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At least 60 mammoth skeletons have turned up in excavations for a new airport north of Mexico City — and more are likely to come. “There are too many, there are hundreds,” says archaeologist Pedro Sánchez Nava. The site is on what used to be the shores of a lake called Xaltocan, where a military airport is now being converted to civilian use. The wealth of remains suggests that mammoths died after being chased by prehistoric humans some 15,000 years ago and getting stuck in the mud.
Physicists have created a virtual crystal with four spatial dimensions that acts as a topological insulator — a material that conducts electricity on only its outer boundary. To do so, the team wired up connections among electrical circuits to simulate those in a four-dimensional (4D) crystal. (Just as cubes have six square faces, hypercubes have eight cubic ‘faces’ — so when hypercubes are stacked in 4D, each one is in contact with eight neighbours.) A similar scheme could extend to even more dimensions of space, leading to the observation of new phenomena. “There are suggestions that some really cool things could happen in 5D and 6D,” says theoretical physicist Hannah Price. Exotic topological insulators could find applications in future quantum computers.
Last week, Chinese biotechnology firm CanSino Biologics became the first to publish the peer-reviewed results from the phase 1 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine. In their phase 1 study, the vaccine elicited an immune response in 108 people. But the level of response was underwhelming. “It is not great, but it is better than nothing,” says vaccine researcher Hildegund Ertl.
The results follow an announcement by US biotechnology company Moderna that claimed its vaccine has shown tentatively positive results. The vaccines are strikingly different: Moderna’s is a messenger-RNA vaccine based on unproven technology, whereas CanSino’s uses a genetically engineered adenovirus, with better-understood characteristics (and well-known drawbacks). The companies have taken very different approaches when announcing their results to an expectant world: Moderna has not shared its data and it made its results public in a press release.
Go deeper into how the two vaccines work, and their hopeful but cautious reception, in Nature Biotechnology. (6 min read)
Nature’s Noah Baker and Richard Van Noorden explain exactly what we know and don’t know about chloroquine and its cousin hydroxychloroquine, a large observational study that spawned safety concerns and the impact on clinical trials around the world.
Features & opinion
A growing emphasis on do-it-yourself science is helping researchers to equip laboratories in resource-limited areas. “Open-science hardware is not only important in Africa but all over the world,” says bioengineer André Maia Chagas. “If you have the blueprint for a piece of equipment, you can understand how it works. You can repair your equipment if it breaks down, and, even more importantly, adapt it to your local needs.”
Conducting full-day interviews online can actually be much less tiring and stressful than onsite visits, says neurovascular biologist Abdelrahman Fouda, who has been job hunting during the pandemic. There can be, of course, some awkward moments. “Often it felt like a choice between interrupting an interviewer or letting dead silence fill the air for a moment. In these moments, I made sure to keep a big smile on my face and talked only after the other side had completely finished and paused for a couple of seconds,” says Fouda.
Infographic of the week
Keep smiling! Emotion researcher Ursula Hess says that people can tell — and tend to smile themselves in response — even if we’re wearing a mask that covers the mouth and nose.
Make me smile by sending me your feedback on this newsletter at email@example.com. And if your situation means you’re in no mood to smile, I send you heartfelt best wishes.
With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and Davide Castelvecchi