Daily briefing: Interactive COVID map estimates the risk of meeting up

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COVID-19 coronavirus update

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Interactive map helps understand risk

An interactive map updated with daily COVID data can help to assess the risk of meeting up with other people. The map estimates the chance that someone is infected at an event with a number of attendees that you define. It has detailed information for the United States and a handful of European countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Spain. “In a way it’s like a weather map,” says urban-analytics researcher Clio Andris. “It can tell you what the risk is that it will rain, but it can’t tell you if you’ll get wet. That depends on if you carry an umbrella, or if you choose not to go outside at all.”

The Los Angeles Times | 3 min read

Reference: Nature Human Behaviour paper & online interactive map

Mink COVID mutations not worrisome — yet

Scientists aren’t too concerned about a series of coronavirus mutations found circulating in Danish mink and people. They say data released this week suggests there is little evidence that the mutations make the virus spread more easily, or might jeopardize potential vaccines. Danish authorities had suggested those concerns when they announced last week plans to cull the country’s mink population. But researchers say the cull is probably necessary to stop uncontrolled spread of the virus in mink, which could lead to problematic mutations in future that could easily pass to people.

Nature | 5 min read

Hype, hope and hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine is a time-tested treatment for malaria, a failed drug candidate for COVID and one of the pandemic’s most notorious political footballs. Starting with the drug’s origin as a traditional remedy in Peru, Wired explores the laundry list of clinical trials that struggled to test it in an atmosphere of distrust, its role in the Surgisphere scandal and the collision between science and the White House.

Wired | 32 min read

Caloric materials, which change temperature under pressure, offer a promising replacement for the powerful greenhouse gases inside air conditioners. Magnetic and electrical fields, or some combination of these forces, also sometimes do the trick.

Wired | 6 min read

Reference: Science review

Features & opinion

Sailors are coming back from the waters off Portugal with tales of orcas attacking their boats. Marine scientists are investigating what is driving behaviour that they initially found hard to even believe. A gang of three young males, covered in scars, is playing with the boats, say the researchers — which is not to say there’s no element of aggression. “The real truth is not either one of those things,” says whale neuroscientist Lori Marino. “They’re capable of cruelty, they’re capable of kindness, they’re capable of all kinds of things just like humans.”

BBC News | 12 min read

When science writer Natalie Wolchover asked a dozen particle physicists what a particle is, they gave remarkably diverse descriptions. She investigates how conceptualizations such as a collapsed wave function and a quantum excitation of a field capture different facets of the truth, and how researchers are trying to find a more encompassing definition.

Quanta | 15 min read

Light and noise pollution change the behaviour of birds — but do they ultimately affect reproductive success? Researchers looked at thousands of observations gathered by citizen-science volunteers in the NestWatch programme at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to find out. The Nature Podcast explores the results with co-author Clint Francis, along with lots of lovely bird calls. Plus, organized crime in fisheries and the latest coronavirus research.

Nature Podcast | 39 min listen

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Reference: Nature paper

Books & culture

A small human figure stands on a stylized human head with a flattened top like a table

Illustration by Jacey

Every reality nests within others — is that thought chilling or comforting? Explore the possibilities in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 4 min read

Quote of the day

Higher education researcher Gemma Derrick’s work focuses on building a more respectful and inclusive research culture by modifying one of its harshest processes, peer review. On World Kindness Day, I’m revisiting her words in Nature from April about how COVID-19 lockdowns could lead to a kinder research culture.

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