Daily briefing: A history of the first billion years

The newborn Universe, the first-ever ring of pure carbon and why we must eat less meat to save the world.

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A 3-dimensional representation of AFM data

A 3D-image of the carbon-18 molecule made with an atomic force microscope.Credit: IBM Research

First-ever ring of pure carbon

Researchers have synthesized the first ring-shaped molecule of pure carbon — a “cyclocarbon” made up of 18 atoms. Chemists started with a triangular molecule of carbon and oxygen, which they manipulated with electric currents to create the carbon-18 ring. Initial studies of the properties of the molecule suggest that it acts as a semiconductor, suggesting that, some day, such pure carbon chains could be useful as tiny electronic components. It is an “absolutely stunning work” that opens up a new field of investigation, says chemist Yoshito Tobe.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Science paper

Source: Ref. 1

Eat less meat to save the world

Plant-based diets are a major opportunity for mitigating and adapting to climate change, says a high-level report commissioned by the United Nations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report emphasises that land, and how we use it, is pivotal to our efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and the impacts of global warming. “We don’t want to tell people what to eat,” says ecologist Hans-Otto Pörtner, who co-chairs an IPCC working group. “But it would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health.”

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report

By the numbers

8 billion tonnes per year

The estimated reduction in global CO2 emissions by 2050 if the world’s population adopted a plant-based diet, compared to the current global diet.

Head of Australian DNA lab suspended

The leader of Australia’s premier ancient-DNA lab, Alan Cooper, has been suspended following a probe into the culture of the centre. Although the university did not name Cooper as a focus of the probe, allegations that he had bullied students had surfaced on social media and blogs a month earlier. Today, the University of Adelaide notified students and staff at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA that Cooper has been suspended pending “further processes”.

Nature | 2 min read

Philippines launches space agency

The Philippines has a new space agency, which will coordinate the country’s activities in space and develop technologies. Turkey and Australia have also set up space agencies in the past 18 months.

Nature | 2 min read


A history of the first billion years

How and when did the first stars form, and what did they look like? What part did black holes play in shaping galaxies? And what is the nature of dark matter, which vastly outweighs ordinary matter and is thought to have shaped much of the Universe’s evolution? An army of radioastronomy projects small and large is now trying to chart this terra incognita.

Nature | 13 min read

The Bauhaus at 100

The most influential school of design in history had a steady undercurrent of science influencing its methods and aesthetics. One hundred years after its foundation, arts scholar Nicholas Fox Weber explores the “splendid amalgamation of science and art” that is the Bauhaus.

Nature | 6 min read

Scientists must rise above politics

As relations between politicians and ‘experts’ continue to deteriorate in several democracies, a Nature Editorial calls on scientists to find new ways of being heard and earning the public’s trust. For a start, take inspiration from the Pugwash movement, when thinkers including Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell came together in the 1950s to warn of the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

Nature | 4 min read


“Every person with a career you’d kill for has had countless disappointments.”

Dog-sled racer Blair Braverman advises us to embrace rejection in pursuit of our dreams. (Outside)


Thanks for sticking with us over the past two weeks during our holiday break. Today we’re back to our regular daily routine. This Briefing contains top stories from today and the past two weeks, so you’re all caught up now — hopefully leaving you with a few minutes for this quiz that pits horror films against PhD programmes. When you’re done laughing/crying, why not let me know what you think of this newsletter at

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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