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Gif of footage from the DART spacecraft showing it moving past an asteroid Didymos and colliding with its moonlet, Dimorphos

As the DART spacecraft flew past Didymos and approached Dimorphos for impact, it captured images during its final five minutes, shown here as a sped-up film.Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

Front-row seat to asteroid crash

NASA smashed a spacecraft into an asteroid on purpose on Monday, and we all got a ringside seat. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe rammed into the harmless asteroid Dimorphos to test whether humanity could reroute a dangerous asteroid heading for Earth. DART took pictures every second as it approached the space rock. Telescopes on Earth watched the collision. And a tiny satellite flew alongside and photographed the impact, which took place 11 million kilometres from Earth. Studying its shots of the plume of debris that was ejected from Dimorphos will help scientists to understand exactly how the impact unfolded.

Nature | 4 min read

Stunning superconductor paper retracted

Nature has retracted a high-profile study in which researchers claimed to have observed the first true room-temperature superconductor. Researchers “used a non-standard, user-defined procedure” to subtract noise from experimental data shown in two figures, according to the retraction notice. Through a spokesperson, physicist Ranga Dias said that he and his co-authors disagree with the retraction and will resubmit the paper with the raw-data plots of the figures. “The retraction request does not question the observed physical superconductivity state of the [carbon-sulfur-hydrogen] material,” says Dias’s statement. The stunning finding raised questions from the start. A response to the original paper, also published in Nature, questioned whether the observations indicated the existence of superconductivity at all.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Nature paper (retracted) & response in Nature

How Hurricane Ian got so big, so fast

Hurricane Ian has already cut power to all of Cuba and, as I write, is nearing landfall on the southwest coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate. Warm seas helped the hurricane to grow 67% stronger in less than 22 hours from Monday to Tuesday, say scientists. Caribbean waters are about 1 ℃ warmer than historical averages, which creates “a lot more rocket fuel for the storm”, says meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. It is difficult to attribute the impact of climate change on the formation or intensity of any one storm. But overall, global warming is making them more likely to intensify quickly. “We’re turning up the burner on a stove,” says atmospheric scientist James Kossin.

Associated Press | 4 min read

Features & opinion

Podcast: when life gets in the way

Many scientists switch jobs or sectors in the middle of their careers, and such a shake-up often coincides with big changes in a scientist’s personal life. And people in the nebulous mid-career period can be going through very different life stages, say scientists in the second episode of Muddle of the Middle, a six-part Working Scientist podcast series about the mid-career level in science. Featured are a PhD student who started her scientific career after having six children, a biologist who faced divorce and cancer alongside a job move, and a researcher who sold his company and joined academia.

Nature Careers Working Scientist podcast | 10 min listen

Bolsonaro’s troubled science legacy

Brazilians will choose their new president on 2 October, and Jair Bolsonaro is running for a second term. During his tenure, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose rapidly, there were substantial cuts to scientific research funding and Brazil was hard hit by COVID-19. In advance of the election, Nature looks at the impacts that Bolsonaro has had on science, health and the environment.

Nature | 6 min read

Let evidence guide transgender policy

Policy debates concerning transgender people have become embroiled in the culture wars and separated from informative research, argues political scientist Paisley Currah. He gives the example of an argument that allowing trans women to use women’s toilets and changing rooms will increase sexual assaults. “Research has shown the opposite,” Currah notes. “Instead of whipping up arguments to churn culture wars, elected officials and those around them should look to the evidence.”

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Sexuality Research and Social Policy paper

Infographic of the week

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 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05222-x (2022)