|Science: This Week's News|
Follow the links below for a roundup of the week's top stories in science, or download a PDF of the entire section. Around the WorldFindingsNewsmakersRandom Samples
In science news around the world, a new biomedical "golden triangle" dubbed MedCity launches in London, NASA suspends scientific collaborations with Russia, pro-life groups in Europe launch a new attack against E.U. funding for stem cell research, and more.
Science talks with Saudi prince and science enthusiast Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul-aziz Al-Saud about archaeology and Arabia's prehistoric past. And a bird flu scientist-turned-member of the Italian Parliament is allegedly under investigation for trafficking in flu viruses.
A new exhibit on pterosaurs at New York City's American Museum of Natural History features life-size models of the largest and smallest known species of the flying reptiles, an interactive flying pterosaur exhibit, and even a trading card game.
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a group of scientists is trying to revive the species by cloning cells from its last living member. A previous attempt in 2003 failed, but renewed interest in "de-extinction" in general and a private donation have allowed the scientists to try again. Author: Kai Kupferschmidt
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their primary missions but still have life left in them. In an unprecedented move to save money for other mission extensions, the agency has already proposed killing the Opportunity rover on Mars, which has been hobbled by malfunctioning equipment, and a spacecraft that has been orbiting and mapping the moon. But officials are giving the two teams a chance to make the case for saving their science. The competition that a review panel is considering is tough: It includes the Cassini orbiter around Saturn, the Curiosity rover on Mars, and the two spacecraft orbiting Mars. Congress could extend all the missions if it were to provide more money, but tight spending caps could prevent that. Author: Richard A. Kerr
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the species of virus that has so far killed more than 100 people in Guinea has only been seen before in Central Africa. Scientists are combing the forests, and the genome of the virus itself, looking for clues to how this strain ended up so far west, and whether its spread suggests people in forested areas all across sub-Saharan Africa are at risk. Author: Gretchen Vogel
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly earthquakes that struck the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna in 2012 could have been triggered by the extraction of petroleum at a local oil field. Fear of humanmade seismicity has already sparked fierce opposition against new oil and gas drilling efforts in Italy, and some say the report could lead the country's regional presidents to turn down new requests for fossil-fuel exploration. Author: Edwin Cartlidge
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now, they are ready to try again, buoyed by recent data showing that a single dose of an oral antibiotic can cure the disease. But disease eradication is tough, and experts warn it will cost more and take longer than the planners imagine. Author: John Maurice
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central America and southern Mexico have suffered a rising burden of chronic kidney disease (CKD) that has no obvious cause. Myriad theories have attempted to explain the factors behind what's called CKDu (the "u" is for "unknown" cause), with many researchers now convinced that heat stress and dehydration play a central role. But questions still outnumber answers, and intensive new research efforts promise to get to the bottom of this mystery. Author: Jon Cohen
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred near tributaries of the Danube River and struck hardest in farming communities. A combination of luck and careful scientific studies with sophisticated molecular tools has shown convincingly that an acid from a weed caused the kidney damage, and the convoluted, surprising discovery offers lessons to researchers struggling to determine what's behind the chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology now afflicting Mesoamerica. Author: Jon Cohen