Daily briefing: Current global warming is unparalleled in 2,000 years

For more than 98% of the globe, the warmest period in 2,000 years has been in the past century. Plus, how virtual-reality mazes are unlocking brain mysteries and why opponents to a telescope in Hawaii are not anti-science.

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Lasers from the two Keck Telescopes propagated in the direction of the Galactic center

Hawaii’s Keck telescopes pierce the sky with lasers that help to correct for atmospheric blurring. A new analysis of data from Keck and other observatories lends credence to general relativity.Credit: Ethan Tweedie

Supermassive black hole tests Einstein’s theory

A decades-long study of a star orbiting the black hole at the centre of our Galaxy confirms predictions made by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Twenty-four years of observations of the S-02 star showed that its gravitational redshift — seen when gravity stretches light to a longer, redder wavelength — is just as predicted.

Nature Research Highlights | 1 min read

Reference: Science paper

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

Jo Johnson back at UK science ministry

New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put Jo Johnson (his brother) in charge of both the department that oversees research and the Department for Education. It is so far unclear whether Jo Johnson will also pick up the universities and science brief, which he held from 2015 to 2018. The prime minister also brought in Dominic Cummings — a controversial political strategist who has strong views on science and research policy — as one of his senior advisers.

Nature | 3 min read


Virtual-reality mazes unlock brain mysteries

By tasking people and rodents with solving puzzles inside virtual spaces, neuroscientists hope to learn how the brain navigates the environment and remembers spatial information. In this 12-minute documentary, researchers in three neuroscience labs explain how they are using virtual-reality technology to decode the inner workings of the human brain.

Nature | 12 min video

This video is editorially independent and produced with financial support from Shanghai Research Center for Brain Science and Brain-Inspired Intelligence, United Imaging Healthcare Technology Group Co., Ltd., TianQiao and Chrissy Chen Institute Clinical Translational Research Center, Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., and Cambricon Technologies Corporation.

Telescope opponents are not anti-science

Hawaiians who are challenging the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) are not opposing science, but urging caution, argues Native Hawaiian oceanographer Rosie Alegado. She offers a nuanced exploration of how the Native Hawaiian concept of kapu chimes with scientific concepts of ethics, regulation and sustainability.

Nature | 5 min read

Global warming ‘unparalleled’ in 2,000 years

History is littered with pockets of warmer and cooler periods, but current warming is “not only unparalleled in terms of absolute temperatures, but also unprecedented in spatial consistency within the context of the past 2,000 years”, says new research from climate-change scientist Raphael Neukom and his colleagues. Neukom tells the Nature Podcast how he determined that, for more than 98% of the globe, the warmest period has been within the past 100 years.

Nature Podcast | 19 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

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A woman in a darkened room looks at a ball of steel wire casting polyhedral shadows.

Olafur Eliasson’s 2014 sculpture Stardust particle.Credit: Jens Ziehe/© 2014 Olafur Eliasson

The kaleidoscopic imagination of Olafur Eliasson

Disorientation, heightened senses and communal spirit are the essence of Olafur Eliasson’s work, on display in a mid-career retrospective exhibition at London’s Tate Modern gallery. Discover how his art inspires hope that we can improve the world through recognition, consideration and creation.

Nature | 4 min read

The persistence of race ‘science’ in sports

In Skin Deep, writer and media lecturer Gavin Evans dissects the dubious pseudoscientific arguments still used to bolster racial stereotypes in sport and intelligence. Reviewer Angela Saini, who covers similar ground in her recent book Superior, explores how racist ‘science’ tries to paint a shoddy veneer of respectability over prejudice and hatred.

Nature | 6 min read

Science and the rise of nationalism in India

Nationalism thrives in India by bending to its aims both modern research and India’s past as an ancient civilization where science, technology and philosophy flourished, argues a new book by women, gender and sexuality scholar Banu Subramaniam. Reviewer Srinath Perur explores how a political movement is co-opting science, myth and pseudoscience.

Nature | 5 min read

Five best science books this week

Barbara Kiser’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes a century of psychiatry, the realities of migration, and Greenland’s ticking ice clock.

Nature | 3 min read



Biking through my PhD

“Overcoming my initial struggles after leaving China to start my PhD has been like riding a bike”, writes virologist Shuxuan Zheng. She describes how a move caused her to re-evaluate her routines — for the better.

Nature | 4 min read

India debates a nationwide tenure system

Academic staff in India are debating the merits, and the downsides, of scrapping a common year-long probation scheme.

Nature | 4 min read


Recreation of a sod-roofed Viking dwelling at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site

Figure 1 | Evidence of medieval warmth. Unusually warm weather between the tenth and thirteenth centuries is often cited as one factor that enabled the short-lived Norse colonization of the Americas. Shown here are reconstructed buildings at a site called L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada — a Norse settlement that was established in the early eleventh century. Neukom et al.3,4 have constructed a set of pre-industrial temperature estimates, and find that past warm and cold periods were much less geographically widespread than is the current warming caused by humans.Credit: All Canada Photos/Alamy

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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