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Animated sequence of the Sun’s south pole as seen by the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft.

Gas jets termed picoflares stream from the Sun in this imagery taken by the Solar Orbiter spacecraft.Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team; acknowledgement: Lakshmi Pradeep Chitta, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

Minuscule bursts of superheated gas could form the origin of the solar wind — the stream of charged particles coming from the Sun’s surface. Pictures snapped by the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft show short-lived ‘picoflares’ that appear to expel material into space. The gas jets are probably powered by disturbances in the magnetic field of the million-degree solar plasma. They were observed inside a coronal hole, a temporary gap in the Sun’s magnetic field. A multitude of these small flares could add up to be a substantial source of solar wind.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Science paper

A group of more than 2,000 older women has taken the Swiss government to the European Court of Human Rights over its climate-change policy. They say that, because heatwaves disproportionately affect older women, Switzerland’s inaction on climate change is violating their right to life and health. Research into the effects of climate change on health will also be key to two other lawsuits — one against the French government and one against 33 European countries. Decisions about all three cases are expected by early 2024.

Nature | 7 min read

A device able to measure X-rays in exquisite detail will launch on a rocket on Sunday. Japan’s X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM, pronounced ‘crism’) could open “an absolutely new era in X-ray astronomy” says astrophysicist Irina Zhuravleva. The mission’s unique X-ray calorimeter can take spectra of X-ray sources in motion, such as the jets of matter produced by supermassive black holes. Mapping these maelstroms could help astronomers to unravel the mysterious origins of the jets and how they affect galaxy evolution.

Nature | 5 min read

Reader poll

A bar graph showing poll results on the question ‘What do you think about the next steps for science Twitter?’

Last week, we learnt that many scientists are reconsidering their use of Twitter, aka X. In a Nature survey of 9,000 scientists, more than half said they had reduced the time they spend on the platform, and just under 7% have stopped using it altogether.

Half of the Briefing readers who replied to our poll said that they had never bothered with science Twitter, and couldn’t care less now. Another 35% said scientists should rebuild the social-media community elsewhere — for example, on LinkedIn, Mastodon, Discord, TikTok or Tribel. Facebook was also mentioned, but mostly as one of the platforms scientists would rather stay away from. Some suggested using messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram instead of social networks.

There were also calls for the creation of new networks dedicated to science, by governments, scientific publishers or scientists. “We need a platform that allows researchers to incorporate the best of Twitter, but also the likes of PubMed or Scopus to merge articles and ideas together,” suggests biochemist Callum Nicoll.

Some readers said that completely abandoning a popular platform such as Twitter isn’t the solution. “Scientists should stay on Twitter/X in order to have influence there,” writes health-care researcher Gail Reed.

Features & opinion

An improv group — with one alien member — struggles with an audience of anthropologists in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Brain implants combined with deep-learning algorithms have enabled two people with paralysis to turn thoughts into speech. The devices translate brain activity generated when the wearer silently tries to say a word into audio with unprecedented accuracy and speed. One of the participants was able to hear her own voice for the first time in 18 years, thanks to synthetic speech created from her wedding video, neurosurgeon Edward Chang tells the Nature Podcast. “A lot of people thought that she had a British accent,” because of the voice her current communication device uses, he explains. “But she has more of a Canadian accent.”

Nature Podcast | 29 min listen

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

Quote of the day

Reporter Erika Benke visits Onkalo, a 450-metre-deep hole in the Finnish bedrock that is the world’s first ‘geological disposal facility’ for spent nuclear fuel. (BBC Future Planet | 15 min read)

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