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  • Feature

    Year in review: Epigenome makes its debut

    In a landmark event more than a decade ago, geneticists unveiled the human genetic instruction book. This year, the book was turned into a movie adaptation in 3-D: Researchers cataloged how chemical modifications fold, compress and unwind the static DNA over time and how those modifications control when genes are on or off. 

    The crew of researchers involved in the Roadmap...

    12/15/2015 - 06:56 Epigenetics, Genetics, Cells
  • Feature

    Year in review: Big stride for superconductivity

    After a two-decade hiatus, superconductors are again heating up.

    A compound of hydrogen and sulfur, when crushed at more than a million times Earth’s standard atmospheric pressure, appears to whisk electrical current along without resistance at temperatures up to 203 kelvins. That’s not exactly balmy — it’s −70° Celsius — but the current record holder performs its magic at...

    12/15/2015 - 06:55 Condensed Matter
  • Feature

    Year in review: Alzheimer's protein behaves like a prion

    Under rare conditions, an Alzheimer’s-related protein may have jumped between people, scientists reported this year (SN: 10/17/15, p. 12). If true, that observation, the first of its kind, could recast the way scientists view the disease. “This was a highly unusual finding,” says John Collinge of University College London.

    Scientists already had hints that the protein in question,...

    12/15/2015 - 06:54 Neuroscience, Health
  • Feature

    Year in review: Best evidence yet for water on Mars

    There’s water on Mars. Yes, again.

    In the most highly publicized Mars discovery of the year, NASA announced that its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft had spotted hydrated salt minerals on the Red Planet (SN: 10/31/15, p. 17). The salty streaks appear in the same places as dark, hillside marks that lengthen and shrink with the Martian seasons. Brine probably oozes from the...

    12/15/2015 - 06:53 Planetary Science, Astrobiology
  • Feature

    Year in review: Pacific Plate slides over slick layer

    With 6,000 kilograms of dynamite and an ear to the ground, a team of geologists shook the understanding of plate tectonics this year.

    Ricocheting vibrations from the dynamite blasts, intentionally set off over two nights in New Zealand, gave geologists their first clear glimpse of the underside of a tectonic plate. The work revealed an underlying layer of partially melted...

    12/15/2015 - 06:52 Earth
  • Feature

    Year in review: Cancer genetics grows up

    Personalized genomics has been heralded as the next big weapon in the war on cancer. But researchers analyzing various tissue types this year, looking for mutations linked to the disease, have found that not all genetic alterations should be targeted equally.

    “Genetics is changing oncology for the good,” says Benjamin Kipp, an expert in clinical genetics at the Mayo Clinic in...

    12/15/2015 - 06:51 Genetics
  • Feature

    Year in review: Woes of artificial lighting add up for wildlife

    Add dodging death, flirting and mothering to the tasks artificial light can discombobulate in wild animals.

    Street lights take away the street smarts from normally wary moths, researchers reported this year. When bathed in LED illumination, free-flying moths are less likely to plunge or spiral downward at the sound of an incoming predatory bat (SN Online: 8/4/15).

    ...

    12/15/2015 - 06:50 Animals, Conservation, Ecology
  • Feature

    Year in review: Collider creates pentaquarks

    Among the haul of subatomic particles discovered in 2015 are two quark quintets. Until recently, quarks, one of the fundamental units of matter, had been known to come only in clumps of three (to form such particles as protons and neutrons) or sometimes two.

    Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva spotted signs of the “pentaquark” particles while studying the decay of...

    12/15/2015 - 06:45 Particle Physics
  • Feature

    Year in review: ‘Speed cells’ help make navigation possible

    Tucked away in the brain, cellular speedometers clock a rat’s swiftness. These “speed cells,” reported in Nature this year, were a missing piece in science’s understanding of how the brain creates an internal map of the world.

    Two of the authors, Edvard and May-Britt Moser of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, are well-acquainted with these maps; the...

    12/15/2015 - 06:45 Neuroscience, Cells
  • Feature

    Year in review: BPA alternatives aren't benign

    A popular alternative to bisphenol A isn’t as benign as people had thought, at least not in lab animals.

    After a growing body of research identified hormone-mimicking effects from BPA — a compound found in some plastics, dental sealants and cash register receipts — consumers began reaching for BPA-free products. But there is now evidence that at least one of the chemical substitutes...

    12/15/2015 - 06:30 Toxicology, Pollution