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Volume 603 Issue 7900, 10 March 2022

Predicting the past

Inscriptions provide an invaluable insight into the ancient world. But over the centuries, many inscriptions have been damaged and exist in fragmented or semi-legible forms, making the job of reading and interpreting them extremely difficult. In this week’s issue, Yannis Assael, Thea Sommerschield and their team introduce Ithaca, a deep neural network designed to help historians restore and understand ancient Greek inscriptions. Working alone, Ithaca is able to restore damaged texts with a 62% accuracy, but when historians use Ithaca, their accuracy on the same task rises to 72%. Ithaca can also determine the original geographical location of inscriptions with 71% accuracy, and can date them to within 30 years from the date ranges proposed by historians. The researchers say that such cooperation between artificial intelligence and historians could help transform studies of the ancient world.

Cover image: Adam Cain/Domhnall Malone/DeepMind

This Week

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News in Focus

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  • News & Views

    • The options for controlling molecular self-assembly processes have been limited. A fresh approach uses electrons to facilitate self-assembly, and thereby provides precise external control over the process.

      • Robert Francke
      News & Views
    • Understanding factors that lead to the development of multiple sclerosis might aid efforts to develop new therapies. Clinical data now implicate a viral culprit and immune-system dysfunction as underlying factors in this condition.

      • Hartmut Wekerle
      News & Views
    • An optical device enables high-speed, high-resolution distance measurements to be made over a large field of view. Clever switching gives the integrated design a tiny footprint and keeps its power consumption low.

      • H. Y. Fu
      • Qian Li
      News & Views
    • A combination of Internet-based and field experiments suggests that being given personal information about a stranger leads people to believe that they themselves are known to that person — and to change their behaviour accordingly.

      • Elicia John
      • Shawn D. Bushway
      News & Views
    • The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming many areas of research. A new AI tool helps to fill in missing text and estimate the timeframe and geographical origin of ancient inscriptions.

      • Charlotte Roueché
      News & Views
  • Articles

    • The accretion disk environments surrounding active galactic nuclei are potential locations where there is an excess of eccentric mergers of large black holes, which have different spin–orbit tilts compared with circular mergers.

      • J. Samsing
      • I. Bartos
      • H. Tagawa
    • A study reports europium molecular crystals with optically addressable spin states that exhibit ultra-narrow linewidths, demonstrating the use of rare-earth molecular crystals as a platform for photonic quantum technologies.

      • Diana Serrano
      • Senthil Kumar Kuppusamy
      • Philippe Goldner
    • Ultra-scaled transistors based on two-dimensional MoS2 with physical gate lengths of 0.34 nm are reported, which show relatively good electrical characteristics and can be switched off.

      • Fan Wu
      • He Tian
      • Tian-Ling Ren
    • A simple and versatile strategy is established to facilitate molecular recognition by extending electron catalysis for use in supramolecular non-covalent chemistry.

      • Yang Jiao
      • Yunyan Qiu
      • J. Fraser Stoddart
    • ‘Cooperative redox enhancement (CORE) effects, which arise through the coupling of oxidative dehydrogenation and oxygen reduction reactions, can lead to increased rates of reaction over spatially separated bimetallic heterogeneous catalysts.

      • Xiaoyang Huang
      • Ouardia Akdim
      • Graham J. Hutchings
    • Ithaca—a deep neural network for textual restoration, geographical attribution and dating of ancient Greek inscriptions—collaboratively aids historians’ study of damaged texts.

      • Yannis Assael
      • Thea Sommerschield
      • Nando de Freitas
      Article Open Access
    • DNA analysis of 6 individuals from eastern and south-central Africa spanning the past approximately 18,000 years, and of 28 previously published ancient individuals, provides genetic evidence supporting hypotheses of increasing regionalization at the end of the Pleistocene.

      • Mark Lipson
      • Elizabeth A. Sawchuk
      • Mary E. Prendergast
      Article Open Access
    • When people learn more about a stranger, they think a stranger knows more about them, and when tested in a field experiment, this shifted residents’ perceptions of police officers’ knowledge of illegal activity.

      • Anuj K. Shah
      • Michael LaForest
    • A transcriptomics study demonstrates cell-type-specific responses to differentially aged blood and shows young blood to have restorative and rejuvenating effects that may be invoked through enhanced mitochondrial function.

      • Róbert Pálovics
      • Andreas Keller
      • Tony Wyss-Coray
    • The bacterial genotoxin colibactin triggers prophage-mediated lysis of neighbouring bacteria, a finding that provides insight into the dynamics of microbial communities and relationships between bacterial metabolite production and phage behaviour.

      • Justin E. Silpe
      • Joel W. H. Wong
      • Emily P. Balskus
      Article Open Access
    • A translationally silent KRASG60G mutation, preventing the formation of a cryptic splice donor site and  enabling expression of KRAS(Q61K), reveals a vulnerability in RASQ61 cancers that are therapeutically exploitable in a mutant-selective manner.

      • Yoshihisa Kobayashi
      • Chhayheng Chhoeu
      • Pasi A. Jänne
    • Cryo-electron microscopy structures of Cas9 during mismatch cleavage provide insight into the mechanisms that control off-target effects of Cas9, which will aid in the future design of high-fidelity Cas9 variants with reduced off-target cleavage.

      • Jack P. K. Bravo
      • Mu-Sen Liu
      • David W. Taylor
      Article Open Access
  • Matters Arising

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Amendments & Corrections

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Nature Index

  • With huge budgets, world-class facilities and a long history of scientific excellence, the leading five countries in the Nature Index (US, China, Germany, UK and Japan) also rely on collaborations to address global challenges.

    Nature Index
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