Volume 457 Issue 7227, 15 January 2009

Can he do it? The cover shows Barack Obama and George W. Bush prior to their 10 November Oval Office meeting. The handover takes place next week. In this issue we look at the Bush legacy, and the emerging policies of the Obama administration. [COVER PICTURE: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]



  • Editorial |

    As Barack Obama sets a fresh agenda for the US approach to climate change and energy, scientists must make sure that they do not merely watch from the sidelines.

  • Editorial |

    The Obama administration must help prevent terrorists from building a nuclear device.

  • Editorial |

    George Bush's AIDS programme needs leadership and support from the Obama administration.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


  • News |

    Barack Obama's nominees for top federal positions are not speaking to the press until their appointments are confirmed, but they have spoken out before.

  • News |

    Indo-German research cruise sets sail despite criticism.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • News |

    Social neuroscientists criticized for exaggerating links between brain activity and emotions.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News |

    China's leading conservation centre is facing down an onslaught of rubber plantations. Jane Qiu reports from Jinghong.

    • Jane Qiu

News in Brief


News Feature

  • News Feature |

    In the first of three features on the legacy of the Bush administration, Declan Butler looks at the United States' failure to deal with the risks of nuclear proliferation.

    • Declan Butler
  • News Feature |

    Was setting up PEPFAR — a massive HIV treatment programme — the best thing that President Bush ever did? Erika Check Hayden investigates.

    • Erika Check Hayden



  • Commentary |

    Rejuvenate the Environmental Protection Agency. End the stem-cell ban. Re-engage with the UN on climate change. Six leading voices tell Nature what the new US president needs to do to move beyond the Bush legacy.


  • Essay |

    Powerful chemical signals have been identified in moths, elephants and fish, recounts Tristram D. Wyatt. But, contrary to stories in the popular press, the race is still on to capture human scents.

    • Tristram D. Wyatt

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    A high-profile copyright activist is fighting for traditional publishers to stop criminalizing their own readers, explains Jonathan Zittrain.

    • Jonathan Zittrain
  • Books & Arts |

    Voted the world's best restaurant, Spain's elBulli near Barcelona offers an unusual culinary experience, from hot velvet-crab aspic with mini-corncob couscous to ice-cold liquorice nitro-dragon dessert. Innovative head chef Ferran Adrià explains how science and haute cuisine can work together.

    • Jascha Hoffman

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    How can we investigate a disease affecting neurons, which cannot be isolated from patients for analysis? As the study of one neurological disorder shows, a first step might be to make patient-specific neurons.

    • Michael Sendtner
  • News & Views |

    Turbulent convection in a rotating body is a common but poorly understood phenomenon in astrophysical and geophysical settings. Consideration of boundary effects offers a fresh angle on this thorny problem.

    • Peter L. Read
  • News & Views |

    Oscillations in gene expression regulate various cellular processes and so must be robust and tunable. Interactions between both negative and positive feedback loops seem to ensure these features.

    • Jeff Gore
    •  & Alexander van Oudenaarden
  • News & Views |

    Observations of superfluid behaviour — flow without friction — of unusual character in a condensed-matter system pave the way to investigations of superfluidity in systems that are out of thermal equilibrium.

    • Jonathan Keeling
    •  & Natalia G. Berloff
  • News & Views |

    Multi-talented astrophysicist and public servant.

    • Saul A. Teukolsky
    •  & Ira Wasserman


  • Article |

    This paper generates an iPS cell line from patients with spinal muscular atrophy, an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that is one of the most common inherited forms of neurological disease in children.

    • Allison D. Ebert
    • , Junying Yu
    • , Ferrill F. Rose Jr
    • , Virginia B. Mattis
    • , Christian L. Lorson
    • , James A. Thomson
    •  & Clive N. Svendsen
  • Article |

    Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells sense and transmit light information to brain centres that control non-image-forming visual functions, such as the pupillary light reflex and circadian photoentrainment. This paper describes the biophysical properties of these melanopsin-containing cells. It is found that single-photons of light are sufficient to elicit large and prolonged responses.

    • Michael Tri H. Do
    • , Shin H. Kang
    • , Tian Xue
    • , Haining Zhong
    • , Hsi-Wen Liao
    • , Dwight E. Bergles
    •  & King-Wai Yau


  • Letter |

    Blue stragglers in globular clusters are abnormally massive stars that should have evolved off the stellar main sequence long ago. There are two processes that can create these objects: direct stellar collisions or binary evolution. This study reports that there is a clear, but sublinear, correlation between the number of blue stragglers found in a cluster core and the total stellar mass contained within it, and it is concluded that most blue stragglers come from binary systems.

    • Christian Knigge
    • , Nathan Leigh
    •  & Alison Sills
  • Letter |

    In a classical Bardeen–Cooper–Schrieffer superconductor, pairing and coherence are established simultaneously below the critical transition temperature (Tc). But in the copper oxide high- Tc superconductors, a pseudogap extends above Tc. Spectral gaps arising from pairing precursors are qualitatively similar to those caused by competing states, rendering a standard approach to their analysis inconclusive. This paper reports that the spectral weight of the superconducting coherent peak increases away from the node following the trend of the superconducting gap, but then starts to decrease in the antinodal region.

