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A scientists’ guide to COP26
Some 20,000 people will soon converge in Glasgow, UK, for the most anticipated United Nations climate summit in years. Researchers have been warning about the dire and increasing impacts of global warming for more than three decades — and for some, the meeting represents one final opportunity for world leaders to craft a collective plan to meet their climate goals. This immersive explainer explores what’s on the line at COP26 and takes stock of scientists’ hopes and fears for the meeting.
Signs of an exoplanet outside the Milky Way
Astronomers have found hints of what could be the first planet ever discovered outside our galaxy. The possible planet, which is Saturn-sized, is in the Messier 51 galaxy, around 8 million parsecs away from the Milky Way. Nearly 5,000 planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun have been found so far, but all of these have been located within our galaxy. “We know we are making an exciting and bold claim, so we expect that other astronomers will look at it very carefully,” says physicist Julia Berndtsson.
Reference: Nature Astronomy paper
Laser mapping reveals Maya monuments
Scientists have uncovered nearly 500 ancient monuments in southern Mexico using an airborne laser mapping technology called lidar. Dating as far back as 3,000 years ago, the buried structures include huge artificial plateaus, built by the Olmec and Maya civilizations, that might have been used for ceremonial gatherings. “The sheer number of sites they found is staggering,” says archaeologist Thomas Garrison. “The study is going to be the inspiration for hopefully decades of research at these different settlements.”
Features & opinion
Cells as you’ve never seen them before
Cutting-edge microscopy techniques are allowing researchers to spy on the innards of cells in all their crowded glory. For structural biologist Grant Jensen, every peek through the microscope is another chance to explore uncharted cellular terrain. “There’s definitely a great joy in being able to see something for the first time,” he says.
Used medical gloves imported into US
Medical-grade nitrile gloves are the “most dangerous commodity on Earth right now”, says Douglas Stein, an importer of personal protective equipment. Skyrocketing demand for the gloves amid the COVID-19 pandemic has led to dozens of shady suppliers boxing up used gloves and passing them off as new. Despite seizures of shipments and raids on warehouses, the scams continue. “There’s an endless stream of filthy, second-hand and substandard gloves coming into the US, of which federal authorities, it seems, are only now beginning to understand the enormous scale,” says Stein. “It's ridiculously nefarious at every link in the chain.”
Changing academia’s ableist mindset
Four early-career researchers with disabilities describe their experiences with navigating ableism in academia, and describe how colleagues can act as allies.