Alzheimer’s targets brain cells that help people stay awake

 The new finding could fundamentally refocus dementia research SLEEPY TIME  In part of a human brain stem, a healthy nerve cell (red, left) releases a chemical messenger involved in wakefulness. Nearby, a nerve cell (brown, right) packed with tau, a protein tied to Alzheimer’s, is too damaged to work properly.Alzheimer’s disease destroys command centers…

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A new FDA-approved drug takes aim at a deadly form of tuberculosis

 The antibiotic, paired with two others, works against highly drug-resistant TB DEADLY RESISTANCE  Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (shown). A drug newly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could help combat a highly drug-resistant form of the disease.An especially dangerous type of tuberculosis may have met its match.The U.S. Food and…

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We’re closing down our comment section

 Transparency Project Revealing how we do what we do  Science News has always valued feedback from readers. And that is not going to change.We value our readers’ input at Science News. Truly. Whether it’s enthusiasm, praise, criticism or a probing question, your feedback helps us understand what resonates, what doesn’t and where we need to do…

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Chemists have created and imaged a new form of carbon

 The molecule called cyclocarbon joins other carbon forms, like buckyballs and carbon nanotubes ONE RING  Scientists have created a new form of carbon consisting of 18 atoms arranged in a ring, illustrated here with data from an atomic force microscope. Bonds between atoms are alternately longer and shorter, giving the ring nine sides.An elusive…

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New cloaking devices could hide objects from water waves and currents

 The materials can reduce drag and wave motion on items in fluids CALM WATERS  A new cloaking technique might help prevent waves from rocking ships loading cargo in ports.Stewart Sutton/DigitalVision/GettyInvisibility cloaks are making a splash. Or rather, preventing splashes, perhaps.Although the science fiction idea of an invisibility cloak is a Harry Potter–style device that…

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The first chlamydia vaccine has passed a major test

 The result offers hope for stemming the tens of millions of new infections each year VACCINE NEEDED  Researchers reported promising results in a test in humans for a vaccine against chlamydia, which causes around 131 million new infections worldwide each year.MarianVejcik/iStock/Getty Images PlusThe first vaccine against chlamydia has passed its first test in humans.About…

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Astronomers just quintupled the number of known repeating fast radio bursts

 The find could help reveal what causes these cryptic flashes of radio waves from deep space CONSTANT VIGILANCE  A Canadian telescope called CHIME scans the sky each night for brief, bright bursts of cosmic radio waves. Now CHIME has spotted eight new bursts that flash over and over.Andre Renard/Dunlap Institute/University of Toronto/CHIMEAstronomers have found…

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A planetary body may have smashed into Jupiter, creating its weird core

 The theory tested in computer simulations could help explain why Jupiter’s interior defies logic WRECKING BALL A planetary body about 10 times as massive as Earth may have smashed into Jupiter billions of years ago, creating the oddly diffuse core seen in the gas giant today. Astrobiology Center, JapanA planetary smashup billions of years ago…

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CRISPR enters its first human clinical trials

Since its debut in 2012, CRISPR gene editing has held the promise of curing most of the over 6,000 known genetic diseases. Now it’s being put to the test.In the first spate of clinical trials, scientists are using CRISPR/Cas9 to combat cancer and blood disorders in people. In these tests, researchers remove some of a…

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Engraved bones reveal that symbolism had ancient roots in East Asia

 Denisovans might have created line patterns more than 100,000 years ago in what’s now northern China SYMBOL LIFE  These two bone fragments found in northern China contain engraved lines, some marked with red pigment (red dots in left line drawing), making them the oldest examples of symbolic behavior in East Asia, researchers say.F. d’Errico…

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A mussel poop diet could fuel invasive carp’s spread across Lake Michigan

 The fish are just a human-made waterway away from getting into the Great Lake HOLY CARP   If Asian carp (silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, shown) reach Lake Michigan, there might be enough food for the fish to survive there as long as they aren’t picky eaters.Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)If invasive carp reach…

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Two of four Ebola treatments prove highly effective in a clinical trial

 The field experiment will now focus on only the top-performing therapies SUITING UP  In the Congolese city of Beni, a doctor dons protective gear prior to seeing patients with possible Ebola infections. Early reports from a clinical trial in Congo found that two drugs were better at preventing death from the disease than other…

