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Volume 535 Issue 7610, 7 July 2016

Viscosity field and surface of a convection model of Earth: low viscosity zones in red are plate boundaries and high viscosity zones in dark blue are continents. The interior shows hotspots in red and subduction zones blue. The subsurface layers of Earth appear as an interlocking network of tectonic or lithospheric plates of various sizes and shapes. The nature of the link between mantle flow and tectonics, and the origin of the layout of the plates remain largely unknown. Claire Mallard et al. have developed computer models of mantle convection with plate-like behaviour and use them to produce a series of ‘virtual Earths� that project the network of plate boundaries through time. The models suggest that the layout of large plates is controlled by the spacing between subducting slabs, and that stresses caused by the bending of trenches break plates into smaller fragments, explaining why rapid evolution in small back-arc plates reflects the dramatic changes in plate motions during times of major plate-tectonic reorganizations. Cover C. Mallard et al.


World View

  • World View |

    The Biological Weapons Convention needs to take the assessment of emerging scientific dangers more seriously, argues Malcolm Dando.

    • Malcolm Dando

Research Highlights

Social Selection

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    Chemist killed on Mexican university campus; Juno craft reaches Jupiter orbit; and Nobel laureates defend genetically modified organisms.



News Feature

  • News Feature |

    Late nights, typos, self-doubt and despair. Francis Collins, Sara Seager and Uta Frith dust off their theses, and reflect on what the PhD was like for them.

    • Kerri Smith
    • Noah Baker


  • Comment |

    Alastair Lewis and Peter Edwards call on researchers to test the accuracy of low-cost monitoring devices before regulators are flooded with questionable air-quality data.

    • Alastair Lewis
    • Peter Edwards
  • Comment |

    Thirty years on from the first congress on peer review, Drummond Rennie reflects on the improvements brought about by research into the process — and calls for more.

    • Drummond Rennie

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Ethan Carr traces the arc of influence in landscape creation and preservation from 'Capability' Brown to Frederick Law Olmsted and the US National Park Service.

    • Ethan Carr


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The Hitomi astronomical satellite observed gas motions in the Perseus galaxy cluster shortly before losing contact with Earth. Its findings are invaluable to studies of cluster physics and cosmology. See Letter p.117

    • Elizabeth Blanton
  • News & Views |

    The protein PKM-ζ has been proposed to regulate the maintenance of memory in rodents, but this theory has been questioned. The finding that another isoform of the protein acts as a backup if PKM-ζ is lacking will influence this debate.

    • Paul W. Frankland
    • Sheena A. Josselyn
  • News & Views |

    An investigation of how ultracold molecules are broken apart by light reveals surprising, previously unobserved quantum effects. The work opens up avenues of research in quantum optics. See Letter p.122

    • David W. Chandler
  • News & Views |

    A study reveals that human-driven disturbances in previously undisturbed Amazon rainforest can cause biodiversity losses as severe as those of deforestation. Urgent policy interventions are needed to preserve forest quality. See Letter p.144

    • David P. Edwards
  • News & Views |

    A range of neuronal mechanisms can enable animals to detect the direction of visual motion. Computational models now indicate that a factor as simple as eye size might explain some of this diversity. See Article p.105

    • Thomas Euler
    • Tom Baden



Review Article


  • Article |

    Directional selectivity in the detection of moving visual stimuli critically depends on starburst amacrine cells, which have been studied primarily in rabbit retina; a large-scale reconstruction of the mouse retina at a single-synapse level, along with experimental and theoretical analysis, shows that mouse retinal circuitry is adapted to the smaller eye size of mice.

    • Huayu Ding
    • Robert G. Smith
    • Kevin L. Briggman


  • Letter |

    X-ray observations of the core of the Perseus cluster reveal a remarkably quiescent atmosphere in which the gas has a line-of-sight velocity dispersion of about 164 kilometres per second in the region 30–60 kiloparsecs from the central nucleus; turbulent pressure support in the gas is four per cent of the thermodynamic pressure, necessitating only a small correction to the total cluster mass determined from hydrostatic equilibrium.

    • Felix Aharonian
    • Hiroki Akamatsu
    • Abderahmen Zoghbi
  • Letter |

    Placing a light emitter in an ultra-small optical cavity results in coupling between matter and light, generating new forms of emission that can be exploited in practical or fundamental applications; here, a system is described in which strong light–matter coupling occurs at room temperature and in ambient conditions by aligning single dye molecules in the optical cavities between gold nanoparticles and surfaces.

    • Rohit Chikkaraddy
    • Bart de Nijs
    • Jeremy J. Baumberg
  • Letter |

    The computational design of an extremely stable icosahedral self-assembling protein nanocage is presented; the icosahedron should be useful for applications ranging from calibrating fluorescence microscopy to drug delivery.

    • Yang Hsia
    • Jacob B. Bale
    • David Baker
  • Letter |

    Computer models of mantle convection with plate-like behaviour are used to demonstrate that the size–frequency distribution of tectonic plates on Earth is controlled by subduction geometry—the spacing between subducting slabs controls the layout of large plates, and the stresses caused by the bending of trenches break plates into smaller fragments.

    • Claire Mallard
    • Nicolas Coltice
    • Paul J. Tackley
  • Letter |

    SHP099, a selective inhibitor of signalling meditator SHP2 with drug-like properties, has an allosteric mechanism of action whereby it stabilizes SHP2 in an auto-inhibited conformation, and suppresses RAS–ERK signalling and proliferation in receptor-tyrosine-kinase-driven cancer cell lines and mouse tumour xenograft models.

    • Ying-Nan P. Chen
    • Matthew J. LaMarche
    • Pascal D. Fortin
  • Letter |

    A CRISPR screening approach shows that endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated protein complexes, including the oligosaccharyltransferase (OST) protein complex, are important for infection by dengue virus and other related mosquito-borne flaviviruses, whereas hepatitis C virus is dependent on distinct entry factors, RNA binding proteins and FAD biosynthesis.

    • Caleb D. Marceau
    • Andreas S. Puschnik
    • Jan E. Carette
  • Letter |

    High-resolution structures of the unliganded Ebola virus glycoprotein (GP) and of GP bound to the drugs toremifene and ibuprofen are presented, providing insights into how the drugs inhibit viral fusion with the endosomal membrane.

    • Yuguang Zhao
    • Jingshan Ren
    • David I. Stuart
  • Letter |

    When transcription and replication machineries collide on DNA, they can cause mutations to occur in the area near the collision; these mutations are now shown to include two types—duplications/deletions within the transcription unit and base substitutions in the cis-regulatory element of gene expression.

    • T. Sabari Sankar
    • Brigitta D. Wastuwidyaningtyas
    • Jue D. Wang
  • Letter |

    Here, pharmacological and biochemical evidence is provided that shows that G-protein coupling to the β2-adrenergic receptor stabilizes a ‘closed’ conformation of the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) and that that the effects of the G protein on the ligand-binding site of the GPCR are observed even in the absence of a bound agonist.

    • Brian T. DeVree
    • Jacob P. Mahoney
    • Roger K. Sunahara



  • Column |

    A postdoc job is good for your career, but don't get stuck in an academic cul-de-sac, says Søren-Peter Olesen.

    • Soeren-Peter Olesen



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