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A planned US$35-million upgrade could enable the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) to observe the universe 325 megaparsecs (around 1 billion light years) from Earth. The observatory’s previous upgrade, in 2015, led to the influential discovery of gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes. It has since spotted ten more such mergers (plus one merger of two neutron stars), but the new revamp could enable it to spot one every day.
NASA, the US National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency are among the agencies whose funding would increase in a deal designed to avert another government shutdown. The Senate and the House of Representatives approved the legislation on 14 February — clearing the way for President Donald Trump to sign it before today’s deadline. Nature breaks down how individual agencies would fare under the budget deal, and how they are working to recover from the previous shutdown.
Investors are betting billions on health-care start-ups that publish almost no peer-reviewed science. An analysis of nearly 50 biomedical ‘unicorns’ — venture-capital-backed companies valued at more than US$1 billion — finds no correlation between a company’s market valuation and its publication record. “Peer review misses a lot of things and it has a lot of issues and failures. But also the alternative of nothing is, I think, even more problematic,” says psychologist Ioana Cristea.
Earth has grown markedly greener since the turn of the millennium, with China and India making the biggest impacts. Forest conservation and tree planting in China play a part in the overall increase in vegetation, but much of the rise is due to intensive crop cultivation. So the increase is no compensation for the loss of vast tracts of tropical forests and essential habitats.
FEATURES & OPINION
Research in mice finds that disrupted sleep causes the brain to signal the bone marrow to boost production of white blood cells, which damages blood vessels. Hear from the researchers (plus more of the week’s top science news) in this week’s Nature podcast. Or read what the experts have to say in the associated News & Views article.
Teams containing fewer than five people tend to produce more disruptive research, finds a new study of 50 years of citations on published papers. But big science is growing bigger: just one example is the celebrated 2015 paper on the Higgs boson, which had a record-breaking 5,154 authors. So what’s the lesson for funders and policymakers? Research needs both disruption and consolidation, from small teams and large, argues a Nature editorial.
Although the region boasts some of evolution's greatest discoveries, half of Israeli young adults don’t believe that humans and apes share a common ancestor. In that context, it’s more important than ever to invite the public to explore scientific ideas, argues anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, who co-created Israel’s first permanent exhibition on human evolution at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.
BOOKS & ARTS
A new book from evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse radically reframes the roots of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. Nesse argues that, like the legs of thoroughbred racehorses — selected for length, but tending towards weakness — our mental vulnerabilities might go hand in hand with the unique abilities of our brains.
Barbara Kiser’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes the shadow side of sport, cosmic cataclysms, and human culture underground.
An academic couple who co-authored a Nature paper share how they handled an international career move along with their four-year-old son. Their challenges included juggling preschool drop-offs, a language difference and a regular 1,200-kilometre commute.
Tempting as it is to complain about your supervisor, recognizing that lab heads feel the stress and pressure of research, too, could smooth the journey through your graduate studies, says second-year PhD student Amanda Facciol.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
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