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NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: Trees could sink two-thirds of human carbon emissions

Restore treeless land to remove 200 billion tonnes of carbon, how scientists detected the softest possible sound and the most spectacular science images of the month.

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An aurora photographed from the International Space Station

Credit: NASA

The aurora from above

As the aurora australis danced across Antarctica, astronaut Christina Koch snapped this mesmerizing picture from the International Space Station. “Years ago at the South Pole, I looked up to the aurora for inspiration through the 6-month winter night,” she tweeted. “Now I know they’re just as awe inspiring from above.” See more of the most spectacular images of the month, as selected by Nature’s photo team.

Nature | Leisurely scroll

Trees could sink 2/3 of human-generated carbon

A worldwide effort to restore trees would be the single biggest and cheapest way to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Researchers have found that there is 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion trees could grow without sacrificing crop land or urban areas. In 50–100 years, those trees would remove 200 billion tonnes of carbon — two-thirds of all emissions from human activities so far. But every year, we are pumping out tens of millions of tonnes more carbon, so new trees are just part of a solution that must also include slashing greenhouse-gas emissions (and protecting the trees we’ve already got).

The Guardian | 7 min read

Reference: Science paper

Detecting the softest possible sound

According to quantum mechanics, the vibrations that make up a sound wave are composed of discrete units of vibration called phonons. But no one had been able to detect an individual phonon without destroying it — until now. Scientists penned phonons in an enclosure and converted them into electrical signals that could be picked up as energy shifts in quantum objects called qubits.

Nature Research Highlights | 2 min read

Reference: Physical Review X paper

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

FEATURES & OPINION

Podcast: Time is running out for sand

From concrete to electronics, “sand is the key ingredient of modern society”, says geomorphologist Mette Bendixen on this week’s Nature Podcast. And soon there won’t be enough, thanks to unsustainable and often illegal mining. Bendixen and three colleagues call on the United Nations and the world to establish a global monitoring programme for sand resources.

Nature Podcast | 26 min listen

Read more: Four researchers call for measures to promote responsible sand use and re-use. (Nature | 7 min read)

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on iTunes or Google Podcasts.

BOOKS & ARTS

Honey bees (Apis mellifera) returning to their hive

Wild honeybees live in hollowed out trees.Credit: Biosphoto/Avalon

Look to the wild to save the bees

Biologist Gene Robinson lauds a new book by honeybee behaviour expert Thomas Seeley that sounds a fresh note on the honeybee health crisis. Seeley “calls for ‘Darwinian beekeeping”, modelled after Darwinian medicine, which posits that mismatches between the current environment and the environment to which an organism originally adapted diminish the organism’s fitness” — in this case, the differences between life in a bee tree and life in a beehive.

Nature | 5 min read

The complex life of a science popularizer

For millions of people in the 1970s, the name of mathematician Jacob Bronowski was synonymous with science, thanks to his 1973 television series The Ascent of Man. Science historian David Edgerton reviews a new biography of the polymath.

Nature | 6 min read

INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

Average June temperatures (°C) globally from 1979 to 2019, shown as differences from long-term average values for 1981 to 2010

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded on Earth. The global average temperature was about 0.1 °C higher than that of the previous warmest June, in 2016. (Copernicus Earth Observation Programme of the European Union)(ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service)

SCIENTIFIC LIFE

Lessons from a science podcaster

Making a podcast as a side project involves a steep learning curve, and although it might never beat Serial in the podcast rankings, the process can have myriad other benefits, says neuroscientist Katherine Bassil.

Nature | 7 min read

How to succeed as a PhD student in Nigeria

Medical physicist Iyobosa Uwadiae ignored sceptics who questioned her plan to pursue a doctoral programme in Nigeria. She shares her nine steps to success.

Nature | 6 min read

Happy LGBTSTEM Day! (That’s the International Day of LGBTQ+ People in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.) In case you missed it, here’s Nature’s editorial in support of the day and pledging to do more to promote equality for all marginalized groups.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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