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Researchers are racing to find the origin of the monkeypox outbreaks that have now been linked to some 600 confirmed or suspected cases worldwide. They are also investigating whether the virus is spreading differently compared with previous outbreaks, whether it has accrued unusual genetic changes and how to contain it. One obstacle is that the monkeypox genome is enormous relative to those of many other viruses — more than six times larger than that of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, for example — making it harder to analyse.

Nature | 7 min read

Mathematics’ top prizes are still almost exclusively going to men. The late Maryam Mirzakhani is the only woman to have won the Fields Medal, and several other prizes have not honoured women at all. Some prize-giving organizations are making tentative efforts to increase diversity among nominees and on prize committees. But in a community that tends to work by consensus and is not accustomed to rapid change, researchers expect progress in this area to be frustratingly slow.

Nature | 9 min read

The number of scholars who declare affiliations in both China and the United States on research papers has dropped by more than 20% over the past three years. That slump seems to be part of a pattern of waning US–China collaboration that could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as political tensions between the two countries. “Having dual affiliation was once seen as a badge of honour, but is now tinted by the concern of scientific espionage,” says sociologist Joy Zhang.

Nature | 5 min read

Features & opinion

When Rafael Hostettler got an e-mail asking whether he would like to try growing tendon tissue in humanoid robots, he said ‘Hell, yeah’. Some cells need to be stretched, squeezed and twisted, just as they would be in the human body, to develop normally. Growing cells in this robotic Petri dish could ultimately help researchers to create tendons to graft onto shoulder injuries.

Nature | 6 min video

Reference: Communications Engineering paper

A jar of ‘Standard Reference Peanut Butter’ is one of the more peculiar entries in the 1,300 reference materials created by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (Other entries include the standard cigarette, whale blubber and concrete.) The standards are used by manufacturers to check their products — and they are also symbolic of humankind’s seemingly endless appetite to measure everything in our world and our lives.

Guardian | 18 min read

The second law of thermodynamics expresses a fundamental truth about the Universe — that entropy, a measure of disorder, will always increase. Now some physicists are proposing that the law comes about because of quantum effects such as entanglement. In this telling, an increase in entropy is not just the most likely outcome of change, it is a logical consequence of quantum behaviour.

Quanta | 18 min read

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