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Article Released Wed-14th-July-2010 17:01 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 The evolution of police-like institutions

Summaries of newsworthy papers include: A massive star is born; Outlook: HIV/AIDS; Understanding deep tremor; Electronic surface states that pass through barriers; The viral genome of faeces

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Astronomy: A massive star is born

Geology: Diamonds are wherever

Social learning: The evolution of police-like institutions

Outlook: HIV/AIDS

Seismology: Understanding deep tremor

Physics: Electronic surface states that pass through barriers

And finally… The viral genome of faeces

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Astronomy: A massive star is born (pp 339-342)

A hot, dusty disk has been imaged surrounding a young star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. This observation, published in this week’s Nature, provides clear evidence that massive stars can form in the same way as low-mass stars, by accretion from circumstellar disks.

Circumstellar accretion disks are a well established feature of the formation of low-mass stars, channelling material onto the growing protostar. It has been unclear whether the same mechanism can account for the formation of stars more massive than about ten solar masses, as the radiation pressure from these stars might be sufficient to resist infalling material.

Stefan Kraus and colleagues have used the technique of interferometry — combining the light from several telescopes into a single, high-resolution image — to probe the distribution of hot material around a massive young star at the spatial scale of our Solar System. They see an elongated structure, measuring about 13 ´ 19 times the Earth–Sun distance, consistent with a tilted disk.

From detailed models, the authors infer a disk structure that is qualitatively and quantitatively similar to those observed around low-mass stars. The authors conclude that they have caught the system in a short-lived phase — when the star has finished growing, but before the disk has had time to dissipate.

Author contact:
Stefan Kraus (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA)
Tel: +1 734 615 7374

[2] Geology: Diamonds are wherever (pp 352-355; N&V)

Mantle plumes from deep below the Earth’s surface control the distribution of diamond-bearing rocks known as kimberlites, according to research published in Nature this week. These plumes, which originate from the core–mantle boundary, have controlled the distribution of practically all kimberlites erupted in the past 540 million years.

Diamonds form in high-pressure conditions more than 150 kilometres deep in the Earth’s mantle, and are then brought up to the surface by volcanic rocks called kimberlites. Several thousand kimberlites have been mapped so far, but research has focused on the areas of oldest continental crust—over 300 kilometres thick and 2.5 billion years old—because this is where most economically viable diamonds are found.

Trond Torsvik and colleagues reconstructed tectonic plate positions over the past 540 million years to locate areas of continental crust relative to the deep mantle at times when kimberlites were erupted. These kimberlites, many of which carry diamonds from depths of at least 150 kilometres, are shown to have been associated with the edges of large-scale disparities in the deepest mantle, which the authors infer were zones where mantle plumes responsible for the generation of the kimberlites were formed.

Author contact
Trond Torsvik (University of Oslo, Norway)
Tel: +47 2285 6416

David Evans (Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA) – N&V author
Tel: +1 203 432 3127

[3] Social learning: The evolution of police-like institutions (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature09203

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 14 July at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern Time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 15 July, but at a later date. ***

Self-governing police-like institutions can emerge spontaneously as a means to enhance cooperation, a model of social learning demonstrates.

Cooperation in evolutionary games can be preserved by punishing non-cooperators (free-riders), but this frequently incurs some kind of cost to the punisher. One solution is so-called ‘pool-punishment’, which involves the setting up in advance of a fund to prepare sanctions for those who fail to cooperate — like paying towards a police force. The strategy provides an alternative to ‘peer-punishment’ where individuals punish free-riders after the event — like taking the law into ones own hands. In this week’s Nature, Karl Sigmund and colleagues show that pool-punishment has the edge over peer-punishment when dealing with second-order free-riders — those who cooperate in the main game, but refuse to contribute to punishment.

Their model shows that individuals can spontaneously adopt a self-governing institution to monitor contributions and sanction free-riders. It needs no top-down prescriptions from higher authorities, nor great feats of planning: trial and error, and the imitation of successful examples, can lead to a social contract among individuals guided by self-interest.

Author contact
Karl Sigmund (University of Vienna, Austria)
Tel: +43 1 4277 50612

Outlook: HIV/AIDS

For the first time in years, there is hushed talk among researchers of something most people had given up on: a cure for HIV/AIDS. The virus has a remarkable ability to resist antiviral drugs and hide out in the body, so the idea of eradicating it seemed impossible. Suggesting otherwise, researchers feared, could create false hope and complacency. As Virginia Hughes reports, however, with more powerful new drugs and a clearer understanding of the virus, some scientists are quietly exploring ways to flush it out of the body.

In a related article, Unmesh Kher reports that the National Institutes of Health and other funding bodies are soliciting applications, aimed at eradicating HIV from the body, specifically from interdisciplinary teams with diverse expertise across the sciences. This collaborative approach, they say, could be key in finding a cure for AIDS.

Both articles are part of an Outlook in Nature on the latest in HIV/AIDS research. Other reports address how HIV literally exhausts the immune system by keeping it on high alert, the exquisite dance between an individual’s immune response and the virus, the devastating toll of the HIV–tuberculosis dual epidemic, and recent progress toward vaccines and other preventive strategies.

