The tornadoes that devastated parts of the Midwest and Southern U.S. at the end of last week stood out for a few reasons: In addition to the extent of the damage, the storms covered a very large area and were very intense, particularly for December. As the news of the tornadoes came out, editors at The Conversation contacted a number of scientists for explanations of the conditions that led to such powerful tornadoes.

In this piece, two University of Tennessee geographers pick apart how the storms came together and why winter tornadoes are more common in southern states than they are on the U.S. Great Plains, even though even though spring is typically considered tornado season. A second article probes the question of what role climate change is having in tornado formation. Tornado researcher John Allen explains how a warming planet can create the conditions for more intense storms and what researchers can confidently say about the connections today.

If the gurus of Silicon Valley are to be believed, the future of the internet is the metaverse, which combines today’s web with immersive augmented or virtual reality. In a story titled “I’m a Black woman and the metaverse scares me – here’s how to make the next iteration of the internet inclusive,” a communications researcher describes why builders of this next generation of technology need to be intentional about avoiding the sexism and racism that pervades today’s social media.

Before convening at a recent family gathering, we all took rapid COVID-19 tests, and I’m glad we did. UMass Chan Medical School molecular biologist Nathaniel Hafer explains how best to use these antigen tests, a particularly helpful story as people consider gathering during the holiday season.

Also in this week’s science and research news:

If there’s a subject you’d like our team of science editors to investigate, please reply to this email.

Martin La Monica

Director of Editorial Projects and Newsletters

Tornadoes are hard to capture in climate models. Mike Coniglio/NOAA/NSSL

Tornadoes and climate change: What a warming world means for deadly twisters and the type of storms that spawn them

John Allen, Central Michigan University

Climate models can’t see tornadoes, but they can recognize the conditions for tornadoes to form. An atmospheric scientist explains what that means for forecasting future risks.

Black women have been harassed and censored on social media. What will they face in the metaverse? Photo by Carlos Costa/AFP via Getty Images

I’m a Black woman and the metaverse scares me – here’s how to make the next iteration of the internet inclusive

Breigha Adeyemo, University of Illinois at Chicago

Today’s social media is plagued by racism and sexism. Without intentionally building the metaverse to be inclusive, it will be, too.

The key to rapid antigen testing is to test early in the course of COVID-19 infection, ideally several times 24 hours apart. VioletaStoimenova/E+ via Getty Images

Rapid tests play a crucial role in curbing COVID-19 infections – especially as people gather for the holidays

Nathaniel Hafer, UMass Chan Medical School

Knowing when and how often to use rapid tests is key to getting an accurate picture of your COVID-19 status.

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