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‘The hat’ is one member of a continuous family of shapes that create infinite, never-repeating patterns. (D. Smith, J.S. Myers, C.S. Kaplan and C. Goodman-Strauss (CC BY 4.0))

‘Hat’ shape forms never-repeating pattern

Researchers have discovered the first example of a single shape that can cover a surface with an infinite pattern that never repeats. The shape is surprisingly simple: a 13-sided polykite that the team has dubbed ‘the hat’. The hat’s sides can vary in length without it losing the ability to create ‘aperiodic tiling’. “It wasn’t even clear that such a thing could exist,” says mathematician Marjorie Senechal. Previous examples of aperiodic tilings, such as Penrose tiles, required two or more shapes.

Science News | 6 min read

Reference: arXiv preprint (not peer reviewed)

Men still hold majority of US science jobs

Men continue to occupy almost three-quarters of all science and engineering positions in the United States. Close to two-thirds are occupied by white people. Women, members of minority ethnic groups and those with disabilities remain under-represented. For example, people with at least one disability account for about one-quarter of the US population, yet hold only 3% of science jobs, a proportion that has not changed in the past decade.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: National Science Foundation report

Scientists are bad at predicting change

Social scientists’ predictions about societal trends are no more accurate than those made by large groups of lay people. The largest-ever forecasting study asked more than 100 teams of scientists to make monthly predictions about social phenomena, including political polarization and life satisfaction. Often, the researchers’ forecasts were worse than those made with statistical models. Scientists made slightly better predictions in their field of expertise, and multi-disciplinary teams tended to do better overall.

The Conversation | 4 min read

Reference: Nature Human Behaviour paper

Features & opinion

Get your weekend back with time tracking

The inevitable consequence of not knowing how long it takes to complete specific work tasks is that they start creeping into every part of your life, including weekends and holidays. “The solution is obvious: track your time,” says researcher-development director Inger Mewburn. She recommends using apps such as Timing (macOS) or RescueTime (Windows). For bigger projects, she uses a formula that considers likely, optimistic and pessimistic time to completion of a task.

Nature | 6 min read

Futures: Self from self

An unexpected disconnect leads a gamer to a familial reconnection in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Podcast: Driving test for driverless cars

Artificial-intelligence (AI) systems can become better drivers when they have to navigate around other AI drivers that have been specifically trained to be bad drivers. The AI can quickly learn how to deal with many of the rare but exceedingly dangerous situations that it might encounter. The team trialled this approach by surrounding a real autonomous car with virtual bad AI drivers in Mcity, “a miniature city [that] has all the city infrastructure in it”, as engineer and transport researcher Henry Liu explains on the Nature Podcast.

Nature Podcast | 20 min listen

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Quote of the day

“Wouldn’t mind eating this all week as an astronaut.”

A seven-ingredient ‘space salad’ was deemed tasty by one of the four volunteers who got to try it. The recipe, whose ingredients could all be grown on a spacecraft, was created with optimal nutrition as well as psychological value in mind. (Astronomy | 5 min read)