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Plants don’t have feelings and aren’t conscious, a biologist argues

 Lincoln Taiz and colleagues lament the rise of ‘plant neurobiology’ NOT THE SAME  Plants have no need for the brains, or the awareness, that animals have, researchers say.funky-data/E+/Getty ImagesLincoln Taiz is peeved. Over the last decade or so, the retired plant biologist has watched the rise of the field of “plant neurobiology” with growing…

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A proposed space telescope would use Earth’s atmosphere as a lens

 The ‘terrascope’ would use a detector in space to collect refracted light BIG SHOT  The bending of starlight caused by Earth’s atmosphere could be used to create a giant telescope, one scientist suggests, by placing a detector out in space (illustrated).Telescopes keep getting bigger — and more expensive. But what if there were a…

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Are researchers asking the right questions to prevent mass shootings?

 Learning how to thwart such events may be more effective than analyzing culprits’ backgrounds SEEKING ANSWERS  Concern over recent mass public shootings, including this one in Dayton, Ohio, August 4 that left 10 people including the gunman dead, may inspire a scientific focus on practical ways to prevent such attacks rather than trying to…

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Exploding stars scattered traces of iron over Antarctic snow

 Unlike previous similar detections, the interstellar material dribbled down on Earth recently SUPERNOVA SNOWFALL  Scientists have found a fingerprint of exploding stars, or supernovas, in Antarctic snow that fell within the last 20 years. Here, part of a supernova remnant, Vela, is shown.Harel Boren/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)Iron from outside the solar system has…

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How these tiny insect larvae leap without legs

 High-speed film reveals the details of a young gall midge’s loop-and-latch maneuver SPRING FLING  Never mind about the absence of legs. A young gall midge, no bigger than a rice grain, can go airborne thanks to some clever latching.G.M. Farley et al/Journal of Experimental Biology 2019No legs? Not a problem. Some pudgy insect larvae…

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The worst wildfires can send smoke high enough to affect the ozone layer

 Pyrocumulonimbus clouds can send soot and other damaging particles 23 kilometers high FIRE CLOUDS  Pyrocumulonimbus clouds are created by intense wildfires (one from a 2004 fire in Arizona shown). The fire clouds can reach higher into the stratosphere than scientists thought, where the plumes can have climatic effects.For the first time, scientists have seen…

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50 years ago, Fermilab turned to bubbles

 Excerpt from the August 16, 1969 issue of Science News BUBBLY PAST  This futuristic, metal ball was Fermilab’s 4.5-meter bubble chamber. Decommissioned in 1988, it’s now a prominent art piece called the Bubble Chamber Sculpture at the laboratory. Bubbles for Batavia —Use by visitors is expected to be especially large at the National Accelerator Laboratory…

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Mercury levels in fish are rising despite reduced emissions

Climate change and overfishing may be hampering efforts to reduce toxic mercury accumulations in the fish and shellfish that end up on our plates. Mercury emissions are decreasing around the globe. But new research suggests that warmer ocean waters and fishing’s effects on ecosystems can alter how much mercury builds up in seafood.Fishing practices increased…

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Why people with celiac disease suffer so soon after eating gluten

 T cells in those with the autoimmune disorder rapidly dump immune chemicals into the blood TUMMY TROUBLER  People with the autoimmune disorder celiac disease sustain damage to their small intestine when they eat gluten. The only remedy is a gluten-free diet, but new research pinpointing the source of the problem may lead to future…

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Giant, active galaxies from the early universe may have finally been found

 The behemoths date to within 2 billion years after the Big Bang KEEN EYES  Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile (pictured), astronomers found a slew of previously overlooked massive galaxies from the first 2 billion years of cosmic history. Astronomers may finally have laid eyes on a population of enormous but elusive galaxies…

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Readers respond to Lyme disease, fossil teeth and a Tesseract look-alike

 Your letters and comments on the June 22, 2019 issue of Science News Lyme lightLyme disease is hard to detect, but scientists are investigating new diagnostic approaches that could help people get treated for the tickborne illness sooner, Laura Beil reported in “New approaches may help solve the Lyme disease diagnosis dilemma” (SN: 6/22/19,…

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Why this warmer world is not just a passing phase

