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Daily briefing: Next wave of COVID vaccines tackle global challenges

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The first drive on Mars of NASA’s Perseverance rover

Perseverance took its first drive on Martian soil on 4 March.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance’s first month on Mars

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.

Nature | 6 min read

Abel Prize celebrates theory of computation

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.

Nature | 6 min read

Tiny tear-glands organoids that cry

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.

Nature | 4 min read

Human organoid swelling (i.e. crying) upon addition of adrenaline.

The 'crying' organoids swell up with tears.Marie Bannier-Hélaouët/Hubrecht Institute

COVID-19 coronavirus update

The world’s largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India, is testing a new virus-like particle vaccine for COVID-19 made with technology licensed from the UK-based SpyBiotech.Amit Dave/Reuters

Next wave of vaccines tackle global needs

The next wave of vaccine developers are striking deals with producers and institutes in low- and middle-income countries. They are working on vaccines that combat fast-spreading variants, that are stable outside the fridge and that can be self-administered or more easily given. Nature Biotechnology enumerates these up-and-coming contenders and explores how they work.

Nature Biotechnology | 10 min read

How doctors treat COVID-19

Looking back over a harrowing year, Science explores how doctors have gathered a small arsenal of therapies against COVID-19. A few have shown promise for some people — such as the corticosteroid dexamethasone and the anti-inflammatory tocilizumab — but there is no miracle drug. In the meantime, doctors wade through a torrent of research results and adapt to constantly changing treatment guidelines. “Every time I take care of a COVID patient … I have to sit down and go, ‘OK, what are we doing now?’” says critical-care physician Meghan Lane-Fall. Even today, “There is no single standard of care.”

Science | 16 min read

Features & opinion

The balm of deep time

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.

Nature | 5 min read

Emotional intelligence for scientists

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.

Nature | 6 min read

Science behind borders

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.”

Vice | 16 min read

Quote of the day

“Whale culture is many millions of years older than ours. Perhaps we need to learn from them as they learned from us.”

Author Philip Hoare ponders research by whale biologist Hal Whitehead showing that whales shared knowledge on how to avoid nineteenth-century whalers. (The Guardian | 5 min read)

Reference: Biology Letters paper


Last month, we all enjoyed software developer Joshua Tauberer’s interactive iceberg maker, inspired by a tweet by glaciologist Megan Thompson-Munson about how we’re drawing icebergs all wrong. Engaging Data kicks it up a notch by adding functionality for multiple chunks, melting and what a stegosaur-shaped iceberg would do.

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

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