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Ukrainian number theorist Maryna Viazovska is among the four winners of the 2022 Fields Medals, one of the highest honours in mathematics that is conventionally awarded to people aged under 40. Viazovska, who is based in Switzerland, is the second woman ever to earn the award. She is best known for her solution of the sphere packing problem — finding the arrangement of spheres that can take up the largest portion of a volume — in eight dimensions. The other winners are number theorist James Maynard; June Huh, a specialist in combinatorics; and Hugo Duminil-Copin, who studies statistical physics.
Nature | 4 min read
More than US$4 billion of new funding has been pledged by African countries, international donors and pharmaceutical companies to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases, such as dengue and leprosy. The commitments were announced at the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, held on 23 June in Rwanda. These diseases have been on the rise because of disruptions in diagnosis and treatment caused by COVID-19, but there are promising new drugs for drug-resistant malaria and new vaccine technologies. “The R&D pipeline is in the best shape that it has ever been,” says Philip Welkhoff, director of malaria at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Nature | 5 min read
In the United States, federal funding for gun-violence research was restricted from the mid-1990s until 2020. Now the field is rebuilding, gathering much-needed data to evaluate the effectiveness of gun policies. These include a narrow but groundbreaking law passed on 25 June following horrific attacks in Buffalo, New York, and in Uvalde, Texas, in May. US-based research is crucial because it is hard to extrapolate public-health successes from abroad. “Could America do what Australia did?” Says gun-violence researcher Philip Alpers, referring to the country’s effective response to a mass shooting in 1996. “The answer is no, not a chance. You’ve got too many guns … You have to separate America from the rest of the world.”
Nature | 8 min read
Features & opinion
Three researchers with speech disabilities share their experiences at conferences, and how colleagues can support them. “If you’re a person who stutters, one of the most common reactions from people is this thing we call ‘the look’,” says speech-language-hearing scientist Eric Jackson. “The eyes sort of squint, and some people will lean in a little more and do all of these things that maybe they think are helping, but they are definitely not helping… The right thing to do in one of those situations is just to wait for the person to say what they want to say. And honestly, this is a good communication skill for anybody.”
Nature | 11 min read
An estimated 3.8 million people die prematurely each year from illnesses linked to household air pollution, mostly from cooking fires and dirty-fuel stoves — with women and girls disproportionately affected. For now, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is one of the cleanest, most scalable solutions, argues energy and development researcher Vijaya Ramachandran. But LPG is a fossil fuel, and so subject to efforts by rich countries to ban all fossil-fuel projects in low- and middle-income countries. “The irony is that clean cooking fuels are much better for the environment than standard fuels,” writes Ramachandran. “A more intelligent, data-led approach is needed to better protect the climate alongside vulnerable people in developing nations.”
Nature | 5 min read
Web scraping is a way to mine the scattered data that populate the Internet and put the information into a more usable, structured format. For example, researchers scrape medical reports from around the world to update the influential Johns Hopkins University COVID‑19 Dashboard. There are free web browser extensions — such as Web Scraper and Data Miner — for scraping small numbers of pages. You can scale up to fee-based services such as Mozenda and ScrapeSimple. And there are open-source alternatives that are compatible with the Python and R programming languages.
Nature | 7 min read
Where I work
Animal scientist Doreen Anene’s background growing up in Zaria, Nigeria, inspired her to support up-and-coming female scientists and female livestock farmers in low-income countries. “Poultry can be raised quickly on little land,” says Anene, shown here using an egg candler to assess egg quality. “If we empower women and increase livestock-farming productivity, they can better feed their children, educate them, save money and escape poverty.” Anene won the 2019 Nature Research Innovating Women in Science award for founding a non-profit initiative, the STEM Belle, that brings scientific role models and opportunities to girls in Nigeria, Ghana and Pakistan. (Nature | 3 min read)See more shots from this story on the Nature Instagram account. (Adam Wiseman for Nature)
Today I am resting my eyes on stunning images of the truly enormous, and newly described, giant water lily Victoria boliviana, and the beautiful botanical drawings made of it by botanical illustrator Lucy Smith. A lesson, says taxonomist Alex Monro, is not to overlook what’s right in front of us. “There are still many unknowns,” he says. “And I think, because they’re so huge — so obvious — people haven’t really thought to study them in that much detail.”
Thanks for reading,
Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing