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Multiple travellers carried a new coronavirus variant from central Africa to Europe, where it has now spread to at least a dozen countries, according to genomic data. The variant, named B.1.620, hosts a suite of mutations that have been linked to increased transmissibility and the ability to escape the immune response. The findings suggest that the variant is circulating widely in central Africa but has been undetected because of limited sequencing, highlighting the risk posed by regional inequities in genomic surveillance.
Read more: Alarming COVID variants show vital role of genomic surveillance (Nature | 6 min read, from January)
Reference: bioRxiv preprint
A brain–computer interface for typing could eventually let people with paralysis communicate at the speed of their thoughts. The device was able to decode, in real time, signals from electrodes implanted in the brain of a 65-year-old man with full-body paralysis as he imagined writing. He was able to mentally type 90 characters per minute — not far from the speed at which the average person that age can type on a smartphone.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has detected persistent ripples in interstellar plasma, through which it has been travelling since it left the Solar System in 2012. By measuring these waves, astrophysicists have made the first continuous measurements of the density of interstellar plasma, the rarefied medium between the stars. "When the plasma oscillations are converted to an audio signal, it sounds like a tone that varies. It's a bit eerie," says astronomer James Cordes
US regulators have given the go-ahead for 12- to 15-year-olds to get the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer jab was already being administered to people as young as 16 in the United States. The news follows an as-yet-unpublished clinical trial that found, among 2,260 children 12 to 15 years old, no symptomatic infections and no serious side effects in those who got the jab. There were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group.
Read more: COVID vaccines and kids: five questions as trials begin (Nature | 7 min read, from April)
Features & opinion
Analyses of nature-based solutions often focus on how much carbon they can remove from the atmosphere. A new analysis explores how these solutions will affect global temperatures — a crucial metric as humanity attempts to limit global warming. It suggests that a nature-based strategy could reduce peak warming by an additional 0.3 °C under a scenario consistent with a 2 °C overall temperature rise by 2085. Climate-change policy analyst Cécile Girardin and seven colleagues explain how projects that manage, protect and restore ecosystems could offer climate, biodiversity and socio-economic benefits — if done properly, and soon.
Sea-ice scientist Sophie Dufour-Beauséjour chose an unusual way to capture an academic rite of passage, with a little help from her friends. The 60 people who attended her 3-hour virtual PhD defence shared visual inside jokes known as memes, such as the one below capturing fleeting exasperation at a jury member’s question.