Category Archives: Nature

Fishing for fossils in the North Sea

Palaeontologists who attend the annual International Cave Bear Symposium (ICBS) can usually count on at least one expedition to a bear cave. The meeting allows scientists to report the latest fossil findings of Pleistocene animals such as cave bears and big cats — whose best-preserved samples are often found in caves.

But the 2015 meeting on 10–13 September took place instead near the North Sea coast in the Netherlands, with no caves in sight. Palaeontologist Natasja den Ouden of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, a museum in Leiden, tells Nature how fossil samples from the North Sea are shedding light on mammals’ movements during the last ice age.
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Nicaragua defies canal protests

Nicaragua has great expectations for the Grand Canal, a US$50-billion, 5-year project to link its Caribbean and Pacific coasts with a 280-kilometre waterway. President Daniel Ortega and other supporters of the canal, who celebrated the start of construction on 22 December, say that it will generate much-needed income for residents of the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Continue reading

Supernova erupts in nearby galaxy


UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright

Last night, light from a new supernova reached astronomers on Earth. Its origin: the nearby galaxy M82, some 3.5 megaparsecs away (11.4 million light years). It is one of the closest and brightest supernovae seen from Earth since a monster exploded in 1987 just 168,000 light years away. Astronomers say that the latest supernova is of the type 1a class, and may help reveal how such supernovae form. Moreover, because these supernovae are used as cosmic measuring sticks, understanding them better may help clarify the shape of the Universe.

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Europe waters down transnational ‘research buddy’ plan

Europe’s latest research-funding programme includes, for the first time, money for ‘low-performing’ member states to set up research centres in their regions, in partnership with well-established institutions from other countries. But some observers were disappointed earlier this month when the European Union (EU) announced that the host countries will manage the centres — a rule that critics say could be challenging for fledgling institutions and perhaps perpetuate problems, such as nepotism, that have contributed to their poor performance in the first place.

“There are lots of really good scientists [in southern and eastern Europe] but it’s the management of institutions that is inefficient, old style, corrupt,” says Botond Roska, a neuroscientist at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland.

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