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Volume 534 Issue 7605, 2 June 2016

Sputnik Planum on Pluto, as seen by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons has revealed fascinating details of the surface of Pluto, including a vast ice-filled basin known as Sputnik Planum, which is central to Pluto’s geological activity. Much of the surface of Sputnik Planum, consisting mostly of nitrogen ice, is divided into irregular polygons that are tens of kilometres in diameter and whose centres rise tens of metres above their sides. Two papers in this issue of Nature analyse New Horizons images of this polygonal terrain. Both conclude that it is continually being resurfaced by convection, but arrive at contrasting models for the process. Alexander Trowbridge et al. report a parameterized convection model in which the nitrogen ice is vigorously convecting, ten or more kilometres thick and about a million years old. William McKinnon et al. — from the New Horizons team — show that ‘sluggish lid’ convective overturn in a several-kilometre-thick layer of solid nitrogen can explain both the presence of the cells and their great width. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Lab./Southwest Research Inst. Image composition and processing by P. Schenk & P. Engebretson.

Editorial

  • Just as the dark-coloured pepper moth disappears from northern England, researchers are finally getting to the bottom of how it gained its colour.

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World View

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News & Views

  • The Sputnik Planum basin of Pluto contains a sheet of nitrogen ice, the surface of which is divided into irregular polygons tens of kilometres across. Two studies reveal that vigorous convection causes these polygons. See Letters p.79 & 82

    • Andrew J. Dombard
    • Sean O'Hara
    News & Views
  • The finding that antibiotics are pumped out of drug-tolerant bacterial cells by the TolC protein complex provides insight into how some cells, known as persisters, survive in the face of antibiotic treatments.

    • Kenn Gerdes
    • Szabolcs Semsey
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  • In photosynthesis, the plant photosystem II uses the energy in sunlight to oxidize water. The high-resolution structure of this crucial supercomplex has now been obtained using cryo-electron microscopy. See Article p.69

    • Roberta Croce
    • Pengqi Xu
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  • The finding of 175,000-year-old structures deep inside a cave in France suggests that Neanderthals ventured underground and were responsible for some of the earliest constructions made by hominins. See Letter p.111

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  • Measurements of the electrical resistance and thermal conductivity of iron at extreme pressures and temperatures cast fresh light on controversial numerical simulations of the properties of Earth's outer core. See Letters p.95 & 99

    • David Dobson
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Article

  • Whole-genome sequencing of tumours from 560 breast cancer cases provides a comprehensive genome-wide view of recurrent somatic mutations and mutation frequencies across both protein coding and non-coding regions; several mutational signatures in these cancer genomes are associated with BRCA1 or BRCA2 function and defective homologous-recombination-based DNA repair.

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Letter

  • A sustained, neutral wind from the outer accretion disk is observed in the transient black hole V404 Cygni during a violent outburst; this unusual wind, which expands at one per cent of the speed of light and triggers a nebular phase once accretion drops sharply and the ejecta become optically thin, probably regulates the outburst evolution of the black hole.

    • T. Muñoz-Darias
    • J. Casares
    • J. Rodriguez
    Letter
  • A parameterized convection model and observations of the puzzling polygons of the Sputnik Planum region of Pluto are used to compute the Rayleigh number of its nitrogen ice and show that it is vigorously convecting, kilometres thick and about a million years old.

    • A. J. Trowbridge
    • H. J. Melosh
    • A. M. Freed
    Letter
  • The volatile-ice-filled basin informally named Sputnik Planum is central to Pluto’s geological activity; this ice layer is organized into cells or polygons, and it is now shown that convective overturn in a several-kilometre-thick layer of solid nitrogen can explain both the presence of the cells and their great width.

    • William B. McKinnon
    • Francis Nimmo
    • K. E. Smith
    Letter
  • The evaporation and atmospheric oxidation of low-volatility organic vapours from mined oil sands material is shown to be responsible for a large amount of secondary organic aerosol mass—which affects air quality and climate change—observed during airborne measurements in Canada.

    • John Liggio
    • Shao-Meng Li
    • Drew R. Gentner
    Letter
  • Using a laser-heated diamond-anvil cell to measure the electrical resistivity of iron under the high temperature and pressure conditions of the Earth’s core yields a value that means Earth’s core has high thermal conductivity, suggesting that its inner core is less than 0.7 billion years old, much younger than thought.

    • Kenji Ohta
    • Yasuhiro Kuwayama
    • Yasuo Ohishi
    Letter
  • The thermal conductivity of solid iron at the pressure and temperature conditions that prevail in the cores of planets is measured directly using a dynamically laser-heated diamond-anvil cell, yielding values that support findings from ancient magnetized rocks that suggest Earth’s magnetic field has persisted since the Earth’s earliest history.

    • Zuzana Konôpková
    • R. Stewart McWilliams
    • Alexander F. Goncharov
    Letter
  • Two ring-like structures made of low walls of broken stalagmite pieces, deep in a cave in France, are described and dated to around 176,000 years ago, suggesting human-made construction within the period of early Neanderthals, although the function of the structures remains conjectural.

    • Jacques Jaubert
    • Sophie Verheyden
    • Frédéric Santos
    Letter
  • A similar neural ensemble participates in the encoding of two distinct memories, resulting in the recall of one memory increasing the likelihood of recalling the other, but only if those memories occur very closely in time—within a day rather than across a week.

    • Denise J. Cai
    • Daniel Aharoni
    • Alcino J. Silva
    Letter
  • The activation of lipid X receptors (LXRs) in mouse liver not only promotes cholesterol efflux but also inhibits cholesterol synthesis simultaneously; this is mediated by the lipid-responsive long non-coding RNA LeXis, which is induced by a Western diet and orchestrates crosstalk between LXRs and the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway.

    • Tamer Sallam
    • Marius C. Jones
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    Letter
  • An allosteric inhibitor, EAI045, is reported that is selective for certain drug-resistant EGFR mutants, but spares the wild-type receptor; combination therapy of EAI045 with EGFR-dimerization-blocking antibodies is effective in mouse models of lung cancer driven by mutant versions of EGFR that are resistant to all previously developed inhibitors.

    • Yong Jia
    • Cai-Hong Yun
    • Michael J. Eck
    Letter
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