Daily briefing: Three ‘godfathers of artificial intelligence’ win the Turing Award

Deep neural networks, Cyclone Idai and the oldest-ever ice core.

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Apollo 17 astronauts on the Moon’s surface.

NASA's Apollo 17 mission to the Moon collected rock samples that scientists hope to unseal for study in the coming year. Credit: NASA

Deadly cyclone displaces millions

Cyclone Idai is the second deadliest cyclone to hit the Southern Hemisphere. Since it made landfall two weeks ago, the storm has killed more than 750 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and flooding has affected another 1.85 million in low-lying Mozambique alone. More people are likely to die from malnutrition and infectious diseases. “All of those will happen six months from now. And six months from now, people lose interest,” says epidemiologist Debarati Guha-Sapir.

Nature | 7 min read

Clinical trials still aren’t reported on time

Many leading US universities are breaking the law by failing to make the results of clinical trials public within 12 months. Of the 40 universities that sponsor the most trials, 25 have trial results missing from the site. The good news is that reporting has improved since the law came into effect. And the United States is not alone: an analysis published in September found that 89% of trials sponsored by academic institutions in the European Union were not reported within a year, as is required by EU law.

Nature | 4 min read

Antarctic project drills deepest

An international team of scientists is set to drill for the oldest-ever ice core. The bottom of the 2.75-kilometre-thick ice in East Antarctica is likely to have formed at least 1.5 million years ago. Trapped inside will be samples of Earth’s ancient atmosphere that could illuminate Earth’s glacial cycles and how the climate has changed over millennia.

Nature | 4 min read

‘Godfathers of AI’ win Turing Award

Three pioneers of artificial intelligence have won one of the most prestigious awards in computer science, the US$1-million Turing Award. Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun won for work they did independently and together on deep neural networks. The three brought the concepts out of the scientific wilderness around the turn of the millennium, when “it had a bad rep”, says LeCun. Now, anyone with a smartphone might take advantage of features such as natural-language processing, thanks to their work.

The Verge | 5 min read


The joy of stats

Statistician David Spiegelhalter’s new book The Art of Statistics “shines a light on how we can use the ever-growing deluge of data to improve our understanding of the world — and of some of the pitfalls we encounter in the attempt”, writes reviewer Evelyn Lamb. The result is a useful study on how to use statistics with an understanding about what we can and cannot learn from data.

Nature | 4 min read

Attend a conference — or pay the rent?

Conferences can help your career progress, but few early-career researchers have the spare cash to pay the costs up front — and universities can take months to reimburse them. Science communicator Jennifer Tsang outlines the changes that institutions can make to clear the way for everyone.

Nature | 5 min read

Why a life-saving drug isn’t reaching women

A cheap, robust, out-of-patent drug has been found to significantly cut the risk of death from postpartum haemorrhage — the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. But lack of infrastructure, poor access to health care and patchy knowledge about the drug’s benefits mean that the women who need it most can’t always get it.

Mosaic | 22 min read


Other people’s dreams tend to be terrifically boring, but journalist Mike Fahey’s reminiscences of the three weeks he spent unconscious after surgery offer a fascinating tour around one person’s subconscious. Let me know what’s going on inside your head by sending your feedback to

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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