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The genomes of 13 remarkably preserved 4,000-year-old mummies from China’s Tarim Basin suggest they weren’t migrants who brought technology from the West, as was previously supposed. Instead, the remains probably belong to Indigenous people who might have adopted agricultural methods from neighbouring groups. Researchers traced the ancestry of these early Chinese farmers to Stone Age hunter-gatherers who lived in Asia some 9,000 years ago. The study hints at “the really diverse ways in which populations move and don’t move, and how ideas can spread with, but also through, populations”, says molecular archaeologist Christina Warinner.
Scientists are advancing plans for Africa’s first synchrotron light source, a particle accelerator that produces intense radiation used to probe matter at the molecular and atomic level. Globally, there are some 70 light sources — synchrotrons and free electron lasers — but none in Africa. “These light sources are just transforming science, and Africa has to be a player,” says physicist Sekazi Mtingwa. The project has wide backing from the global synchrotron community, but challenges remain — including how to fund the estimated US$1 billion set-up costs, and how the light source will be run.
An American technologist has released online a gigantic index of 355 billion words and short phrases contained in more than 100 million journal articles — including many paywalled papers. This ‘General Index’ is an effort to help scientists use software to search through and glean insights from published work even if they have no legal access to the underlying papers, says its creator Carl Malamud. Legal researcher Arul George Scaria says its release is a “major development for the wealth of information it has unlocked from those 107 million journal articles”.
More than 800 scientists have provided evidence in an upcoming case in the US Supreme Court that could hasten the end of abortion across roughly half of the United States. The case is between the state of Mississippi, which has issued a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and the only clinic in the state that provides abortions. The clinic argues that the ban violates Roe v. Wade, a 1973 case that enshrined the federal right to an abortion until the point that a fetus can live outside the womb. “The scientific community is eager to weigh in on such an important issue, especially given five decades of evidence concerning the importance of abortion access,” says lawyer Stephanie Toti.
Features & opinion
Finding an answer to the biodiversity crisis should not mean the poorest countries having to take on yet more debt, argues a Nature editorial. This month, China announced the allocation of 1.5 billion yuan (US$235 million) to a new biodiversity fund that will support projects aimed at slowing down or reversing the loss of species and ecosystems. Observers say the fund is a step in the right direction, but money should be provided as grants — not loans — with fair and transparent rules of access.