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The World Heritage Committee, consisting of 21 member-states, agreed to not place Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on the list of world heritage sites that are “in danger”. The decision ignores a scientific assessment by the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO, which concluded that the reef was in danger from climate change and should be added to the list. UNESCO and its advisers have reiterated that the reef has met the criteria. “The facts are the facts and the science is the science. The committee supported the science but did not support the ‘in danger’ listing,” says Fanny Douvere, head of UNESCO’s marine programme.
Features & opinion
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. Discover more in this audio feature read by Nature’s Nick Petrić Howe.
When the body becomes the target of its own defensive arsenal, medicine must step in. This Nature Outlook explores why autoimmune disease is around three times more common in women than in men, the genetic variants that increase the risk of autoimmunity and how the microbes in our gut might sometimes be to blame. It also reveals how the possible links between long COVID and the immune system might finally prove that viruses can spark autoimmune disease.
This Outlook is editorially independent and produced with financial support from The Global Autoimmune Institute.
The concept of ‘aromaticity’ gets its name from the pungent benzene ring, which is found in many organic compounds. But, despite 200 years of research, there’s no single definition of the term or experiment that can identify it among all compounds. For some chemists, that fuzziness just doesn’t matter. “We’ve evolved past the stage of asking what aromaticity means,” says computational organic chemist Judy Wu. “Now is the time to ask the question ‘What do we use it for?’”
Recently, we enjoyed a Twitter discussion of lab hacks — when researchers repurpose an everyday item (à la Isaac Newton’s shutters) to do science — and I asked to hear about yours. Molecular biologist Melissa Rogers pointed out the use of nonfat dried milk (or, less commonly but funnier, Irish Cream) as a blocking agent in western blotting. Materials scientist Robert Kasse says he and his SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory colleagues use champagne chillers to keep bottles of battery electrolyte from going bad. And geoscientist David Wilkins says that fingernail buffers reveal the ring structures in tree cores as effectively as industrial sanding film — and they’re cheaper.
I’d love to hear more of your lab hacks — particularly if you have a photo! They and any other feedback on this newsletter are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty