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Daily briefing: US Supreme Court defangs the EPA

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Staff members wearing overalls carry the preserved body of baby mammoth, Yuka, past gathered press in Moscow

The preserved body of a 39,000-year-old baby mammoth found in the Siberian permafrost on the Yukagir coast.Credit: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Shutterstock

War throws palaeontology into turmoil

Russia has been at the centre of some of the century’s biggest archaeological and palaeontological finds — including the discovery of Denisovans, an ancient-human species found in a Siberian cave and described in 2010. As well as devastating lives and livelihoods, its war against Ukraine has prompted sanctions, collapsed collaborations and cancelled fieldwork, disrupting studies of ancient life. “We will know less about the past because of this war,” says evolutionary geneticist Love Dalén, who works in Sweden and often does fieldwork in Russia.

Nature | 6 min read

US Supreme Court defangs the EPA

The US Supreme Court has prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from crafting broad regulations to drive the country’s power industry away from coal and towards cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar. The court’s ruling could make it much harder for the administration of President Joe Biden — and its successors — to curb greenhouse gases as promised under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. And that spells bad news for the planet, because the United States is both one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world and a crucial player in the countries tackling global warming.

Nature | 6 min read

More muon magnetism mystery

Last year, an experiment suggested that the muon — a subatomic particle similar to an electron — had inexplicably strong magnetism, possibly breaking a decades-long streak of victories for the leading theory of particle physics, known as the standard model. Now, revised calculations by several groups suggest that the theory’s prediction of muon magnetism might not be too far from the experimental prediction after all. By narrowing the gap, the latest predictions might make it easier to resolve the discrepancy between theory and experiment.

Nature | 6 min read

Features & opinion

Five best science books this week

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes how DDT lingers, a natural history of fragrance and why we help others.

Nature | 3 min read

Futures: Ouroboros

A lonely man faces cosmic rebirth in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Stomach bugs could spread through spit

Research in mice suggests that some unpleasant gut viruses, which were thought to spread only through faecal–oral transmission, can also be passed in saliva. Scientists found that the norovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus can infect the salivary glands, as well as the gut — and that the resulting saliva is quite infectious. The discovery strongly suggests that stomach bugs are spreading between humans in saliva, too, says virologist and co-author Nihal Altan-Bonnet. Mask-wearing could be a useful tool to slow an outbreak sweeping through places such as schools or cruise ships, she says.

Nature Podcast | 30 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change.”

US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion in a judgment limiting the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency that a Scientific American editorial calls “deeply harmful and ideologically motivated”. (6 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-01852-3

Today our elusive acquaintance Leif Penguinson is hiding among rather a lot of slender-billed gulls (Chroicocephalus genei) and black-headed gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) at the Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in India. Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton has been cruel with this one — but can you thwart him and find the penguin?

The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

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