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Three quantum physicists have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their experiments with entangled photons, in which particles of light become inextricably linked. Such experiments have laid the foundations for a plethora of quantum technologies, including quantum computers and communications. Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger will each receive one-third of the 10-million-kronor (US$915,000) prize. At the press conference announcing the award, Zeilinger paid tribute to the early-career scientists who have worked with him. “This prize would not be possible without the work of more than 100 young people over the years.”
Evidence is building that the Northern Hemisphere is on course for a surge of COVID-19 cases this autumn and winter. New immune-evading strains of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, behaviour changes and waning immunity mean that many countries could soon see large numbers of COVID-19 infections — and potentially hospitalizations — say scientists. Nature explores the factors that might drive a COVID-19 wave — and what we can do to blunt the effects with the new generation of vaccines that target Omicron.
With rising cases of monkeypox globally, scientists are worried about the virus becoming established in wild animals, such as rodents, outside its usual range in West and Central Africa. In such a scenario, animal reservoirs could then transmit the virus back to people. “Then we are in trouble,” says virologist Malachy Okeke, because controlling the virus in wildlife would be extremely difficult and make it almost impossible to eliminate. Scientists say the best way to prevent the virus spilling over into animals is to stop the spread between people by ramping up vaccine distribution.
The UK government has announced the name of its next science minister after a three-month vacancy. Parliamentarian Nusrat Ghani, who has limited experience in research, will fill the role. The delay in appointing a minister to oversee research and innovation has unsettled many UK scientists, who fear that new Prime Minister Liz Truss does not see science as a priority. Ghani faces “a mounting to-do list, which is long and growing”, says science-policy researcher James Wilsdon.
Australia’s government has set itself the goal of preventing any new extinctions of native wildlife, and conserving at least 30% of its land mass by 2030. More mammal species have gone extinct in Australia than on any other continent, and more than 1,900 Australian species are currently listed as threatened. The government’s 10-year threatened-species plan will prioritize the protection of 110 species and 20 regions or ecosystems. Conservationists have welcomed the commitment to zero extinctions, but say it is unclear how the plan will protect non-priority species.
Features & opinion
“Too often, the more applied a proposal is, the less likely it is to be funded,” notes Melissa Flagg, who spent 15 years as a US federal science funder and 3 years doling out ‘genius grants’ at the MacArthur Foundation. She points to the ‘valley of death’: the difficulty of getting grants or venture capital to turn a research advance into a profit-making application. She urges institutions and funders to expand metrics to recognize real-world change, rather than funding a series of shiny new ideas that never go beyond sparkle.
In this roundtable podcast, Nature journalists discuss how the ongoing war in Ukraine is affecting publishing, international collaborations, climate change and energy. They consider the future of science in the face of a new geopolitical climate. And they touch on the impact on scientists. Nisha Gaind, Nature’s European Bureau Chief, has been speaking to researchers in Ukraine since before the Russian invasion began. “These are tragic stories underpinned by the great courage of many of these researchers,” she says.
Image of the week
Scientists captured a zebrafish embryo’s development over 12 hours using a specially designed microscope and a non-destructive technique called light-sheet imaging. The purple colour shows the position of the mesoderm, one of the groups of cells that eventually go on to form the embryo’s organs and tissues
See other great science images, selected by Nature’s photo team. (Loïc A. Royer and Merlin Lange/CZ Biohub)