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Daily briefing: Ten innovative face-mask designs

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Northeast Australia’s relict tropical rainforests, one of the oldest and most isolated rainforests in the world.

Australia’s tropical rainforests are some of the oldest in the world.Credit: Alexander Schenkin

Trees are dying in Australia’s rainforest

The risk of trees dying in the tropical forests of northern Australia has doubled since the mid-1980s. The results come from an extraordinary catalogue of tree deaths recorded at 24 sites for almost 50 years. The team recorded 2,305 deaths among dozens of species and found that the trees’ death rate increased from an average of 1% a year to 2% a year. The rise in trees dying has occurred at the same time as a long-term drying trend in the atmosphere that researchers link to the warming climate.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Monkeypox in United States and Europe

A small number of people who’ve caught monkeypox, a chickenpox-like infection, has been identified in the United Kingdom, United States, Spain and Portugal. Some of these individuals have not travelled to West or Central Africa, where the disease is more common and is thought to jump to people through contact with wild animals. This suggests that the virus is spreading under the radar in the United States and Europe. “We’re seeing this expansion of confirmed and suspect cases globally,” says Jennifer McQuiston at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have a sense that no one has their arms around this to know how large and expansive it might be.”

STAT | 8 min read

Pollution kills 9 million people a year

One in six deaths worldwide in 2019 was related to pollution. Almost all of these — 90% — occur in low- and middle-income countries. The good news is that deaths attributable to the types of pollution associated with extreme poverty — such as poor sanitation and household air pollution caused by burning fuel indoors — are dropping. But newer forms, including particles from burning fossil fuels and lead from shoddy recycling of batteries and electronic waste, are on the rise. So, overall, the situation has not improved since 2015. “The number of global early deaths from exposure to pollution doesn’t surprise me,” says atmospheric scientist Eloise Marais. “What’s most concerning is the lack of adoption of measures to address the issue”.

New Scientist | 3 min read

Reference: The Lancet Planetary Health paper

Features & opinion

Look to climate treaties for better health

Global-health efforts should be bolstered by a network of international treaties and legal agreements similar to those that protect the climate, argues Alexandra Phelan, a lawyer and researcher specializing in the governance of pandemics and climate change. “The key point is not to look at any single treaty, accord or policy as the outcome — there have been so many disappointments,” she writes. Instead, we should look at how these mechanisms function together to form a scaffolding that supports complex global cooperation.

Nature | 5 min read

How to build a better mask

Origami-inspired folds, soft silicone and a transparent design are among the features of the ten finalists of the Mask Innovation Challenge, run by the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Despite masks becoming less ubiquitous in some places, there is a big appetite for innovation in the “rather underfunded and a little stagnant” mask-development landscape, says Kumiko Lippold, a BARDA pharmacologist and toxicologist who organized the challenge. And pollution, rather than pathogens, is the primary target of many of the mask developers.

Science | 7 min read

Liverpool’s lost synchrocyclotron

In 1951, Liverpool, UK, was still marked by bomb damage from the Second World War. Nevertheless, led by Nobel-prizewinning physicist James Chadwick, the city’s university managed to construct a world-leading synchrocyclotron. Built into the Earth underneath the crypt of the city’s partially built cathedral, it was the first of its type that allowed the beam of accelerated particles to be directed at an outside target. By 1968, it was supplanted by machines at CERN in Geneva, and no trace of it remains.

Physics World | 15 min read

Infographic of the week

Infographic showing the increase in the number pandemic outbreaks and related deaths since 1910

Source: A. S. Bernstein et al. Sci. Adv. 8, eabl4183 (2022).

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-01427-2

After yesterday’s delightful illustration of an ‘an iceberg of uncertainty’, reader David Wilkins reminded me of this: Joshua Tauberer’s interactive iceberg maker, inspired by a tweet by glaciologist Megan Thompson-Munson about how we’re drawing icebergs all wrong. (No shade on David Parkins’s wonderful drawing, which clearly shows the steadying hand of a researcher in a rowboat.)

You can offer a steadying hand to the newsletter by sending us your feedback. Your e-mails are always welcome at briefing@nature.com.

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Nicky Phillips

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