Daily briefing: New Zealand passes landmark climate law pledging zero carbon by 2050

Paris climate accord commitments enshrined in law. Plus: why some left-handed women can smell despite missing an ‘essential’ part of the brain, and the most stunning science images of the month.

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Confocal micrograph of Octopus bimaculoides embryo

Credit: Martyna Lukoseviciute & Carrie Albertin, Univ. Oxford

Wave hello, octobaby

This microscope image of a California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) embryo earned biologists Martyna Lukoseviciute and Carrie Albertin a place on the shortlist of Nikon’s Small World photomicrography contest. See more of the month’s best science images, selected by Nature’s photo team.

Nature | 8 eye-popping images

Ancient ape hints at origins of bipedalism

The discovery of a species of ape that lived 11.6 million years ago suggests bipedalism emerged millions of years earlier than previously thought. Danuvius guggenmosi had long arms suited to hanging in trees, but features of its legs and spine suggest it might have also walked on two feet, millions of years before the first humans appeared.

The finding challenges the idea that bipedal walking evolved much later in the ancestors of modern humans, and that having a skeleton adapted for regularly moving around on two feet is a unique feature of our group: hominins. “What makes things really complex now is, what defines hominins if not habitual bipedalism?” says palaeoanthropologist Madelaine Böhme. But not all researchers agree with the conclusions, and some say it is difficult to work out how apes move just from studying the bone shape.

Nature | 5 min read

Go deeper with expert analysis in the Nature News & Views article (8 min read)

Reference: Nature paper

Left-handed women offer surprise on smell

While scanning people’s brains for an unrelated study, researchers stumbled on a handful of people who have a good sense of smell, despite not having olfactory bulbs — the part of the brain thought to be essential for the ability. Looking at more than 1,000 brain scans from the Human Connectome Project revealed that the phenomenon seems to occur in about 4% of left-handed women — and never, so far, in men.

BBC | 5 min read

Reference: Neuron paper

New Zealand passes landmark climate law

New Zealand’s Paris climate accord commitments are now enshrined in law. The legislation, which passed in the country’s parliament with only one vote opposed, includes a pledge to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. “We’ve led the world before in nuclear disarmament and in votes for women, now we are leading again,” said climate-change minister James Shaw.

The Guardian | 4 min read

Features & opinion

Norman Lockyer’s figure of a solar spectrum, published in the first issue of Nature. (Nature)

The art of discovery

Image-making, research and visual technologies have shaped each other over the past century and a half, argues historian Geoffrey Belknap. From exquisitely technical micrographs to irreplaceable hand-crafted illustrations, explore 150 years of the collaborative process of creating scientific images.

Nature | 9 min read

150 years of Nature, in graphics

An analysis of the Nature archive reveals the rise of multi-author papers, the boom in biochemistry and cell biology, and the ebb and flow of physical chemistry since the journal’s first issue in 1869. The evolution in science is mirrored in the top keywords used in titles and abstracts: they were ‘aurora’, ‘Sun’, ‘meteor’, ‘water’ and ‘Earth’ in the 1870s, and ‘cell’, ‘quantum’, ‘DNA’, ‘protein’ and ‘receptor’ in the 2010s.

Nature | 6 min read

“I felt it was calling me”

After 15 years as a microbiologist, Elisabeth Bik took a break from her research career to dedicate herself to the unpaid work of spotting dodgy images in the biomedical literature. Bik often takes to Twitter and PubPeer to highlight figures in which authors might have played fast and loose with the copy-and-paste. “My goal is not to have people disciplined; my goal is to correct the science,” says Bik.

OneZero | 6 min read

Infographic of the week

On 5 November 2018, Voyager 2 crossed the boundary between the heliosphere — the bubble of solar wind emanating from the Sun — and interstellar space. Scientists were able to compare the spacecraft’s observations with those of its twin, Voyager 1, which made the same crossing six years before. The long-awaited second data point reveals that the heliosphere is symmetric, at least at the two points where the Voyagers crossed. But Voyager 2 encountered a much sharper, thinner boundary than Voyager 1. (Nature Astronomy)

Read more: Nasa's Voyager 2 sends back its first message from interstellar space (The Guardian, 5 min read)


“Science itself is a quantum phenomenon — and ‘scientism’ is its observer effect.”

Science is only ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in retrospect, because our judgement depends on witnessing the consequences, writes sociologist Steve Fuller in a letter to Nature.

The co-citation network for Nature is displayed on the front cover of the journal’s 150th anniversary issue. Download a free PDF poster of the image or visit the interactive to explore the full network. ()

Also shown on the cover, and viewable in a 3D interactive version, are ‘reference trees’ for selected articles, which reveal the diversity of disciplines that inspired the articles and that were impacted by them. Download a free PDF poster of reference trees on the cover or visit the interactive to examine them in 3D. ()

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03447-x

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