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In the underground caves of north-eastern Mexico, groups of blind fish that communicate using clicks seem to be developing cave-specific accents. Researchers studying the Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) analyzed hours of fish chatter in six caves spread across the three mountain ranges. They noticed significant differences: clicks were relatively high-pitched in one cave, and deep and booming in another, for example. The linguistic split could eventually contribute to ongoing speciation among the fish. “Maybe after a million years it will have drifted so much that they will not be able to understand each other anymore,” says neuroscientist Sylvie Rétaux.
New Scientist | 3 min read
Reference: bioRxiv preprint
Researchers have achieved a nearly 30% jump in the efficiency of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV), which converts photons emitted by a heat source to electricity. The work gives a major boost to efforts to roll out thermal batteries as a backup for renewable power systems. The idea is to feed surplus wind or solar electricity to a heating element, and then use TVPs to convert the heat into electricity. “This is very exciting stuff,” says materials engineer Andrej Lenert. “This is the first time [TPVs have] gotten into really promising efficiency ranges, which is ultimately what matters for a lot of applications.”
Science | 5 min read
Reference: Nature paper
When political leaders met in Glasgow, UK, last November for the COP26 climate summit, many of them brought new and improved plans to reduce emissions. Together, these carbon-cutting promises would see the world warm by just under 2 °C this century, according to a new analysis, as long as they are implemented “in full and on time”. However, there is just a 6–10% chance of keeping warming under the key threshold of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
BBC News | 4 min read
Reference: Nature paper
A survey has found that women occupy less than a third of all economics positions in research institutions. Female representation starts declining early on: women make up 40% of economists with PhDs but occupy only 27% of senior positions. “It’s very striking to me that these patterns that we see of a leaky pipeline are really prevalent across the globe,” says economist Anusha Chari.
Nature | 4 min read
Reference: PNAS paper
Features & opinion
For more than 250 years, mathematicians have been trying to ‘blow up’ some of the most important equations in physics: those that describe how fluids flow. If they succeed, then they will have discovered a scenario in which those equations break down — a vortex that spins infinitely fast, perhaps, or a particle that travels infinitely quickly. A new approach to machine learning has some researchers betting that blowup is near.
Quanta | 10 min read
Many European countries depend on Russian fossil fuels for energy production. Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, these countries are looking to wean themselves off these fuels, which could have impacts on emissions and food production.
The Nature Podcast episode ‘What’s the isiZulu for dinosaur?’ has been shortlisted for a Webby Award. It’s well worth a listen, and if you liked it, please consider casting your vote in our favour.
Nature Podcast | 28 min listen
Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
If you’ve found yourself with too many (non-chocolate) eggs this Easter, consider using them to get creative with the ancient art tradition of egg tempera. This egg-cellent article on the science of painting with yolk includes a recipe so you can get started.
Nature’s The UK team is taking a break for the long weekend, but the daily Briefing will be back on Tuesday in Flora’s capable hands.
Thanks for reading,
Emma Stoye, news editor, Nature
With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty