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Celebrity Culture: Why parrots are the only animals that dance
Dancing — spontaneously busting diverse moves in time to music — seems to be common only in humans and one other animal: parrots. A prime example is Snowball, a dancing cockatoo who has become an Internet celebrity. Researchers mapped Snowball’s moves and confirmed that it seems to truly dance by ad-libbing creative movements in sync to music. Scientists suggest that parrots might share our penchant for boogie because they, too, are vocal learners, making use of the brain’s ability to connect sound and movement, as well as social animals who are attentive to the movements of others.
Celebrity Culture: Swedish government will judge research fraud
Sweden has laid the legislative groundwork for a government agency that will handle all allegations of serious research misconduct. The country’s research community has been bruised by scandals over trachea-transplant experiments in which some patients died and a now-retracted paper about microplastic pollution. In both cases, researchers involved were initially cleared of misconduct by their institutions but were later found guilty.
Read more: Culture of silence and nonchalance protected disgraced trachea surgeon (Nature, from 2016) and Controversial microplastics study to be retracted (Nature, from 2017)
Celebrity Culture: Climate change censored from US research
Officials from the administration of US President Donald Trump intervened to cut mentions of the impact of climate change from a press release communicating research about that very thing. The US Geological Survey (USGS) study estimated that climate-change-driven flooding will affect US$150 billion in property and 600,000 people in California by 2100 — much more than previously estimated. “It’s been made clear to us that we’re not supposed to use climate change in press releases anymore. They will not be authorized,” said an anonymous federal researcher. A spokesperson for the USGS said the agency has no formal policy to avoid references to climate change.
Read more: Trump administration hardens its attack on climate science (The New York Times, 22 min read)
Celebrity Culture: FEATURES & OPINION
Celebrity Culture: The drive to alter an animal forever
From self-destructing mosquitoes to sterilized rodents, altering the genomes of entire animal populations offers the tantalizing prospect of defeating disease and controlling pests. But researchers worry about the consequences of unleashing ‘gene drives’ — genetic modifications designed to spread through a population at higher-than-normal rates of inheritance — into the wild. Nature explores how gene drives work, how to test them and who should decide if and when they should be used.
Celebrity Culture: Queer voices in palaeontology
Riley Black, who came out as transgender and non-binary this year, describes the challenges of cultivating diversity in a discipline with an ‘Indiana Jones’ image. “Even if not actively hostile, palaeontology presents queer people with terrain as challenging as any fossil-flecked desert,” says Black. “It’s easy to feel invisible.”
Celebrity Culture: How I turned my back on the bench
For immunologist Lia Paola Zambetti, becoming a scientist in a lab was a life-long dream — but when she got there, she found it didn’t suit her. “It was more than a disappointment — I was leaving behind a very large part of my identity,” she says about her decision to switch to a career as a science communicator and research manager. She shares how she learned to move on and embrace a new professional identity.
The battle to pen the most pun-tastic paper title of all time is hotting up with this microbiology gem, “Fantastic yeasts and where to find them”. Plenty more in this great Twitter thread— but what’s your favourite paper title ever? Let me know — plus any other feedback on the Briefing — at firstname.lastname@example.org.