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Micrograph of cells picked out in bright yellow, red and purple.

Credit: University of Oregon

This microscope image shows a neural stem cell — the largest, brightest cell, towards the right — from a Drosophila fruit fly. The cell’s progeny trail to the left in a cluster resembling a bunch of grapes. Fluorescent markers have been embedded in the cells’ membranes so researchers can see how they divide. Such high-resolution imaging has captured the cells’ mechanical motions as they make neurons in the developing brain. “We discovered that stem cells have more in common with real machines on a factory floor than previously appreciated, in that they undergo a mechanical cycle when producing each neuron,” says biochemist Ken Prehoda.

See more of the month’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team.

Nature | Leisurely scroll

Reference: Cell Reports paper

A flood that killed at least 200 people and damaged two hydroelectric power plants in February was caused by a massive avalanche of rock and glacier ice. Researchers used satellite images, eyewitness accounts and computer models to discover that an unusually fluid mix of water and material crumbled from the steep face of a mountain called Ronti Peak, dropping several kilometres at speeds of up to 60 metres per second. A 500-metre scar on the face of Ronti Peak, captured by satellite, shows the scale of the landslide.

ScienceNews | 6 min read

Reference: Science paper

COVID-19 coronavirus update

Unvaccinated children seem to be reaping the benefits of mass COVID-19 vaccination programmes in many parts of the world. But the conclusions are mixed. In the small town of Serrana in Brazil, where 98% of adults have been vaccinated, researchers saw a striking reduction in symptomatic infections in unvaccinated children, too. “This was one of our concerns — that if you vaccinate all the others, probably the disease will concentrate in the children and teenagers,” says epidemiologist Ricardo Palacios. “But we didn’t see that.” Similar scenarios have played out in countries with high vaccination rates, such as Israel and the United States. But early data from the United Kingdom — where the vaccination rate is 60% — suggest that unvaccinated children might still be important spreaders of the virus. During May, almost 100 outbreaks occurred in England’s 25,000 primary and secondary schools. The question has important implications as leaders decide whether to focus on vaccinating young people to further suppress infections in highly protected populations or to ensure that more high-risk people are vaccinated around the world.

Nature | 6 min read

1.88 million

The official number of people who have died from COVID-19 already this year — more than in all of 2020. (The Wall Street Journal | 9 min read, paywall)

Features & opinion

The beautifully, horrifyingly temperamental ocean speaks to its careless progeny in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

Andrew Robinson and Sara Abdulla’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes how to manage the ‘dataome’, medical misogyny, and the problem with palm oil.

Nature | 3 min read

Working out where to place the billions of components that a modern computer chip needs can take human designers months and, despite decades of research, has defied automation. Now, Google researchers have developed a machine-learning algorithm that does the job in a fraction of the time and is already helping to design their next generation of artifical-intelligence processors.

Nature Podcast | 26 min listen

Go deeper with computer scientist Andrew Kahng in the Nature News & Views article.

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

Reference: Nature paper

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