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Brain-like organoids engineered to contain a NOVA1 gene variant found in extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans are smaller and more roughly textured than those with the human version of the gene. NOVA1 influences brain development, and the new study suggests the human variant was important in our evolution. This is the first time researchers have used genome editing to revert a gene to its archaic form in human cells used to grow brain tissue.
New data show exactly how the pandemic has raised the barriers — and created new ones — for women and mothers working in academia. A paper published this week showed that when a Canadian grant-funding agency asked researchers to submit proposals in just 8 days, only 29% of applications came from women. When the agency offered another grant round — but extended the deadline to 19 days and reduced the paperwork — women’s applications jumped to 39%. Another working paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research published last month found that, during the pandemic, mothers have experienced a drop in research hours that is 33% larger than the reduction fathers have faced.
Stonehenge might have been built from an earlier stone circle: Waun Mawn in west Wales. Stonehenge’s majestic bluestone pillars had already been traced to their source. The stones were excavated from quarries in Wales as early as 3400 BC, about 500 years before Stonehenge was built. Now, researchers have used carbon dating and other techniques to suggest that similar stones that once stood in Waun Mawn were removed at just about the time the first construction at Stonehenge began. The findings further develop a picture of an interconnected society centered on the Irish Sea that flourished in the fourth millenium BC.
Books & culture
In her latest book, Pulitzer-prizewinning environment reporter Elizabeth Kolbert asks: could some environmental fixes be worse than the problems? Under The White Sky is an arresting montage of just how hard it is to return balance to our exquisitely interconnected biosphere, and the extraordinary efforts people go to in the attempt, writes reviewer Gaia Vince.
“Time is real, and it’s as fleeting as a puppy already halfway out the back door,” says author Brent Baldwin, who was inspired by his own teenage daughter to write the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series. “I hope this story has reached you when you needed it, dear reader. I hope that your heart might heal a little faster and be even more beautiful than before. Broken hearts do mend. That’s real, too. I promise.”
Where I work
“Helping to build a university from scratch is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, but the effort has paid off,” says Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, the president and chief executive of the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering in Hereford, UK. The innovative institution is discarding the requirement for standard pre-university qualifications, as well as the typical focus on lectures and textbooks. “Instead, [students will] spend their time working on actual projects,” says Rodriguez-Falcon. “You don’t train violinists by making them read about violins. You put the instrument in their hands and give them a chance to play.”
Today, Leif Penguinson is getting to know the cave-dwelling creatures who live in the underground forests of the Janelão cave in the Cavernas do Peruacu National Park in Brazil. Can you find the penguin?
The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think!
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With contributions by Nicky Phillips and Ariana Remmel