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The United States has pledged to halve greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, and aim for net-zero emissions by 2050. US President Joe Biden announced the commitment as he opened a virtual climate summit that is being attended by 40 world leaders. The target is roughly in line with recent commitments by the European Union and others. “There’s a long way to go, but I’m more optimistic than I was a few months ago,” says climate analyst Bill Hare.
A malaria vaccine called R21 has proved to be 77% effective at preventing the disease in children in a small, early trial. There is one other malaria vaccine — GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS,S vaccine — but this jab is the first to reach the World Health Organization's goal of at least 75% efficacy. R21 has been in the works for several years, and it informed the development of the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which came out of the same group at the University of Oxford. Large-scale phase III trials to prove the vaccine’s safety and efficacy are still to come, but this offers hope for a disease that kills 1,200 people each day, mostly children under 5.
Read more: Building a better malaria vaccine (Nature | 12 min read, from 2019)
Features & opinion
Every few years, for 142 years, scientists have dug up a bottle of seeds from a secret location on the campus of Michigan State University. The Beal seed-viability experiment is an effort to find out how long seeds can lie dormant without losing their ability to germinate. Botanist William James Beal started the trial with 20 bottles; there are 4 left. Each generation of botanists at the university has passed the knowledge of the seeds’ hiding place to younger colleagues. “I think Professor Beal’s got the top experiment here,” says plant scientist Carol Baskin. “I wish he’d have buried more bottles.”
When space-time gets twisted like a giant rubber band, it affects everyone — even the staff of a backwoods municipal alternate-timeline-transfer station. Author Jordan Price ponders the possibilities in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.
Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes pseudoscience, zero waste, and an action-adventure graphic novel featuring female scientists saving the world.
Drawing inspiration from the art of origami, researchers have designed self-supporting structures that lock into place after being erected. “What is powerful with origami as an art form is that we know that from a 2D sheet of paper, you can fold any 3D shape,” says applied mathematician David Melancon. “So we have this enclosure made of rigid faces that is folded super, super compact. You inflate it… and then you can remove pressure and it stays there, deployed.”
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With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty, John Pickrell, Ariana Remmel, Freda Kreier, Quirin Schiermeier