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The world’s first honeybee vaccine has been approved in the United States. It prevents American foulbrood, a highly contagious bacterial disease that reduces larvae to brown goo. The vaccine contains a dead version of the bacteria, and is incorporated into the royal jelly that worker bees feed to the queen. The queen deposits the vaccine in her ovaries, which gives the developing larvae immunity.
The New York Times | 5 min read
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, will send a rescue mission to the International Space Station. An uncrewed Soyuz capsule will make its way autonomously to the station next month. The capsule that carried three crew members to the station in September, and was meant to bring them home, developed a coolant leak after being hit by a micrometeoroid. The damaged capsule will return to Earth without anyone on board.
A geoengineering test successfully reduced the acidity of waters off the coast of Florida — and, in the process, drew CO2 out of the atmosphere. Researchers released seawater enriched with calcium hydroxide, or lime, to raise the ocean’s pH and enhance its natural ability to sequester CO2 as calcium bicarbonate or as carbonate deposited in the shells of sea creatures. The field trial offers tantalizing evidence that the technique can work safely, and it could help to rescue the area’s oyster industry. The disadvantage is that the production of lime itself produces CO2.
Reference: American Geophysical Union conference presentation
Features & opinion
Artificial intelligence (AI) for health care, which could guide treatment strategies and accelerate diagnoses, is facing a reproducibility crisis. For example, the winning algorithms in a competition that involved automatically diagnosing lung cancer from chest CT scans “failed miserably” when they were tested on a subset of the scans. A major issue is the scarcity of medical data sets, which can entrench inaccuracies and biases. Larger open data sets that contain information from many dissimilar individuals are needed, and people must thoroughly challenge their algorithms for reproducibility, say researchers.
Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes an introduction to the ‘magic’ of quantum mechanics and why it takes humans so long to grow up.
If agricultural scientists want to ensure global food security, they need to start listening to Indigenous peoples, says Alexandre Antonelli, science director at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK. He points to bananas as an example: Panama disease, a seemingly incurable fungal infection, threatens the existence of the Cavendish, the variety that dominates the global banana trade. “Yet the disease does not affect crops in Africa and southeast Asia, where Indigenous and local communities grow hundreds of varieties that are naturally resistant to it,” notes Antonelli. He calls on scientists to re-examine how they work with traditional-knowledge holders.
“The first thing you need to do in order to put a woman on the moon is decide that it’s worth putting a woman on the moon,” says space historian Margaret Weitekamp. To achieve this long-awaited goal, NASA’s Artemis programme is introducing modular spacesuits that are suitable for a wide range of body shapes and sizes, and space toilets that those who sit to pee can use more easily. NASA is also working with other space agencies to study how radiation affects women’s bodies. These innovations will open exploration up for people with “any body type different from the test-pilot physique idealized by NASA’s first astronauts”, writes journalist Monica Hesse.
The Washington Post | 13 min read
Image of the week
The ozone layer is slowly but noticeably closing, says a United Nations report. At the current rate, the hole over Antarctica will be fully healed in 2066. It’s all thanks to the wildly successful 1987 Montreal Protocol, which effectively banned ozone-killing chemicals. “Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done — as a matter of urgency — to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase,” says Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization. (Associated Press | 4 min read)
Reference: United Nations Environment Programme report (Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/ECMWF)
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