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Volume 486 Issue 7404, 28 June 2012

The Sun’s outer atmosphere is much hotter than the surface, reaching more than a million kelvin, but how sufficient energy is transferred and dissipated has remained a puzzle. Recent advances in high-resolution imaging of small-scale structures on the solar surface (from the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope) revealed swirling events in the Sun’s chromosphere, the atmospheric layer sandwiched between the corona and the photosphere. This paper reports observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft that reveal rapidly rotating magnetic structures in the transition region and low corona that are associated with these chromospheric swirls. These structures, resembling super-tornadoes under solar conditions, reach from the convection zone into the upper solar atmosphere and provide an alternative mechanism for channelling energy from the lower to the upper solar atmosphere  a possible explanation for the heating of the outer solar atmosphere that results in the observed temperatures. The cover shows a visualization (using VAPOR software) of a computer simulation (using CO5BOLD) of a swirling magnetic ‘tornado connecting the observed surface of the Sun with the outer atmosphere.

Editorial

  • Two reports highlight key aspects of the global trend towards open access to research results: who will pay, and how much, to supply what to whom?

    Editorial

    Advertisement

  • Perhaps the Earth conference was not a wasted opportunity but the start of a new journey.

    Editorial
  • If farmers do not rein in the use of antibiotics for livestock, people will be severely affected.

    Editorial
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World View

  • An open approach is the best way to maximize the benefits of research for both scientists and the public, says Geoffrey Boulton

    • Geoffrey Boulton
    World View
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Research Highlights

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Seven Days

  • The week in science: Galapagos giant tortoise 'Lonesome George' dies; United Nations to set up board of science advisers; and London’s Royal Society urges an era of open data.

    Seven Days
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News

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News Feature

  • Scientists now know that the deadly bird flu virus is capable of causing a human pandemic. That makes tackling the remaining unknowns all the more urgent.

    • Ed Yong
    News Feature
  • Tiny molecules called microRNAs are tearing apart traditional ideas about the animal family tree.

    • Elie Dolgin
    News Feature
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Comment

  • Geoengineering efforts to bring oxygen into the deep Baltic should be abandoned, says Daniel J. Conley.

    • Daniel J. Conley
    Comment
  • Frank Aarestrup explains how he helped Denmark to cut the use of antibiotics in its livestock by 60%, and calls on the rest of the world to follow suit.

    • Frank Aarestrup
    Comment
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Books & Arts

  • Frank Close enjoys the life of Hans Bethe, a Manhattan Project veteran who probed the hearts of stars.

    • Frank Close
    Books & Arts
  • Astronomer and author David Brin celebrates the legacy of a literary titan whose life-long pursuit of new horizons changed the face of science fiction.

    • David Brin
    Books & Arts
  • Tom Mitchell uses engineering and computing to enable people to play and sample live music using gestures. With the latest version of his co-creation 'The Gloves' about to debut at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, UK, he talks about adaptive musical interaction.

    • Jascha Hoffman
    Books & Arts
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Correspondence

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Obituary

  • Biophysicist who showed how nerves carry electrical signals and muscles contract.

    • Yale E. Goldman
    • Clara Franzini-Armstrong
    • Clay M. Armstrong
    Obituary
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News & Views

  • Observations made by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory have been used to identify signatures of a conduit through which energy could be transported from the surface of the Sun into its corona. See Letter p.505

    • Stephen J. Bradshaw
    News & Views
  • Understanding how a low calorie intake slows ageing could revolutionize the way that we treat age-related diseases. One potential key to such treatments could be to enhance the local environment of stem cells. See Article p.490

    • Fresnida J. Ramos
    • Matt Kaeberlein
    News & Views
  • Controlling the positions at which chemical groups attach to benzene rings is vital for the synthesis of materials and medicines. A reaction that targets a normally inaccessible position takes chemists closer to this goal. See Letter p.518

    • Matthew O. Kitching
    • Victor Snieckus
    News & Views
  • A drug used for HIV treatment can alter the set of antigens that activates T cells of the immune system, thereby triggering life-threatening reactions against the body's own proteins. See Letter p.554

    • Ellis L. Reinherz
    News & Views
  • Several genes were duplicated during human evolution. It seems that one such duplication gave rise to a gene that may have helped to make human brains bigger and more adaptable than those of our ancestors.

    • Daniel H. Geschwind
    • Genevieve Konopka
    News & Views
  • Rare tumour cells with mutations that confer drug resistance can go undetected by standard testing procedures, according to two studies, which show that such mutations can be detected in patients' blood. See Letters p.532 and p.537

    • Eduardo Vilar
    • Josep Tabernero
    News & Views
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Article

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Letter

  • The detection of carbon monoxide absorption in the spectrum of the extrasolar planet τ Boötis b, and its tracing of the change in the radial velocity of the planet, demonstrates that atmospheric characterization is possible for non-transiting planets.

    • Matteo Brogi
    • Ignas A. G. Snellen
    • Ernst J. W. de Mooij
    Letter
  • Rotating magnetic structures in the Sun can channel energy outwards from the convection zone and may explain how the energy required to heat the outer layers of the Sun reaches its upper atmosphere.

    • Sven Wedemeyer-Böhm
    • Eamon Scullion
    • Robert Erdélyi
    Letter
  • Nuclear density functional theory is used to calculate the uncertainty in the positions of the neutron and proton ‘drip lines’, and to estimate that there are around 7,000 bound nuclides containing between 2 and 120 protons.

    • Jochen Erler
    • Noah Birge
    • Mario Stoitsov
    Letter
  • Three-dimensional reconstruction and modelling of limb joint mobility in the early tetrapod Ichthyostega is used to provide insights into an important step in vertebrate evolution—the transition from swimming to walking.

    • Stephanie E. Pierce
    • Jennifer A. Clack
    • John R. Hutchinson
    Letter
  • Sequencing of the bonobo genome shows that more than three per cent of the human genome is more closely related to either the bonobo genome or the chimpanzee genome than those genomes are to each other.

    • Kay Prüfer
    • Kasper Munch
    • Svante Pääbo
    Letter Open Access
  • This work on colorectal cancer shows that secondary mutations in KRAS that confer resistance to panitumumab, an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, are already present when antibody treatment begins; the apparent inevitability of resistance suggests that combinations of drugs targeting at least two different oncogenic pathway will be needed for treatment.

    • Luis A. Diaz Jr
    • Richard T. Williams
    • Bert Vogelstein
    Letter
  • MicroRNA in worms is shown to target non-coding primary microRNA transcripts through interaction with the Argonaute protein, promoting the production of further microRNA and thus generating a positive-feedback loop.

    • Dimitrios G. Zisoulis
    • Zoya S. Kai
    • Amy E. Pasquinelli
    Letter
  • The paper describes the mechanism by which small-molecule drugs such as abacavir affect antigen presentation and consequently T-cell response in immunologically based drug reactions such as abacavir hypersensitivity syndrome (AHS) and carbamazepine-induced Stevens–Johnson syndrome (SJS).

    • Patricia T. Illing
    • Julian P. Vivian
    • James McCluskey
    Letter
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Feature

  • Some consultants offer to help researchers to find and secure grants. But scientists should carefully consider whether and how a consultant is worth the time and expense.

    • Lucas Laursen
    Feature
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Career Brief

  • US postdocs deserve increased compensation and benefits, says National Institutes of Health report.

    Career Brief
  • Most graduates from professional science master's programmes head to industry, says study.

    Career Brief
  • Graduate programmes focus too narrowly on academic careers, says US National Academies report.

    Career Brief
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Futures

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Brief Communications Arising

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