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Daily briefing: Electric vehicles must get lighter

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In this artist’s impression, a DNA shell traps a virus to stop it from interacting with host cells.

In this artist’s impression, a DNA shell traps a virus to stop it from interacting with host cells.Elena-Marie Willner/Dietz Lab/TUM

Nanotech virus-hunters target SARS-CoV-2

Drug makers are looking to nanotechnology for new ways to tackle viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Antiviral nanomaterials can encapsulate viruses in origami cages, mop them up with nanosponges, and target the lipid membrane surrounding enveloped virus particles. Researchers’ aspirations go beyond the key part that nanomaterials have already played in the fight against SARS-CoV-2: the Pfizer–BioNtech and Moderna vaccines both rely on lipid nanoparticles to carry messenger RNA into cells.

Nature Biotechnology | 9 min read

Reference: Nature Materials paper, Nano Letters paper & ACS Nano paper

For <Emphasis Type="Italic">Nature</Emphasis> subscribers

A clear box on a lab bench containing wires and electronics connected to a cigarette-shaped vape pen

A vaping robot includes a vacuum pump, enabling it to ‘inhale’ aerosols from electronic cigarettesCredit: Benam Lab at University of Pittsburgh and Pneumax LLC

Research highlights: 1-minute reads

Research highlights are available to readers with subscriber access to Nature. Click here for help getting logged in with your institution’s subscription.

‘Rivers in the sky’ to deliver more drenchings

Atmospheric rivers, which carry moisture towards the poles, are expected to intensify unless greenhouse-gas emissions are curbed.

Abandoned antibiotic is back to fight Lyme disease

Hygromycin A doesn’t work well against most bacteria, but it shines as a treatment for a common illness.

A ‘spirit mirror’ used in Elizabeth I’s court had Aztec roots

Geochemical analysis suggests that an obsidian mirror owned by a confidant of the English Tudor queen was made in Mexico.

Cold-war spy pictures reveal Soviet nuclear devastation

Declassified satellite pictures expose the catastrophic damage done by a plutonium complex in the Urals.

Get more of Nature’s research highlights: short picks from the scientific literature (For Nature subscribers)

Features & opinion

Career tips from Nobel laureates

Despite being the son of a chemistry professor, Peter Agre did poorly in the subject at school and had to go to night school to catch up. The 2003 chemistry Nobel prizewinner’s advice? Your grades are not your destiny. That’s just one nugget from Stefano Sandrone’s book Nobel Life, which features interviews with laureates on everything from handling rejection to seizing the moment.

Nature | 6 min read

Electric vehicles must get lighter

Automakers must be incentivized to make their electric vehicles lighter so that they are cleaner and safer, argue three energy-policy researchers. Heavy cars with bulky batteries are more likely to kill people in a crash, and they generate more particulate pollution from tyre wear. More materials and energy are required to build these cars and propel them. Taxes based on vehicle weight, smaller batteries, lighter car frames and road-safety technologies can all help to push things in the right direction.

Nature | 10 min read

Cost-benefit calculus. Scatter plot showing social cost compared to emissions intensity of the grid in various countries.

Source: B. Shaffer et al.

COVAX: what went wrong

The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative was meant to fairly distribute COVID-19 vaccines, offering an insurance policy for richer nations and a lifeline to poorer ones. The organization now says it will miss its goal of delivering two billion doses by the end of this year. With millions of doses promised but not delivered, and 98% of people in low-income countries still unvaccinated, an investigation looks at what went wrong and how to fix it.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism | 21 min read

Climate change research

Valentina Monaco/Springer Nature Limited

The path to COP26 success

This November, world leaders will meet at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the United Nations climate change conference, to push forward on the Paris climate agreement and strengthen their commitments to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. A collection of research articles from Nature Portfolio journals helps to map out the path to success. They outline solutions to challenges in mitigation, adaptation and finance — key pillars for COP26. And four leading advisers and decision-makers from Chile, Brazil, Finland and India share their insights in advance of the pivotal meeting. (Nature | Full collection)

I’ll be at COP26 in Glasgow as part of the Nature News team covering the event. We would like to hear your views about climate change, the summit and how science plays into the political process. Your comments might feature in future stories or help us shape our coverage.

Quote of the day

“Research consistently finds that in the face of disaster, people react with solidarity, not panic.”

The pandemic showed that governments must trust the public with hard truths, says Michael Bang Petersen, who studies pandemic responses and advises the Danish government. (Nature | 5 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-02803-0

For those of us following Fat Bear Week, the annual face-off between the big, beautiful brown bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska: we have a winner! Underdog Otis 480 came out on top. These burly beasts’ glorious girth will help them to survive their winter hibernation.

I’ll feel like a winner (in life, not of Fat Bear Week) if you send me your feedback on this newsletter. Your e-mails are always welcome at briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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