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Ever wondered what the Denisovans, an extinct group of hominins, looked like? They were similar in appearance to Neanderthals but had a wider jaw and skull. Computational biologists produced a rough sketch of Denisovan anatomy based on chemical changes to the ancient humans’ DNA, cross-referenced with the known physical effects of certain genetic mutations in modern people.
From Bangkok to Brisbane, researchers are among those protesting today to urge action on global warming. For many of them, the worrying changes that they have witnessed in their own research serve as motivation to get politically active. “Fifty per cent of the photosynthesis done on Earth is done by microbes in the sea,” says microbiologist Michael Kertesz. “The Brazilian rainforests are on fire, but what’s happening in the ocean is even worse.”
The Australian capital, Canberra, will become the first city outside Europe to shift from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy. From 1 January 2020, Canberra will join a select club of regions that produce or purchase the equivalent of their total electricity consumption from renewable sources, including districts in Germany, Austria and Spain. Canberra has a population approaching 400,000 and sources its renewable energy from large-scale solar and wind-energy projects, solar panels on houses and purchases of renewable energy from accredited sources.
Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, have been acquitted of negligence by a Japanese court. Three of the plant’s six reactors melted down after a magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. Government prosecutors had originally declined to bring charges against the three, but were overruled by a citizen judiciary panel, a rare occurrence in Japanese legal proceedings.
The semen of male honeybees (Apis mellifera) alters the activity of vision-related genes in queens. Researchers artificially inseminated queen bees and found that they became less responsive to light and were more likely to get lost on mating flights than queens that were given saline. The effect is part of the evolutionary arms race between the sexes: females aim to mate with multiple males to boost their hive’s genetic diversity, so it’s in males’ evolutionary best interests to prevent queens from finding another fellow.
FEATURES & OPINION
It’s no longer enough to just study the impact of climate change, argues sea-ice physicist Pat Wongpan — it’s time to take action. That means scientists engaging more with “Arctic communities, Indigenous peoples, groups from non-polar countries who will be impacted by a rising sea level and other international perspectives,” he says. “We cannot make change alone.”
Following a motorcycle accident, bioethicist Travis Rieder was left with pain that went untreated because doctors were afraid of overprescribing opioids. Later, he was medicated into oblivion, without careful counselling or follow-up — eventually leading to opioid dependence and withdrawal. The experience prompted him to take a hard look at what it will really take for clinicians to master responsible opioid prescribing.
This article is part of Nature Outlook: Opioids, an editorially independent supplement produced with financial support from Heron Therapeutics.
BOOKS & ARTS
What are nature and culture on a planet we have exhaustively mapped and immeasurably changed? How are we ourselves altered in that process? In her new book, the poet and writer Kathleen Jamie explores this liminal space.
A new book by public intellectual Naomi Klein on the proposed US policy aiming to curb climate change is a provocative and evocative manifesto, says leading climate scientist Michael Mann. In his review, he breaks down some substantial points of disagreement, but nevertheless urges “anyone who cares about the defining threat of our time to read it, and talk about it”.
Historian of science Ruth Morgan lauds a book chronicling the evolution of Earth-systems science through the stories of the outsiders and innovators twhohat became its luminaries.
INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK
Dinosaurs get all the fame, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the furry prehistoric megafauna. Feast your eyes on these wonderful palorchestids: long-extinct horse-sized versions of wombats with joints that are unique among mammals. Tell me your favourite unsung lost creature — and any other feedback on this newsletter — at firstname.lastname@example.org.