Daily briefing: Alan Turing is the new face of the fifty

Computer scientist will grace the Bank of England’s largest denomination note, drug researchers target the microbiome and China’s plan to halt rogue CFC emissions.

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Concept art for the Alan Turing £50 banknote.The Governor and Company of the Bank of England 2019

Alan Turing is the new face of the fifty

Pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing will be featured on the new design of £50 notes issued in England. Turing topped a field of scientific greats under consideration for the Bank of England’s largest denomination note, including X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, physicist Stephen Hawking and computing visionary Ada Lovelace. The honour further cements Turing’s legacy, which was unjustly tarnished by a conviction under homophobic anti-gay laws in 1952 (he was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013).

BBC | 6 min read

China will hunt down ozone-killing chemicals

The Chinese government has presented a plan to help it track and reduce emissions of the ozone-destroying gas known as trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11. Scientists tracked a mysterious spike of the banned chemical to China earlier this year. The Chinese environment ministry disputes that there is enough evidence to pin the recently discovered spike in emissions on China, but agrees that more data are needed to understand the problem.

Nature | 6 min read

Read more: Rogue emissions of ozone-depleting chemical pinned to China (Nature, from May)

Threatened sea turtles smash nesting records

Giant loggerhead sea turtles are making a welcome resurgence on the beaches of the southeastern United States. So far, researchers and volunteers have counted more than 3,500 nests in the state of Georgia alone — beating the 2016 record and showing a heartening increase since the low point of fewer than 400 nests in 2004. Scientists credit decades-long conservation efforts that stepped up protections for nests and required shrimp trawlers to fit their nets with turtle escape hatches.

Associated Press | 6 min read


The rough road to US car regulation

“The story told by countless advertisements is that cars mean freedom,” writes technology-policy researcher Jack Stilgoe. “The paradox is that, when we drive, we are perhaps more constrained than in any other area of everyday life.” Stilgoe reviews a new book that explores how the car became a fact of life in the United States, and how US regulators shaped this essential component of the American dream in an attempt to mitigate its extraordinary dangers.

Nature | 5 min read

Medicine for the microbiome

Drug researchers are looking beyond the human genome to target the millions of genes in our microbiome. Scientists are seekling small-molecule drugs and biologics that alter the microbiome or its interaction with host tissues to treat diseases including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease. “Ignoring these genes and their protein products is akin to ignoring a major organ,” reports Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. “And an orally accessible organ, at that.”

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery | 13 min read

Chasing the cure for cancer (in dogs)

Dogs share much of our lifestyle and environment — and they also get cancer. A wave of studies is investigating how to treat and prevent the disease in our canine companions, with an eye on the potential benefits for humans, too.

Wired | 6 min read


“The most adorable scientific instrument around.”

Environmental scientist Max Liboiron invites us to learn how to make our very own plastic-monitoring marine trawl out of a pair of baby tights. (PublicLab via Twitter)

Hats off to botanist Ann McMahon, who’s done an inspiring job over 18 years restoring native wildflowers to roadsides in her neighbourhood in Ireland. Have you let your lawn go back to nature or urged your local government to swap mowers for meadows? Send me your bee-tempting tales — and any other feedback on this newsletter — to

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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