 In the late 1990s, three scientists published a paper charting the Earth’s temperatures over the last millennium. For the first 900 years, the trend line was the definition of boring: just little blips up and down. That changed around 1900, when the mean global temperature shot up, and kept rising.That now-famous trend line, dubbed…

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How pieces of live human brain are helping scientists map nerve cells

The golf ball–sized chunk of brain is not cooperating. It’s thicker than usual, and bloodier. One side has a swath of tissue that looks, to my untrained eye, like gristle.Nick Dee, the neuroscientist charged with quickly cutting the chunk into neat pieces, confers with his colleagues. “We can trim off that ugliness on the side,”…

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Racist words and acts, like the El Paso shooting, harm children’s health

Just days before 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas, allegedly by an anti-immigrant gunman, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that racism was harming children’s overall health.Among the people fleeing the shooting at a Walmart on August 3 were young families with children shopping for back-to-school supplies. “Two young parents who sacrificed themselves…

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A fungus makes a chemical that neutralizes the stench of skunk spray

 The compound pericosine turns reeks produced by the animals benign MAKING A STINK  Skunk spray contains a cocktail of foul-smelling chemicals, but a particular type of fungus makes a compound that can take the stink away.Tom Brakefield/iStock/Getty Images PlusA puppy pal that gets sprayed by a skunk is no friend to human noses. The…

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With nowhere to hide from rising seas, Boston prepares for a wetter future

Boston dodged a disaster in 2012. After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey and New York, the superstorm hit Boston near low tide, causing minimal damage. If Sandy had arrived four hours earlier, many Bostonians would have been ankle to hip deep in seawater.Across the globe, sea levels are rising, delivering bigger storm surges…

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Ancient Maya warfare flared up surprisingly early

 Extreme conflicts broke out well before the civilization’s decline, researchers say WAR BURNS  A fragment of an inscribed stone monument found at the Maya site of Witzna contains a dark, burned patch near its right edge. A 697 attack on Witzna left the monument broken and scorched, scientists say.In 697, flames engulfed the Maya…

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A new map is the best view yet of how fast Antarctica is shedding ice

 The research could help improve projections of sea level rise ICE ICE BABY  Glaciologists used observations from a cohort of satellite missions over decades to create the most detailed map yet of ice flow across Antarctica.Decades of satellite observations have now provided the most detailed view yet of how Antarctica continually sheds ice accumulated…

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Decades of dumping acid suggest acid rain may make trees thirstier

 Acidified soil loses calcium, which helps plants retain water DROPPING ACID  The U.S. Forest Service has been dousing the Fenrow Experimental Forest (shown) near Parsons, W.Va., with acidifying chemicals since 1989 to simulate acid rain. The results suggest acidification may make trees thirstier.A forest watered by acid rain may be less able to slake…

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Satellites are transforming how archaeologists study the past

 ‘Archaeology from Space’ describes how remote sensing helps locate and monitor ancient sites WATCHING YOU  In a satellite image, pockmarks across an archaeological site, such as this one in Peru, are telltale signs of pits dug by looters looking for artifacts.Courtesy of GlobalXplorer and DigitalGlobe Archaeology from SpaceSarah ParcakHenry Holt and Co., $30The term…

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The Arctic is burning and Greenland is melting, thanks to record heat

 Blazes are pumping record amounts of CO2 into the air, which could make the problem worse CANADA ABLAZE  The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite snapped this image July 27 of wildfires near the Mackenzie River in Canada’s Northwest Territories.The Arctic is on fire. Record-breaking temperatures and strong winds are fueling an unprecedented number…

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Readers inquire about measles, vaccine hesitancy and more

 Your letters and comments on the June 8, 2019 issue of Science News Tough choicesDiscussing shared health goals with vaccine-hesitant parents may help doctors get those parents on board, Aimee Cunningham reported in “Finding common ground can reduce parents’ hesitation about vaccines” (SN: 6/8/19, p. 16).Reader Dona Chilcoat objected to a photo in the…

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You’re only as old as you perceive yourself to be

 Aging is inevitable, but the health declines that appear to be part of the package may not be, according to provocative research about how our attitudes about aging influence our physical health.It’s no surprise that the negative stereotypes about growing older that are pervasive in many societies could make people feel worse about themselves;…

