Earliest remains of domestic dogs in the Americas
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Artificial intelligence company DeepMind has developed a new machine learning model to predict a molecule’s electron density – a key step in calculating its physical properties. The algorithm is based on a technique called Density Functional Theory (DFT), which has been hugely successful in chemistry, biology, and materials science. But DFT gets a little wonky in some cases because it doesn’t perfectly reflect the complex quantum mechanics that govern matter. The researchers trained an artificial neural network on data from hundreds of precise solutions derived from quantum theory, as well as some practical laws of physics. The result, says DeepMind, is a system that makes more accurate predictions and, once trained, doesn’t require a supercomputer.
DeepMind will be a household name for Briefing readers – recently it partnered with meteorologists to “immediate” impending heavy rainfall, aid unravel the math of knots and made a gigantic leap in resolution of protein structures.
A tooth found in caves in Haida Gwaii in Canada is the earliest reported remains of a domestic dog in the Americas. Radiocarbon dating puts the tooth’s age at 13,100 years – the earliest archaeological evidence of human occupation in the region of 2,000 years. Discoveries sit side by side with oral histories that chronicle the long history of the Haida people on the islands. Researchers predict more discoveries to come, as caves on Canada’s west coast are mostly unexplored by archaeologists.
Reference: Quaternary Science Reviews paper
The influential Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama is at the center of allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment. Sixteen female scientists have ‘described a pattern of sexual misconduct by high-ranking men at the institute’ spanning more than a decade, reports News. Three women said a man they reported for misconduct withheld data from them in retaliation. The STRI declined to comment on the allegations.
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Features & Reviews
Your supervisor has a vested interest in your success, but talking to them can be intimidating, five PhD students write. They propose ways to set the right tone and style of communication when you meet your mentor.
Futures: the science fiction of Nature
In this week’s help of short stories for NatureThe Futures series of:
• Aging movie idol argues Fountain of Youth is no cure for darkness in ‘Bring back the stars‘
• A scientist wonders about deep time and the future of exploration from his perspective on a piece of chewing gum spat into ‘The wasted bacteriome of chewing gum: an oral history‘.
Andrew Robinson’s Choice Top 5 science books to read this week includes a pragmatic call for climate adaptation, a look back at a verdant Sahara, and a look at extinction events of the past – and future.
It is difficult to predict which interventions will encourage the behaviors that make us happier and healthier – going to the gym, for example. Researchers have shown that a “mega-study” can help overcome some of the limitations that exist even in gold standard randomized controlled trials. The idea behind a mega-study is to have several small groups of researchers all study the same problem at the same time — but from different angles — then compare their results. Teams of scientists have tested 53 ways to entice people back to the gym, such as sending text messages offering redeemable points or monetary payouts. Most effective: very small cash rewards (only 9 cents) for participation.
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