NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: Cuba acknowledges climate change threats in its constitution

Growing worldwide impetus — or lip service? Plus: how AI might give doctors more freedom to focus on patients and the month’s best science images.

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Group of polar bears foraging for food at a large rubbish tip in Belushya Guba, Russia

Credit: The Siberian Times

The science images you need to see

The above image shows just some of the more than 50 polar bears that inundated the small Russian town of Belushya Guba in February. Experts say that the animals moved inland to find food because the sea ice was late to form, preventing the bears from hunting seals. See more of the most stunning science images of the past month, as selected by Nature’s photo team.

Nature | A leisurely scroll

Violence propels Ebola outbreak

Surging conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is hampering efforts to stamp out Ebola in the region, with the outbreak surging towards 1,000 cases — the second-largest ever recorded. Political protests, attacks on treatment centres and violence towards front-line health-workers are contributing to a situation in which the virus has become difficult to treat and contain. Also worrying are recent data from the World Health Organization that suggest the virus is also spreading through undetected means.

Nature | 5 min read

Cuba’s constitution notes climate threats

Cuba has already introduced aggressive policies to address climate change, and the country has now become one of a growing number to have enshrined the fight against climate change in its constitution. Although some see such high-level acknowledgement of the climate crisis as a sign of the willingness to address it, others see it more as a political move that’s unlikely to lead to meaningful action.

Nature | 3 min read

FEATURES & OPINION

The head of a white robot with a chubby face, pointy ears and bulbous eyes, against a black background.

‘Empathy robot’ Reeti, made in France for use in health care. In a new book, Eric Topol wants to see medics themselves freed to provide compassion to patients.Credit: BSIP/UIG via Getty

Can AI allow doctors to be human again?

A new book from Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, argues for a future in which artificial intelligence (AI) helps to re-establish empathy and trust between doctors and patients. Reviewer Thomas Insel explores whether AI will heal the doctor–patient relationship, or exacerbate the problems of technology with devices that replace more humans and destroy privacy.

Nature | 4 min read

The secret conversations inside cells

Cells buzz with different types of organelle, but these components don’t exist in isolated compartments, as cell-biology textbooks like to suggest. There’s constant cross-talk between organelles, with almost every type coming into close conversation with every other type. Probing these connections is leading to new discoveries, and forcing a dramatic rethink of cell biology.

Nature | 12 min read

PODCAST PICKS FOR SCIENTISTS

Benjamin Thompson, host of the Nature Podcast, recommends four science shows to tickle your eardrums.

• Each episode of Flash Forward explores one specific future scenario, “from the completely absurd to the terrifyingly likely”. It’s a wonderfully produced show, and Rose Eveleth is the perfect guide for investigating what our far-flung tomorrows might actually look like.

Twenty Thousand Hertz focuses on the “most recognizable and interesting” sounds around us. A particular favourite of mine is a two-parter on the development of the spine-shivering THX Deep Note.

• In each episode of the BBC’s The Life Scientific, physicist Jim Al-Khalili interviews a single researcher, taking a deep dive into their life and work. Start with cosmologist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who describes her pulsar discovery, her career and “the grit that was needed just to be there”.

• I think the Nature Podcast is really good (of course), but don’t take my word for it — listen to the latest episode on coastal carbon sinks, mobile health, and Mileva Marić (and tell all your friends).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“When we point out that conservation works, we declare that attempting to save our planet is worthwhile.”

In his acceptance speech for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb says that the message of his book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter is that recovery is possible. (Pen)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00843-1

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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