top ten research highlights

The following highlights are the top ten most viewed research highlights on the English website of during the past month.


Ecology: Western Sahara and Sahel tree-count exceeds expectations

Nature, October 15, 2020

More than 1.8 billion individual trees can be found in the West African Sahara, Sahel and sub-humid zone, according to a report in Nature this week. A combination of high-resolution satellite imaging and deep learning has revealed a relatively high density of tree coverage for this arid area.

Accurate mapping of non-forest trees could offer insights into how they shape the envir...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2824-5

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Psychology: Human spatial memory prioritizes high calorie foods

Scientific Reports, October 9, 2020

Humans more accurately recall the locations of high calorie than low calorie foods, according to a study in Scientific Reports. The findings suggest that human spatial memory, which allows people to remember where objects are in relation to each another, has evolved to prioritize the location of high calorie foods.

Rachelle de Vries and colleagues measured food location memory by...

doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72570-x

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Infectious diseases: Genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 may be inherited from Neanderthals

Nature, September 30, 2020

Genetic variants that are associated with the risk of severe COVID-19 may have been inherited from Neanderthals, reports a paper published in Nature. This is just one of many risk factors for severe disease, others include advanced age and being male.

Previous research has identified a gene cluster on chromosome 3 that is associated with respiratory failure upon infection with SA...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2818-3

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Sport science: Olympic swimming podium places may be decided by time of day

Scientific Reports, October 9, 2020

The time of day that an Olympic swimming race takes place may affect athletes’ performance and could mean the difference between gold, silver and bronze, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

Countries selected to host the Olympics may adjust race times to accommodate broadcast across continents, requiring athletes to compete at different, sometimes unusual, tim...

doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72573-8

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Technology: Soft robots catch more flies with magnets

Communications Materials, September 25, 2020

A new type of fast-acting, soft-bodied robot is described in a paper published in Communications Materials. This robot can be engineered to walk, swim, levitate and close itself around a living fly before it takes off.

Acting at high speed is essential to creatures in nature for preying, fleeing and flying. High speed is just as desirable for soft robotics, as it enables gripping...

doi: 10.1038/s43246-020-00067-1

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Evolution: The environmental context for hominin evolution in Southeast Asia

Nature, October 8, 2020

The evolution of hominins after their migration into Southeast Asia occurred against a backdrop of climate change in which the savannahs of the Middle Pleistocene eventually gave way to dense rainforest by the Holocene, according to a paper published this week in Nature. This analysis establishes the environmental context of hominin evolution in the region, and its association with anima...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2810-y

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Psychology: To thine own self be true on Facebook

Nature Communications, October 7, 2020

Individuals who express themselves more authentically on Facebook tend to report higher levels of subjective well-being. The findings, published in Nature Communications, suggest that if users engage in self-expression on social media, there may be psychological benefits associated with being authentic.

Nearly 80% of Americans use some form of social media, and three quarters of ...

doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18539-w

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Archaeology: Evidence of controlled heating of tools 300,000 years ago

Nature Human Behaviour, October 6, 2020

A new analysis of 300,000-year-old stone tools discovered in a cave in Israel suggests that hominins in the Levantine region used fire at controlled temperatures to make tools, according to a paper published in Nature Human Behaviour.

The use of fire to treat raw materials was an important discovery made by early hominins. Previous research reported evidence of systematic flint t...

doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-00955-z

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Drug discovery: Building better antibiotics

Nature, September 24, 2020

A synthetic approach to creating new antibiotics that could overcome antibiotic resistance is described in Nature this week. One of the compounds created using the technique is shown to be effective against resistant bacterial strains in a mouse model of bacterial infection.

Most antibiotics in clinical use are derived from natural products, which are subject to resistance mecha...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2761-3

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Physics: Room-temperature superconductivity

Nature, October 15, 2020

The observation of room-temperature superconductivity in hydride, a hydrogen-rich compound derived from organic components under high pressure, is reported in Nature this week. This discovery represents a step towards the long-sought goal of creating electrical systems with perfect efficiency.

Superconductivity is a phenomenon whereby electrical energy can move through a materia...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2801-z

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