Top Science Stories of the week


Welcome to the “Top Science Stories of the week” from Hawaii Science Digest.

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CDC Report Finds 35,000 Americans Die of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Each Year

While the number of deaths has gone down since 2013, new infections—such as the deadly Candida auris—have appeared — Read more on
Plasma Scalpel Takes On Cancer

A pilot study is ongoing with the new tool — Read more on
A Revolution in the Creation of Scientific Workplaces

So-called “convergence” research brings many disciplines together to solve problems—and the right lab design can make that much quicker and easier — Read more on
Are Blackouts Here to Stay? A Look into the Future

Scientists and policy makers assess whether California’s utilities will have to regularly cut power over the next decade to lessen huge wildfires — Read more on
Meet Arrokoth: Ultima Thule, the Most Distant Object Ever Explored, Has a New Name

The small body beyond Pluto visited by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is now officially known as Arrokoth — Read more on
Hearing Is Seeing: Sound Waves Create a 3-D Display

An interactive system produces levitating images by projecting color onto a tiny bead as it zips around a darkened box — Read more on


Black Holes Orbiting Even Bigger Black Holes Might Also Be Eating Each Other

A simulation of an accretion disk surrounding a supermassive black hole. (Credit: Scott C. Noble) When the LIGO collaboration first detected the spacetime ripples of a gravitational wave it came from the merger of two black holes. To date, scientists have detected at least ten pairs of black holes spiraling into and combining with each other. But there’s still an outstanding mystery about these si
NASA Instrument Spots Its Brightest X-Ray Burst Ever

An illustration depicting a Type I X-ray burst. A similar supernova generated the extreme X-ray burst that NASA’s NICER instrument recently recorded. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (USRA)) In late August, an instrument on the International Space Station, called NICER, spotted its brightest burst of X-ray radiation yet. NICER, or the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explor
Zoonoses: The Diseases Our Cats and Dogs Give Us

(Credit: Gladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock) Some of the biggest public health crises of the last few years can be traced back to animals. HIV got its start as a virus in monkeys, and Ebola probably jumped to humans from other primates or fruit bats. And there’s no points for guessing the animals from which we got bird flu and swine flu. But animal-borne diseases can start a lot closer to home. In fac
Why People In Ancient Times Didn’t Get the Plague

What happened to make plague able to cause devastating epidemics, as in this depiction from 1349? (Credit: Pierart dou Tielt/Wikimedia) One of civilization’s most prolific killers shadowed humans for thousands of years without their knowledge. The bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, is thought to be responsible for up to 200 million deaths across human history — more than twice the
SpaceX Launches 60 more Starlink Satellites to Orbit

The Falcon 9 rocket taking off for the Starlink mission on November 11. (Credit: SpaceX/Flickr) On November 11, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying another 60 Starlink satellites, which will eventually provide internet service worldwide. The launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station made history by reusing a record number of rocket parts. But even with that feat in aerospace design, the
How Could We Find a Wormhole Hiding in the Milky Way?

A new study outlined a possible method to search for a wormhole at the center of the Milky Way, where a supermassive black hole, like the one seen in this artist’s concept, resides. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) If there was a wormhole in the center of our galaxy, how could we tell? Two physicists propose that carefully watching the motions of a star orbiting the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole m


Vaping less harmful than smoking for vascular health, major study finds

Study finds significant improvements in vascular health of chronic smokers who transition to e-cigarettes. Women see greater health benefits than men following switch to e-cigarettes. VESUVIUS is the largest study to-date on the vascular impact of e-cigarettes versus tobacco cigarettes.
Scientists discover how the molecule-sorting station in our cells is formed and maintained

A recent study by a group of scientists from Japan and Austria has revealed that a different mechanism is responsible for the formation and maintenance of the cell organelle called endosome that sorts and distributes substances entering a cell. Contrary to current knowledge in the field, the scientists show that the functioning of the Golgi is crucial for this organelle’s upkeep. This result can u
Mapping disease outbreaks in urban settings using mobile phone data