    • Takeshi Kondo
    • , Rustem Khasanov
    • , Tsunehiro Takeuchi
    • , Jörg Schmalian
    •  & Adam Kaminski
  • Letter |

    Turbulent rotating convection controls many observed features in stars and planets, such as magnetic fields. It has been argued that the influence of rotation on turbulent convection dynamics is governed by the ratio of the relevant global-scale forces: the Coriolis force and the buoyancy force. This paper presents results from laboratory and numerical experiments which exhibit transitions between rotationally dominated and non-rotating behaviour that are not determined by this global force balance. Instead, the transition is controlled by the relative thicknesses of the thermal (non-rotating) and Ekman (rotating) boundary layers.

    • Eric M. King
    • , Stephan Stellmach
    • , Jerome Noir
    • , Ulrich Hansen
    •  & Jonathan M. Aurnou
  • Letter |

    This paper presents the first detailed description of the braincase of Ptomacanthus, an acanthodian that lived in the Early Devonian. The results show that acanthodians were probably not a natural group: Ptomacanthus was either a very early relative of sharks, or close to the common ancestry of all modern jawed vertebrates.

    • Martin D. Brazeau
  • Letter |

    Dendritic spine morphogenesis is sensitive to experience-dependent plasticity, but whether or not experience-induced structural changes outlast the experience itself is unknown. This paper reveals that long-lived spine density increases in response to monocular deprivation that persist beyond the duration of time the eye was closed. Subsequent deprivation fails to induce further spine density increases, suggesting initial experience may provide a structural experience 'trace' that could be utilized in response to further functional shifts.

    • Sonja B. Hofer
    • , Thomas D. Mrsic-Flogel
    • , Tobias Bonhoeffer
    •  & Mark Hübener
  • Letter |

    The PU.1-related transcription factor Spi-C controls the development of a tissue macrophage subset in the spleen involved in the removal of red blood cells. Spi-C deficient mice fail to phagocytose trapped red blood cells.

    • Masako Kohyama
    • , Wataru Ise
    • , Brian T. Edelson
    • , Peter R. Wilker
    • , Kai Hildner
    • , Carlo Mejia
    • , William A. Frazier
    • , Theresa L. Murphy
    •  & Kenneth M. Murphy
  • Letter |

    This paper shows that insects possess a structure very similar, both anatomically and functionally, to the blood-filtering tissue of the vertebrate kidney, and raises the possibility that components of the vertebrate excretory system were inherited from their invertebrate ancestors. It is also shown that fly orthologues of the major constituents of the slit diaphragm of the kidney form a complex of interacting proteins similar to the vertebrate slit diaphragm complex.

    • Helen Weavers
    • , Silvia Prieto-Sánchez
    • , Ferdinand Grawe
    • , Amparo Garcia-López
    • , Ruben Artero
    • , Michaela Wilsch-Bräuninger
    • , Mar Ruiz-Gómez
    • , Helen Skaer
    •  & Barry Denholm
  • Letter |

    Polploidy is a common feature of many plants, and in addition some plants exist as intra- and interspecific hybrinds. Such plants display growth vigour, and genes involved in metabolism and energy, photosynthesis and starch accumulation are upregulated compared to the parents. This study examines the mechanistic basis of increased growth, and reports that epigenetic modifications of circadian clock regulators mediates the expression of genes in photosynthetic and metabolic pathways.

    • Zhongfu Ni
    • , Eun-Deok Kim
    • , Misook Ha
    • , Erika Lackey
    • , Jianxin Liu
    • , Yirong Zhang
    • , Qixin Sun
    •  & Z. Jeffrey Chen
  • Letter |

    A crystal structure of the antibiotic myxopyronin bound to bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) reveals insights into how the antibiotic binds to the transcription initiation complex and the mechanism of open complex formation.

    • Georgiy A. Belogurov
    • , Marina N. Vassylyeva
    • , Anastasiya Sevostyanova
    • , James R. Appleman
    • , Alan X. Xiang
    • , Ricardo Lira
    • , Stephen E. Webber
    • , Sergiy Klyuyev
    • , Evgeny Nudler
    • , Irina Artsimovitch
    •  & Dmitry G. Vassylyev
  • Letter |

    Both strands of DNA are replicated simultaneously, but they have opposite polarities. A trombone model has been proposed to explain how replication machinery that moves in one direction can accomplish this feat. In this model, the lagging strand forms a loop that allows it to enter the replication machinery in the same direction as the leading strand. This study uses single molecule techniques to examine this process in real time, and it finds that this loop is reinitiated with the priming of every Okazaki fragment, and released when the previous fragment is encountered by the replisome.

    • Samir M. Hamdan
    • , Joseph J. Loparo
    • , Masateru Takahashi
    • , Charles C. Richardson
    •  & Antoine M. van Oijen



Postdocs and Students

  • Postdocs and Students |

    Job prospects are looking gloomy as the economic downturn runs its course, but there are bright spots for some. Genevive Bjorn reports on ways to shelter from the storm.

    • Genevive Bjorn


  • Futures |

    You must remember this ...

    • John Frizell
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