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Public trust that scientists work for the good of society is growing

 But public confidence falters on questions of scientific transparency and integrity CONFIDENCE BUILDING  A new study by the Pew Research Center shows a positive trend in the public belief that scientists generally mean well, but wariness over questions of scientific integrity, transparency and bias.Skynesher/Getty Images PlusThese days, it can seem as if science is…

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Stars may keep spinning fast, long into old age

 The idea that older stars continually slow their rotation may be wrong SLOWDOWN  Sunlike stars start as fast-spinning balls of gas (illustrated at left). As this type of star ages, its spin slows and it puffs up, before dying as a nebula (middle and right). But the spin of these aging stars might not…

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A 3-D map of stars reveals the Milky Way’s warped shape

 Scientists used thousands of stars called Cepheids to trace the galaxy’s structure BENT OUT OF SHAPE  A new map of the Milky Way made with Cepheid stars reveals the warped shape of the galaxy. In this image, those stars (green) are overlaid on top of an image of another warped galaxy, NGC 4565. The…

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There’s more to pufferfish than that goofy spiked balloon

 Pufferfish can have frenzied romantic lives, not to mention strange teeth LIFE AS A WATER BALLOON  The odd biology of pufferfishes (Japanese grass species shown) goes far beyond rapid swelling into a spiky balloon.So what if fish need water to live. For certain pufferfish, flirting on the sand of a moonlit beach is irresistible…

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Scientists seek materials that defy friction at the atomic level

It’s a moonless night. The wind howls outside. A door opens slowly, as if pushed by an invisible hand.“Cre-e-e-a-k.”That sound — a horror movie cliché — is the result of friction. A stealthier entrance calls for oiling the door’s hinges.Friction is everywhere — from a violinist bowing a string to children skidding down a slide. In…

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Monkeys can use basic logic to decipher the order of items in a list

 Keeping track of rankings could be useful for monitoring social pecking orders in the wild KEEPING ORDER  Rhesus macaque monkeys don’t need rewards to learn and remember the order of items in a list, a mental feat that may prove handy in the wild.f9photos/iStock/Getty Images PlusMonkeys can keep strings of information in order by…

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A new study challenges the idea that the placenta has a microbiome

 Scientists traced what microbes they did detect in tissue samples to lab tools and birth canals NOT SO GERMY  In a recent study, much of the bacteria in placental samples (placenta and developing fetus illustrated) came from lab equipment, wash solutions and the vagina, researchers say.7activestudio/iStock/Getty Images PlusContrary to earlier reports, the human placenta…

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Tiny magnetic coils could help break down microplastic pollution

 In the lab, carbon nanotubes release chemicals that erode the durable trash TINY TRASH PATROL Carbon nanotubes that release plastic-eroding chemicals successfully decomposed waterborne microplastic particles of different sizes and shapes (shown in photomicrographs above).Xiaoguang Duan/Matter 2019A new way to decompose microplastics could help clear waterways of these tiny bits of trash, which may…

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This newfound predator may have terrorized the Cambrian seafloor

 With rakelike claws and a toothy mouth, it could snag prey even under the sand BOTTOM FEEDER  With a spaceship-shaped carapace, rakelike claws and a round tooth-filled mouth, Cambroraster falcatus (shown in an artist’s rendition) hunted for food along the seafloor.Lars Fields © Royal Ontario MuseumA fierce predator, with spiny claws and a round,…

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TESS has found the first-ever ‘ultrahot Neptune’

 The exoplanet may be shifting from a hot Jupiter to a scorched Earth LOSING MY ATMOSPHERE  Astronomers think “hot Jupiter” exoplanets could lose their atmospheres as they draw close to their stars (as shown in this illustration), leaving scorched rocky worlds. The TESS telescope may have caught this transition in the act.CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —…

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Mapping how the ‘immortal’ hydra regrows cells may demystify regeneration

 The tiny invertebrates can regrow their bodies from just a bit of tissue SELF-RENEWAL  Fluorescent markers reveal which genes are turned on as the aquatic animal’s stem cells develop into specific cell types. For instance, nerve cells light up magenta in one hydra (second from left).  Another (second from right) shows gene activity behind…

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Giving cats food with an antibody may help people with cat allergies

