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Pillars and sunken steps make up the ruins of the Göbekli Tepe archaeological site, Turkey.

Grains were on the menu at feasts that took place more than 11,000 years ago at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey — one of the world’s oldest temples.Credit: Vincent J. Musi

How humans learnt to love carbs

The people who built the ancient monumental structures at Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe were fuelled by vat-fulls of starchy porridge and stew, not just meaty feasts. Archaeologists are uncovering evidence that ancient people were grinding grains for hearty, starchy dishes long before we domesticated crops. These discoveries shred the long-standing idea that early people subsisted mainly on meat.

Nature | 15 min read

Drugmakers go nuclear

Targeted radiotherapy drugs are seeing an explosion of interest, fuelled by some success in combating a type of prostate cancer. Radiopharmaceuticals aim to target and destroy tumours with radioactive isotopes, leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Nature Biotechnology explores the leading therapies in development and how researchers hope to personalize the approach.

Nature Biotechnology | 8 min read

Birthdays might have helped to spread COVID

Birthday celebrations might have boosted the spread of COVID-19. Researchers looked at data from almost three million households in the United States, where public-health mandates did not ban people from meeting up at home. In areas with a lot of cases, households in which someone had a birthday saw a 31% increase in the prevalence of infection in the following two weeks, compared with households that did not have a birthday. If it was a child’s birthday, that went up to 57%. “It is a big endorsement, in retrospect, of the gains among those who skipped all sorts of social gatherings,” says public-health researcher Donald Redelmeier. “During a pandemic, it is okay to be a party pooper.”

Scientific American | 5 min read

Reference: JAMA Internal Medicine paper

Coelacanths can live to 100

The African coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) — called ‘living fossils’ because of their prehistoric lineage — can live to be up to 100 years old. Their longevity might partly explain why the fish are so rare: they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re around 50 years old and pregnancy lasts at least 5 years. Coelacanths are endangered and were thought to be extinct until 1938.

The Guardian | 2 min read

Reference: Current Biology paper


The proportion of the ocean floor that has been mapped to modern standards. Scientists are asking recreational boaters to join the quest to map it all by 2030. (BBC | 6 min read)

Features & opinion

Speed up grants for global vaccination

International financial institutions say that vaccines are the highest-return investment on Earth — so it is past time for them to pay up, argues development economist Justin Sandefur. The World Bank entered the pandemic with both the money and the mandate to quickly finance a global vaccination drive, yet it has dragged its feet. “The bank must soften the terms of its loans for health systems and unleash more of its $12 billion pledge as grants for vaccine procurement,” writes Sandefur. “The longer it waits, the less good its money will do.”

Nature | 5 min read

Milestones in diabetes

On the centenary of the discovery of insulin, an immersive timeline highlights the key advances that have occurred in diabetes research over the past 100 years — from the development of synthetic insulin to new drug classes and technologies for the management of diabetes.

Nature | Leisurely scroll

This Milestone is editorially independent and produced with financial support from AstraZeneca, Medtronic and Novo Nordisk.

How we counted COVID

Economist Max Roser discusses how his website Our World in Data went from a small non-profit organization focused on global development data to a go-to resource for COVID-19 information. “I think the thing that changed it for me was really just how difficult it was to access the data,” he recounts. “And the focus wasn’t on the growth rate. And I was going mad. I just couldn’t believe how poor this reporting was.”

80,000 Hours podcast | 2 hour 22 minute listen

Where I work

Bernardo Reyes-Tur studies painted snails housed in plastic bottles and containers in his breeding lab in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Bernardo Reyes-Tur is a professor of conservation biology at University Oriente in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.Credit: Bruno D’Amicis

Conservation biologist Bernardo Reyes-Tur studies the six species of Polymita, known as painted snails, which are endemic to eastern Cuba and are in danger of extinction. “You can find their shells for sale on eBay… despite laws banning such trade,” he says. Their laboratory living spaces: plastic one-litre water bottles left behind by tourists. “My motto is a Cuban saying: “We have the ‘no’, and therefore always have to look for the ‘yes’,” says Reyes-Tur. “In other words, there is always another way, if you keep looking.”

Nature | 3 min read