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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 |

    By failing to explain why a moratorium on breeding chimpanzees seems not to have been enforced, the US National Institutes of Health risks a further loss of public support for chimp research.

  • Editorial |

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

  • Editorial |

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

World View

Research Highlights

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    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 Feature


  • Comment |

    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

  • Books & Arts |

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

    • Robert P. Crease
  • Books & Arts |

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

    • Paul McEuen
  • 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


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A fine marriage between seismic data and laboratory experiments carried out at the extreme conditions of Earth's deep interior indicates that the planet's liquid outer core is poor in oxygen. See Letter p.513

    • Thomas S. Duffy
  • News & Views |

    Damaged cells can initiate cancer. To avert this, faulty cells disable their own propagation by undergoing senescence. But for full protection against liver cancer, the senescent cells must be cleared by the immune system. See Letter p.547

    • Manuel Serrano
  • News & Views |

    Gold is not as inert as was believed — it can promote molecular synthesis. A study uses scanning tunnelling microscopy to catch gold in the act as it guides the formation of one-dimensional polymers from saturated hydrocarbons.

    • Robert J. Madix
    • Cynthia M. Friend
  • 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

    • Paul Mellars
  • News & Views |

    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

    • Laszlo P. Keszthelyi


  • Article |

    Optogenetic stimulation in the zebrafish olfactory bulb and downstream read out of activity in the homologue of olfactory cortex demonstrate how temporal filtering can extract specific components of neuronal codes.

    • Francisca Blumhagen
    • Peixin Zhu
    • Rainer W. Friedrich




  • Feature |

    The multifaceted field of carbon-based electronics offers options for researchers from all areas of the physical sciences.

    • Neil Savage


  • Q&A |

    Irish vision researcher and recipient of European grant credits his career independence to Fulbright scholarship.

    • Virginia Gewin


Brief Communications Arising


  • Outlook |

    Modern living seems somehow to make our immune systems overly sensitive. Is cleanliness at fault — or something else?

    • Duncan Graham-Rowe
  • Outlook |

    Microbes are under the spotlight in efforts to unravel — and combat — allergies.

    • Cassandra Willyard
  • Outlook |

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

    • Rebecca Kessler
  • Outlook |

    Rare gene variants could be key to unlocking the underlying genetics of allergy, now that whole genome sequencing and other technologies have sharpened the focus of epidemiology.

    • Erica Westly
  • Outlook |

    A focus on skin barrier disorders has opened up new thinking about how allergies kick in.

    • Claire Ainsworth
  • Outlook |

    They come not single spies, but in battalions. The latest research helps explain why an individual may experience the 'atopic march' from one allergic disorder to another.

    • Paige Brown
  • Outlook |

    A plethora of therapies can keep the symptoms of allergy under control, but they can't cure. New research aims to prevent allergies from developing in the first place.

    • Lauren Gravitz
  • Outlook |

    Asthma was once thought to be a uniform disease triggered by one type of immune cell. Researchers are now revealing the complexity of the condition and hope to hasten new drugs for forms unresponsive to steroids.

    • Amy Maxmen
  • Outlook |

    Stephen Holgate argues for a return to more human-centred studies of allergy and asthma.

    • Stephen Holgate

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |


    The increased prevalence of allergies and asthma, especially in the developed world, has raised the stakes in the quest for prevention and cure. New research is focusing on defects in the epithelial barrier as a cause of allergy, and how to enhance the protective role of benign bacteria living in the gut.

Nature Briefing

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