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Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft near asteroids

The DART spacecraft will smash into the asteroid Dimorphos, and the LICIACube probe (bottom right) will snap photos of the aftermath, as shown in this artist’s rendering.Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

A practice run to deflect an asteroid

In a few hours — at 7:14 p.m. US eastern time — NASA will smash a spacecraft into an asteroid. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe will give its life to knock the harmless asteroid Dimorphos into a slightly different orbit. Its goal is to test whether humanity could reroute a dangerous asteroid heading for Earth. DART will take photos every second as it plunges towards the space rock. “We are super excited to see what it’s going to look like,” says software engineer Michelle Chen.

Nature | 5 min read

‘Papermill alarm’ flags worrying papers

A software tool that analyses the titles and abstracts of scientific papers to detect text similar to that in bogus articles is gaining interest from publishers. The tool, called the Papermill Alarm, found that 1% of papers listed in citation database PubMed contain text very similar to that in articles produced by paper mills — companies or individuals that fabricate scientific manuscripts to order. The Papermill Alarm does not say definitively whether an article is fabricated, but flags those that merit further investigation.

Nature | 4 min read

Biodiversity plan gets billion-dollar boost

Germany has breathed new life into a beleaguered global biodiversity deal by bumping up its commitment to €1.5 billion (US$1.49 billion) a year — an increase of €0.87 billion. The nation made the announcement at a meeting to rally support for a pivotal United Nations biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada, in December. Concerns over insufficient financing have stalled negotiations in advance of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity. “With this contribution, we want to send a strong signal for an ambitious outcome of the biodiversity COP15," says German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Nature | 5 min read

Storm delays Moon rocket launch

NASA will again delay the launch of its Space Launch System (SLS) and its accompanying capsule, because of Hurricane Ian. The SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built and a key component of NASA’s bid to send people (including the first woman) back to the Moon by the end of 2025. The delay will push the launch of the uncrewed test mission, known as Artemis I, to at least late October. The storm has prompted US President Joe Biden to declare an emergency for the state of Florida.

Associated Press | 2 min read

Features & opinion

How to cut the harm from fast fashion

More than 50 billion garments are discarded within a year of being made, according to a report from an expert workshop convened by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. There’s a big role for research — both academic and industrial — in helping the industry to cut its staggering environmental impact, argues a Nature editorial. It will take international collaboration between governments, and precise policies with teeth.

Nature | 6 min read

Hiring policies can help to end harassment

High-profile cases in which an accused harasser ends up, and sometimes reoffends, at another institution have led to a revamping of policies to prevent similar situations. For example, the University of Wisconsin system and the University of California, Davis, both implemented policies in 2019 that require asking candidates more questions about previous investigations. “Students and employees should not be left to study and work in unsafe environments because schools fail to ask and answer questions related to substantiated findings of sexual misconduct,” says Susan Fortney, a law scholar who specializes in legal and organizational ethics.

Nature | 11 min read

Is this the Romans’ favourite spice?

A yellow-flowered plant called silphion was prized by ancient Greeks as a cure-all and by Roman chefs as a culinary staple. But by the time of Pliny the Elder's chronicles in the first century, “just one stalk” was left — and it was scoffed down by Emperor Nero. Now pharmacognosist Mahmut Miski says a species that he discovered (Ferula drudeana) is the ancient plant. The plant is a goldmine of medicinal compounds, says Miski. “It’s like you combined half a dozen important medicinal plants in a single species,” he says. To confirm that the modern perennial is indeed the legendary silphion, food historians turned to ancient cookbooks for a taste test.

National Geographic | 17 min read

Where I work

Ana Saenz García tends her indoor hop plants

Ana Saez García is a co-founder and the chief operations officer of Ekonoke in Madrid.Credit: Guillermo Gutierrez Carrascal for Nature

Ana Saez García uses hydroponics to grow hops using barely any soil — and to boost the yield sustainably. (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

“People mistakenly see optimism as an excuse for inaction. The opposite is true. Optimists are the ones that move us forward.”

Hannah Ritchie, head of research at the online publication Our World in Data, says it’s time to embrace optimism, study success stories and get serious about tackling the world’s biggest problems. (Big Think | 6 min read)