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Volume 479 Issue 7374, 24 November 2011

The Galileo spacecraft revealed a number of 'chaos' regions on Jupiter's moon Europa, where the surface terrain appears to have been disrupted from below. In many places, the surface contains sharp-edged blocks or rafts of ice that have at some point been flipped or rotated. Some characteristics of these regions have been hard to explain, such as the fact that the archetypal Conamara Chaos stands above its surroundings and contains matrix domes. Schmidt et al. apply lessons learned from analogous processes within Earth's subglacial volcanoes and ice shelves to an analysis of archival data that suggests chaos terrain forms above liquid water 'lenses' that are perched only 3 kilometres deep within the ice shell. The data suggest that ice–water interactions and freeze-out give rise to the varied morphology of chaos terrains, implying that more water is involved than has been previously appreciated — for instance, the sunken topography of Thera Macula, a large chaos area, may indicate that Europa is actively resurfacing over a lens comparable in volume to North America's Great Lakes. The cover depicts the lake below Thera Macula, with fractures, icebergs and matrix forming above it and disrupting the surface. Cover: Britney E. Schmidt & Deadpixel VFX/Jackson School of Geosciences/UTIG/Vetlesen Foundation/NASA.

Editorial

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  • Editorial |

    Egypt and Libya can look to the past to help build a more stable future.

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    Latest mission to Mars promises close-up view of planet's surface.

World View

Research Highlights

Seven Days

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    The week in science: Europe appoints first chief scientific adviser; Gilead spends US$11 billion on hepatitis-C hope; and those neutrinos are still going faster than light.

News

News Feature

Comment

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    Fifty years after its founding, UN World Food Programme head Josette Sheeran explains why the agency is now focusing on projects that help communities weather food crises.

    • Josette Sheeran
  • Comment |

    If African countries can't plant genetically modified crops to produce more and healthier food, vulnerable populations will be at risk, argues Calestous Juma.

    • Calestous Juma
  • Comment |

    Simply giving people food is not enough to prevent famine, says Peter Rosset. Instead, we need to overhaul the policies that have upended the food supply.

    • Peter Rosset

Books & Arts

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    Robert P. Crease revels in the life of a Hollywood goddess who pioneered wireless technology.

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    Paul McEuen savours a technothriller from the late Michael Crichton that makes the tiny terrifying.

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  • Books & Arts |

    Tracy K. Smith has her head in the stars. Thanks to her late father's job as an engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope, the US poet gathers inspiration from astrophysics and cosmology. Published this year, her third collection, Life on Mars, explores the future of human life, the great beyond and her father's death. As she prepares for a poetry reading at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, Smith talks about the limits of space and time.

    • Jascha Hoffman

Correspondence

News & Views

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  • News & Views |

    The reanalysis of findings from two archaeological sites calls for a reassessment of when modern humans settled in Europe, and of Neanderthal cultural achievements. See Letters p.521 & p.525

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    Brines percolating in the icy crust of Jupiter's moon Europa may be responsible for the satellite's enigmatic chaotic terrains. A new model predicts that one such terrain is currently forming over shallow subsurface water. See Letter p.502

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Article

  • Article |

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Letter

Corrigendum

Feature

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Q&A

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Futures

Brief Communications Arising

Outlook

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  • Outlook |

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    • Cassandra Willyard
  • Outlook |

    Clinical trials are testing how careful exposure could protect people with potentially lethal allergies to everyday fare.

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  • Outlook |

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  • Outlook |

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    • Stephen Holgate

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |

    Allergies

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