Hello Nature readers, would you like to get this Briefing in your inbox free every day? Sign up here

Time-lapse animation: a silver figure melts into liquid to pass through a tiny cage and then hardens into its previous shape.

A blob of ‘magnetoactive phase transitional matter’ shaped like a Lego minifigure softens to escape a cage and then re-forms in a mould to take its former shape. (Quingyuan Wang et al./Matter))

Liquid-metal robots can melt and re-form

Researchers have created a material that can move, soften and re-harden under the influence of magnetic fields. To demonstrate the material’s promise, researchers showed how it could be manipulated to pass through barriers, extract an object from an artificial stomach, and move a tiny light bulb into place and then melt into the solder required to make it work.

New Scientist | 3 min read (free registration required, but worth it for the boggling time-lapse videos)

Reference: Matter paper

Antidepressants push antibiotics resistance

Antidepressants might contribute to antibiotic resistance, alongside antibiotics overuse. In a laboratory study, five common antidepressants increased the mutation rate of Escherichia coli and triggered cellular defence mechanisms that make the bacteria better able to survive subsequent antibiotic treatment. Researchers now need to assess whether these mechanisms drive resistance in disease-causing bacteria in a real-world scenario.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: PNAS paper

Research highlights: 1-minute reads for Nature subscribers

A male Red Junglefowl sitting on a tree branch

The red junglefowl gave rise to the domesticated chicken, probably between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago.Credit: Phototrip/Alamy

Chicken DNA is fouling the genomes of wild relatives

Genomes of red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), the wild birds that gave rise to domestic chickens, include genetic material from their farmyard cousins.

A 3D-printed mini-microscope for less than US$4

A prototype microscope that is only 8 millimetres wide has just a handful of parts, and performs on par with a commercial product.

Sea spiders have supreme regenerative skills

Other arthropods can regrow lost legs, but the sea spider can regenerate central organs — including the anus and reproductive organs.

Features & opinion

Does it matter if science is less disruptive?

A recent finding that the proportion of papers that shake up a field has plummeted over the last 50 years has prompted a lot of soul-searching, says a Nature editorial. Some scientists worry that metrics-driven evaluation, information overload and dividing science into ever-narrower units stops researchers from making disruptive discoveries. Others suggest that the fundamentals in many disciplines are already agreed on, so most further advances are incremental.

Nature | 6 min read

Would ‘mad scientists’ pass ethics review?

Discussing research proposals from (in)famous fictional scientists is a fun way to learn about ethics, say three ethics specialists. How, say, would you deal with Emmett Brown’s plan in Back to the Future to secure material from terrorists for his ground-breaking research on time travel? What about ‘dual-use’ research, such as a fictional freeze ray, that could be dangerous in the wrong hands? Luckily, such outrageous projects are rare in the real world, says Amanda Sly. “Occasionally we do see the ones that you’re like, ‘You’re not quite a mad scientist, but there’s some hubris there.’”

Science | 6 min read

Mormons rally to save the Great Salt Lake

Early Mormon culture revolved around farming and careful stewardship, yet some observe that environmentalism has been widely “scoffed at” in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now, church members are rallying to save the Great Salt Lake, at the heart of their settlement in Utah. The lake is on the brink of collapse because of droughts and water being diverted to grow livestock feed. “If we were to follow that clear guidance in scripture to have a plant-based diet, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” says ecosystem scientist and Mormon Ben Abbott.

High Country News | 4 min read

Quote of the day

“This is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

Engineer Davide Farnocchia, who developed NASA’s impact hazard assessment system, says that a truck-sized asteroid 2023 BU will whizz very close over the southern tip of South America today — 3,600 kilometers above the surface — but everything will be fine. (Associated Press | 2 min read)