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Daily briefing: AI predicts the shape of nearly all known proteins

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The full Moon pictured above Earth from the International Space Station.

The Danuri probe will use multiple scientific instruments to probe properties of the Moon.Credit: NASA

South Korea excited for first Moon mission

By this time next week, South Korea’s first lunar probe will be on its way to the Moon. The probe, named Danuri, which means ‘enjoy the Moon’, should arrive at its destination by mid-December and orbit for a year. Researchers hope that the craft will find hidden sources of water and ice and shed light on the Moon’s ancient magnetism as well as the ‘fairy castles’ of dust sprinkled across its surface. “Everybody is so happy and excited,” says planetary geoscientist Kyeong-ja Kim.

Nature | 5 min read

AI predicts shape of nearly every protein

Determining the 3D shape of almost any protein known to science will soon be as simple as typing in a Google search. Researchers have used the revolutionary artificial-intelligence (AI) network AlphaFold to predict the structures of some 200 million proteins from one million species, covering nearly every known protein on the planet. The data will be uploaded to a free database. “It’s going to be an awesome resource,” says computational biologist Eduard Porta Pardo.

Nature | 5 min read

Fossil-fuel emissions hamper carbon dating

The burning of fossil fuels has officially shifted the composition of carbon isotopes in the air of the Northern Hemisphere enough to cancel out a useful signal from nuclear-weapons testing. This could cause a headache for archaeologists, because modern items now look like objects from the early twentieth century in terms of radiocarbon dating. The development means that forensic scientists will no longer be able to use radiocarbon fingerprints to pinpoint the ages of materials such as ivory, antiques and wine. “If you’re working in forensics or detecting fakes, this is a really sad moment,” says archaeologist Tom Higham.

Nature | 5 min read

Features & opinion

James Lovelock: scientist and green thinker

British scientist James Lovelock, whose work inspired the green movement and underpins much of modern climate science, died on his 103rd birthday. His research spanned many disciplines, but he is perhaps best known for his 1960s Gaia theory, which described Earth as one huge interconnected, self-regulating system rather than a passive host to living species — an idea that was controversial among some evolutionary scientists. Lovelock highlighted some of the greatest environmental concerns of our time, including damage to the ozone layer and climate change.

The Guardian | 10 min read

Raising a glass to glassware

Glass has played an important part throughout the history of science — from test tubes and Petri dishes to telescope lenses and microscope slides — but it holds a special significance for chemists, with whom most people still associate the image of glassware containing brightly coloured solutions. In celebration of the United Nations International Year of Glass, chemist Michelle Francl explores how glass has revolutionized the field.

Nature Chemistry | 7 min read

Futures: In the dark

A couple must decide whether to submit to humanity’s alien overlords in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Podcast: How we became lactose tolerant

Humans have been drinking milk for thousands of years, long before the ability to digest it became widespread. Now, researchers think they know why: lactose tolerance was beneficial enough to influence evolution only during occasional episodes of famine and disease, explaining why it took thousands of years for the trait to become prevalent in Europe.

Nature Podcast | 28 min listen

Read more: How humans’ ability to digest milk evolved from famine and disease (Nature | 5 min read)

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Right now I find myself lying awake at three in the morning, wondering if everything I’ve ever done is wrong.

Surprising revelations from the James Webb Space Telescope’s first images are already re-shaping our understanding of distant galaxies, says astronomer Allison Kirkpatrick. (Nature | 7 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-02084-1

Flora is on holiday and the Briefing is about to take a short break. So you'll have a little bit of extra time to find Leif Penguison, who this week is hiding among the beech trees at the Lakes of Covadonga in Spain. Can you find the penguin?

The solution will be in a special best-of edition of the Briefing on Thursday 4 August, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

We’ll be in touch again with another special edition on 11 August and then back to the regular swing of things on 15 August. See you soon!

Emma Stoye, senior news editor, Nature

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