Archive by date | December 2013

NASA lays out long-term vision for astrophysics

NASA lays out long-term vision for astrophysics

A new year is a good time to make long-term plans, and NASA has jumped into the deep end of planning. On 20 December the US space agency’s astrophysics division released a wish list of future space missions — looking three decades into the future, and even beyond.  Read more

Novel China flu seems to pose low risk to humans

The H10N8 avian flu strain, first detected in humans in a 73-year old woman in Eastern China this month, appears to pose little immediate risk to people, despite her death, preliminary information has shown. The sequence of the virus has not yet been published, but Nature has learned that the haemagglutinin surface protein shows none of the worrysome amino acid changes that typically would allow the virus to infect humans. This means that, unlike H7N9, which is behind a current fatal flu outbreak in southern Guangdong province, the virus cannot easily jump from poultry or other birds to humans.  Read more

Patient’s suicide forces belated university investigation

In May 2004 Daniel Markingson, a patient with schizophrenia in an anti-psychotic drug trial at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, “stabbed himself to death in the bathtub with a box cutter, ripping open his abdomen and nearly decapitating himself,” as a magazine article would report six years later.  Read more

US$21 million awarded to delighted scientists in glitzy ceremony

In a ceremony hosted by actor Kevin Spacey and which featured a live performance from singer Lana Del Ray, six biologists and two physicists took home a combined US$21 million last night at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. It was the latest tranche of science mega-prizes sponsored by philanthropic billionaires.  Read more

FDA institutes voluntary rules on farm antibiotics

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a set of guidelines intended to curb the widespread use of antibiotics for livestock, which contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria (see Nature‘s feature story “MRSA: Farming up trouble“). But some worry that the voluntary nature of the rules — and their many loopholes — will do little to fix the problem.  Read more

Patent database of 15 million chemical structures goes public

The internet’s wealth of free chemistry data just got significantly larger. Today, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) has launched a website – – that allows anyone to search through 15 million chemical structures, extracted automatically by data-mining software from world patents.  Read more

More science funding for UK universities

Science played only a minor role in today’s key statement on government spending from George Osborne, the United Kingdom’s chancellor of the exchequer. But he did promise more funding for science courses at universities, as the government seeks to expand the number of students in higher education. To this end, 30,000 extra university places will be created next year, and the current cap on numbers will be abolished entirely the year after that.  Read more