Daily briefing: How the Tongan eruption has upended volcanology


Daily briefing: How the Tongan eruption has upended volcanology

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View of the excavation.

Excavations at the Grotte Mandrin rock shelter uncovered stone tools, animal bones and hominin teeth.Credit: Ludovic Slimak

Are these Europe’s first Homo sapiens?

Archaeologists say they have found evidence that Homo sapiens lived briefly in a rock shelter in southern France — before mysteriously vanishing. New research suggests that distinctive stone tools and a lone child’s tooth were left by our species during a short stay some 54,000 years ago — and not by Neanderthals, who lived in the rock shelter for thousands of years before and after that time. The Homo sapiens occupation, which researchers estimate lasted for just a few decades, pre-dates the previous earliest known evidence of the species in Europe by around 10,000 years. But not everyone is convinced, and the tooth’s DNA has not been analysed to confirm its origins.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Science Advances paper

Up to 40 SpaceX satellites lost to solar storm

Up to 40 of the 49 Starlink communications satellites launched last week have failed because of a geomagnetic storm. The disturbance in Earth’s magnetosphere was triggered by a strong surge of solar wind. It caused more atmospheric drag than expected, hindering the satellites’ ability to reach a stable orbit. The satellites are designed to burn up entirely during reentry, so no trace of them will be left.

BBC | 3 min read

Features & opinion

NOAA’s GOES West satellite captured another explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano, Jan 2022.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-West satellite captured the explosive eruption of Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai.Credit: NOAA

How Tongan eruption changed volcanology

The extraordinary power of the eruption that devastated Tonga on 15 January, captured by a range of sophisticated Earth-observing satellites, is challenging ideas about the physics of eruptions. Researchers are finding it hard to explain why the volcano sent an ash plume into the upper atmosphere, yet emitted less ash than expected for an eruption of such magnitude. And the shock waves that rippled through the atmosphere and oceans are unlike anything seen in the modern scientific era.

Nature | 10 min read

Reboot biomedical R&D for everyone

We must reorient the research and development (R&D) system towards the public interest, argue the chief scientist at the World Health Organization, the president of Médecins Sans Frontières and 17 other public-health leaders. Despite impressive advances, the free market has led to inequitable access to the fruits of research, they write. For example, of more than 56,000 health products currently under development, 57% are for cancerous tumours. Only 0.5% are for the neglected tropical diseases that affect nearly 2 billion people. The authors explain how the shift can be made, with a nine-point checklist for R&D in the global public interest.

Nature | 15 min read

Top scientists show success can be learnt

Copying the habits of an award-winning scientist doesn’t mean you’ll become a Nobel prizewinner, but you can set yourself on the path to success by emulating their mindsets, writes education researcher Ruth Gotian. After studying leading physician-scientists, she has pinpointed four key factors in high achievers: intrinsic motivation, perseverance, continuous informal learning and a strong foundation that isn’t unsettled by success.

Nature | 6 min read

Image of the week

Giants of the night by Rafael Fernandez Caballero.

© Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2022

Photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero was diving at night in the Maldives when he captured this rare image of five whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) together. The golden light of a boat above illuminates the sharks feeding on plankton rising from the depths. The image won the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 competition.

Want more? See other stunning science images selected by Nature’s photo team.


“Something is wrong when vaccine manufacturing is almost completely absent from an entire continent.”

News that researchers in South Africa are close to reproducing Moderna’s vaccine should reinvigorate the push to waive intellectual-property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, argues a Nature editorial.

Read more: A special collection of articles on COVID-19 vaccine inequity in the latest issue of the journal Nature Human Behaviour.


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