Daily briefing: How to defend a PhD remotely

Marine biologist Alyssa Frederick successfully defended her thesis on Zoom — here's how she did it. Plus, celebrating the life of Nobel laureate Philip Anderson, and how scientists are watching for a resurgence of coronavirus infections in places where lockdowns have already worked.

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COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak

Hands holding a 3D printed respirator mask

Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty

How to suppress a second wave of infections

• Cases in Hubei province in China — ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak — have dropped to practically zero. and the region has started easing its extreme lockdown. Health authorities are watching for a second wave of infections, while deploying widespread testing and monitoring to keep it suppressed. (Nature | 7 min read)

• Researchers are making difficult — sometimes life-or-death — decisions about what to do about their research animals as laboratories are closed down owing to the coronavirus outbreak. Some are even taking them home — entomologist Maria Cramer and her partner are sharing their two-bedroom basement apartment with her two most important and most genetically diverse colonies of ladybirds. (Nature | 5 min read)

• Governments need to think twice before they suppress messages related to COVID-19, argues anthropologist Heidi Larson, who studies vaccine rumors. The nature of misinformation is not always clear-cut, and authorities risk undermining public trust, says Larson. (Nature | 5 min read)

• Didier Raoult is a prominent microbiologist who co-discovered gigantic ‘mimiviruses’, which are so large that they are visible under a light microscope. He’s also the source of controversial research touting the effects of chloroquine on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which gained prominence when it was promoted by US President Donald Trump. Pharmaceutical researcher Derek Lowe raises questions about the bold nature of Raoult’s claims and the unconventional human trial of the drug. (Science Translational Medicine blog | 6 min read)

Read the latest coronavirus news, continuously updated on Nature.

Source: Royal Observatory of Belgium

Coronavirus lockdowns have changed the way Earth moves. Researchers who study Earth’s movement are reporting a drop in seismic noise — the hum of vibrations in the planet’s crust — that could be the result of transport networks and other human activities being shut down. The data shown above are from the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, and the effect might be a lot less apparent at stations that are purposefully located in remote areas or deep boreholes to avoid human noise.

21,000 to 120,000

The estimated number of deaths that have been averted in 11 countries in Western and Northern Europe because of infection-control measures such as national lockdowns. (Nature | Continuously updated)

Notable quotable

“We need to start planning now for how we will rebuild.”

As chief scientific adviser to the UK government, biologist Ian Boyd, participated in a practice run for pandemic that left him “shattered”. He shares what he learned from such dry runs. (Nature | 5 min read)

Features & opinion

The future of collaborative writing

A growing suite of tools allows teams of researchers to work collectively to edit scientific documents. Discover systems including Manubot, Overleaf, Authorea, Fidus Writer and that will help you to “walk the walk of open science”, in the words of computational biologist Olga Botvinnik. You can also explore an example Manubot project to get the ball rolling.

Nature | 7 min read

How to defend a PhD remotely

Back in November 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak began, marine biologist Alyssa Frederick successfully defended her thesis remotely on Zoom. Her advice is to have patience with others, manage expectations and practise putting all the pieces together ahead of time — and don’t forget to celebrate afterwards.

Nature | 6 min read

“His fingerprints are everywhere”

Philip Anderson, one of the most influential theoretical physicists of the twentieth century, died on 29 March, aged 96. The Nobel laureate specialized in condensed matter, and his concept of ‘Anderson localization’ of electrons explains everything from how fog reflects light to why non-crystalline metals are electrical insulators. Anderson was also a forceful opponent of reductionism, and he spelled out his vision in his influential 1972 Science essay ‘More Is Different’. “Anderson was the pre-eminent condensed-matter theorist of his day — a day that lasted for over 50 years — and his fingerprints are everywhere,” says physicist Nigel Goldenfeld.

New York Times | 5 min read

Read Philip Anderson’s review of Robert Laughlin’s book A Different Universe: “My message is this: buy the book.” (Nature, from 2005)


The number of hadrons — particles made of two or more quarks — discovered by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, with the latest one, called Ξc(2923)0, added on 30 March. (Elementary particles are much rarer finds: the last one was the Higgs boson, which the LHC discovered in 2012.)

Quote of the day

“There would be no higher education as we know it in the United States without the original and ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples and lands, just like there would be no United States.”

Higher-education researcher Sharon Stein sums up a deep dive into how expropriated Indigenous land forms the foundation of the US land-grant university system. (High Country News | 23 min read)

The Education Office at Fermilab is asking us to guess what particle physics is being illustrated using just some balls and sand (and some very fetching floral curtains).

Let me know the science fun that’s keeping you entertained during these tough times — plus any other feedback on this newsletter — at And if nothing’s making you smile, or you are facing difficulties, you have my very best wishes.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and Davide Castelvecchi

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