A new EPFL and MIT study into the interplay between mobility and the 2013 and 2014 dengue outbreaks in Singapore has uncovered a legal void around access to mobile phone data — information that can prove vital in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
Ketogenic diet helps tame flu virus

A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet like the Keto regimen has its fans, but influenza apparently isn’t one of them.Mice fed a ketogenic diet were better able to combat the flu virus than mice fed food high in carbohydrates, according to a new Yale University study published Nov. 15 in the journal Science Immunology.
Jackdaw mobs flip from chaos to order as they grow

Chaotic mobs of jackdaws suddenly get organised once enough birds join in, new research shows.
Spin doctors: Astrophysicists find when galaxies rotate, size matters

The direction in which a galaxy spins depends on its mass, researchers have found.


Long-term smokers who start vaping see health benefits within a month

Regular smokers who switch to e-cigarettes saw improved vascular health, potentially reducing the risk of heart attacks
A laser-sighted toxic goo gun is killing feral cats in Australia

A device that kills feral cats by squirting their fur with toxic gel they lick off while self-grooming is being used to protect endangered Australian animals
Smoke from Australia’s bushfires has spread to South America

Satellites show atmospheric pollution created by the fires across New South Wales and Queensland has travelled more than 10,000 kilometres to Chile and Argentina
Stone Age artists were obsessed with horses and we don’t know why

Stone Age artists loved drawing horses. One possible explanation is that this was because they believed horses were the most important of all the animals
Zero gravity made some astronauts’ blood flow backwards

Spending time in zero gravity can reverse the flow of a person’s blood and lead to clots, as seen in astronauts who spent months on the International Space Station
An insulin nasal spray could help with polycystic ovary syndrome

Women with PCOS often have to eat less and exercise more in order to maintain a healthy weight – a study in sheep suggests that a nasal insulin spray could help


NASA finds Neptune moons locked in ‘dance of avoidance’

Even by the wild standards of the outer solar system, the strange orbits that carry Neptune’s two innermost moons are unprecedented, according to newly published research.
Using aluminum and lasers to make bendable glass

An international team of researchers has found a way to make bendable glass using lasers fired at crystalline aluminum oxide. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their technique and the features of the glass they produced. Lothar Wondraczek with the University of Jena has published a companion piece in the same journal issue outlining the history of scientists atte
Arctic Ocean could be ice-free for part of the year as soon as 2044

It’s hard to imagine the Arctic without sea ice.
Researchers identify seven types of fake news, aiding better detection

To help people spot fake news, or create technology that can automatically detect misleading content, scholars first need to know exactly what fake news is, according to a team of Penn State researchers. However, they add, that’s not as simple as it sounds.
Breaking carbon dioxide faster, cheaper, and more efficiently

A new catalyst breaks carbon dioxide into useful chemicals faster, cheaper, and more efficiently than the standard method, reports a team of researchers in this week’s issue of PNAS. The discovery could make it possible to economically turn carbon dioxide into fuels.
Amazon deforestation and number of fires show summer of 2019 not a ‘normal’ year

The fires that raged across the Brazilian Amazon this summer were not ‘normal’ and large increases in deforestation could explain why, scientists show.


‘Oumuamua isn’t aliens, but it may not be an asteroid either

Oumuamua may be made of a fine web of dust rather than rock or ice. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/) Asteroids and comets tend to be heavy, but ‘oumuamua—the first interstellar visitor spotted passing through our solar system—acted impossibly light. Today, two years after the object receded from sight, researchers are still puzzling over ‘oumuamua’s inexplicable behavior. Too agile to be a rocky asteroid but
The science behind this adorable puppy’s forehead tail

Narwhal’s second tail, a congenital birth defect, probably won’t ever wag but also won’t cause him any harm. Narwhal—a 20-week old dachshund mix—acts like any other puppy. He chews shoe strings and takes frequent naps on his owners’ lap. Except there is one feature of the dachshund mix that makes him unlike other pups—the tiny tail hanging between his two eyes. Narwhal’s veterinarian, Dr. Brian H
Motorola’s $1,500 folding-screen RAZR is perfectly ridiculous

