Daily briefing: Rapid COVID tests — what they can and can’t do


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Emirates Lunar Mission. Artist impression of exact design of the new rover Rashid.

An artist’s impression of Rashid, the UAE’s first lunar rover, which will include high-resolution cameras, a thermal imager and a Langmuir Probe. Credit: MBRSC

With its orbiter Hope on its way to Mars, the United Arab Emirates has now set its sights on the Moon: the nation plans to launch a compact rover named Rashid in 2024. If it is successful, the UAE would become only the fifth country to succeed in placing a craft on the Moon’s surface, and the first in the Arab world. The mission is another signal of the UAE’s extraordinary science and engineering ambition: its Space Agency is just six years old, and the country awarded its first-ever PhD just ten years ago.

Nature | 5 min read

The remains of an ancient female hunter shed light on the women who were hunting big game in Neolithic times. After researchers discovered that a 9,000-year-old individual buried in the Andes with an impressive toolkit was actually a woman, they then re-examined reports of other ancient burials in the Americas. They found another 10 women and 16 men buried with hunting tools. But not everyone is convinced. The presence of tools in a grave doesn’t always mean that the person used them in life, notes anthropologist Robert Kelly — for example, two of the burials with tools were of infants.

Science | 5 min read

Reference: Science Advances paper

Artist reconstruction of Wilamaya Patjxa vicuña hunt.

An artist’s impression of a vicuña hunt, inspired by the grave of a female teenager buried with hunting tools 9,000 years ago in what is now Peru.Matthew Verdolivo/UC Davis IET Academic Technology Services

A time capsule placed at the North Pole by the crew and passengers of an icebreaker in 2018 was found this week in Ireland. The metal cylinder floated an estimated 3,700 kilometres before being spotted by surfers on the shore in county Donegal. “Everything around is covered by ice,” said one of the letters in the capsule. “We think that by the time this letter will be found there is no more ice in Arctic unfortunately.”

The Guardian | 4 min read

COVID-19 coronavirus update

A view of hands with a rapid COVID-19 test

The next stage of the pandemic will put COVID-19 tests into people’s hands and deliver answers within minutes.tilialucida/Alamy Stock Photo

Rapid COVID tests: what they can and can’t do

Rapid COVID-19 tests, which can deliver results in a matter of minutes rather than days, are starting to become widely available. Nature Biotechnology explores the different types of tests, what they can and can’t do, and lists the tests available and in development.

Nature Biotechnology | 10 min read

Don’t panic about the mink mutation

A mutated form of the coronavirus that can jump between mink and humans has prompted Denmark to kill up to 17 million farmed mink. “The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. The move was based on scientific advice, said Frederiksen, but that advice has not been made public or peer reviewed. Scientists interviewed by STAT take a cautious approach, but aren’t too worried by the mink strain. “We can never rule out anything, but in principle it shouldn’t [pose a higher risk to humans],” says Francois Balloux, who studies pathogen outbreaks. “It should definitely not increase transmission. I don’t see any good reason why it should make the virus more severe.”

STAT | 6 min read

Features & opinion

The evidence is building that hyper-magnetized stars called magnetars are the source of at least some fast radio bursts (FRBs) — powerful cosmic flashes that flare for just milliseconds. The origin of FRBs is one of astronomy’s biggest puzzles. “For a long period of time there were more fast-radio-burst theories than there were fast radio bursts,” astronomer Christopher Bochenek tells the Nature Podcast. Now simultaneous observations by radio telescopes in Canada, the United States and China spotted an FRB coming from a magnetar in our own galaxy. Other FRBs have been tracked back to their host galaxies, but the source of an FRB hasn’t been pinpointed before.

And don’t miss our new three-part podcast series, ‘Stick to the science’: when science gets political. It looks at the history of the knotty relationship between science, politics and power, what it means for the objective ideals of science, and the danger of politicization in an increasingly divisive political landscape.

Nature Podcast | 34 min listen

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

The short science-fiction stories in Nature’s Futures series often offer a way of reconsidering the day’s most pressing scientific issues. In the case of this week’s story, ‘Dreaming in 4n Londons’, author S. R. Algernon considers how outbreaks and politics sometimes drive us apart. And how “sometimes, if we are lucky, our dreams, our hopes, and our visions of the future can transcend physical and social distance to bring us together”.

Nature | 6 min read

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes a deep-dive into ignorance, the man behind the Rubik’s Cube and a controversial theory of life.

Nature | 3 min read

Where I work

Cliff Kapono on his surfboard testing the water with a measuring tool.

Cliff Kapono is a postdoctoral researcher in marine biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.Credit: Naniali‘i Welch Keli‘iho‘omalu for Nature

Analytical chemist and avid surfer Cliff Kapono takes to his board to study the health of coral reefs off the coast of Hawaii. (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

Chemical engineer Faye McNeill remembers her PhD adviser, Nobel winner Mario Molina, whose tireless advocacy helped to bring about the 1987 Montreal Protocol to save the ozone layer. (Nature | 5 min read)

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