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two-way communication is possible with a single quantum particle

communication is a two-way street. thanks to quantum mechanics, that adage applies even if you’ve got only one particle to transmit messages with.using a single photon, or particle of light, two people can simultaneously send information to one another, scientists report in a new pair of papers. the feat relies on a quirk of quantum mechanics — superposition, the phenomenon through which particles can effectively occupy two places at once.sending information via quantum particles is a popular research subject, thanks to the promise of unhackable quantum communication (sn: 12/23/17, p. 27). the new studies specify a previously unidentified twist on that type of technique. “sometimes you overlook a cool idea, and then it's just literally right in front of your nose,” says university...





how to build a human brain

in a white lab coat and blue latex gloves, neda vishlaghi peers through a light microscope at six milky-white blobs. each is about the size of a couscous grain, bathed in the pale orange broth of a petri dish. with tweezers in one hand and surgical scissors in the other, she deftly snips one tiny clump in half.when growing human brains, sometimes you need to do some pruning.the blobs are 8-week-old bits of brainlike tissue. while they wouldn’t be mistaken for lilliputian-sized brains, some of their fine-grained features bear a remarkable resemblance to the human cerebral cortex, home to our memories, decision making and other high-level cognitive powers.vishlaghi created these “minibrains” at the eli and edythe broad center of regenerative medicine and stem cell research at ucla, whe...





the last wild horses aren’t truly wild

when it comes to wild claims, hold your horses.free-roaming przewalski’s horses of central asia are often called the last of the wild horses, the only living equines never domesticated. but a new genetic analysis of ancient horse bones suggests that these horses have a tamed ancestor after all, making them feral rather than wild.the findings also debunk the idea that these domesticated ancestors — known as botai horses —gave rise to all other modern horses. that leaves the progenitors of today’s domesticated horses a mystery, researchers report online february 22 in science.the earliest known domesticated horses were those of the ancient botai people in northern kazakhstan (sn: 3/28/09, p. 15). botai sites dating to around 5,500 years ago are scattered with remnants of harnesses an...





global virome project is hunting for more than 1 million unknown viruses

to play good defense against the next viral pandemic, it helps to know the other team’s offense. but the 263 known viruses that circulate in humans represent less than 0.1 percent of the viruses suspected to be lurking out there that could infect people, researchers report in the feb. 23 science.the global virome project, to be launched in 2018, aims to close that gap. the international collaboration will survey viruses harbored by birds and mammals to identify candidates that might be zoonotic, or able to jump to humans. based on the viral diversity in two species known to host emerging human diseases — indian flying foxes and rhesus macaques — the team estimates there are about 1.67 million unknown viruses still to be discovered in the 25 virus families surveyed. of those, between...





the last wild horses aren’t truly wild

when it comes to wild claims, hold your horses.free-roaming przewalski’s horses of central asia are often called the last of the wild horses, the only living equines never domesticated. but a new genetic analysis of ancient horse bones suggests that these horses have a tamed ancestor after all, making them feral rather than wild.the findings also debunk the idea that these domesticated ancestors — known as botai horses —gave rise to all other modern horses. that leaves the progenitors of today’s domesticated horses a mystery, researchers report online february 22 in science.the earliest known domesticated horses were those of the ancient botai people in northern kazakhstan (sn: 3/28/09, p. 15). botai sites dating to around 5,500 years ago are scattered with remnants of harnesses an...





cave art suggests neandertals were ancient humans’ mental equals

neandertals drew on cave walls and made personal ornaments long before encountering homo sapiens, two new studies find. these discoveries paint bulky, jut-jawed neandertals as the mental equals of ancient humans, scientists say.rock art depicting abstract shapes and hand stencils in three spanish caves dates back to at least 64,800 years ago, researchers report in the feb. 23 science. if these new estimates hold up, the spanish finds become the world’s oldest known examples of cave art, preceding evidence of humans’ arrival in europe by at least 20,000 years (sn online: 11/2/11).the finds raise the possibility that “neandertals took modern humans into caves and showed them how to paint,” says archaeologist francesco d’errico of the university of bordeaux in france.personal orname...





global virome project is hunting for more than 1 million unknown viruses

to play good defense against the next viral pandemic, it helps to know the other team’s offense. but the 263 known viruses that circulate in humans represent less than 0.1 percent of the viruses suspected to be lurking out there that could infect people, researchers report in the feb. 23 science.the global virome project, to be launched in 2018, aims to close that gap. the international collaboration will survey viruses harbored by birds and mammals to identify candidates that might be zoonotic, or able to jump to humans. based on the viral diversity in two species known to host emerging human diseases — indian flying foxes and rhesus macaques — the team estimates there are about 1.67 million unknown viruses still to be discovered in the 25 virus families surveyed. of those, between...





