Strange India All Strange Things About India and world

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An airport departures hall, with no people.

The aviation sector was hit hard by the pandemic in 2020, contributing to decreases in global carbon emissions. Here, Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, is empty on 27 November 2020, when it would normally be full of Thanksgiving travellers.Credit: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty

After rising steadily for decades, global carbon-dioxide emissions fell by 6.4%, or 2.3 billion tonnes, in 2020. The United States contributed the most to the global dip, with a nearly 13% decrease in its emissions, due mostly to a sharp decline in vehicle transportation. The decline is significant — roughly double Japan’s yearly emissions — but smaller than many climate researchers expected given the scale of the pandemic, and it is not expected to last once the virus is brought under control.

Nature | 5 min read

Carbon cuts: Bar chart showing reductions in total annual emissions of CO2 from 2019 to 2020 for 6 countries or regions.

Source: Carbon Monitor programme/Nature analysis

COVID-19 coronavirus update

A new SARS-CoV-2 variant, first seen in the United Kingdom, appears to be roughly 50% more transmissible than other variants. The variant was named Variant of Concern 202012/01 by Public Health England, and is part of the B.1.1.7 lineage of coronaviruses. The New York Times takes a close, richly illustrated look at B.1.1.7’s mutations and why they might be concerning.

The New York Times | 7 min read

A challenge for some vaccines — including the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID vaccine and the Merck Ebola vaccine — is that they have to be kept achingly cold. Pfizer is already testing whether its vaccine is stable under less extreme temperatures and is working on a freeze-dried formulation. Researchers are also studying methods to stabilize vaccines by air-drying them or mixing them with salts that are liquid at any temperature. And they are harnessing the sugar that allows the resurrection plant (Selaginella lepidophylla) to completely dry out and then bounce back.

Chemistry World | 10 min read

Notable quotable

Caveats about authorized COVID vaccines are overwhelming the fabulously hopeful news of the protection they provide, argues physician-scientist Peter Hotez. (The New York Times | 7 min read

Coronavirus Research highlights: 1-minute reads

Traitorous antibodies are linked to COVID death Antibodies normally attack pathogens, but sometimes rogue antibodies instead besiege bodily components such as immune cells. Now, a new study adds to the growing body of research tying these ‘autoantibodies’ to poor outcomes in people with COVID-19. (Reference: medRxiv preprint — not yet peer reviewed)

Immune cells gone wild are tied to COVID lung damage Some of the severe respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 seem to result from the activity of specific immune cells, which can cause long-term inflammation of the lungs. (Reference: Nature paper)

A mutation undercuts the immune response to the COVID virus A handful of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 can help it to escape the immune response mounted by a subset of infected people. (Reference: bioRxiv preprint — not yet peer reviewed)

Read more in Nature’s continuously updated selection of key COVID papers and preprints.

Features & opinion

“The experience [of retracting a paper] has not left me bitter,” writes experimental psychologist Ben de Haas. “If anything, it brought me back to my original motivation for doing research.” Despite the pain of losing work he was proud of, solving a mystery and working collaboratively with fellow researchers was a positive experience overall. He calls for incentives that foster the common goal of better research.

Nature | 5 min read

The 2020 Nature Research Awards for Mentoring in Science recognized three researchers working in Israel. Cancer biologist Neta Erez and molecular biologist Tal Pupko shared the mid-career mentoring achievement award. Bioinformatician Hanah Margalit won the award for lifetime achievement in mentoring. The winners have much in common beyond their shared location: each sees mentorship as a fundamental part of their role as a scientist. Nature spoke to them to learn more about their mentoring styles and their top tips for leading a lab.

Nature | 7 min read

Economist Mariana Mazzucato is one of the architects of the biggest international research-funding scheme in the world, Horizon Europe, which launched this month. Her book Mission Economy is a timely and optimistic vision of how to fix the world’s economic problems through directed public and private investment, writes reviewer Jayati Ghosh. “Mazzucato presents her arguments so simply and clearly that they can seem obvious,” writes Ghosh. “In fact, they are revolutionary.”

Nature | 6 min read

The concept of knuckle-dragging cavemen is long expired, but there is still plenty to learn about how female Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) lived. From babyhood, through sexual maturity and childbirth, to the lasting marks of women’s work on their bones, palaeolithic archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes explores the evidence.

Aeon | 18 min read

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