Hello Nature readers, would you like to get this Briefing in your inbox free every day? Sign up here
As scientists identify more and more potentially worrying variants of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, they are grappling with just what to call them. Experts want to avoid names that associate a variant with a country or region; some scientists want to do away with names that flag individual mutations. At a recent World Health Organization meeting, health officials and researchers started hashing out a new naming system, but didn’t manage to settle on one. “The nomenclature is a bloody mess at the moment,” says bioinformatician Tulio de Oliveira.
A ‘rogue editor network’ infiltrated a journal’s peer-review system in an attempt to publish sub-standard papers. The hijackers created fake e-mail accounts and web domains to impersonate respected academics, and managed to accept 19 papers for publication at The Journal of Nanoparticle Research, before suspicious activity was flagged by journal editors and by the research-integrity department of the publisher (Springer Nature).
Scientists have identified a huge number of new gravitational lenses — which occur when light rays bend around massive objects, mimicking the distortion of images seen through the bottom of a wine glass. Such lenses can help astronomers to measure fundamental properties of the Universe. Using a supercomputer to trawl through data from the DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys revealed more than 1,200 new gravitational lenses, more than previously discovered by all astronomers combined.
US president-elect Joe Biden has chosen leading geneticist Eric Lander as presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. If Lander’s appointment is confirmed by the US Senate, he will serve as a member of Biden’s cabinet, elevating the position to this level for the first time. Biden also announced a number of other respected scientists he wanted in key positions in his administration, including Caltech bioengineer and Nobel laureate Frances Arnold, MIT geophysicist Maria Zuber and social scientist Alondra Nelson, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “Science will always be at the forefront of my administration,” Biden said in a statement.
Features & opinion
When is honey not honey? When it’s laced with sugar syrup – produced at scale, saturating the market, crashing global honey prices and deceiving millions of customers. But beekeepers are starting to fight back, hoping to expose fraudsters with the help of scientists developing a test that uses nuclear magnetic resonance and a vast database of honey samples.
A new climate-fiction short-story contest calls for entries that imagine climate fixes beyond the imagination of scientists and engineers. Creative writers can submit stories envisioning the next 180 years of climate progress, preferably with narratives that allow hope for a better future rather than apocalyptic visions — something we could probably all do with right now.
Scholars agree that conspiracy theories have always existed, and probably always will. But what is it that makes them so appealing — and so difficult to eradicate?