Author contact
Apoorva Mandavilli (Consulting Editor, Nature)

[4] Seismology: Understanding deep tremor (pp 356-359)

A paper in Nature this week delves deeper into the processes that affect non-volcanic tremor, highlighting its importance as a potential indicator of stress building up in an earthquake zone.

One of the most important recent discoveries in Earth science, non-volcanic tremor is characterized by a long-duration, low-amplitude signal. Previously overlooked as background noise in seismic data, tremor was thought to be linked only to volcanic eruptions. With increasingly sensitive technology, however, tremor has now been detected in subduction zones, near where large earthquakes are generated, and so observations of tremor could potentially provide valuable information on plate motion and stress accumulation.

Since its discovery in Japan, deep tremor has also been observed in other subduction zones such as Cascadia, Alaska and Costa Rica, although there is still debate on the precise location of tremor relative to the plate interface.

Satoshi Ide used a high-sensitivity network of seismographs to analyse the duration and other properties of the tremor in the Nankai subduction zone. He finds that tremor behaviour is controlled by some property not dependent on time, possibly the ratio of brittle to ductile areas. In areas where tremor duration is short, it is more strongly affected by tidal stress and migration along the fault is inhibited, and where tremor lasts longer, migration of the tremor indicates that it may result from the movement of fluids with a constant diffusivity.

Author contact
Satoshi Ide (University of Tokyo, Japan)
Tel: +81 3 5841 4653

[5] Physics: Electronic surface states that pass through barriers (pp 343-346; N&V)

A class of novel electronic states known as ‘topological surface states’ are shown this week to have a special and potentially useful property: they can pass through atomic-scale barriers on a crystal surface, instead of being completely reflected or absorbed. This behaviour, which is quite different from that of normal surface states, may find application in nanoscale electronic devices.

Topological surface states are exotic metallic states confined to the surfaces of otherwise poorly conducting compounds. They occur on materials whose electrons are strongly influenced by a coupling between their spin and orbital angular momentum — a phenomenon that constrains the electrons to behave differently from those in normal two-dimensional states. In particular, topological surface states have been predicted to be robust against disruption by surface imperfections, unlike the surface states of common metals.

In this week’s Nature, Ali Yazdani and colleagues use a scanning tunnelling microscope to measure the transmission of topological surface states through naturally occurring steps on the surface of an antimony crystal. They find that, indeed, the topological surface states of antimony penetrate these barriers with high probability. This suggests that such states may be useful for carrying electric current in nanoscale devices, where the high surface-to-volume ratio creates a need for high surface conductivity.

Author contact
Ali Yazdani (Princeton University, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 609 258 4390

Marcel Franz (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada) – N&V author
Tel: +1 604 822 6533

[6] And finally… The viral genome of faeces (pp 334-338)

The viral genomes in our intestines may be as unique as we are, a paper in this week’s Nature suggests. The study sheds light on the microbial dynamics of our distal intestines, and gives insights into microbiome project design.

Jeffrey Gordon and colleagues sequenced the viromes of virus-like particles isolated from faecal samples collected from four sets of identical twins and their mothers. Viromes, they report, are unique to individuals regardless of their degree of genetic relatedness. Faecal bacterial communities, in contrast, are more likely to be similar between co-twins and their mothers.

Human microbiome projects, analysing the genetic makeup of microbiota, seek to define the links between disease and the structure and function of our resident microbial communities. The authors suggest that they could benefit from the inclusion of genetic analyses of virus-like particles recovered from various parts of the body.

Author contact
Jeffrey Gordon (Washington University, St Louis, MO, USA)
Tel: +1 314 362 7243


[7] Intra-unit-cell electronic nematicity of the high-Tc copper-oxide pseudogap states (pp 347-351)

[8] Ribosome dynamics and tRNA movement by time-resolved electron cryomicroscopy (pp 329-333; N&V)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 14 July at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern Time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not appear in print on 15 July, but at a later date. ***

[9] Regulation of heterochromatic DNA replication by histone H3 lysine 27 methyltransferases
DOI: 10.1038/nature09290

[10] Microtubule nucleating gamma-TuSC assembles structures with 13-fold microtubule-like symmetry
DOI: 10.1038/nature09207


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Brisbane: 6

Laxenburg: 3
Vienna: 3

Vancouver: 3

Grenoble: 1
Nice: 1

Bonn: 1
Cologne: 1
Göttingen: 8
Ploen: 3
Potsdam: 2

Florence: 1

Saitama: 7
Tokyo: 4, 7
Tsukuba: 7

Daejeon: 7

Oslo: 2
Trondheim: 2

Gatchina: 8

Witwatersrand: 2

Madrid: 9

St Andrews: 7


Los Angeles: 9
San Diego: 6
San Francisco: 10

Bloomington: 9

Ann Arbor: 1

St Louis: 6

New Jersey
Princeton: 5

New York
Binghamtom: 7
Ithaca: 7

Houston: 2

Seattle: 10


From North America and Canada
Neda Afsarmanesh, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751

From the UK
Rebecca Walton, Nature, London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502

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