Asteroid crash test

On 26 September, NASA successfully slammed the DART spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos, 11 million kilometres from Earth. The goal was to test whether it would be possible to deflect the course of a dangerous asteroid if it were heading for Earth.

NASA aims to speed up Dimorphos’s orbit, cutting the time it takes to travel around the larger asteroid Didymos by 10–15 minutes. It will take days to weeks before mission scientists can confirm whether the test worked. But an Italian probe named LICIACube, travelling a little behind DART, zipped past Dimorphos just three minutes after the impact, snapping images before and after the crash.

DESTRUCTIVE MANOEUVRE. Graphic showing details of the DART mission to change the course of an asteroid.

Source: Adapted from NASA/Johns Hopkins University APL; originally appeared in Nature (2021)

Elite universities favoured for jobs

US universities hire most of their tenure-track faculty members from the same handful of elite institutions, according to a Nature study. It shows that just 20% of PhD-granting institutions in the United States supplied 80% of tenure-track faculty members to institutions across the country between 2011 and 2020 — a hiring bias shown in this chart’s skew to the left. One in eight US-trained tenure-track faculty members got their PhDs from just five elite universities: the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Stanford University in California; and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Hiring bias: Chart showing that just 20% of US universities produced 80% of US-trained faculty members from 2011 to 2020.

Source: K. H. Wapman et al. Nature (2022)

How to trace SARS-CoV-2 to a toilet

This graphic explains how a research group used sewage to trace a new coronavirus lineage to its source — which turned out to be one office. The researchers had been tracking a heavily mutated variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Early this year, they discovered the variant in Wisconsin waste water drawn from more than 100,000 people. Then they followed samples that had been collected from smaller and smaller watersheds in the sewer network, until they got down to specific manholes and toilets. In June, they traced the lineage to waste water from a single business with fewer than 30 employees, as our News story explains.

HUNTING A CRYPTIC LINEAGE. Graphic showing how the source of a mutated SARS-CoV-2 variant was found

Source: Dave O’Connor and Marc Johnson