June 6, 2023
Daily briefing: Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano is erupting

Daily briefing: Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano is erupting

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Close up of a female Northern House mosquito feeding on human blood

Blood from a mosquito’s most recent meal contains antibodies from the person or animal the insect feasted on.Credit: Claude Nuridsany & Marie Perennou/Science Photo Library

The last meals of mosquitos can reveal evidence of infection in the blood that they feasted on. The innovative method could be used to study people and animals’ past exposure to a range of pathogens, while avoiding the ethical and practical challenges of testing them directly.

Nature | 4 min read

More than 70,000 academics and staff members at 150 UK universities began the largest strike in the history of higher education on 24 November. They are protesting against poor pay, unsustainable working conditions and pension cuts. “While some vice-chancellors earn £500,000 and can claim expenses for all sorts of luxuries, our PhD students and staff are using food banks,” says chemist Helen Coulshed. “What universities are doing is a direct attack on the future of science.”

Nature | 5 min read

Satellite ‘megaconstellations’ — such as SpaceX’s Starlink Internet network, which already consists of thousands of satellites — might soon face some regulation in the United States. A US government report suggests that regulators should revisit a 1986 decision that effectively exempts communications satellites from the US National Environmental Policy Act. Astronomers have warned that megaconstellations can disrupt the radio frequencies used for astronomical observation, create bright streaks in the night sky and intensify congestion in orbit, increasing the risk of collisions.

Scientific American | 8 min read

Read more: How satellite ‘megaconstellations’ will photobomb astronomy images (Nature | 6 min read, from 2020)

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano — the world’s largest active volcano — is erupting for the first time in almost 40 years. Lava flows are not threatening local communities now, but officials have warned nearby residents to prepare to evacuate. “Right now, we just don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Ken Hon at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

New Scientist | 3 min read

Features & opinion

The European Union is on the cusp of enacting its ambitious ‘Fit for 55’ plan, designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 55% by 2030, relative to 1990 levels. But its ambition to harvest more wood, shift one-fifth of cropland to bioenergy and outsource agricultural production to other countries will undermine carbon storage and biodiversity, argue five environmental and policy researchers. They suggest how Europe can, with reforms, take a more environmentally friendly path.

Nature | 12 min read

In his new book, Curious Devices and Mighty Machines, Samuel Alberti, director of collections at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, digs into the delicate calculus of curation. “The canny science curator”, he admits, concerned with storage, cost and longevity, focuses on collecting “material that is old enough to be obsolete but not so old as to be collectable”.

Nature | 5 min read

Science writer David Brown hitched a ride as a research assistant to create this evocative portrait of field research on Antarctica’s Thwaites glacier, also known as the Doomsday Glacier. Sea levels could rise “by several feet or more” if sea ice holding the glacier in place gives way, he writes. Working out when such a colossal ‘retreat event’ might strike requires probing the warm waters that are melting Thwaites from below. To succeed, in a place “as far from civilization as it’s possible to get”, writes Brown, “you must figure things out for yourself.”

The New Yorker | 35 min read

Quote of the day

The historic agreement to create a ‘loss and damage’ fund at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, is a hopeful portent of what’s to come, writes Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa. (Climate Home News | 4 min read)

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