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A view of Earth and Sun from thousands of miles above our planet.

An illustration of Earth from space illuminated by the Sun. Stars with a past or future view of Earth as a transiting exoplanet appear brightened.Credit: OpenSpace/American Museum of Natural History

The 2,000 stars with the best view of Earth

Astronomers have pinpointed more than 2,000 stars from where, in the not-too-distant past or future, Earth could be detected transiting across the face of the Sun. If there are aliens living on planets around those stars, with at least a similar level of technological advancement to our own, then they would theoretically be able to spot us. The work offers a new way of thinking about the search for extraterrestrial life, says astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger. “Who has the cosmic front seat to see us?” she asks. “For whom would we be the aliens?”

Nature | 4 min read

References: Nature paper

Leaked report sends dire climate warning

The next Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report will deliver an unprecedented climate-change wake-up call, reports the AFP news agency. The leaked draft report, due to be released next year, says that global temperatures are already at 1.1 ℃ above levels in the mid-nineteenth century. Even if we meet the Paris climate agreement target of keeping temperatures below 1.5 ℃, “conditions will change beyond many organisms' ability to adapt”. And if we continue on current trends, we are headed to break 3 ℃ — with serious, irreversible consequences. “The worst is yet to come, affecting our children’s and grandchildren’s lives much more than our own,” the draft report states. “We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviours at all levels.”

AFP | 5 min read

New Zealand earthquake might be imminent

A major earthquake could hit New Zealand within decades, according to scientists who have analysed one of the world’s most active fault lines. The Alpine Fault runs along the South Island of New Zealand, where the Australian and Pacific plates meet. Scientists took samples from lake beds along the fault to study its geological history going back a few thousand years. Analysis of the records reveals a 75% chance of another large earthquake occurring along the fault in the next 50 years.

ABC News | 11 min read

Reference: Nature Geoscience paper

Features & opinion

How to strike gold with a lightning talk

Super-short ‘lighting talks’ can give an audience the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of topics and can broaden the exposure of your research. But, if not done well, lightning talks can bring more chaos than clarity. Scientists share their tips for perfecting the art of boiling down your work into a short, sharp hit.

Nature | 8 min read

The gift of the short-sleep gene

For the last 16 years, the Johnson family has been studied for their tendency to get by happily on very little sleep. “If you paid me a million dollars to sleep eight hours tonight, I couldn’t,” says Brad Johnson. “I'd get five hours and be done… just ready to roll.” Research revealed that many members of the family have a mutation in the gene DEC2, which seems to regulate sleep length in mammals. Short sleepers tend to also be particularly lively when they’re awake, with marathons being a popular hobby among them. “I've run a lot of marathons,” says Brad Johnson. “Reading, studying, correspondence, writing — all those things are great to do early in the morning or late at night.” It’s been “a true gift”.

CNN | 8 min read

Reference: Science paper

How to master international collaboration

Working with colleagues on the other side of the world can lead to a lot of challenges. There can be differences in language, in time zones, in culture and even in doing science. In this documentary, the teams of geographers Heather Viles in the United Kingdom and Qinglin Guo in China reflect on how they made their ambitious ten-year collaboration work and how other teams can do the same.

Nature | 13 min video

Correspondence: your letters to Nature

Ask yourself if the results are worth the risk

“If it is dangerous, or wrong, or both, and if it doesn’t need to be done, we just ought not to do it,” wrote biologists Robert Pollack and Joe Sambrook in an unsent letter to Nature and Science, drafted 50 years ago in response to the first proposed recombinant-DNA experiment. As early-career researchers, they decided to not risk antagonizing senior colleagues, writes Pollack now. Amid today’s debates about heritable gene editing, viral gain-of-function research and embryo experiments beyond 14 days, Pollack and zoologist Matthew Cobb argue that those words still resonate.

Guidelines fudge heritable human-genome editing

Philosopher Françoise Baylis notes “troubling inconsistencies” in the revised guidelines for stem-cell research and clinical translation, issued in May by the International Society for Stem Cell Research. These imply, she argues, that research that involves making heritable changes to the human genome will someday be permitted.

Read more: Limit on lab-grown human embryos dropped by stem-cell body (Nature | 7 min read)

United States: invest in astronomy infrastructure

US President Joe Biden’s planned investment in national infrastructure should include the next generation of astronomy facilities, argue astrophysicists Matt Mountain and David Reitze, and Adam Cohen, the chief executive of Associated Universities Incorporated, a non-profit corporation that builds and operates big science facilities. “US leadership in science rests in part on the facilities we operate,” they write. “This leadership is jeopardized by our ageing observatory infrastructure.”

Read more: How a historic funding boom might transform the US National Science Foundation (Nature | 6 min read)

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