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Velocity-distribution data of a gas of rubidium atoms, illustrating the Bose-Einstein condensate.

Velocity-distribution data for a gas of rubidium atoms before, during and after the appearance of a Bose–Einstein condensate. The peak forms as all the atoms occupy the lowest possible quantum energy state.Credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology/Science Photo Library

Exotic quantum state achieved

A decades-long quest to create a Bose–Einstein condensate from molecules is finally over. Physicists cooled sodium-caesium molecules until they were almost stationary — which, thanks to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, meant their positions were so uncertain that they became indistinguishable and formed a single gigantic quantum state. Physicists have forced atoms into this bizarre state of matter since 1995, but molecules are much harder to cool. The key was using microwave fields to keep heat-generating collisions between molecules under control.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Nature paper

First far-side Moon rocks await their return

China’s Chang’e-6 mission to the far side of the Moon has succeeded in scooping soil and rocks from the surface, a huge step in its bid to return samples from the Moon’s mysterious far side to Earth. The rocks are now on board their ascender in Moon orbit, waiting to dock with the orbiter for the trip back home. The next step is even more nail biting: “You have two robots orbiting the Moon separately at 5,900 kilometres per hour, which have to come together and touch each other gently without crashing into each other,” says astronomer Jonathan McDowell.

Nature | 5 min read

Hope persists for a global pandemic treaty

Countries have failed to hammer out a global pandemic treaty by their original deadline, but there is growing optimism that an extension until 2025 will allow them to reach consensus. Another year of talks might break the deadlocks over equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments in exchange for sharing pathogen data. Countries did manage to reach a separate deal to prevent the global spread of infectious diseases, a success that could help to build momentum for the pandemic treaty.

If an agreement is reached, “signing up is just the start”, writes legal scholar Tae Jung Park, who has acted as a negotiator for the South Korean government — the challenge lies in getting countries to comply. Independent monitoring of compliance and mechanisms for resolving disputes can help. But “most breaches happen for more mundane reasons”, he says. “Different ministries in the same government often struggle to collaborate.” He recommends that governments set up a task force with political clout to coordinate pandemic preparedness across departments.

Nature | 4 min read & Nature World View | 5 min read

Reference: International Health Regulations 2024

Image of the week

A 308-million-year-old fossilized spider.

Credit: Paul Selden

A 300-million-year-old spider-like fossil with spiny legs is distinct from all known arachnids, living or extinct. See jaw-dropping images of the Milky Way, video of sea otters and recent aurora borealis sightings in the month’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team.

Features & opinion

Rowing the Atlantic for ocean science

“It was just terrifying,” says Isabelle Côté. “I thought I was gonna die several times.” In January, Côté and three other marine scientists completed an unsupported rowing race across the Atlantic ocean, winning the women’s division of the World’s Toughest Row. Their goal was to raise funds for marineeducation, conservation and research. The teammates spent three years preparing for the 4,800-kilometre crossing, which they made in under 39 days.

Nature | 9 min read

Protect India’s economy from monsoons

With an extreme monsoon season looming and rainfall patterns shifting across South Asia, India must change how it deals with the intensifying impacts of climate change, argues climate researcher Shravan Prabhu. Forty years of rainfall data across India shows that monsoon rains have become much more erratic, affecting key sectors of the Indian economy such as agriculture and water management. The government needs to encourage local adaptation strategies, strengthen farming practices to be more climate-resilient, and collect more granular data on monsoon variability, writes Prabhu. “Decision makers must recognize that floods and droughts can occur in the same district, in the same season.”

Nature | 5 min read

How to beat lab stage fright

“My tummy hurt, my fingers trembled, negative thoughts raced through my head and I could feel the weight of expectation bearing down on me,” says biomedical scientist Kwabena Boahen Asare about his first presentation in a lab meeting. He conquered his fear of public speaking by

• rehearsing without memorizing a script

• doing breathing exercises before the presentation

• imagining there’s no audience

• asking for feedback.

You can share your techniques for managing stage fright by leaving a comment under the article.

Nature | 6 min read

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Simply preposterous.”

Anthony Fauci, the face of the US pandemic response during both the Trump and Biden administrations, dismissed allegations at a hearing of US lawmakers that his agency funded research that created the COVID-19 pandemic or that he coordinated a cover-up of the pandemic’s origins. (Nature | 7 min read)