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This photo shows the image of Andromeda galaxy as seen through the Wide Field Survey Telescope (WFST) Mozi.

The galaxy Andromeda, captured by the Wide Field Survey Telescope.Credit: University of Science and Technology of China/Xinhua via ZUMA

Telescope will track the shifting Universe

A stunning shot of the Andromeda Galaxy is the first image that China’s powerful new telescope has captured. Over six years, the Wide Field Survey Telescope (WFST) will scan the skies for fast-moving phenomena, such as stellar explosions. As the largest facility of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere, the WFST will complement Southern Hemisphere observatories such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, set to begin operations next year.

Nature | 5 min read

Earthworms add big slice of global grain

Earthworms boost crop yields by more than 140 million tonnes annually — equivalent to one slice of bread in every loaf, for wheat alone. The creatures churn and aerate the soil, help the land to hold on to water and release nutrients, and trigger plants to grow and defend themselves against pathogens. Farmers and policymakers should consider ways to make agriculture more worm-friendly, such as by plowing less often, suggests ecologist Steven Fonte, who led the first-of-its-kind estimate of wormy goodness. “They don’t respond well to tractors chopping them in half,” says Fonte. “Despite popular belief, you don’t get two earthworms.”

Science | 5 min read

Reference: Nature Communications paper

Plastic-free Lego plan falls apart

Lego says it’s giving up on a plan to make its toy bricks from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles. The company has been making some bits — tiny accessories for its minifigures, for example — from a sugar-cane-based plastic for several years. But it has a long history of failed experiments with plastic alternatives for the bricks, which didn’t stack up in terms of grip, colour or shine. “We remain fully committed to making Lego bricks from sustainable materials by 2032,” says Lego. “Recycled PET is one of hundreds of different sustainable materials we’ve tested.”

The Wall Street Journal | 4 min read

Features & opinion

Illustration of a group of scientists in a gym watching whilst research papers work out with weights and do gymnastics.

Illustrations by David Parkins

How to play the replication game

Four economists have created the ‘replication games’ to grapple with the replication crisis in the social sciences. These one-day workshops involve teams of scientists who re-analyse studies and then share the results as preprints. Here are their tips for others wanting to set up their own replication games:

• Collaborate with research centres and universities

• Use a mediator to protect replicators from career threats

• Give replication personal and professional value

• Minimize barriers for attendance

• Have fun

Nature | 10 min read

‘Where human rage and nature’s fury meet’

Volcanologist Charles Balagizi monitors water safety and volcanic activity near the Congo–Rwanda border, a region where violence is common. “One of our biggest concerns is the armed parties that control our routes into the field — we hope that they will identify us as scientists who pose no threat to them,” he says. The deaths of his park-ranger colleagues mean that he never assumes an area is safe. Whatever the security risk, Balagizi feels it is his responsibility to continue his work. “It’s the only way to issue warnings that help to prepare for upcoming eruptions.”

Nature | 6 min read

Real-world problems transform teaching

Instead of solving textbook problems, Franco Montalto’s students help to improve cities’ green infrastructure and design strategies for flood mitigation. “By co-developing projects with on-the-ground partners, faculty members can help communities in need and teach students,” he explains. Although devising a new project for each new class is time consuming, it keeps the curriculum fresh and affords students practical and professional experiences. Montalto suggests that opportunities to address community needs through student research go beyond engineering to fields such as law, environmental science and policy.

Nature | 5 min read

Image of the week

A view inside a glass and stainless steel glovebox containing the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return canister.

This is our first look inside the sample-return capsule dropped from the NASA mission OSIRIS-REx. Its contents — black dust and sand — were snatched off the surface of the asteroid Bennu three years ago and dropped in the US desert on Sunday. The spacecraft — now renamed OSIRIS-APEX — is already whizzing to its next mission: visiting (but not sampling) an asteroid named Apophis. (NASA blog | 2 min read)

Read more: Special delivery! Biggest-ever haul of asteroid dust and rock returns to Earth (Nature | 6 min read) (Dante Lauretta/NASA (CC-BY-2.0))

Quote of the day

“I think that I made ‘oil-spill scientist’ my identity. And, you know, all that led to me being crushed.”

Marine chemist Christopher Reddy’s life turned upside-down after an exhausting stint investigating the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, giving expert evidence to the US government and getting subpoenaed by oil company BP. His new book is a self-deprecating memoir and a nuts-and-bolts guide to scientific communication. (Nature | 6 min read)