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Daily briefing: NASA announces two missions to Venus

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Computer simulated global view of the northern hemisphere of Venus.

The northern hemisphere of Venus (computer simulation).NASA/JPL

NASA’s Venus mission plans

NASA will send two new spacecraft — called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS — to Venus, as part of its Discovery programme. DAVINCI+ will study the planet’s atmosphere, and VERITAS will make detailed maps of its surface and try to reconstruct its geologic history. “These two sister missions, both aimed to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface — will offer the entire science community the chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.

National Geographic | 8 min read

Deep-Earth microbes feed on radioactivity

Scientists have long puzzled over how microbes living deep underground feed themselves without sunlight or heat. Now, two studies suggest that these organisms could feed off the radioactive decay of hydrogen and other elements. The findings open up new possibilities for life on other worlds — and could shed some light on our planet’s own history.

Quanta | 11 min read

References: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta paper; Nature paper

Vax for cats? Designing a COVID jab for pets

Russia has developed the first COVID-19 vaccine for animals. Scientists have found that animals such as cats and apes can catch COVID-19. Although animals aren’t major contributors to the spread of the disease, researchers say there is some evidence that infected mink can pass the virus on to humans. Russia’s Carnivak-Cov vaccine provides immunity to animals for up to six months. A pharmaceutical company in the United States is also attempting to make an animal-specific vaccine.

BBC News | 3 min read

Features & opinion

Cartoon: A person shows their desk propped up on a micropipette. Caption: "I use my micropipette every day!"

Credit: Ed Himelblau

A cartoon guide to bioinformatics

Ed Himelblau was a cartoonist before he learnt to write code. Now, the geneticist hopes his drawings will help others who embrace bioinformatics later in their careers. “Most of my illustrations document biology laboratories and the people who work there,” he says. “I thought they might be a good way to capture some of my experiences while learning this new skill, and that they might resonate with other experimental biologists trying to figure things out.”

Nature | 6 min read

What we lose when we work from home

For decades, anthropologists have said that it’s often the informal, unplanned interactions and rituals that matter most in any work environment. Last year’s pandemic lockdowns left offices worldwide temporarily empty, offering researchers a unique chance to study what happens when people stop working face-to-face. This long read explores some of the benefits and drawbacks of large-scale remote working.

The Guardian | 17 min read

Podcast: How to grow your start-up

In their early stages, science start-ups require solid commitment, with founders and their teams clocking long hours with little financial reward. Despite the uncertainty, company leaders need to think about growth and develop a strategy to scale up their company. In this episode of Nature’s Working Scientist podcast, a handful of science entrepreneurs and business experts discuss how to approach this crucial stage.

Nature Careers Podcast | 10 min listen

Quote of the day

“Those of us from communities that have been marginalized in physics are a naturally occurring phenomenon, just like the stars and supernovae whose by-products make us possible.”

Cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein explains that the pressure to conform to cultural norms in science can hinder, rather than help, marginalized groups. (Physics World | 7 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01503-z

It’s that time of year where rainbows are all around, whatever the weather — happy LGBT+ Pride month!

Check out 500 Queer Scientists, a visibility campaign for LGBT+ scientists and their allies.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for Pride-themed STEM events this June – throwback to this awesome demo of rainbow-coloured flames from Ontario Science Centre.

Please send any feedback on this newsletter to briefing@nature.com.

Emma Stoye, news editor, Nature

With contributions by Freda Kreier

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