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It’s far from certain, but astronomers might have captured an image of the exoplanet Proxima c, thought to orbit the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri in our nearest neighbouring planetary system. Researchers analysing data from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope identified infrared images that seem to show the planet appearing across several years of routine observations. If genuine, the detection could tell us Proxima c’s size and the angle at which it orbits its star. However, some say it could be the result of random noise unwanted light from artefacts or background stars — in the data .
Scientific American | 7 min read
A series of summer heatwaves made 2019 Europe’s hottest year on record, according to new data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. These show a ‘clear warming trend’ in the region over the last four decades. High temperatures caused drought in several countries over the summer months. Others experienced flooding and landslides in November and December, which brought unusually heavy rainfall.
Bloomberg | 4 min read
Features & opinion
Climate scientists are studying a fresh set of socio-economic scenarios to model the future of the planet. The simulations range from optimistic worlds — in which governments join forces to advance low-carbon technologies — to bleak ones, with countries ramping up their use of cheap fossil fuels to pursue economic growth at any cost. The research could have a key role in the negotiations around a new set of commitments to reduce emissions. “We need these model results to give us insights into the impacts of our choices,” says environmental-health researcher Kristie Ebi. “This is not science fiction.”
Nature | 9 min read
Habitat loss, climate change and fungal disease are conspiring to threaten many amphibians: 41% of those species are estimated to be at risk of imminent extinction. But some hope that in vitro fertilization could help. Last year, researchers created the first amphibian born from sperm that had been frozen, a tiny Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) named Olaf. The team fertilized an egg from a captive mother with sperm from a wild father. Both parents had died. “We were able to recover a genetic lineage that had disappeared,” says ecologist Andy Kouba.
The Guardian | 9 min read
Cancer biologists are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to deal with an explosive growth of data. The latest machine-learning techniques can find patterns that researchers might have missed. And increasingly, researchers are able to use off-the-shelf tools, rather than having to develop them in their labs. Applications range from predicting drug responses on the basis of a person’s cancer-genome sequence to assessing protein localization.
Nature | 10 min read
Has lockdown left you wondering why video chats are so exhausting? Researchers Gianpiero Petriglieri and Marissa Shuffler offer some insights on ‘zoom fatigue’ and how to reduce it.
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With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and Davide Castelvecchi