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The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier for their research into attosecond pulses of light. Attosecond physics allows scientists to look at the very smallest particles at the very shortest timescales (an attosecond is one-quintillionth of a second, or one-billionth of a nanosecond). The winners all developed experiments to be able to produce these ultrafast laser pulses, which can be used to probe our world at the smallest scales and have applications across chemistry, biology and physics.
The impact of attosecond tools is hard to overstate. “A great number of spectacular experiments have been performed with them,” Krausz told Nature Photonics last year, when he, L’Huillier and physicist Paul Corkum won the Wolf Prize in Physics. “The new technology has provided, for the first time, direct, time-domain access to phenomena as fundamental as the decay of inner-shell vacancies in atoms, electron tunnelling through the barrier imposed by the atomic Coulomb potential, migration of electrons within molecules, optical-field-induced ionization and subsequent recollision of the freed electron with its parent ion, or intra-atomic and inter-atomic electron correlations. The listing could continue.”
L’Huillier was teaching when she received the call saying that she had won. “The last half hour of my lecture was very difficult,” she says. But she persisted. “Teaching is very, very important.”
Nature | 6 min read
Read more: A bright future for attosecond physics (Nature Photonics | 9 min read)
The length of time that scientists wait for their groundbreaking work to be recognized with a Nobel Prize is getting longer. Almost half of Nobel laureates wait more than 20 years from discovery to podium, double what it was 60 years ago. (Nature | 4 min read)
Reference: Humanities & Social Sciences Communications paper (Source: Ref. 1)
In a sky swarming with thousands of satellites, there’s a new one that stands out from the crowd: BlueWalker 3. The telecommunications satellite is often so bright that it outshines 99% of the stars visible from a dark location on Earth. Astronomers fear that the more than half a million satellites that companies are planning to launch in the coming years could hamper scientific observations.
Nature | 5 min read
Reference: Nature paper
Hammerhead sharks start to grow their iconic head shape about halfway through gestation, discovered scientists who conducted the first study of bonnethead (Sphyrna tiburo) embryos at different developmental stages. In this small species of hammerhead shark, the cartilage that forms the hammer develops about two months after conception. It first appears near the nose and then expands sideways.
Science | 2 min read
Reference: Developmental Dynamics paper
Features & opinion
Table of Contents
Intellectual humility — recognizing the limitations of one’s knowledge — can help researchers to foster interdisciplinary and cross-cultural collaborations. “[It] can really help us listen to those who don’t have the same ways of knowing as we do,” says psychologist Tenelle Porter. To apply intellectual humility in your science:
• Interrogate your own ideas, assumptions and beliefs
• Look for warning signs of insecurity or arrogance
• Listen actively and deeply
• Respond to critics with humility
• Expand your humility skills with resources such as this free online course
Nature | 11 min read
Open-source software could finally get the world’s microscopes speaking the same language by uniting the around 160 standard file formats for biological imaging data. “It is incumbent on the wider community to say ‘here’s what we want you to do’ and then everyone can play along,” says research data-management officer Josh Moore.
Nature | 11 min read
Delayism, deflection and doomerism are some of the tactics that have replaced outright denial of climate change, says Michael Mann, one of the scientists behind the 1998 ‘hockey stick graph’ of global temperatures. Carbon polluters delay action — either by suggesting that there’s still time or that the planet is already past the point of no return — or try to place responsibility on the individual, Mann explains. “Ironically, that framing helps the fossil fuel industry even more because it plays to this notion on the right that climate action is about controlling people’s lifestyles.”
Today, Explained podcast | 25 min listen or 13 min read
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Marine biologist Long Ying studies how low oxygen levels and ocean acidification affects corals. “Corals are, in many ways, the trees of the seas,” Ying says. “They generate oxygen, provide habitats for animals and protect their environments from extreme weather.” (Nature | 3 min read)