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If all goes to plan, April will see a new kind of aircraft take to the sky: Odysseus, one of the latest high-altitude pseudosatellites that use solar power to soar tens of kilometres above Earth. The craft can observe Earth more closely than satellites and more widely than aeroplanes, and it can hover over one spot for months. “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in my entire scientific lifetime,” says atmospheric chemist James Anderson.
An independent advisory group to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has voted in favour of recommending an antidepressant that is based on the party drug ketamine, although questions remain about the drug’s efficacy and potential for abuse. If the FDA approves the drug, called esketamine, it would be the first truly new antidepressant to enter the market in decades. Mental-health researchers rejoiced at the news. “I’m still a little bit in shock,” says psychiatrist James Murrough.
The heads of French research agencies have welcomed plans for the country’s first national, multi-year research strategy. Details on the plan are scant, but French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe says that it will boost the recruitment of early-career scientists and protect research funding, which has fluctuated with changes in political leadership in the past. But some scientists aren’t convinced by the proposal — they say it’s business as usual until more details are released.
FEATURES & OPINION
Bioarchaeologist Vera Tiesler has handled the bones of ancient kings, sacrificial victims and babies with elongated skulls — all in an effort to reveal how the human body was deeply woven into the religion, tradition and politics of the Maya world. Discover how Tiesler’s work goes beyond classifying bones by trying to reconstruct the body that once hung from them.
In his early optical experiments, Isaac Newton cut a hole in his shutters to cast a beam of light. In his new book, science historian Simon Werrett explores the thrifty, make-do-and-mend approach, and its place in today’s era of ‘Big Science’, pointing to do-it-yourself biology or the South Asian jugaad movement as examples. Reviewer and pharma researcher Derek Lowe is not so sure that the next great discovery could be made in a kitchen sink.
In this Nature Index explainer on the FAIR principles of data sharing, open-science advocate Lambert Heller urges scientists to treat their data “like a love letter to your future self” by making them findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). Funders and journals (including Nature) are increasingly endorsing this set of guidelines. Here’s how to apply them yourself.
Have you repurposed an everyday item (à la Isaac Newton’s shutters) to do science? Send your improvisations (or any other feedback) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org — or post them on the socials with the hashtag #labhacks.
Thanks for reading!