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An aerial photo from August 10 shows destroyed buildings burned to the ground due to wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii.

Lahaina, Hawaii, after a fast-moving wildfire caused devastation and deaths.Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty

Maui is reeling from wildfires last week that took at least 96 lives and caused more than US$5.52 billion of damage. Factors that have made Hawaii’s fires more devastating and frequent include long, severe droughts, higher temperatures driven by climate change and neglect of former agricultural areas that have turned into grasslands. Local groups are trying to revitalize traditional food production, which would create less flammable landscapes. “That’s why these fires started: because no one had a relationship to these places,” says ethnoecologist Katie Kamelamela.

Nature | 6 min read

Afghanistan and Pakistan — the last two countries in which polio is endemic — could eradicate wild poliovirus by the end of the year. It’s a surprising turn given that eradication efforts, which began globally in 1988, have recently been called unsuccessful. Pakistan has reported just two wild polio cases so far this year; Afghanistan has reported five. To fully eliminate the virus worldwide, public-health specialists say that vaccination and environmental-surveillance efforts must be sustained despite persistent social and political challenges.

Nature | 7 min read

A protein that disrupts cells’ energy production could be one of the reasons why people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) experience extreme exhaustion and cognitive problems. Researchers found higher levels of the protein WASF3 in the muscle cells of 14 people with ME/CFS than in samples from 10 healthy individuals. What exactly causes excessive levels of WASF3, which interferes with energy-generating mitochondria, remains unclear. Treatments that target the protein could help to combat related illnesses, such as long COVID.

Science | 5 min read

Reference: PNAS paper

Features & opinion

Mathematics has a reputation of being all about cold, calculating logic — but that couldn’t be further from the truth, says Eugenia Cheng. In her new book Is Maths Real?, the mathematician and concert pianist aspires to portray mathematics as a joyful experience that can help people to think more clearly about the world. “In maths research, you don’t just follow logical steps. If you do, you’ll never get anywhere interesting,” Cheng says. “You have to use your gut instinct and feel your way through something first, and then back it up with logic afterwards.”

Nature | 5 min read

Africa is disproportionately exposed to catastrophic cyclones, floods and droughts — but lacks a fair chance to reduce climate risks through weather monitoring and early-warning systems, suggests a group of risk researchers, climate scientists and policy specialists. Policymakers should identify the most at-risk areas, invest in weather monitoring and forecasting, promote computational forecasting and improve early warning, the researchers write. The group proposes tripling the financial pledges made to 13 African nations to improve their hydrological and meteorological risk-management systems.

Nature | 11 min read

A shrinking number of academic positions, pressure to publish, job insecurity and low wages are some of the reasons why many PhD graduates opt to leave academia. Here are some tips for a smooth transition by academia-to-industry converts:

• Before you start job hunting, consider what you really want to do

• Build a network — on social media or by attending conferences, hackathons and research meet-ups

• Talk to people who already work in the sector

• Seek feedback on your CV and cover letter

• Craft an elevator pitch about how you will apply your research in industry

Nature | 9 min read

Where I work

Ecologist Elena Tamburini sampling of oysters during pre-growth in the lagoon, Goro, Italy.

Elena Tamburini is an ecologist at the University of Ferrara, Italy.Credit: Elisabetta Zavoli for Nature

“I hope to prove that oyster farming absorbs more carbon than it emits,” says ecologist Elena Tamburini. She maps how much fossil fuels, plastic and other resources the farming uses and then measures how much carbon the growing oysters capture in their calcium carbonate shells. For several months each year, she makes a weekly 120-kilometre round trip to the Sacca di Goro, a shallow lagoon in Italy, south of Venice. Even though Tamburini is excited about the potential uses for the discarded shells, she doesn’t like to eat oysters. “This can be tricky because the fishers usually offer me some.” (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

Cognitive neuroscientist Nina Rouhani explains why the pandemic can feel like a blur: monotony, as many people experienced during lockdowns, compresses remembered time. (Vox | 8 min read)

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