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Volume 529 Issue 7587, 28 January 2016

A Go board depicted as a computer chip embedded on an integrated circuit board. The layout is taken from the final position of the historic Go game played on 5 October 2015 between Fan Hui (black stones) and AlphaGo (white), representing the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional player on a full, 19 19 board, in even games with no handicap. The victory in 1997 of the chess-playing computer Deep Blue in a six-game series against the then world champion Gary Kasparov was seen as a significant milestone in the development of artificial intelligence. An even greater challenge remained � the ancient game of Go. Despite decades of refinement, until recently the strongest computers were still playing Go at the level of human amateurs. Enter AlphaGo. Developed by Google DeepMind, this program uses deep neural networks to mimic expert players, and further improves its performance by learning from games played against itself. AlphaGo has achieved a 99% win rate against the strongest other Go programs, and defeated the reigning European champion Fan Hui 5�0 in a tournament match. Cover: Google DeepMind


  • Editorial |

    A computer program that can outplay humans in the abstract game of Go will redefine our relationship with machines.

  • Editorial |

    Our affection for national parks is well founded, but many more areas need protection.

  • Editorial |

    Self-doubt is a pernicious affliction that can overwhelm researchers.

World View

Research Highlights

Social Selection

Seven Days


News Feature


  • Comment |

    Stephan Lewandowsky and Dorothy Bishop explain how the research community should protect its members from harassment, while encouraging the openness that has become essential to science.

    • Stephan Lewandowsky
    • Dorothy Bishop

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Matt Ridley reassesses Richard Dawkins's pivotal reframing of evolution, 40 years on.

    • Matt Ridley
  • Books & Arts |

    Philip Ball browses remnants of the celebrated library of mathematician and occultist John Dee.

    • Philip Ball


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The enzyme Cas9 is used in genome editing to cut selected DNA sequences, but it also creates breaks at off-target sites. Protein engineering has now been used to make Cas9 enzymes that have minimal off-target effects. See Article p.490

    • Fyodor Urnov


  • News & Views |

    The development of a voltage sensor in which a microbial rhodopsin protein is fused with a fluorescent protein enables the neuronal activity of single cells in live animals to be measured with unprecedented speed and accuracy.

    • Viviana Gradinaru
    • Nicholas C. Flytzanis
  • News & Views |

    Birds and mammals generate heat to regulate body temperature, but most non-avian reptiles cannot. The discovery of endothermy during the reproductive period of a tegu lizard sheds light on the evolution of this characteristic.

    • Colleen G. Farmer
  • News & Views |

    A simultaneous comparison of the RNA molecules expressed by Salmonella bacteria and human cells during infection reveals how a bacterial small RNA alters the transcript profiles of both the bacteria and the host cells. See Article p.496

    • Matthias P. Machner
    • Gisela Storz
  • News & Views |

    The discovery of multiple stellar populations — formed at different times — in several young star clusters adds to the debate on the nature and origin of such populations in globular clusters from the early Universe. See Letter p.502

    • Antonella Nota
    • Corinne Charbonnel
  • News & Views |

    The cells that insulate neuronal processes with a myelin membrane sheath are damaged during stroke. Data now show that an influx of calcium ions mediated by the TRPA1 protein contributes to myelin injury. See Letter p.523

    • Aiman S. Saab
    • Klaus-Armin Nave
  • News & Views |

    Sweat analysis is an ideal method for continuously tracking a person's physiological state, but developing devices for this is difficult. A wearable sweat monitor that measures several biomarkers is a breakthrough. See Letter p.509

    • Jason Heikenfeld




  • Letter |

    Three massive star clusters in the Magellanic Clouds show clear evidence of burst-like star formation that occurred a few hundred million years after their initial formation era; such clusters could have accreted sufficient gas to form new stars while orbiting in their host galaxies’ gaseous disks throughout the period between their initial and more recent bursts of star formation.

    • Chengyuan Li
    • Richard de Grijs
    • Claude-André Faucher-Giguère
  • Letter |

    Quantum entanglement is thought to offer great promise for improving measurement precision; now a spin-squeezing implementation with cold atoms offers levels of sensitivity unavailable with any competing conventional method, sensing microwave induced rotations a factor of 70 beyond the standard quantum limit.

    • Onur Hosten
    • Nils J. Engelsen
    • Mark A. Kasevich
  • Letter |

    Here we report a lithium-ion all-climate battery that very efficiently heats itself up in extremely cold environments by diverting current through a strip of metal foil to generate heat of resistance and then reverts to normal high-power operation.

    • Chao-Yang Wang
    • Guangsheng Zhang
    • Yongjun Leng
  • Letter |

    Core isotope measurements in the equatorial Pacific Ocean reveal that although atmospheric dust deposition during the last ice age was higher than today’s, the productivity of the equatorial Pacific Ocean did not increase; this may have been because iron-enabled greater nutrient consumption, mainly in the Southern Ocean, reduced the nutrients available in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and hence also productivity there.

    • K. M. Costa
    • J. F. McManus
    • A. C. Ravelo
  • Letter |

    Ischaemia damages nerve myelin by depriving neurons and their myelinating oligodendrocytes of oxygen and glucose; here it is shown that ischaemic damage is caused through the H+-dependent activation of TRPA1 channels, and not via glutamate receptors of the NMDA type, as previously thought, providing a new mechanism and promising therapeutic targets for diseases as diverse and prevalent as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, stroke and multiple sclerosis.

    • Nicola B. Hamilton
    • Karolina Kolodziejczyk
    • David Attwell

    Nature Outlook:

  • Letter |

    The role of mitochondria in haematopoietic stem-cell maintenance has not been examined in detail; here mitofusin 2, which modulates mitochondrial fusion and tethering of endoplasmic reticulum to the mitochondria, is shown to be necessary for the maintenance of haematopoietic stem cells with extensive lymphoid potential.

    • Larry L. Luchsinger
    • Mariana Justino de Almeida
    • Hans-Willem Snoeck
  • Letter |

    The transcription factor Foxo1 is shown to be involved in the determination of distinct subsets of regulatory T (Treg) cells, and the differentiation of activated phenotype Treg cells is associated with the repression of the Foxo1-dependent transcriptional program; constitutively active Foxo1 expression triggers depletion of activated Treg cells in peripheral tissues and leads to CD8 T-cell-mediated autoimmunity and anti-tumour immunity.

    • Chong T. Luo
    • Will Liao
    • Ming O. Li
  • Letter |

    The first structure of fully active HOIP of the RBR family of RING-type E3 ligases in its transfer complex with an E2~ubiquitin conjugate provides insights into its mechanism of action, including the ideal alignment of the E2 and E3 catalytic centres for ubiquitin transfer and the allosteric regulation of the RBR family.

    • Bernhard C. Lechtenberg
    • Akhil Rajput
    • Stefan J. Riedl
  • Letter |

    The first high-resolution, cryo-electron microscopy structure of mammalian RNA polymerase II, in the form of a transcribing complex comprising DNA template and RNA transcript.

    • Carrie Bernecky
    • Franz Herzog
    • Patrick Cramer


  • Feature |

    In the face of routine rejection, many scientists must learn to cope with the insidious beast that is impostor syndrome.

    • Chris Woolston


  • Q&A |

    Louis Picker pursued an unusual HIV vaccine that is now in clinical trials, and was once considered a fool's errand.

    • Virginia Gewin


  • Futures |

    A moment to reflect.

    • H. E. Roulo
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