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NASA’s Perseverance rover has had a busy first month on Mars’s surface. From Jezero Crater, where Perseverance landed on 18 February, it has been doing as much geology as it can — snapping pictures of its surroundings and analysing the rocks nearby. Already, scientists have determined that several of the rocks are chemically similar to volcanic rocks on Earth, and that wind and water have eroded some of them. As planned, the rover’s main science experiments will have to wait a few more months, while engineers continue to test its scientific instruments and prepare for the first helicopter flight on another world.
Mathematician László Lovász and computer scientist Avi Wigderson have won the 2021 Abel Prize, one of the most prestigious honours in mathematics. They share the prize “for their foundational contributions to theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics, and their leading role in shaping them into central fields of modern mathematics”, said the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. As head of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences until 2020, Lovász led a daring but ultimately unsuccessful effort to stop the Hungarian government from taking over the academy’s research institutes. One of Wigderson’s most renowned achievements is in clarifying the role of randomness in computation.
Researchers have developed the first tear-gland ‘organoids’ — assemblages of cells that are designed to resemble miniature versions of organs. At first, it took a long time — up to a day — to make the cells cry. But, with experience and a little prodding, the researchers eventually made them weep in only half an hour. Such organoids could be used to study and eventually treat disorders that cause dry eyes, including an autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s syndrome.
Features & opinion
In Notes from Deep Time, writer Helen Gordon seeks solace in locations venerated for their contributions to geological knowledge. The result is a whirlwind tour of our planet’s deep past and far future, writes reviewer Alexandra Witze.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a crucial component of successful professional relationships. Boosting your own EQ involves identifying and managing your own emotions, as well as evaluating and controlling the way in which you react to those of others. Anaesthesiologist Michelle Shirak and academic educator Ruth Gotian offer five tips for getting to grips with your emotions and building flourishing connections.
Essayist and particle physicist Yangyang Cheng considers how the arrest of Gang Chen, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fits into the fraught scientific relationship between the United States and China. “The narrative of great power competition in the sciences has obscured urgent issues of ethics,” writes Cheng. “With both governments immersed in an imaginary race, few are paying attention to the margins or contemplating the cost.”