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Water vapour over the continental United States is shown in this false-colour satellite image from NOAA

Water vapour over the continental United States is shown in this satellite image from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Credit: NOAA/GOES

5G wireless threatens weather forecasts

Meteorologists are worried about a ruling last week that means 5G signals could muddy the radio frequencies used to gather crucial weather and climate data. To give companies a leg up as they implement the new super-fast wireless technology, regulators will allow eight years of slightly relaxed standards for how much noise from 5G signals is allowed to leak into neighbouring frequencies. Water vapour in the atmosphere naturally produces a weak signal near 24 gigahertz, which satellites use to measure humidity and which sits perilously close to the bands designated for the 5G roll-out.

Nature | 4 min read

China overtakes UK for oft-cited researchers

Researchers who do their work at institutions in China now make up the second-largest group in the Web of Science’ s list of most-cited scientists. For the first time, the number of China-based researchers has leapfrogged the number who work in the United Kingdom. But neither group comes close to first place: almost half of the most-cited researchers on the list work at institutions in the United States, while Germany and Australia round out the top five.

Chemistry World | 3 min read

Reference: Highly Cited Researchers report

A better formula for ‘dog years’

Scientists have come up with a more accurate way to calculate dog lifespan in human years, putting paid to the rule of thumb saying that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years. They analysed the DNA of 104 labrador retrievers and looked at how their ageing marks compare with those of humans. The work aimed to investigate how such epigenetic markers work across species, but also resulted in a formula for calculating a canine’s age in human years: roughly 16 ln(dog age) + 31. If you don’t fancy doing the natural log in your head, Science includes a handy calculator in its article.

Science | 6 min read

Reference: bioRxiv preprint

Features & opinion

Linda Hamilton in a movie still of Terminator: Dark Fate, 2019

In the film Terminator: Dark Fate, Linda Hamilton plays Sarah Connor as an older woman — a demographic that’s rarer in science-fiction novels.Credit: Kerry Brown/Paramount/Everett Collection

Where are the older women in science fiction?

The lack of competent, witty female elders in science-fiction novels reflects ageism and sexism in the here and now, argues Nebula-nominated author Sylvia Spruck Wrigley. Wrigley presents a survey of trends in the field, including some examples of cool characters who break the mould.

Nature | 6 min read

Read “A long way from home”, a short story by Wrigley (featuring an older female character) published in Nature in 2014.

Podcast: Time to fix the ‘one size fits all’ PhD

Is it time to go back to the drawing board and redesign graduate programmes from scratch? Six higher-education specialists explore how postgraduate programmes can evolve to embrace flexibility and professional development, without sacrificing their core focus on research.

Working Scientist podcast | 12 min listen

EPA transparency rules copy Big Tobacco

Decades ago, tobacco companies turned the scientific concept of transparency into a weapon when it demanded scientists’ raw data — and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking a page from the same playbook, argues a bipartisan opinion article from two former government scientists. Public-health researcher Bernard Goldstein, a senior EPA scientist under Ronald Reagan, and David Michaels, who ran the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Barack Obama, explore how “opponents of public health protections invoke a caricature of how science really works”.

Salon | 4 min read

Quirks of Nature