3D printing helps blind researchers visualize data

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Firefighting foams often use per- and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, substances that do not break down in the environment.Credit: Forget Patrick/Alamy

Researchers have developed a simpler and less expensive approach to breaking down a class of long-lasting chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances are widely used in products such as fire-fighting foams, waterproof clothing and non-stick cookware. But they don’t break down under typical environmental conditions, and current disposal methods typically require high pressures and temperatures above 1,000°C. The approach targets an oxygen-containing chemical group to ultimately break down PFAS into harmless products. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a degradation mechanism where I’m like, ‘This could actually make a difference,'” says environmental chemist Shira Joudan.

Nature | 4 minute read

The next generation of COVID-19 vaccines is on the way, but those vaccines will be looking to take a seat at an already crowded table. Alongside familiar standards – mRNA and protein vaccines based on the spike protein of the ancestral version of SARS-CoV-2 – there will be new options, including mRNA vaccines with spike sequences of the ancestral virus and variants of Omicron. The range of choices, many of which will be available at different times, has people wondering which vaccines to take and when. “These are tough questions, and there aren’t really any right answers,” says pediatrician Kathryn Edwards. Nature asked the specialists what evidence was available to help make the decision.

Nature | 6 minute read

A huge complex of more than 500 menhirs was discovered in southern Spain during an archaeological survey of land intended for a plantation of avocado trees. “This is the largest and most diverse collection of menhirs on the Iberian Peninsula,” says archaeologist José Antonio Linares. The oldest of the megaliths – which include stone circles, mounds and tombs – were probably placed during the sixth or fifth millennium BC.

The Guardian | 4 minute read

Features & Reviews

Science writer Riley Black describes the bittersweet feeling of encountering fossilized remains of dinosaurs and other amazing long-extinct creatures. “The fossil record teaches us to be grateful for what we have received,” she writes. “I am both happy they are here and sad that they are gone, unhappy to have arrived on Earth so late and lucky to be just on time.”

atmosphere | 6 minute read

“There’s no way I could ever see a butterfly wing. And yet here you made a touch of a butterfly wing, and I was able to measure the width and the length. It was an experiment mad,” says chemist Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer, part of a team of researchers that has developed a quick and easy way to 3D print tactile versions of figures and scientific data that can be interpreted by visually impaired scientists. In this Q&A session, some of the researchers behind the technology discuss how it could help make science more inclusive.

Science | 7 minute read

Reference: Scientists progress paper

The latest news for NatureThe Futures series deals with a case of interstellar travel gone wrong.

Nature | 5 minute read

For decades, scientists have debated whether protons have “intrinsic charm,” meaning they contain elementary particles called charm quarks. Now, using machine learning to sift through huge amounts of experimental data, a team has shown that the charm quark can be found inside a proton, which could have important ramifications in the search for new physics.

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