 Pet-food maker Purina is studying how adding an antibody to the chow curbs reactions Most cat allergies are triggered by a protein called Fel d1, which is carried in cats’ saliva. New research aims to disable the protein at its source.SunRay BRI Cattery RU/iStock/Getty Images PlusCat lovers who sneeze and sniffle around their feline…

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Climate change could raise the risk of deadly fungal infections in humans

 Outbreaks of Candida auris have recently erupted around the world FUNGAL THREAT  An emerging fungus called Candida auris (illustrated) can cause deadly infections in people’s blood and organs.Dr_Microbe/iStock/Getty Images PlusWhile fungal diseases have devastated many animal and plant species, humans and other mammals have mostly been spared. That’s probably because mammals have body temperatures…

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Immune system defects seem to contribute to obesity in mice

 Similar changes that alter the microbiome and change fat uptake may be at work in people too WEIGHING IN  In one study of mice, how some immune cells function influenced weight gain. Gut microbes appear to have a say, too.  Janson George/shutterstockSubtle defects in the immune system may lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes,…

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope celebrates 20 years in space

 The spacecraft launched in July 1999 and has been searching the sky ever since LOOKING AROUND NASA released a set of images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory to celebrate its 20th anniversary, showing merging galaxies and a supernova remnant, among others.In July 1999, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory took off aboard the space shuttle Columbia…

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Dark matter particles won’t kill you. If they could, they would have already

 A lack of mysterious deaths from hypothetical ‘macros’ suggests dark matter is small and light STRIKETHROUGH  Hypothetical dark matter particles called “macros” could stream through space and constantly bombard Earth. Some could seriously injure any unlucky humans they pass through, but a lack of mysterious deaths suggests the biggest potential macros don’t exist.The fact…

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This is the first fungus known to host complex algae inside its cells

 It’s unclear if the newly discovered alliance exists in the wild FUNGAL INSIDER  In a first, scientists have discovered that the marine algal species Nannochloropsis oceanica (green round cells) can live inside the fungus Mortierella elongata (long transparent tubes). The species formed a mutually beneficial relationship in a lab dish.    A soil fungus and…

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A frog study may point to where parenting begins in the brain

 Core regions include one active in mammals, hinting at an ancient basis for parental behaviors PARENTAL FRAME OF MIND  A R. imitator frog dad gives a tadpole a piggyback ride to water. Researchers have now linked two particular brain regions in frog parents to that care for their offspring.Most frogs lay oodles of eggs…

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U.S. wells are pumping up groundwater from increasing depths

 Digging deeper raises costs for getting the freshwater that nearly a third of Americans rely on WATCHING THE WATER  The California Department of Water Resources tracks water levels for the state’s aquifers. Here, an engineering geologist measures the water depth at a well in the central Colusa County in March 2016.Kelly M. Grow/Calif. Dept…

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Droplets of these simple molecules may have helped kick-start life on Earth

 Small blobs that break apart and reform can host protein and RNA TINY BUBBLES  Microdroplets made from a mixture of alpha hydroxy acids contain a fluorescent green dye, demonstrating how the cell-sized compartments could theoretically have housed primitive biomolecules.For the origin of life on Earth, ancient puddles or coastlines may have had a major…

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Boosting a gut bacterium helps mice fight an ALS-like disease

 People with Lou Gherig’s disease appear to have a dearth of the microbes BACTERIAL BUDDY Gut bacteria called Akkermansia (shown in an electron micrograph) produce vitamins and other molecules that lessen the severity of ALS symptoms in mice. People with ALS have fewer of these bacteria than healthy people do, but it’s too soon…

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Increased control over ions’ motions may help improve quantum computers

 A single ion was put into quantum states with up to 100 quanta of energy ION MANEUVERS  Physicist Katie McCormick (shown manipulating a mirror that directs a laser beam) and colleagues coaxed a beryllium ion to go through the motions. The ion exhibited precise quantum movements within an electromagnetic field.Physicists are taking their quantum…

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India’s first lunar lander is on its way to the moon

 Chandrayaan 2 mission’s rover will explore closer to the moon’s south pole than any other rover UP AND AWAY  The Chandrayaan 2 mission launches from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center.India’s first moon lander is on its way to the lunar south pole.At  5:13 a.m. EDT on July 22, the Chandrayaan 2 mission launched from the…

