Dolphins frolic again in the Potomac River


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Vaping products, including flavored vape liquids and pods.

Flavoured e-cigarettes have been blamed for an increase in vaping among teenagers and young adults.Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

The US Food and Drug Administration has temporarily removed flavoured e-cigarettes from the market. The move follows a spate of deadly lung injuries in vapers in the United States — many of them teenagers. There’s no definitive cause for the injuries. Public-health officials have long been concerned that flavours such as ‘cupcake’ and ‘bubble gum’, are designed to appeal to young people. But it’s unclear whether the new restrictions on e-cigarette sales will have an effect on the health crisis or on the surge of youth vaping.

Nature | 5 min read

A 1964 tsunami might have kicked off the evolution of a mysterious pathogen that has killed dozens of people in the Pacific Northwest. Researchers have proposed that the fungus Cryptococcus gattii might have first travelled to the waters of British Columbia and Washington state in ships’ ballasts. Then the tsunami, caused by one of the largest recorded earthquakes in the Northern Hemisphere, might have carried the fungus onto land, where it evolved to thrive — and eventually, kill.

BBC | 4 min read

Reference: mBio paper

Bottlenose dolphins are living and breeding again in United States’s iconic Potomac River. The Clean Water Act was a turning point for the formerly heavily polluted waterway, which runs through the US capital. Researchers saw a newborn dolphin in the river in August — only the third time a dolphin birth has been documented anywhere in the wild.

The Washington Post | 7 min read

BY THE NUMBERS

1.85 billion billion tonnes

The total amount of carbon on Earth, 99% of which is deep in the mantle and the core. (New Scientist, 3 min read)

FEATURES & OPINION

Investors and scientists alike are bullish about quantum computers, and news that Google researchers might have made the first one that can outperform conventional machines has got us all excited. But we are probably decades from seeing one that actually does anything useful. Some researchers even fear a ‘quantum winter’, in which waning enthusiasm means funding will dry up before researchers get anywhere close to building full-scale machines. Dig deep into the hurdles that face computer scientists entering the quantum realm, and how they are learning to manoeuvre around them.

Nature | 10 min read

Forty years after the publication of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, many of Douglas Adams’s satirical shots at the modern world still hit home, writes reviewer Shamini Bundell. The fictional Guide itself, an information-packed handheld gadget with a screen, pre-dates smartphones and even laptops. And one of the most useful things a person can own is still a towel.

Nature | 5 min read

Putting on a gauze medical mask to step outside on a smoggy day might end up doing you more harm than good, argue environmental scientists Wei Huang and Lidia Morawska. Such masks do a good job against the spread of infection, but most of them offer no proven benefit when it comes to the tiny pollution particles that harm your lungs. If wearing one gives you a false sense of security, you might even linger too long outdoors in toxic air. People who must be outside in the smog need proper protection, say the researchers. For the rest of us, forget the mask and stay indoors (while supporting measures to prevent air pollution in the first place).

Nature | 6 min read

CORRESPONDENCE: YOUR LETTERS TO NATURE

Nature’s choice of an arapaima fish (Arapaima gigas) to illustrate the alarming decline in giant freshwater fish is misleading, writes ecologist João Vitor Campos-Silva. The species is a conservation success, harvested in a legal, sustainable, community-based arrangement in Brazil. The arapaima should properly be a poster child for efforts to reverse such megafauna declines.

Charles Darwin wrote about 40 short pieces in Nature, including a lot of letters to the editor, notes cell biologist Yongsheng Liu. Darwin touched on inheritance, flower fertilization, instinct origins and an idea that anticipated the emerging concept of cell-to-cell communication.

Correspondence is published every week in Nature. For more info on writing one yourself, please see the guidance on nature.com. (Your feedback on this newsletter is always welcome at [email protected], but won’t be considered for publication in Nature.)

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Palaeontologist Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, notes an unusual US law that gives landowners ownership of fossils found on their property. The law has given rise to a population of young-Earth creationist fossil hunters. (The New Yorker)



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