new mapping shows just how much fishing impacts the world’s seas

fishing has left a hefty footprint on earth. oceans cover more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface, and industrial fishing occurred across 55 percent of that ocean area in 2016, researchers report in the feb. 23 science. in comparison, only 34 percent of earth’s land area is used for agriculture or grazing.previous efforts to quantify global fishing have relied on a hodgepodge of scant data culled from electronic monitoring systems on some vessels, logbooks and onboard observers. but over the last 15 years, most commercial-scale ships have been outfitted with automatic identification system (ais) transceivers, a tracking system meant to help ships avoid collisions.in the new study, the researchers examined 22 billion ais positions from 2012 through 2016. using a computer trained wi...





an amateur astronomer caught a supernova explosion on camera

an amateur astronomer caught a supernova on camera during the explosion’s earliest moments, giving physicists a glimpse of a long-sought phase of stellar death.víctor buso spotted the supernova from his rooftop observatory in rosario, argentina, on september 20, 2016, when he aimed his telescope straight overhead at spiral galaxy ngc 613 to test a new camera. to avoid letting in too much light from the city sky — rosario is a city of about 1.2 million people — he took a series of about 100 images that were each exposed for 20 seconds, spanning about an hour and a half.over the last half-hour of buso’s observations, the supernova appeared and then doubled in brightness. in 2013, astronomers spotted a supernova within hours of its explosion (sn online: 2/13/17), but this is one of t...





readers weigh in on human gene editing and more

mission: marsthe possibility that human visitors could carry earth-based microbes to the red planet has roiled the mars research community, lisa grossman reported in “how to keep humans from ruining the search for life on mars” (sn: 1/20/18, p. 22).reader bruce merchant speculated that mars would need a protective global magnetic field to sustain a life-friendly environment. but the planet’s core cannot generate such a field, he wrote. merchant suggested that the presence or absence of magnetic fields might be one way to tell whether a planet could support life. “can we determine that for exoplanets?” he asked.it’s unclear if a planet needs a core that produces a magnetic field to support any kind of life, grossman says, “but that question is definitely something astrobio...





building a bright future for science journalism

as a longtime reader of science news, i’m delighted to join the staff of this remarkable publication, which has been explaining the complexities of science, medicine and technology for more than 90 years. science news hasn’t been standing still; people can find our breaking news and in-depth coverage in the flagship magazine as well as on thescience news website, which drew more than 10 million users in 2017, and also on facebook (2.7 million followers) and twitter (another 2.7 million).science news for students and thescience news in high schools program, which connects students in over 4,300 high schools and their teachers with the magazine, are introducing the next generation to key issues in research, science policy and public health that affect not just the future of science, ...





50 years ago, early organ transplants brought triumph and tragedy

kidneys lead the fieldwhile the drama of human heart transplants has grasped the public interest, kidney transplants are ahead in the field…. although only three little girls are now surviving liver transplants, the liver is a promising field for replacement…. the donor, of course, must be dead; no one can live without his liver. — science news, march 2, 1968updatekidney patients, who could receive organs from family members, had up to a 75 percent one-year survival rate in 1968. liver recipients were less lucky, having to rely on unrelated, postmortem donations. liver patients’ immune systems often attacked the new organ and one-year survival was a low 30 percent. cyclosporine, an immune-suppressing drug available since 1983, has made a big difference. now, about 75 percent ...





household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution

austin, texas — to reduce your impact on air quality, you might expect to trade in your gas-guzzling clunker of a car — but you can also unplug those air fresheners. in urban areas, emissions from consumer goods such as paint, cleaning supplies and personal care products now contribute as much to ozone and fine particulate matter in the atmosphere as do emissions from burning gasoline or diesel fuel.the finding is largely a sign of success, study coauthor brian mcdonald said february 15 during a news conference at the annual meeting of the american association for the advancement of science. steps taken to clean up car exhaust over the past few decades have had a huge effect, and as a result, “the sources of air pollution are now becoming more diverse in cities,” said mcdonald, a ...





