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Shimmy helps snakes fly through the air
Winding from side to side keeps flying snakes stay stable and helps them to glide further. Watch how researchers used motion-capture technology to study snake gliding in precise detail in this video from Nature.
How flatworms regrow their eyes
Flatworms have uncanny regenerating abilities: they can regrow into a whole organism from a body piece as small as one-279th of the original size. Researchers now have shown that specialized cells hidden throughout the body act as guides for regeneration. When the flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea is growing new eyes, the cells help eye neurons to grow connections to the brain. Similar guidepost cells have an important role in embryo development in many animals, says biologist Peter Reddien, but are absent in typical adult organisms.
Democrats offer ambitious climate plan
A Democrat-led US government committee charged with coming up with a detailed climate plan has released its recommendations for saving the world. One of the report’s overall targets is net-zero carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States before 2050. To get there, the report offers 12 ‘pillars’, including investing in green-technology industries and strengthening support for climate-science research. “I am very heartened to see the detail and ambition that the committee has put forward,” says energy-policy researcher Leah Stokes, who kindly broke down the 500+-page report in a Twitter thread. How much of the plan will be implemented comes down to the outcome of the imminent US elections in November.
Reference: Solving the Climate Crisis report (or just the 2-page summary)
Features & opinion
A simple, measurable goal for biodiversity?
Last month, a team of researchers proposed creating one headline number to measure how well we are protecting biodiversity. They suggested that countries should aim to keep extinctions to “well below” 20 known species worldwide every year. The idea deserves serious consideration and thorough assessment, argues a Nature editorial.
How digital cameras changed us
The totality of humankind is expected to take more than 1.4 trillion photographs in 2020 — the vast majority of those through mobile phones, and almost all of them digital. The technology has come a long way since 1974, when a young engineer named Steven Sasson “MacGyvered” the first prototype digital camera: a 100-by-100-pixel, toaster-size device that recorded images on a cassette tape. Digital images have become so crucial to scholars’ work that some are starting to wonder whether they should get formal training in digital photography, writes historian Allison Marsh. “Today, people aren’t just watching history. They’re recording it and sharing it in real time.”
News & views
LIGO overcomes quantum limit
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) works by continuously monitoring the distance between mirrors that face each other and are several kilometres apart. Its detectors bounce lasers between the mirrors to sense changes in that distance on the order of one part in 1022. The quest to improve LIGO’s sensitivity has hit a wall owing to the law of quantum uncertainty, which says that the position and momentum of an object cannot both be measured to arbitrary precision. To beat that limit, physicists at LIGO and at its sister observatory Virgo have recently tweaked their lasers to introduce quantum correlations between the positions of the mirrors and the laser light. Now, LIGO physicists have demonstrated that their 40-kilogram mirrors do indeed act as quantum objects. “This is remarkable, because such fluctuations occur at size scales that are comparable to the dimensions of elementary particles,” write physicists Valeria Sequino and Mateusz Bawaj.