NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: Video films four trillion frames per second

Say cheese (really fast), disputes at the world’s largest laser lab and the trouble with amber.

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A researcher adjusts equipment at the research centre ELI Beamlines in the Czech Republic.

The Extreme Light Infrastructure in Romania, Hungary and Czech Republic will be the world’s most sophisticated laser science facility.Credit: Vit Simanek/CTK Photo/Alamy

Trouble at the world’s largest laser lab

Delays, legal tussles and resignations are tarnishing a pioneering scientific laser facility that reaches across eastern Europe. A decade after it was approved, the Extreme Light Infrastructure — a network of high-powered laser laboratories in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic — is now nearly ready to open to researchers around the world. But Nature has learnt that disputes in two of the host countries are rocking the project in its final stages, and threatening its reputation.

Nature | 7 min read

Brazilian scientists seek political allies

Researchers in Brazil have joined with politicians to launch the Initiative for Science and Technology in Parliament, which aims to provide scientific advice to parliamentarians — and to foster close relations between the two groups. The initiative comes at a delicate moment for the country; its far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has begun to dismantle the national research system. In March, the government announced that it would freeze 42% of the budget of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications. Weeks later, it cut 30% of the funds for federal universities, and froze more than 3,000 scholarships for postgrad research.

Nature | 3 min read

Video films four trillion frames per second

An ultra-fast camera can capture up to four trillion frames per second. The technique overcomes the size limitations of a camera sensor by recording on overlapping areas of the sensor. The approach could be used to watch high-speed processes but won’t record the next epic movie: it can capture no more than 60 consecutive frames.

Nature Research Highlights | 4 min read

Reference: Physical Review Letters paper

Get more of Nature’s Research Highlights: short picks from the latest papers.

FEATURES & OPINION

Amber and the price of palaeontology

Fossils preserved in incredible detail in Burmese amber offer palaeontologists an irreplaceable view into the past. But the amber trade also bankrolls conflict, fuels smuggling and drives a global marketplace that sees priceless scientific specimens slip through a legal loophole as mere jewellery. “Myanmar's cultural heritage, paleontological heritage, is just being wholesale ripped out of the ground and distributed around the world,” says palaeoentomologist Michael Engel in Science.

Science | 21 min read

Climate crisis changes plankton populations

Researchers looked at marine plankton populations since the pre-industrial age to reveal that global heating is changing which species live where. “It worries me that we are changing not only the physical state of the ocean, but the biological state of the ocean,” palaeontological oceanographer Lukas Jonkers tells the Nature Podcast. “This puts all the studies that have a shorter timespan into a longer term perspective.”

Nature Podcast | 28 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

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INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

Read more: Science in Europe: by the numbers

BOOKS & ARTS

A robot with a metal body and arms, but a humanoid face and hands.

The robot Alter 3 was developed by researchers at Osaka University and the University of Tokyo in Japan.Credit: Nastia M/Alamy

Eye-to-eye with AI

A bold, multifaceted exhibition in London offers a gripping immersion in artificial intelligence. Scientists might leave wanting more depth, says reviewer Elizabeth Gibney, but insights into the history of the field — and a chance to pet the robot dog Aibo — are well worth a viewer’s time.

Nature | 5 min read

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

A person in a spacesuit at the C-Space Project Mars simulation base.

Credit: Thomas Peter/Reuters

A lone astronaut peers through sandstorms towards a Mars base — or, at least, a mock-up of one. This is the C-Space Project Mars simulation base, an education facility situated in the Gobi Desert near Jinchang, China. The base is split into nine capsules, including living quarters, medical facilities and an entertainment and fitness room, and is open for visits from school students, to show what living on Mars could be like.

See more of the most spectacular images of the month, as selected by Nature’s photo team.

It’s a holiday on Monday here in jolly old England (and Wales), so there will be no Briefing. I plan to spend some time catching up on all the top World Turtle Day content I missed yesterday — if you’ve got some spare time this weekend, too, please take a moment to send your feedback about this newsletter to briefing@nature.com. See you on Tuesday!

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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