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Volume 534 Issue 7609, 30 June 2016

The sum of 390 sequential 1-MB photographs of an aqueous electrolyte drop in motion across a switchable boron nitride surface. Stiction, or static friction, is the force required to persuade an object to start sliding across a surface. It is technologically important in devices with moving parts in contact, but is not well understood. Stijn Mertens et al. describe an inorganic model system for the study of the relationships between surface wetting, stiction, adhesion and lubrication. The system is a hexagonal boron nitride monolayer that can be electrochemically switched by intercalation of hydrogen between a corrugated and a flat morphology. The change in the surface structure of the boron nitride alters the adhesion and its balance with stiction of an aqueous drop sliding across the monolayer. The work of adhesion increases in going from the flat to the corrugated surface, whereas the stiction threshold does not change significantly. Thus the authors make a quantitative connection between the macroscopic properties of stiction and adhesion as a result of structural control at the atomic scale.


World View

  • World View |

    Major reform of education in India should encourage original thinking to boost the nation's research, argues Anurag Chaurasia.

    • Anurag Chaurasia

Research Highlights

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    Ill workers rescued from Antarctic station; controversial surgeon Paolo Macchiarini faces manslaughter charges; and China dominates list of fastest supercomputers.



News Feature


  • Comment |

    Marc Fleurbaey and colleagues explain why and how 300 scholars in the social sciences and humanities are collaborating to synthesize knowledge for policymakers.

    • Marc Fleurbaey
    • Olivier Bouin
    • Xiaobo Zhang

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Barbara Kiser reviews five of the week's best science picks.

    • Barbara Kiser
  • Books & Arts |

    Colin Macilwain talks to the curators of the National Museum of Scotland on the eve of a grand expansion.

    • Colin Macilwain



News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Interactions in the gut between host cells and bacteria can determine a state of health or disease. A study investigates how antibiotic treatment can affect host cells in a way that drives growth of pathogenic bacteria. See Letter p.697

    • Thibault G. Sana
    • Denise M. Monack
  • News & Views |

    Two studies reveal that early-life malfunction in organelles called mitochondria brings about lasting changes in how DNA is packaged. These alterations have consequences for cellular stress responses and organismal longevity.

    • Siu Sylvia Lee
    • Jessica K. Tyler
  • News & Views |

    Decoded and precisely dated information encrypted in stalagmites from a cave in China reveal past climatic changes and provide insight into the complex interactions in today's climate system. See Letter p.640

    • Nele Meckler
  • News & Views |

    In some species, cancer cells can be directly transmitted between individuals. An analysis in shellfish now shows that some transmissible cancers can even cross the species barrier. See Letter p.705

    • Elizabeth P. Murchison


  • Perspective |

    The objective of the Paris climate agreement is to limit global-average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to further pursue limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius; here, the adequacy of the national plans submitted in preparation for this agreement is assessed, and it is concluded that substantial enhancement or over-delivery on these plans is required to have a reasonable chance of achieving the Paris climate objective.

    • Joeri Rogelj
    • Michel den Elzen
    • Malte Meinshausen



  • Article |

    Records of the Asian monsoon have been extended to 640,000 years ago, and confirm both that the 100,000-year ice age cycle results from integral numbers of precessional cycles and that insolation influences the pacing of major millennial-scale climate events.

    • Hai Cheng
    • R. Lawrence Edwards
    • Haiwei Zhang
  • Article |

    A systematic screen identifies FGFR1 signalling reactivation as an adaptive resistance mechanism after MEK inhibition specific for KRAS tumours, which can be targeted by combined inhibition with the clinically approved drugs trametinib and ponatinib.

    • Eusebio Manchado
    • Susann Weissmueller
    • Scott W. Lowe
  • Article |

    An improved ATAC-seq approach is used to describe a genome-wide view of accessible chromatin and cis-regulatory elements in mouse preimplantation embryos, allowing construction of a regulatory network of early development that helps to identify key modulators of lineage specification.

    • Jingyi Wu
    • Bo Huang
    • Wei Xie


  • Letter |

    The radial velocities of a young star are measured, revealing the presence of a planet of mass about three-quarters that of Jupiter, orbiting its host star very closely, and thus demonstrating that ‘hot Jupiters’ can migrate inwards in less than two million years.

    • J. F. Donati
    • C. Moutou
    • A. Collier Cameron
  • Letter |

    Many proof-of-principle platforms for quantum simulation of spin models have been implemented, but it is difficult to produce a design with sufficient flexibility to realize arbitrary geometries and variable distance; here a platform based on arrays of optical microtraps achieves this flexibility with large atom numbers.

    • Henning Labuhn
    • Daniel Barredo
    • Antoine Browaeys
  • Letter |

    It is an long-standing goal to produce a photonic quantum Hall effect, analogous to the well-known quantum Hall effect for electrons; now an artificial magnetic field for a continuum of photons has been produced, making it possible to observe photonic Landau levels in a photonic quantum Hall material.

    • Nathan Schine
    • Albert Ryou
    • Jonathan Simon
  • Letter |

    Switching of static friction and adhesion of a liquid drop on a corrugated solid boron nitride surface is linked to the intercalation of hydrogen, which changes the electric field of in-plane dipole rings and thus reduces the adsorption energy.

    • Stijn F. L. Mertens
    • Adrian Hemmi
    • Thomas Greber
  • Letter |

    Climate models require an understanding of ecosystem-scale respiration and photosynthesis, yet there is no way of measuring these two fluxes directly; here, new instrumentation is used to determine these fluxes in a temperate forest, showing, for instance, that respiration is less during the day than at night.

    • R. Wehr
    • J. W. Munger
    • S. R. Saleska
  • Letter |

    Maximum-depth sequencing (MDS), a new method of detecting extremely rare variants within a bacterial population, is used to show that mutation rates in Escherichia coli vary across the genome by at least an order of magnitude, and also to uncover mechanisms of antibiotic-induced mutagenesis.

    • Justin Jee
    • Aviram Rasouly
    • Evgeny Nudler
  • Letter |

    Antibiotic usage in humans can increase the risk of Salmonella infection by an unknown mechanism; this paper reveals that the antibiotic streptomycin increases the activity of the host-encoded enzyme inducible nitric oxide synthase, this then drives Salmonella expansion by the generation of galactarate — a metabolite normally absent from the gut.

    • Franziska Faber
    • Lisa Tran
    • Andreas J. Bäumler
  • Letter |

    We have a limited understanding of how cells mark and identify newly replicated genomic loci that have a sister chromatid; here, unmethylated K20 in the tail of new histone H4 is shown to serve as a signature of post-replicative chromatin, which is specifically recognized by the homologous recombination complex TONSL–MMS22L.

    • Giulia Saredi
    • Hongda Huang
    • Anja Groth
  • Letter |

    Translation termination sequences are occasionally bypassed by the ribosome and the resulting proteins can be detrimental to the cell; here it is shown that cells can prevent such proteins from accumulating through peptides that are encoded within the 3' UTR of genes in both humans and C. elegans.

    • Joshua A. Arribere
    • Elif S. Cenik
    • Andrew Z. Fire


  • Column |

    Looking for funding? Here's a smart guide for sources off the beaten track, says Ingrid Eisenstadter.

    • Ingrid Eisenstadter


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