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After its 72nd flight on January 18, 2024, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this image of the shadow of one of its damaged rotor blades.

After Ingenuity’s last flight, it took this picture looking down at the Mars soil. The shadow of its damaged blade is visible.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After a triumphant three years swooping through the skies of the Red Planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter will not fly again. The first aircraft to take flight on another world, Ingenuity’s achievements will inform a forthcoming mission to explore Saturn’s moon Titan. “This type of mobility can take us to places we never dreamed we’d be able to explore,” says space scientist Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built the copter.

Nature | 4 min read

Scientists in the global south are making use of the relative ease and low cost of CRISPR gene editing to tailor crops to the needs of local farmers. There are at least a dozen projects in the works, including one to make sorghum resistant to parasitic witchweed. Because in this case CRISPR–Cas9 is used to mimic a natural mutation, the crop can bypass some of the stringent regulations that many countries impose on plants modified with foreign DNA. There are still significant hurdles to bringing edited crops to the farm, particularly to poor small-scale farmers, says rural development researcher Klara Fischer.

Nature | 5 min read

Canada’s oil-producing tar sands generate as much pollution-causing emissions as all of the country’s other human-generated sources combined. The researchers tracked only carbon-based molecules that can seed particulate pollution and react to form ground-level ozone. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide were factored out. Data collected on 30 flights over 17 oil-sand operations show that their emission rates were up to 64 times greater than reported by industry. “No rules have been broken, or guidelines exceeded here,” says oil and gas analyst Janetta McKenzie. “But that speaks to some issues in our rules and our guidelines.”

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: Science paper

Male antechinus, small Australian marsupials, sacrifice their sleep to make more time for mating during a three-week breeding frenzy. Researchers observed that male Antechinus swainsonii slept on average 20% less each day during breeding season than they do at other times. After this period, the animals died or became sterile — but probably not because of sleep loss. “It’s a real question mark,” says zoologist and study co-author Erika Zaid.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Current Biology paper

A dusky antechinus in sunlight on moss.

Antechinus have an unusually short and vigorous breeding season.Credit: Adam Fry/Alamy

Features & opinion

Table of Contents

Chemist Nuwan Bandara shares tips on how to write papers and grant applications as a non-native English speaker:

If you can’t find a suitable phrase in your first draft, leave a blank and move on

Start with the section you find easiest

Figures can help you to construct a narrative and add a ‘wow’ factor

When doing literature research, note down each paper’s core message

Create a crude introduction and polish it later

Study other people’s writing styles

Use tools such as ChatGPT to fine-tune sentences

Nature | 6 min read

Author Graham Robert Scott takes a satirical swipe at the ‘return to the new normal’ in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 5 min read

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes a grippingly illustrated book on dinosaur behaviour, a history of machine vision and a quest for a unified theory of human habits.

Nature | 3 min read

Toxic waste from aluminium production can be turned into iron, a key ingredient in the production of steel. There is an estimated 4 billion tonnes of ‘red mud’ in landfills worldwide. “It is actually a big problem,” sustainable-metallurgy researcher Isnaldi Souza Filho tells the Nature Podcast, “because red mud is associated with pollution, contamination of soil and contamination of water.” The method developed by Souza and his colleagues uses hydrogen plasma instead of fossil fuels to extract iron from the red mud, which could help to reduce carbon emissions from steel production.

Nature Podcast | 24 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify, or use the RSS feed.

Quote of the day

An analysis of photos shared online by wildlife enthusiasts found that terrestrial hermit crabs are adopting plastic rubbish instead of natural shells, says urban ecologist Marta Szulkin. (BBC | 4 min read)

Reference: Science of the Total Environment paper

Brace yourself: the secret to a great cup of tea is a pinch of salt. Chemist Michelle Francl says that sodium ions block the taste receptors in our mouths so the drink tastes less bitter. Her other top tips: pre-warm the pot, use loose tea and give it a constant stir — all will help extract more caffeine and antioxidants. Whatever you do (and I can’t imagine that you would) — never make tea in the microwave. “You end up getting tea scum forming on the surface, and that scum contains some of the antioxidants and taste compounds,” says Francl.

While I vacillate with salt shaker poised over my afternoon cuppa, let’s look for Leif Penguinson. Today our penguin pal is hiding on a driftwood-strewn beach in Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge, in Hawaii. Can you find the penguin?

The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think! Please send your feedback to

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Katrina Krämer and Sara Phillips

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