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Volume 458 Issue 7241, 23 April 2009

In this issue we celebrate the life of Sir John Maddox, Nature's influential two-time editor, who died last week. The cover picture shows him in typical pose in the Nature office. During his tenure, in 1966–1973 and 1980–1995, he laid the foundations for Nature as it is today, establishing a system of peer review and instituting a strong tradition of journalism. In an Obituary section, Walter Gratzer, Nicholas Byam Shaw and Philip Campbell recall his career and his influence on those who knew and worked with him. An online tribute features a selection of John Maddox's journalism covering four decades at Nature.



  • Editorial |

    The world needs stronger leadership in safeguarding the security of computation and communication networks. That includes research institutions.

  • Editorial |

    The United States has finally acknowledged that global warming is a threat. It must now act on that.

  • Editorial |

    Regulatory agencies need to be more proactive in preparing for avant-garde products.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


News in Brief

  • News in Brief |

    Radar images home in on source of Italian earthquake.

    • Lucas Laursen


News in Brief

News Feature

  • News Feature |

    Far from being just an accessory, mobile phones are starting to be used to collect data in an increasing number of disciplines. Roberta Kwok looks into their potential.

    • Roberta Kwok
  • News Feature |

    The field of induced pluripotent stem cells has gone from standing start to headlong rush in less than three years. Monya Baker charts the course so far, and the obstacles ahead.

    • Monya Baker



  • Commentary |

    Tracking someone's movements can now be done cheaply and easily, and there are few restrictions on who can monitor whom, says Jerome E. Dobson.

    • Jerome E. Dobson


  • Essay |

    Comparing gene networks to Greek philosophy could help biologists to see the truth, argue Mark Isalan and Matthew Morrison.

    • Mark Isalan
    • Matthew Morrison

Books & Arts

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The creation of diatomic molecules bound by roaming electrons that allow a huge internuclear distance is some achievement. It opens the door to further experimental exploitation of the principles involved.

    • Chris H. Greene
  • News & Views |

    Much is still to be learned about the molecular basis of mental disorders. The identification of a signalling pathway that is affected in schizophrenia, and which thus provides potential therapeutic targets, is a welcome advance.

    • Christopher A. Ross
    • Russell L. Margolis
  • News & Views |

    In China, as in other nations that produce carbon dioxide from fossil fuels on a large scale, the terrestrial biosphere mops up a proportion of the emissions. Estimates of the amounts involved are now available.

    • Kevin Robert Gurney
  • News & Views |

    Nested, or hierarchically arranged, mutualisms allow ecosystems to support more species than they otherwise would. But in this and other contexts, the growth of such networks could carry a heavy price.

    • George Sugihara
    • Hao Ye
  • News & Views |

    Is it wishful thinking that the behaviour of an organism as complex as a mouse might be controlled by modulating its intracellular signalling with light? No: this is just what researchers have achieved with an elegant technique.

    • David E. Moorman
    • Gary Aston-Jones



  • Article |

    Knoblich and colleagues use a library of Drosophila strains expressing inducible hairpin RNA interference constructs to study the Notch signalling pathway during external sensory organ development. They assign putative loss-of-function phenotypes to 21.2% of the protein-coding Drosophila genes, identify 6 new genes involved in asymmetric cell division and 23 novel genes regulating the Notch signalling pathway.

    • Jennifer L. Mummery-Widmer
    • Masakazu Yamazaki
    • Juergen A. Knoblich


  • Letter |

    Asteroids are much 'redder' than meteorites (which come from asteroids); the accepted explanation is 'space weathering', though the actual processes and timescales involved have remained controversial. Vernazza et al. report observations of two young asteroid families, revealing that 'space weathering' must be a very rapid process, which favours solar wind implantation as the main mechanism; they further demonstrate an apparent weathering dependence on olivine abundance.

    • P. Vernazza
    • R. P. Binzel
    • M. Birlan
  • Letter |

    Quantum systems are subject to random phase errors that can dramatically affect the fidelity of a desired quantum operation or measurement, but existing quantum error correction techniques have large resource requirements, motivating a search for alternative strategies. The authors experimentally validate the use of the dynamical decoupling technique to suppress qubit error rates, using novel optimized pulse sequences that suppress errors by orders of magnitude compared to other existing sequences.

    • Michael J. Biercuk
    • Hermann Uys
    • John J. Bollinger
  • Letter |

    When a non-uniform electric field is applied to a nonconducting material, that material experiences a force, as in the deflection of a stream of water by a statically charged comb. Unterreithmeier and colleagues have adapted this phenomenon to provide a simple, speedy means of controlling the vibrational properties of tiny mechanical elements on a chip — or, applying the principle in reverse, of detecting the motion of these elements. Such nanoelectromechanical systems are potentially useful for applications from sensing to signal processing.

    • Quirin P. Unterreithmeier
    • Eva M. Weig
    • Jörg P. Kotthaus
  • Letter |

    A Rydberg atom has one electron excited into an orbital with a very high principal quantum number. The scattering of such an electron from a second atom in the ground state gives rise to long-range bonding, yielding giant molecules with internuclear separations reaching several thousand Bohr radii. Using s-state rubidium Rydberg atoms with quantum numbers between 34 and 40, Bendkowsky and colleagues have now spectroscopically characterized such 'Rydberg molecules', and measured their lifetimes and polarizabilities.

