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The main ultracold neutron detector

The main ultra-cold neutron detector at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where physicists are attempting to pin down the particle's lifetime.Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

How long do neutrons live?

Some neutrons aren’t tied up in atoms, but float freely, decaying radioactively into other particles. But physicists haven’t been able to agree on exactly how long it takes for a neutron to die. One approach puts the average neutron life expectancy at 14 minutes and 39 seconds, whereas another suggests a lifespan of 8 seconds longer. Physicists are debating how to pin down the true figure, in an attempt to solve a conundrum that has bedevilled researchers for nearly 15 years.

Nature | 3 min read

Genetic insights from the Mariana Trench

What does it take to live more than 6,000 metres below the surface of the ocean, in the cold and dark, under extreme pressure? The mysterious creatures that live in such places, like the Mariana Trench, have adapted to survive the harsh conditions, but scientists didn’t quite know how. Now, a flabby, translucent creature called the hadal snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei) is the first animal from the extreme depths of the ocean to have its genome sequenced, and its genetic roadmap could help to unpick the genetic basis of these adaptations.

Nature | 2 min read

Reference: Nature Ecology & Evolution paper

Measles cases up by 300%

The number of measles cases around the world has quadrupled in the first three months of 2019, compared with the same period last year. Although the data are still provisional, the World Health Organization says that the figures demonstrates a clear trend: all regions of the world are experiencing sustained rises in cases. Africa has seen the most dramatic rise, with a 700% increase, but even areas with high overall vaccination coverage, such as the United States, have seen spikes, because the disease spreads quickly among clusters of unvaccinated people.

BBC News | 3 min read

Reference: WHO surveillance data

Top journals retract DNA-repair studies after misconduct probe

Science and Nature have simultaneously retracted papers about DNA-repair processes after an author was found to have misrepresented and falsified data in both papers,following an investigation by the University of Cambridge. Cancer researcher Abderrahmane Kaidi has taken “full and sole responsibility for these actions”, the university says, and none of his co-authors were implicated. The studies, published in 2010 and 2013, have garnered hundreds of citations between them.

Nature | 3 min read


Cristian, Genaro and Isidra (l-r) photographed in front of dark backgrounds as part of a project celebrating Afromexican culture

Cristián, Genaro and Isidra (from left to right) are featured in a photography project to celebrate Afromexican culture in Coyolillo, Mexico. They are descendants of enslaved people brought from Africa in the 1500s.Credit: Koral Carballo

Facing up to injustice in genome science

Genome studies have historically focused on people of European descent. Now, a growing number of scientists, many of whom come from groups that are under-represented both in DNA databases and the research workforce, are making genomics more inclusive by prioritizing consultation and community involvement in their work with Indigenous and other marginalized populations. The efforts are desperately needed, says Keolu Fox, a Native Hawaiian anthropologist and genome scientist at the University of California, San Diego. “The bar is so low currently that you need a shovel,” he says.

Nature | 15 min read

Digital memories of Notre-Dame

Yesterday’s blaze engulfing the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris destroyed much of the 850-year-old building's roof, and caused its spire to collapse. But art historian Andrew Tallon helped to preserve the monument in digital form, creating detailed 3D maps of the building (and its secrets) using sophisticated laser scanners. National Geographic profiled the man and his work in 2015.

National Geographic | 12 min read

The sorrows of psychiatry

Twentieth-century psychiatry saw a struggle for supremacy between biologists, psychoanalysts and sociologists. A new book explores the field’s painful history at the nexus of mental illness and biology.

Nature | 4 min read


“Right now, data science overlooks risks to human participants by default.”

Technological progress has altered the potential risks of research, warns Nathaniel Raymond, arguing that decades-old guidance protecting human research participants — published well before the Internet age — is outdated and due for an update. (Nature)