Looking at this photo, you can almost hear the sound the phone makes when you close it. (Motorola/) Motorola just released a version of its iconic Razr flip phone with a folding display and it looks really good. That’s a surprising fact here in 2019. First, Motorola hasn’t exactly had a ton of blockbuster hits when it comes to smartphone hardware recently. On top of that, folding screen phones ha
An unlucky, ancient beetle shows how flowers first blossomed

Amber fossils have the power to preserve organisms in amazing detail. (Courtesy of Bo Wang/) 99 million years ago, the world looked very different. It was the middle of the Cretacious period. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth in herds. Ancient carnivorous birds were experimenting with flight . The forests were lush and green, filled with shrubby cycads and fan-leafed ginkgos . And—for the first time in
What looks like a deer, is the size of a rabbit, and was just photographed for the first time in decades?

This little buddy has been MIA from scientific knowledge for the past 30 years. (Southern Institute of Ecology/Global Wildlife Conservation?Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research/NCNP/) A mysterious fanged creature called the silver-backed chevrotain, or Vietnamese mouse-deer, made a surprising reappearance on a camera trap in the mountains of Southeast Asia. The shy, tiny creature, whic
Gear up and cook the perfect Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is just a regular dinner. With a ton more menu options. And your in-laws. And your sister whose political views radically oppose those of your grandfather. What could possibly go wrong? Even for the most confident cooks, Thanksgiving dinner is a massive undertaking. The sheer scale and scope of this holiday’s menu are so over-the-top that it’s tempting to drop serious cash on product


New cell therapy improves memory and stops seizures following TBI

Researchers have developed a breakthrough cell therapy to improve memory and prevent seizures in mice following traumatic brain injury.
Many patients with iNPH develop Alzheimer’s disease, too

Up to one in five patients treated for idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus, iNPH, also develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. The researchers were able to predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease by using the Disease State Index, DSI, that combines patient-specific data from various sources.
Early DNA lineages shed light on the diverse origins of the contemporary population

A new genetic study demonstrates that, at the end of the Iron Age, Finland was inhabited by separate and differing populations, all of them influencing the gene pool of modern Finns. The study is so far the most extensive investigation of the ancient DNA of people inhabiting the region of Finland.
Lichens are way younger than scientists thought

Lichens — a combo of fungus and algae — can grow on bare rocks, so scientists thought that lichens were some of the first organisms to make their way onto land from the water, changing the planet’s atmosphere and paving the way for modern plants. But a closer look at the DNA of the algae and fungi that form lichens shows that lichens likely evolved millions of years after plants.
Master regulator in mitochondria is critical for muscle function and repair

New study identifies how loss of mitochondrial protein MICU1 disrupts calcium balance and causes muscle atrophy and weakness.
Secret of explosive volcanism unlocked

When will the next eruption take place? Examination of samples from Indonesia’s Mount Merapi show that the explosivity of stratovolcanoes rises when mineral-rich gases seal the pores and microcracks in the uppermost layers of stone. These findings result in new possibilities for the prediction of an eruption.


146 New Vulnerabilities All Come Preinstalled on Android Phones

The dozens of flaws across 29 Android smartphone makers show just how insecure the devices can be, even brand-new.
‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ and the Meme-ing of Conspiracy

What happens when a conspiracy theory becomes flattened into a quick, shareable phrase?
146 New Android Bugs, an Audio Porn Streaming Site, and More News

Catch up on the most important news from today in two minutes or less.
The Evidence That Links Russia’s Most Brazen Hacking Efforts

From the 2017 French election to the Olympics to NotPetya, the same group’s fingerprints have appeared again and again.
Alien Hunters Need the Far Side of the Moon to Stay Quiet

The far side is normally protected from all the radio noise emanating from Earth, but SETI researchers worry that new visitors will gunk it up.
A Visual Diary of This Year’s WIRED25 Festival

Dina Litovsky captured the weirdest and the WIRED-est moments from our 2019 event.
For the latest trends in science, technology, medicine, health, the environment, cyber security, and artificial intelligence, please check the blog sidebars and links.  Thanks for joining us today.
Until next time,
Russ Roberts (breaking science and technology news).

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