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ICON is attached to its Pegasus XL rocket inside a clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

ICON being made ready to fly.Randy Beaudoin/NASA

How to launch a satellite without power

Power cuts in California last week, implemented to pre-empt sparking a fresh wave of wildfires, came at a very bad time for staff at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley: it was the same day they planned to launch a satellite. The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) is a NASA mission to study the links between the electrically neutral lower part of Earth’s atmosphere and the electrically charged upper part, the ionosphere. The Berkeley lab used back-up generators, water supplies and even portable toilets to ensure that space scientists could run mission control for ICON when it launched — successfully — from Cape Canaveral on Thursday.

Wired | 7 min read

Raw meat dog food can be bad for both of you

There’s not much evidence supporting the trend for dog food containing raw meat, but there is a growing pile showing that it can put animals and humans at risk of infectious disease. Researchers tested 51 samples of 8 brands of raw-meat dog food in Switzerland and found that nearly three-quarters contained more than the legally allowed levels of enterobacteria, a family of bacteria that includes such harmful pathogens as Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Shigella, as well as numerous harmless strains. More than half of the samples contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria and two contained dangerous Salmonella.

Science | 5 min read

Why lack of sleep makes you crave junk food

Sleep deprivation seems to make us crave sweet and fatty foods for the same reason that smoking marijuana does: by influencing the endocannabinoid system. Researchers made 25 volunteers endure a four-hour night’s sleep. The experience seemed to mess with the connection between an odour-processing region of their brains and another region that helps to control food intake — which might be the cause of the well-known preference for energy-dense food among sleep-deprived people. “It also really underscores the role that the sense of smell has in guiding food choices,” says neurologist Thorsten Kahnt.

Science | 6 min read

Reference: eLife paper


5-inch Arctic cod in hollows of ice floes in the Arctic Ocean

Some cod species have a newly minted gene involved in preventing freezing.Credit: Paul Nicklen/NG Image Collection

Think you know how genes are born? Think again.

Scientists long assumed that evolution made new genes from old ones — by copying them in error, or by fusing together or breaking apart existing ones. Now, more and more examples are emerging of genes being created ‘de novo’ from barren stretches of the genome that do not code for any functional molecules. Researchers are trying to discover exactly how and why de novo genes are born.

Nature | 11 min read

How data got so big

Data have gone from being the private purview of the ‘gentleman scientist’ to the raw material of everything from global commerce to weather prediction. Historian and philosopher of science Sabina Leonelli tracks the complex institutional, technological and economic developments that have allowed data to become reusable assets, repeatedly transforming research and its role in society.

Nature | 11 min read

This is the fourth of a series of essays on the roots of today’s research system. Read why, on Nature’s 150th anniversary, we’re looking back to learn how to navigate the present.

How to prepare students for Open Science

Many early-career researchers face a dilemma: should they boldly pursue the practice of open science, even if it potentially puts their own career advancement at risk? Psychologist and open-science advocate Felix Schönbrodt lays out how institutions can train and incentivize their students, from undergraduates on up, to ensure that they “are not the pawns sacrificed to this reform process”.

Nature Human Behaviour | 5 min read


Russia is lagging behind the global norm for publishing papers in international journals.


“What is also remarkable about this piece of work is that it relied on a research method that risks going out of fashion.”

A detailed study of global child health relies on good old household surveys and censuses. Don’t let them vanish, argues a Nature editorial.