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Article Released Wed-20th-January-2010 19:00 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Features: The real holes in climate science; Five challenges for synthetic biology

Nature's News Feature's this week highlights uncertainties in four key areas of climate science: precipitation, regional climate predictions, palaeoclimate data and aerosols and takes a look at five of the technical challenges involved in blending the sciences of engineering and biology.

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VOL.463 NO.7279 DATED 20 JANUARY 2010

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Features: The real holes in climate science

In a News Feature in Nature this week, Quirin Schiermeier highlights uncertainties in four key areas of climate science: precipitation, regional climate predictions, palaeoclimate data and aerosols. These uncertainties, although broadly appreciated within scientific circles, deserve greater open discussion in the public and policy spheres.

Discussion is needed because there remains a persistent belief among some people that climate scientists have been hiding problems in their work, despite the acknowledgement of scientific uncertainties in reports, including in those issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That myth found new life in the wake of the e-mail-hacking incident at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. The leaked e-mails showed scientists debating how to interpret and present their data.

This ‘climate of suspicion’ surrounding research on global warming makes it hard for scientists to openly discuss the gaps in understanding that complicate efforts to reconstruct past climate variations, assess current climate change and forecast for the future.

The article also debunks some of the enduring myths about climate change. A Nature Editorial will accompany the feature.

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Rich Monastersky (News Editor, Nature)
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Features: Five challenges for synthetic biology

Synthetic biology has received its fair share of effusive news coverage. And no wonder with its promise to deliver ways of producing expensive drugs or biofuels through the design of living systems. Roughly 10 years from what many consider the birth of the field, what has been achieved?

A News Feature in this week’s Nature takes a look five of the technical challenges involved in blending the sciences of engineering and biology. Living systems throw up hurdles at every step, from the peculiarities of individual organisms to their tendency to adapt and evolve unpredictably. “There’s a lot of biology that gets in the way of the engineering,” says Christina Agapakis, a graduate student. But synthetic biologists are undeterred and have made progress. An Article published in this issue, for example, reveals techniques that generate synchronized blinking of fluorescent proteins in bacteria.

The News Feature looks at how researchers hope to overcome the remaining hurdles and to come up with some real-world applications. “The field has had its hype phase,” says Martin Fussenegger. “Now it needs to deliver.”

A Nature Editorial will accompany the feature.

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