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Botox may relieve persistent pelvic pain caused by endometriosis

For some women with endometriosis, the pain doesn’t stop after surgical and hormonal treatments. It can persist, triggered by muscle spasms that ripple through the pelvic floor. Now, a small study suggests that Botox, best known for smoothing wrinkles, could quell those spasms and relieve that pain.Thirteen women diagnosed with the disorder, in which tissue…

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Longer gaps between births can halve infant deaths in developing nations

In some of the world’s least-developed countries, spacing births two years apart, instead of one, can nearly halve infant mortality rates, a study finds. But in more developed nations, increasing the interval between successive childbirths makes little difference to infant deaths, researchers report July 3 in Demography. “At low levels of development, birth spacing is really…

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Permanent liquid magnets have now been created in the lab

 These droplets have the mechanical properties of liquids and the magnetic properties of solids MAGNETIC DROPLETS  Scientists have now created permanent liquid magnets. Here, magnetized liquid droplets (yellow) twirl in oil, under the influence of a rotating magnetic field, wrapping themselves in orange dye.X. Liu et al/Science 2019The rules about what makes a good…

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Manipulating nerve cells makes mice ‘see’ something that’s not there

 For the first time, researchers have used optogenetics to create a specific visual perception SNIFFING AROUND A laboratory mouse checks out a device that helps deliver light to specific nerve cells in the brain, activating them in a way that creates a perception. Sean Quirin, James Marshel, Cephra Raja and K. Deisseroth/Stanford Univ.Aiming laser lights into mice’s…

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50 years ago, lambs survived but didn’t thrive inside artificial wombs

 Excerpt from the July 5, 1969 issue of Science News STAND-IN UTERUS Fifty years on, we may finally be on the cusp of using artificial wombs to support human preemie babies.E.A. PARTRIDGE ET AL/NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 2017 Watching the unborn —An artificial womb has been used to keep some 35 fetal lambs alive for up to 55 hours…

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A deadly fungus gives ‘zombie’ ants a case of lockjaw

 Closeups of infected ants’ jaw muscles may reveal clues to how the fungi take over DEATH GRIP  Once the “zombie ant fungus” invades an ant’s jaw muscles, the insect clings with clenched jaws to a twig until, and even after, its death.  Melissa Ishler; specimen collected by Kimberly Fleming.Fungus-infected “zombie” ants are known to…

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WHO declares a public health emergency over Congo’s Ebola outbreak

 The risk of the disease spreading to neighboring countries is considered high CONTACT TRACING  A health worker with the World Health Organization screens people who may have come in contact with someone sick with Ebola in Congo’s North Kivu Provence.The World Health Organization has declared Congo’s yearlong Ebola virus outbreak a public health emergency,…

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This gene may help worms live longer, but not healthier

 A surprising trade-off could have implications for anti-aging therapies TRADE-OFF BROKER  A protein called TCER-1 (green, seen in a  microscope image in the gut and reproductive cells of a worm) helps strike a balance between immunity, fertility and longevity in nematodes. F. Amrit and A. Ghazi/Univ. of PittsburghLong life and good health don’t always go hand…

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Scientists still can’t agree on the universe’s expansion rate

 A new study leaves the puzzle of the Hubble constant unresolved SUPERNOVA SURPRISE  The universe’s expansion rate can be measured using stellar explosions called type 1a supernovas (one remnant of such an explosion shown). A new study deepens the quandary about why some supernova measurements disagree with estimates made using light from early in the…

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Night-shining ‘noctilucent’ clouds have crept south this summer

 An uptick in atmospheric moisture may be fueling clouds that catch the sun’s rays after dark SHINE ON  Noctilucent clouds that catch sunlight after dark are showing up farther south than usual this year. Scientists are studying the upper atmosphere to figure out why.High in the sky, sunlit wisps remain aglow even after sundown.…

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Gaps in gas disks around stars may not always mark newborn planets

 New research is prompting a debate over how to study infant planets DISK DIVERSITY  The swirling disks of gas and dust around young stars, some of which are shown here in images taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile, come in a variety of forms. New research raises questions about whether gaps…

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Accolades, skepticism and science marked Science News’ coverage of Apollo

