divided over the decision to focus a new radar satellite on the Antarctic — at the Arctic’s expense. The joint US–India mission will be essentially blind to everything that lies above 77.5º N latitude, including most of the Arctic’s rapidly shrinking sea ice. Unusually, NASA took into account current and upcoming missions from other space agencies in its decision to concentrate on Antarctica, determining that the Arctic will be sufficiently covered by other satellites.

Nature | 5 min read

Gut microbes linked to depression

Two species of gut bacteria — Dialister and Coprococcus — are reduced in people with depression, finds a large study of Belgian and Dutch people. Meanwhile, Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus bacteria were consistently associated with higher quality of life. The finding doesn’t prove cause and effect, but it does contribute to mounting evidence that there is a ‘gut–brain axis’ at work.

Science | 5 min read

Reference: Nature Microbiology paper

Turkey creates its first space agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used his newly minted executive-order powers to launch a national space agency. Details of budgets and timelines are thin on the ground, but scientists in the country have greeted the news with cautious optimism. They hope that the new agency will take advantage of Turkey’s launch-friendly geography to create jobs and stop the country’s brain drain.

Nature | 5 min read

India will boost stipend for early-career scientists

The Indian government announced last week that it will increase the stipend for PhD students who have qualified for a research fellowship by up to 25%. But students, who had been pushing for an 80% increase, greeted the news with derision. The government will also increase the stipend for postdoctoral research fellows by up to 35%.

Nature | 2 min read

Country’s name change encourages cooperation

The Republic of Macedonia has agreed to changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. The move ends a decades-long political dispute over a region in northern Greece that’s also called Macedonia. Researchers hope the change will set the stage for renewed cross-border collaboration in research and higher education.

Nature | 3 min read

FEATURES & OPINION

Forensic reconstruction of the Gibraltar Neanderthal fossil

The Neanderthal woman nicknamed Nana, reconstructed at the Gibraltar Museum, with feathers.Credit: S. Finlayson/Gibraltar National Museum

Trail of feathers to the Neanderthal mind

In his new book The Smart Neanderthal, palaeoanthropologist Clive Finlayson makes the claim that Neanderthals were our cognitive equals — and that birds had a part to play in that. Finlayson — a passionate amateur birdwatcher — offers insight into human and Neanderthal behaviour gleaned from long-neglected fossil evidence of their interaction with birds.

Nature | 5 min read

Biology on the blockchain

Blockchain-based tools and services for scientists are popping up all over, offering ways to manage collaborations, establish precedence and publish early results. Nature explores how early adopters are testing the technology, and which efforts are likely to leave a lasting impression on the field.

Nature | 8 min read

Four steps to urban food security

Many urbanites waste more food and demand more meat than rural residents — all while cities consume fertile cropland. Ecologist Baojing Gu and colleagues argue for four ways to keep everyone fed: combine pockets of rural land, reduce food waste, improve farming and encourage urbanites to back away from meat-rich diets.

Nature | 8 min read

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Actually it’s a really greasy, slippery pole and so you go higher up and you think: ‘Oh, life will be better.’ It just gets worse, actually.”

An anonymous contributor quoted in a damning report of the experiences of black female professors working at British universities. (The Guardian)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-00494-2

Brace yourselves for astrophysicist Barbie and entomologist Barbie — just two of the science careers the pointy-footed one will be pursuing in her new collaboration with National Geographic. I must admit to liking the teeny-tiny bugs-in-jars accessories — tell me what you think (or any other feedback) at briefing@nature.com.

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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