look to penguins to track antarctic changes

portland, ore. — penguins preserve records of antarctic environmental change. the birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported february 12 at the american geophysical union’s 2018 ocean sciences meeting.the antarctic environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. overfishing has led to a decline in krill, small swimming crustaceans that are a key food source for birds, whales, fish and penguins in the southern ocean. climate change is altering wind directions, creating open water regions in the sea ice that become hot spots for life.these changes have cascading effects on food webs and on the cycling of nutrients. “penguins are excellent bioarchives of this change,” says k...





new fossils are redefining what makes a dinosaur

“there’s a very faint dimple here,” sterling nesbitt says, holding up a palm-sized fossil to the light. the fossil, a pelvic bone, belonged to a creature called teleocrater rhadinus. the slender, 2-meter-long reptile ran on all fours and lived 245 million years ago, about 10 million to 15 million years before scientists think dinosaurs first appeared.nesbitt, a paleontologist at virginia tech in blacksburg, tilts the bone toward the overhead light, illuminating a small depression in the fossil. the dent, about the size of a thumbprint, marks the place where the leg bone fit into the pelvis. in a true dinosaur, there would be a complete hole there in the hip socket, not just a depression. the dimple is like a waving red flag: nope, not a dinosaur.the hole in the hip socket probabl...





look to penguins to track antarctic changes

portland, ore. — penguins preserve records of antarctic environmental change. the birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported february 12 at the american geophysical union’s 2018 ocean sciences meeting.the antarctic environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. overfishing has led to a decline in krill, small swimming crustaceans that are a key food source for birds, whales, fish and penguins in the southern ocean. climate change is altering wind directions, creating open water regions in the sea ice that become hot spots for life.these changes have cascading effects on food webs and on the cycling of nutrients. “penguins are excellent bioarchives of this change,” says k...





household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution

austin, texas — to reduce your impact on air quality, you might expect to trade in your gas-guzzling clunker of a car — but you can also unplug those air fresheners. in urban areas, emissions from consumer goods such as paint, cleaning supplies and personal care products now contribute as much to ozone and fine particulate matter in the atmosphere as do emissions from burning gasoline or diesel fuel.the finding is largely a sign of success, study coauthor brian mcdonald said february 15 during a news conference at the annual meeting of the american association for the advancement of science. steps taken to clean up car exhaust over the past few decades have had a huge effect, and as a result, “the sources of air pollution are now becoming more diverse in cities,” said mcdonald, a ...





serendipitous supernova explosion caught on camera

an amateur astronomer caught a supernova on camera during the explosion’s earliest moments, giving physicists a glimpse of a long-sought phase of stellar death.víctor buso spotted the supernova from his rooftop observatory in rosario, argentina, on september 20, 2016, when he aimed his telescope straight overhead at spiral galaxy ngc 613 to test a new camera. to avoid letting in too much light from the city sky — rosario is a city of about 1.2 million people — he took a series of about 100 images that were each exposed for 20 seconds, spanning about an hour and a half.over the last half-hour of buso’s observations, the supernova appeared and then doubled in brightness. in 2013, astronomers spotted a supernova within hours of its explosion (sn online: 2/13/17), but this is one of t...





cutting off a brain enzyme reversed alzheimer’s plaques in mice

knocking back an enzyme swept mouse brains clean of protein globs that are a sign of alzheimer’s disease. reducing the enzyme is known to keep these nerve-damaging plaques from forming. but the disappearance of existing plaques was unexpected, researchers report online february 14 in the journal of experimental medicine.the brains of mice engineered to develop alzheimer’s disease were riddled with these plaques, clumps of amyloid-beta protein fragments, by the time the animals were 10 months old. but the brains of 10-month-old alzheimer’s mice that had a severely reduced amount of an enzyme called bace1 were essentially clear of new and old plaques.studies rarely demonstrate the removal of existing plaques, says neuroscientist john cirrito of washington university in st. louis who wa...





how to build a human brain

in a white lab coat and blue latex gloves, neda vishlaghi peers through a light microscope at six milky-white blobs. each is about the size of a couscous grain, bathed in the pale orange broth of a petri dish. with tweezers in one hand and surgical scissors in the other, she deftly snips one tiny clump in half.when growing human brains, sometimes you need to do some pruning.the blobs are 8-week-old bits of brainlike tissue. while they wouldn’t be mistaken for lilliputian-sized brains, some of their fine-grained features bear a remarkable resemblance to the human cerebral cortex, home to our memories, decision making and other high-level cognitive powers.vishlaghi created these “minibrains” at the eli and edythe broad center of regenerative medicine and stem cell research at ucla, whe...