    • Vera Bendkowsky
    • Björn Butscher
    • Tilman Pfau
  • Letter |

    This paper analyses the terrestrial carbon balance of China during the 1980s and 1990s using biomass and soil carbon inventories extrapolated by satellite greenness measurements, ecosystem models and atmospheric inversions. These three methods produce similar estimates of a net sink of 0.19–0.26 billion tonnes of carbon per year, indicating that China absorbed 28–37 per cent of its fossil carbon emissions over these two decades, mainly attributable to regional climate change, large-scale plantation programmes and shrub recovery.

    • Shilong Piao
    • Jingyun Fang
    • Tao Wang
  • Letter |

    More radiation generally increases vegetation photosynthesis, but field studies show that a given amount of diffuse radiation leads to more fixed carbon than direct radiation. Mercado and colleagues simulate the effect of late twentieth century increases in the diffuse radiation fraction, and find that the terrestrial carbon sink is enhanced by about 25% —paradoxically, reducing future anthropogenic pollution will reduce this diffuse radiation effect, creating a positive feedback to global warming.

    • Lina M. Mercado
    • Nicolas Bellouin
    • Peter M. Cox
  • Letter |

    In this paper the authors show that the 'nestedness' of mutualistic interactions between animals and plants acts to reduce competition and enhance the number of species. Nested networks seem to occur in many biological and social contexts, indicating that the results are relevant in a wide range of fields, from biology to banking.

    • Ugo Bastolla
    • Miguel A. Fortuna
    • Jordi Bascompte
  • Letter |

    Seals, sea lions and the walrus (collectively the pinnipeds) evolved from land-living carnivores, but the earliest known pinniped, Enaliarctos, already had flippers. This paper describes a fossil from the Canadian Arctic that represents an earlier stage in pinniped evolution, documenting the otter-like transition between land and water.

    • Natalia Rybczynski
    • Mary R. Dawson
    • Richard H. Tedford
  • Letter |

    Ion channels driven by light have provided electrophysiologists with unprecedented control over the activity state of neurons; here Deisseroth and colleagues introduce new molecules that offer a similar level of control over signalling pathways to biochemists. Opsin/GPCR chimaeras were engineered, enabling the authors to modulate G-protein activity via light, which in turn could influence neuronal firing; activating these molecules expressed in vivo could drive conditioned place preference in behaving mice

    • Raag D. Airan
    • Kimberly R. Thompson
    • Karl Deisseroth
  • Letter |

    This study shows that the soluble guanylate cyclase GCY-35 responds to increased oxygen and that a neural globin, GLB-5, is involved in sensing reduced oxygen. The behavioural response to GLB-5 activation involves the neuropeptide receptor NPR-1, and both glb-5 and npr-1 show natural variation amongst different Caenorhabditis elegans strains.

    • Annelie Persson
    • Einav Gross
    • Mario de Bono
  • Letter |

    Glycerol monolaurate in a microbicide is shown to protect monkeys from infection after intra-vaginal exposure to high doses of SIV. The suppressive activity may be due to the inhibition of target cell recruitment due to glycerol-monolaurate-mediated inhibition of epithelial cell signalling and inflammatory cytokine expression.

    • Qingsheng Li
    • Jacob D. Estes
    • Ashley T. Haase
  • Letter |

    This report identifies host factors required for Dengue virus propagation by using a high throughput genome-wide RNA interference screening approach in Drosophila cells.

    • October M. Sessions
    • Nicholas J. Barrows
    • Mariano A. Garcia-Blanco
  • Letter |

    This study provides a mechanistic basis for differential signalling of Notch, by showing that in fly sensory organ precursors, Notch and Delta traffic to special endosomes marked by the protein Sara. The asymmetric trafficking of endosomes containing Notch and Delta increases Notch signalling in pIIa daughter cells and decreases it in pIIb cells.

    • F. Coumailleau
    • M. Fürthauer
    • M. González-Gaitán
  • Letter |

    AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is shown to transcriptionally regulate genes involved in controlling energy metabolism in skeletal muscle by acting together with the NAD+-dependent deacetylase SIRT1. AMPK enhances SIRT1 activity by increasing cellular NAD+ levels, resulting in the deacetylation and activation of the SIRT1 downstream target PGC-1α.

    • Carles Cantó
    • Zachary Gerhart-Hines
    • Johan Auwerx


  • Prospects |

    The government and universities must highlight non-academic careers and nurture a diverse skill set, say Toshiyuki Misu and Akira Horoiwa.

    • Toshiyuki Misu
    • Akira Horoiwa


  • News |

    Biotech companies are struggling, and jobs in the sector are becoming scarce, according to one analyst.

    • Paul Smaglik

Careers Q&A

  • Careers Q&A |

    New BBSRC chief will move science forward with help from the Internet.

    • Douglas Kell

Postdoc Journal

Career Brief


  • Futures |

    Equal opportunities?

    • Shelly Li

Brief Communications Arising

Nature Briefing

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