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Heatwave projections. World map showing areas where the number of days above 35 C is projected to increase.

Many places on Earth could experience up to 30–40 extra days above 35 ℃ each year.

July was Earth’s hottest month

July 2023 shattered temperature records going back as far as 1850 by around 0.25 ℃. This seemingly small increase produced heatwaves around the world, which can now be expected to occur every 5–15 years. A budding El Niño warming event, a volcanic eruption on Tonga and, above all, increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere played a part. Overall, the average global temperature was 1.54 ℃ above the preindustrial average for the month. This year could be the warmest on record — and next year is likely to be even hotter. “We’re in a particularly extreme period on top of a long-term warming trend, and the view from the top is a little scary,” says climate scientist Zeke Hausfather.

Nature | 5 min read

Russia’s Luna 25 Moon lander crashes

Russia’s first lunar mission in 47 years, which aspired to be the first ever to land at the Moon’s south pole, has crashed. “The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon,” Roskosmos said in a statement. “It’s hugely disappointing,” says planetary scientist Simeon Barber. “Landing on the moon is not easy.” All attempts since the NASA–Soviet Union space-race heyday in the 1950s–70s have failed, except for three Chinese missions in the past decade. India’s Chandrayaan-3 will attempt to land at the south pole on 23 August.

Nature | 5 min read

Embryo definition needs to change

Scientists are calling for a new definition of human embryos to include laboratory-grown embryo-like structures if they acquire the potential to develop into a fetus. Embryo models are grown from human stem cells and can recreate some features of early development. They currently can’t develop into individuals. “We can foresee that the most complete embryo models will at some point tip over to become embryos giving rise to individuals,” says biologist Nicolas Rivron. Other scientists suggest that it might be too soon for a redefinition. “None of the current human embryo models even come close to meeting this threshold,” says stem-cell researcher Berna Sozen.

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: Cell paper

Features & opinion

Three ideas on how to accelerate science

Researchers and policymakers need a closer partnership to better translate evidence on how to speed up the scientific process into action, says a group of metascience researchers. “In our view, the current dearth of such work stems from a lack of understanding about which questions policymakers most need answering,” they suggest. Here are their three ideas on how researchers can help to bridge the divide:

• Spend time working in government service positions

• Collaborate with think tanks

• Change academic norms to value use-inspired research

Nature | 9 min read

The Indigenous rocketeer

Oglala Lakota undergraduate student Nicole McGaa gathered a team of Native American students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to compete in a NASA rocket competition. They won second place, but McGaa says that even more important was how she and her team incorporated values from their tribes and nations into their work. “For us, having an Indigenous team is not just about building rockets for the sake of it,” she says. “It will have a lasting impact on Indigenous students at MIT.”

Nature | 6 min read

Biden’s big climate law: one year on

It's been one year since US President Joe Biden signed a landmark bill with a voter-wooing name — the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which set aside billions of dollars to support clean technologies and cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Many of the spending and tax credits haven't arrived yet. Nevertheless, “it’s been more impactful than I or other observers would’ve thought”, says climate economist James Stock. Clean-energy investment is booming, more people are switching to electric cars and the IRA is forecast to cut US greenhouse-gas emissions up to 48% by 2035, compared with 2005 levels.

The Guardian | 8 min read

Image of the week

A number of black action figures are posed in running positions inside a small silver-lined wind tunnel.

Engineers posed action figures into a wind tunnel to determine how a runner can break speed records with the help of support runners who set the pace and deflect some of the main runner’s air resistance. The ‘inverted arrow’ configuration used by elite runner Eliud Kipchoge and his pacers during his successful 2019 bid to become the first person to run the marathon distance in under two hours saved him around 3 minutes and 33 seconds, found the researchers. They discovered three more formations — such as the ‘lowercase-t’ one shown in the image — that could slash drag by about 60% and save a runner more than four minutes. (ScienceNews | 4 min read)

Reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society A paper (École Centrale de Lyon/LMFA UMR 5509)

Quote of the day

“I have an emotional connection to the subject matter. Many scientists do. It’s not all analytical. It’s much easier to study things you love.”

Childhood encounters with beautiful snakes and salamanders inspired the work of evolutionary biologist Sean Carroll, who studies the genes that control animal body patterns. He is among the researchers and artists who spoke to Nautilus about the aesthetic side of science. (Nautilus | 21 min read)