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Daily briefing: Radar survey sparks debate on Egyptian queen Nefertiti

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A low angle of King Tutankhamun's sarcophagus in his burial chamber, showing a mural on the wall.

Tutankhamun’s burial place in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt.Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty

Radar clues spark debate on Egyptian queen

Archaeologists claim to have discovered hidden chambers behind the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb in a radar survey. The find resurrects a controversial theory that the young king’s burial place connects to a larger tomb containing his mother-in-law Nefertiti, whose resting place has never been found. Although not all researchers are convinced the hidden rooms exist, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves says if the ancient queen is found to have been buried like a pharaoh, “it could be the biggest archaeological discovery ever.”

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: Journal of Cultural Heritage paper

COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak

A man wears a protective mask as he rides a bicycle down a deserted street in Wuhan

A cyclist wears a protective face mask in Wuhan, China.Stringer/Getty

Number of deaths from COVID-19 passes 2,000

• Chinese authorities reported today that 2,118 people worldwide have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, since the outbreak began. The number of people infected globally has topped 75,000, more than 74,000 of them in China. (Nature | continuously updated)

• Scientists have questioned the way officials are counting cases of the virus after it emerged that people in China who tested positive for the coronavirus, but who don’t have symptoms, aren’t being recorded as confirmed cases. Omitting these asymptomatic cases could mask the epidemic’s true extent, researchers say, and distort models of the outbreak’s spread. But public-health researchers argue that it makes sense to focus on tracking sick people who are more likely to pass on the disease. (Nature | 3 min read)

Notable quotable

“I never feared getting an infection myself — not Ebola, SARS, cholera … but inside the Princess Diamond I was so scared of getting COVID-19, because there’s no way to tell where the virus is.”

Infection-control specialist Kentaro Iwata posted a YouTube video criticizing ‘completely chaotic’ conditions on board a cruise ship quarantined in Japan. (Science)

Features & opinion

Behind the scenes at OpenAI

San-Francisco-based research organization OpenAI was founded in 2015 with the aim of being the first to develop a machine with human-like learning and reasoning abilities. Journalist Karen Hao explores the non-profit organization’s history, and discovers that behind closed doors the way it operates seems to be very different to its public image of transparency, openness and collaboration.

Technology Review | 31 min read

‘He could speak intelligently about both science and faith’

George Coyne, the priest and astronomer who spent nearly three decades as head of the Vatican observatory, died earlier this month at the age of 87. Although he publicly clashed with prominent anti-religious figures such as Richard Dawkins, he is known for championing the ideas of Galileo and Darwin, and challenging intelligent design. “If they respect the results of modern science,” Coyne once wrote, “religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly.”

New York Times | 6 min read

Public-speaking tips from an introvert

Business researcher and self-confessed introvert Carsten Lund Pedersen shares his advice for giving a great presentation. He suggests treating public speaking as a skill that can be honed by getting plenty of practice and seeking advice from experts. And being an over-thinker can often be an advantage, he says, when it comes to preparing a talk and anticipating the audience’s response.

Nature Index | 3 min read

Quote of the day

“My manifesto is to tell the truth about the reality of working in science… He manako te koura i kore ai! We won’t get there by wishing it!”

Forensic psychiatrist Hinemoa Elder explores how the conventional science CV doesn’t respect the achievements of women, especially ethnically diverse women. (The Spinoff)


Blue whales are returning to the waters around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, where scientists spotted a record 55 of them during a recent survey.

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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