 Moon landings coverage focused on science, while voicing wary public frustrations FIRST ON THE MOON  There are two astronauts in this 1969 photo. Buzz Aldrin stands on the moon near the Apollo 11 lunar lander while Neil Armstrong, reflected in Aldrin’s visor, takes the picture.To cover humankind’s first steps on the moon, Science News…

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Spraying bats with ‘good’ bacteria may combat deadly white nose syndrome

 The treatment uses antifungal microbes that many of the animals already have on their skin DEADLY FUZZ  Dosing bats with antifungal bacteria appears to help defend against the fungus that causes the devastating disease known as white nose syndrome.A one-time spritz with a solution of beneficial bacteria may help bats infected with white nose…

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Apollo astronauts left trash, mementos and experiments on the moon

Once on the moon, Apollo astronauts had two major goals: get themselves and the moon rocks home safe.To make space on the cramped lunar modules for the hundreds of kilograms of moon samples, the astronauts had to go full Marie Kondo. Anything that wasn’t essential for the ride home got tossed: cameras, hammocks, boots and…

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Tiny glasses help reveal how praying mantises can see in 3-D

 Newfound nerve cells in the insects’ brains play a role in depth perception LIFE IN 3-D  Colored filters let a praying mantis watch a 3-D video of a moving disk while researchers studied the nerve cells that contribute to the insect’s depth perception.A praying mantis depends on precision targeting when hunting insects. Now, scientists…

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This solar-powered device produces energy and cleans water at the same time

 Still a prototype, the machine could one day help curb electricity and freshwater shortages UNDER THE SUN  Solar panels with water purification devices mounted on their backs (illustrated) could produce freshwater and electricity simultaneously.By mounting a water distillation system on the back of a solar cell, engineers have constructed a device that doubles as…

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3 questions seismologists are asking after the California earthquakes

A week after two large earthquakes rattled southern California, scientists are scrambling to understand the sequence of events that led to the temblors and what it might tell us about future quakes.A magnitude 6.4 quake struck July 4 near Ridgecrest — about 194 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles — followed by a magnitude 7.1 quake…

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Artificial intelligence has now pretty much conquered poker

 Called Pluribus, the AI is a formidable opponent at six-player no-limit Texas Hold’em UPPING THE ANTE  For the first time, a computer has outplayed elite human professionals at multiplayer poker. Evgeny Kovalev spb/shutterstockArtificial intelligence has passed the last major milestone in mastering poker: six-player no-limit Texas Hold’em.Games like poker, with hidden cards and players who…

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Southern right whale moms and calves may whisper to evade orcas

 Quiet calls could help the animals keep close without broadcasting their location to predators WHALE TALES  The vocal repertoire of southern right whales includes quiet calls that may help mothers and calves stay in touch while hiding their location from predators, a study finds.Nattrass/Getty Images PlusWhales are known for belting out sounds in the…

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An ancient bird found encased in amber had a bizarrely long toe

 Extended digits might have helped the critter snag food in hard-to-reach places LONGFINGER  Elektorornis chenguangi, a newly identified species of bird that lived about 99 million years ago (shown in an artist’s reconstruction), had a bizarrely long third digit on its foot. The extra-long toe may have helped in foraging for food.Zhongda Zhang/Current BiologyThere…

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Hayabusa2 may have just snagged bits of asteroid Ryugu’s insides

 The Japanese spacecraft returns to Earth in 2020 with the first subsurface space rock sample TOUCHDOWN SELFIES  Hayabusa2’s onboard camera captured these three shots of the spacecraft tapping the asteroid Ryugu: four seconds before touchdown (left), the moment of touchdown (center) and four seconds after touchdown (right).The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has made its second and…

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Many fictional moon voyages preceded the Apollo landing

From the beginning, the moon has been humankind’s perpetual nighttime companion.Accompanied by innumerable points of light, the moon’s luminous disk hovered overhead like a dim substitute for the sun, just with a shape not so constant. Rather the moon waxed and waned, diminishing to a barely discernible sliver before disappearing and then gradually restoring itself…

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Both fish and humans have REM-like sleep

No one should have to sleep with the fishes, but new research on zebrafish suggests that we sleep like them.Sleeping zebrafish have brain activity similar to both deep slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep that’s found in mammals, researchers report July 10 in Nature. And the team may have tracked down the…

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