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Volume 485 Issue 7396, 3 May 2012

The story of how humans peopled the planet once seemed so simple. Modern humans, it was thought, left Africa for Asia about 50,000 years ago, reached Europe 10,000 years later and then headed for the Americas. Meanwhile, the Neanderthals and other rivals faded into the background. But we now know that the picture was far more complicated than that. A series of special features in this issue of Nature sets out the latest thinking on where we came from and who we are. Cover by Kyle Bean.


  • Editorial |

    Imperfect global biosafety standards and a threat to researchers' motivations from biosecurity concerns are among the significant risks in current flu research.

  • Editorial |

    Ismail Serageldin deserves the chance to prepare a new future for the Alexandria library.

World View

Research Highlights

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    The week in science: US reports 4th ever case of ‘mad cow disease’; Japan’s Chikyu research vessel drills through earthquake fault; and a new system launches to alert scientists to research updates.



News Feature


  • Comment |

    We probably all carry genes from archaic species such as Neanderthals. Chris Stringer explains why the DNA we have in common is more important than any differences.

    • Chris Stringer


Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Einstein on the Beach, an opera by composer Philip Glass and theatre director Robert Wilson, changed ideas about what opera could do when it was first staged in 1976. As a new production opens at the Barbican Theatre in London, Glass talks about the work's gestation and evolution.

    • Philip Ball



News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The latest studies of asteroid impacts on Earth and the Moon beginning about 450 million years after the formation of the Solar System provide insight into the duration, number and size of these events.

    • Frank T. Kyte
  • News & Views |

    A biological clock synchronizes animal behaviour and physiology with Earth's 24-hour rotation. Drugs targeting the clock's 'gears' show promise for treating obesity and other metabolic disorders. See Article p.62 & Letter p.123

    • Joseph Bass
  • News & Views |

    Interacting electrons that are confined to move in a one-dimensional structure do not simply jam together like cars in rush hour. Inelastic X-ray scattering shows that the electrons act as if they split into separate fractional entities. See Letter p.82

    • Ralph Claessen
  • News & Views |

    The protein Sema3A both restrains bone degradation and stimulates bone building in mice, suggesting a potential therapy for conditions such as osteoporosis. See Article p.69

    • Mone Zaidi
    • Jameel Iqbal
  • News & Views |

    Compounds of transition metals are often used to activate small molecules for chemical reactions. The discovery of unusual silicon-containing compounds raises the prospect of metal-free activators.

    • Robert West
  • News & Views |

    A genome-wide characterization of active translation of messenger RNA following inhibition of mTOR will transform our view of this signalling protein's regulatory role in cancer. See Article p.55 & Letter p.109

    • Antonio Gentilella
    • George Thomas
  • News & Views |

    There have been conflicting claims about the composition of Earth's lower mantle. The latest Brillouin-spectroscopy data suggest that this section of the planet's interior may contain more silica than the upper mantle. See Letter p.90

    • Ian Jackson
  • News & Views |

    The origin of the planet Mercury has been a continuing puzzle. Data from NASA's MESSENGER space probe, combined with ground-based observations, are delivering information on the planet's structure and evolution.

    • David J. Stevenson


  • Article |

    Synthetic REV-ERB agonists can alter the circadian expression of core clock genes in the hypothalami of mice, which changes the expression of metabolic genes in liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, and results in increased energy expenditure.

    • Laura A. Solt
    • Yongjun Wang
    • Thomas P. Burris
  • Article |

    Semaphorin 3A (Sema3A) is shown to function as a protector of bone, by synchronously inhibiting osteoclastic bone resorption and promoting osteoblastic bone formation.

    • Mikihito Hayashi
    • Tomoki Nakashima
    • Hiroshi Takayanagi



  • Feature |

    Cases of scientific wrongdoing seem to be rising. But when should researchers blow the whistle?

    • Virginia Gewin

Career Brief

  • Career Brief |

    Informal benefits are more frequently awarded to men, according to study of one university.

  • Career Brief |

    US universities should offer more support and guidance for diverse career options, report says.

  • Career Brief |

    Research traineeships with drugmakers have declined as sector tightens.


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