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Volume 575 Issue 7782, 14 November 2019

Game plan

StarCraft II is a science-fiction strategy game that is played competitively around the world. In it, players control one of three different alien races and must make strategic and tactical decisions that adapt to their opponents’ actions. The game has emerged as a key challenge for artificial intelligence because its complexity and multi-player challenges echo potential real-world applications. But AI programs have struggled to compete with human players, even in simplified versions of the game. In this week’s issue, Oriol Vinyals at DeepMind and his colleagues report that an AI program called AlphaStar has attained the level of Grandmaster for all three alien races in StarCraft II after competing against human players using the full online version of the game. AlphaStar now ranks among the top 0.2% of players in the game. The program achieved its success thanks to a multi-agent reinforcement learning algorithm in which several deep neural network agents compete against each other, generating a set of continually adapting strategies and counter-strategies.

Cover image: DeepMind Technologies Ltd with thanks to Blizzard Entertainment

This Week

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  • News & Views

    • A multi-nozzle system has been devised that allows the 3D printing of objects using several viscous materials, thereby allowing control over the material properties of objects at the submillimetre scale.

      • Johannes T. B. Overvelde
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    • The ability of birds to learn a song depends not on their genes alone, but also on whether their genetic make-up is well matched to that of their singing teacher. This discovery sheds light on how gene–environment interactions affect learning.

      • Ofer Tchernichovski
      • Dalton Conley
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    • Distant DNA regions are juxtaposed and joined to form diverse immune-system genes encoding antibodies and T-cell receptors. It seems that both types of gene form by relying on DNA extrusion through a protein ring called cohesin.

      • Ferenc Livak
      • André Nussenzweig
      News & Views
    • Ultrasensitive experiments on trapped antiprotons provide a window onto possible differences between matter and antimatter. Now they could also shed light on the identity of dark matter — the ‘missing’ mass in the Universe.

      • Gianpaolo Carosi
      News & Views
    • A molecule has now been characterized that acts to inhibit a cancer-causing form of KRAS protein and stimulate the immune system. The inhibitor is one of the first of its kind to show anticancer activity in the clinic.

      • Roy S. Herbst
      • Joseph Schlessinger
      News & Views
    • A tracer molecule has been used to analyse tumours in vivo in mice and to group cancers according to their metabolic characteristics. Such information could have implications for determining how different malignancies are treated.

      • Aparna D. Rao
      • Ralph J. DeBerardinis
      News & Views
  • Reviews

    • A review of drug resistance in cancer analyses each biological determinant of resistance separately and discusses existing and new therapeutic strategies to combat the problem as a whole.

      • Neil Vasan
      • José Baselga
      • David M. Hyman


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Nature Outlook

  • The ocean is an integral element of our planet’s climate system. Understanding the physical processes at work within the ocean is therefore crucial to making accurate predictions about where climate change is likely to lead.

    Nature Outlook
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