Selections from this week’s smorgasbord of science:
- With the release of a study on Wednesday, scientists pushed back the record for oldest DNA sequenced from a human ancestor, from 100,000 to 400,000 years. But instead of further clarifying the story of human origins, the data have done the exact opposite — made things more confusing. Or challenging, depending on your point of view.
- For a while after it’s transit around the sun, Comet ISON was starting to look like Schrodinger’s cat — It’s alive! It’s dead! It’s alive! Now NASA confirms: It’s dead.
- Can behaviors be inherited? Recent mouse studies would suggest that the answer may be yes. But how? That’s not yet clear.
- In small amounts, carbon monoxide might be — good for you? That’s what a clutch of researchers want to find out.
- Clinical trials researchers could be doing a lot better when it comes to publishing their data. A study of the scientific literature found that only about half of clinical trials that take place in the US result in a scientific publication.
- Male koalas get all Isaac Hayes during mating season — they start bellowing at a pitch that’s amazingly low, lower than their larynx should be able to go. Turns out they have a special vocal organ in their throat that lets them hit those enticing (to a female koala) bass tones.
- I’d never before realized that there are animals without stomachs. Like, the platypus doesn’t have one. Nor does a quarter of all fish. In fact, at least 15 times in animal evolution, the stomach has withered away and disappeared. Now we have an idea as to why — they lost the genes for making gastric acids and enzymes.
- Many cancers of adults are associated with aging. Now comes research showing that in general aging cells and cancer cells may look and act alike in many ways.
- If you happen to have a old thermocycler or automated sequencer gathering dust in your lab or attic, science historians — who are trying to gather the machines that made the field of genomics bloom — would like to talk to you.
- Oh, and I’m a little late to the game, because this has been out for a while, but if you haven’t seen this Beauty of Mathematics video yet, you should. It’s only a couple of minutes, and is just a pleasing glimpse into how math is part of our everyday lives without us realizing it.