Volume 587 Issue 7834, 19 November 2020

Facing facts

Facial-recognition systems have long been used at airport borders and on smartphones, but they are increasingly extending their reach into both public and private spaces. In this special issue, Nature probes the power — and the pitfalls — of the technology. One News Feature examines the inaccuracies and biases displayed by current systems. Another feature lifts the lid on ‘smart cities’ and how a lack of regulation and oversight could erode civil liberties. A third article discusses the growing concerns over the ethics of research studies in facial recognition. As governments and institutions seek to capitalize on this burgeoning technology, it is clear the field must take action to prevent abuse.

Cover image: Ashley Mackenzie

This Week

News in Focus

Books & Arts



  • Comment |

    Avoid unwarranted certainty, neat narratives and partisan presentation; strive to inform, not persuade.

    • Michael Blastland
    • , Alexandra L. J. Freeman
    •  & David Spiegelhalter
  • Comment |

    The pandemic has temporarily closed mines, factories and borders and destabilized flows of cobalt, lithium and other metals that are crucial for batteries, wind turbines and solar panels.

    • Ata Akcil
    • , Zhi Sun
    •  & Sandeep Panda



    News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Atmospheric particles that increase levels of cellular oxidants when inhaled might be especially harmful. An analysis reveals which emissions should be limited to minimize the potential adverse health effects of such particles in Europe.

    • Rodney Weber
  • News & Views |

    Our understanding of how mammalian embryos develop is based largely on mice. A study now reveals striking similarities and intriguing differences between mouse, cow and human embryos.

    • Jennifer L. Watts
    •  & Amy Ralston
  • News & Views |

    An analysis of worldwide data finds that human mobility has a hierarchical structure. A proposed model that accounts for such hierarchies reproduces differences in mobility behaviour across genders and levels of urbanization.

    • Elsa Arcaute
  • News & Views |

    When determining whether gut microbes affect human health, it is hard to distinguish between a causal and a correlative relationship. Analysis of microbial links to human traits and habits correlated with disease offers a step forward.

    • Sigal Leviatan
    •  & Eran Segal
  • News & Views |

    Understanding what contributes to the development of severe COVID-19 would be of great clinical benefit. Analysis of people in whom this occurred pinpoints a key role for the signalling pathway mediated by type I interferon proteins.

    • Eric Meffre
    •  & Akiko Iwasaki
  • Perspective

  • Perspective |

    The LifeTime initiative is an ambitious, multidisciplinary programme that aims to improve healthcare by tracking individual human cells during disease processes and responses to treatment in order to develop and implement cell-based interceptive medicine in Europe.

    • Nikolaus Rajewsky
    • , Geneviève Almouzni
    •  & Frauke Zipp
  • Articles

  • Article |

    Observations and stellar evolution models of a blue ring nebula and its central star (TYC 2597-735-1) suggest that the remnant star merged with a lower-mass companion several thousand years ago.

    • Keri Hoadley
    • , D. Christopher Martin
    •  & Bradley E. Schaefer
  • Article |

    A theoretical model in the form of a stochastic differential equation is proposed that describes, more accurately than previous models, the population evolution of cities, revealing that rare but very large interurban migration is a dominant factor.

    • Vincent Verbavatz
    •  & Marc Barthelemy
  • Article |

    A model shows that human mobility is organized within hierarchical containers that coincide with familiar scales and that a power-law distribution emerges when movements between different containers are combined.

    • Laura Alessandretti
    • , Ulf Aslak
    •  & Sune Lehmann
  • Article |

    Spectroscopic studies and theoretical calculations of the electrocatalytic oxygen evolution reaction establish that reaction rates depend on the amount of charge stored in the electrocatalyst, and not on the applied potential.

    • Hong Nhan Nong
    • , Lorenz J. Falling
    •  & Travis E. Jones
  • Article |

    Observations and air-quality modelling reveal that the sources of particulate matter and oxidative potential in Europe are different, implying that reducing mass concentrations of particulate matter alone may not reduce oxidative potential.

    • Kaspar R. Daellenbach
    • , Gaëlle Uzu
    •  & André S. H. Prévôt
  • Article |

    A yeast clonal descendant of an ancient hybridization event is identified and sheds light on the early evolution of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Alpechin lineage and its abundant Saccharomyces paradoxus introgressions.

    • Melania D’Angiolo
    • , Matteo De Chiara
    •  & Gianni Liti
  • Article |

    Viral infection of the respiratory system induces exuberant fibroblast activity, resulting in extensive remodelling of the extracellular matrix and cytokine release, which promote immune cell infiltration of the affected area at the expense of respiratory function.

    • David F. Boyd
    • , E. Kaitlynn Allen
    •  & Paul G. Thomas
  • Article |

    The molecular steps that lead to the disaggregation of amyloid fibrils are shown to involve the synergistic action of HSP70 and its co-chaperones DNAJB1 and HSP110.

    • Anne S. Wentink
    • , Nadinath B. Nillegoda
    •  & Bernd Bukau

Amendments & Corrections

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |

    Lung cancer

    Lung cancer kills about 2 million people annually — more than any other cancer. But the development of more-effective therapies and means of diagnosis provide some glimmers of hope.

Nature Briefing

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