NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: 18-year study shows habitat corridors work

Linking fragmented habitats reduces extinctions, SpaceX’s Mars rocket prototype is almost ready for test flights and using poetry to refresh the mind.

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A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship at the company's launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas.The Asahi Shimbun/Getty

SpaceX unveils Mars rocket prototype

SpaceX’s ‘Starship’ rocket will be ready for test flights in just a couple of months, says the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk. The 50-metre-tall rocket, which sports three reusable engines, will be the largest and most powerful rocket ever made when combined as planned with the company’s Super Heavy booster.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine responded to the news by pointing out that the project SpaceX is working on for NASA is “years behind schedule”. “NASA expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer,” wrote Bridenstine on Twitter.

MIT Technology Review | 6 min read

“Disappointingly low” French budget

Spending on research in France will remain flat at around €7 billion (US$7.6 billion) in 2020 — a figure scientists are calling “disappointingly low”. But many researchers are already looking forward to 2021, when the government is expected to create its first national strategy for research — a plan that is designed to energize French science and which might come with a meatier funding boost.

Nature | 3 min read

Environmental researcher jailed in Turkey

A food engineer in Turkey has been jailed for 15 months for publicizing a Ministry of Health study that the government wanted to keep secret. Bülent Şık was convicted of disclosing classified information for publishing information about his research in an Istanbul newspaper. Şık revealed that he and his colleagues found dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in food and water samples.

Science | 4 min read

18-year study validates habitat corridors

Corridors that connect fragmented habitats work. That’s the result of a large study that created patches of wilderness and watched them develop over almost two decades. Researchers restored huge squares of native savanna in South Carolina, isolated within an ecologically monotone timber plantation. Connected patches had 14% more species than did unconnected patches by the end of the 18-year study.

The Washington Post | 5 min read

Reference: Science paper

FEATURES & OPINION

Feeling stuck? Write a poem

“If you find yourself stuck on a particular problem, leave your experiment, close your laptop, stop taking your field measurements — and try writing a poem about it instead,” urges science communicator Sam Illingworth. He offers five tips for getting started with using poetry to communicate and celebrate your science.

Nature | 3 min read

A fairer way forward for AI in health care

Medical researchers are turning to artificial intelligence to improve health care — but are finding some cases where the solutions just make things worse. A selection of eye-opening examples illustrate how health-care inequalities that are recorded in big data can lead to systems that further widen the disparities.

Nature | 10 min read

This article is part of Nature Outlook: Digital Health, an editorially independent supplement produced with financial support from Bayer G4A.

Salmon scientist wades into Alaska’s mine war

“People have the general viewpoint that Alaska’s so big that there’s no way we could really screw it up,” says ecologist Daniel Schindler. But that’s far from the truth, says Schindler, who is embroiled in the battle over what could become the world’s biggest gold mine. Science explores the contrast between his painstaking research, analysing tiny structures called otoliths extracted from the inner ears of salmon, and his bold approach to scientific advocacy.

Science | 16 min read

QUIRKS OF NATURE

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Our results suggest that scientific formatting represents a loss of 52 hours, costing the equivalent of US$1,908 per researcher per year.”

Researchers surveyed 372 scientists from 41 countries to uncover how much time people spend formatting their manuscripts for publishing. (PLoS ONE).

Read more (if you have time!): Nature climate-science editor Michael White’s Twitter thread of good formatting choices for scientific papers (from May)

What if Planet Nine is real and it’s actually a little 5-Earth-mass black hole? Well, if it is, here’s a scale illustration of it, and it’s about a big as a fist. Tell me about your favourite scientific figure — and your feedback on this newsletter — at briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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