December 24, 2016 | Science News

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December 24, 2016

Editor's Note

Editor in chief Eva Emerson discusses the top science news stories of 2016.
By Eva Emerson | December 12, 2016
Magazine issue: Vol. 190, No. 13 , December 24, 2016 , p. 2

Features

illustration of Planet 9

Feature

These findings would have rocked the scientific world, if only the evidence were more convincing.
Enga cultural show

Feature

DNA studies put new twists on timing of ancient human migrations – but genetics alone are not enough to tell the full story.
searching for dark matter

Feature

Physicists are facing two failures this year with no detections of dark matter particles and no signs of supersymmetry from the Large Hadron Collider.
uphill battle

Feature

The fight against infectious diseases is far from over. The last several decades have seen many outbreaks and global pandemic scares.
AlphaGo versus Lee Sedol

Feature

AlphaGo’s triumph over its human opponent provides a glimpse into the future of artificial intelligence.
Ozone hole

Feature

Research this year confirms that the Antarctic ozone hole is healing — an international success attributed to cooperation and new technologies.
amyloid-beta

Feature

Researchers will now test whether a treatment that swept away amyloid brain plaques also improves cognitive performance.
engineered bacterium

Feature

A synthetic cell reported this year jettisons unnecessary genes and embraces human design principles.
ivory gull

Feature

Researchers are studying the complex biological consequences of polar melting and opening Arctic passageways.
rattlesnake

Feature

Scientists filled in the details of some famous evolutionary tales in 2016 — and discovered a few surprises about creatures large and small.
proxima b

Feature

If people ever travel beyond the solar system, the newly discovered exoplanet around Proxima Centauri is likely to be a first stop.
Embryo

Feature

Safety and ethical concerns surround controversial mitochondrial replacement therapy.
Brazilian woman with child

Feature

The increase in microcephaly in Brazil has spread fear of Zika infection across the Americas.
illustration of gravitational waves

Feature

The first direct detection of gravitational waves will open a new window on black holes and introduce a new era in astronomy.
Top 10 science stories of 2016

Feature

The detection of gravitational waves takes the top spot in our top 10 stories of 2016. Also on the list: Zika’s devastation, a nearby exoplanet discovery and more.
Jupiter

Feature

Science News writers reveal what they are watching for — and hoping for — in the year ahead.
Flint, Mich., water tower

Feature

Drug use continued to threaten the health and safety of the American public in 2016, while a hidden menace in drinking water remained a worry in Michigan.
self-driving cars

Feature

Scientific and technical experts weigh in on the biggest hurdles for autonomous vehicles, and how ongoing research will help.

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Help us keep you informed.

Editor's Note

Editor in chief Eva Emerson discusses the top science news stories of 2016.

Features

illustration of Planet 9
These findings would have rocked the scientific world, if only the evidence were more convincing.
rattlesnake
Scientists filled in the details of some famous evolutionary tales in 2016 — and discovered a few surprises about creatures large and small.
Flint, Mich., water tower
Drug use continued to threaten the health and safety of the American public in 2016, while a hidden menace in drinking water remained a worry in Michigan.
Jupiter
Science News writers reveal what they are watching for — and hoping for — in the year ahead.
Top 10 science stories of 2016
The detection of gravitational waves takes the top spot in our top 10 stories of 2016. Also on the list: Zika’s devastation, a nearby exoplanet discovery and more.
illustration of gravitational waves
The first direct detection of gravitational waves will open a new window on black holes and introduce a new era in astronomy.
Brazilian woman with child
The increase in microcephaly in Brazil has spread fear of Zika infection across the Americas.
Embryo
Safety and ethical concerns surround controversial mitochondrial replacement therapy.
Enga cultural show
DNA studies put new twists on timing of ancient human migrations – but genetics alone are not enough to tell the full story.
ivory gull
Researchers are studying the complex biological consequences of polar melting and opening Arctic passageways.
engineered bacterium
A synthetic cell reported this year jettisons unnecessary genes and embraces human design principles.
amyloid-beta
Researchers will now test whether a treatment that swept away amyloid brain plaques also improves cognitive performance.
Ozone hole
Research this year confirms that the Antarctic ozone hole is healing — an international success attributed to cooperation and new technologies.
AlphaGo versus Lee Sedol
AlphaGo’s triumph over its human opponent provides a glimpse into the future of artificial intelligence.
proxima b
If people ever travel beyond the solar system, the newly discovered exoplanet around Proxima Centauri is likely to be a first stop.
self-driving cars
Scientific and technical experts weigh in on the biggest hurdles for autonomous vehicles, and how ongoing research will help.

News

Reindeer butts
Unseasonably scant sea ice may feed rain storms inland that lead to ice catastrophes that kill Yamal reindeer and threaten herders’ way of life.
mouse microglia
Parkinson’s disease symptoms might be driven by gut microbes
bismuth
Bismuth conducts electricity with no resistance at temperatures near absolute zero, despite lack of mobile electrons.
silicon-based life illustration
A few tweaks to an enzyme help it link carbon to silicon — a match not found in nature.
common food allergies
Gaps in understanding food allergies cause confusion and make it difficult to prevent, diagnose and treat them.
monkeys
Low social status tips immune system toward inflammation seen in chronic diseases, a monkey study shows.
Philistine remains
Burial site offers new look at Israelites’ mysterious enemies.
environmental exposures
Exposure to things in the environment may change chemical tags on DNA and proteins, but it’s still unclear how to use that data to assess health risks.
tobacco leaves
Shortening plants’ recovery time after blasts of excessive light can boost crop growth.
Sputnik Planitia
Sputnik Planitia, the left half of Pluto’s heart-shaped region, might have been carved out by the weight of thick layers of ice built up billions of years ago.
Ancient glass
Ancient Mesopotamians lagged behind Egyptians as glassmakers.
mouse hippocampus
Young blood may not save the brain, by one measure at least.
Monk remains
Middle-ear ailments probably had little impact on early Christian monks’ lives.
fossil of Eoconfuciusornis
New molecular clues in 130-million-year-old bird fossil could help paleontologists firm up case for ancient color in dinosaurs.
Egyptian stone slab
Contested study indicates ancient Israelites developed first alphabet from Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Notebook

macaroni penguins
After long migratory swims, crested penguins lay one small and one larger egg.
bag of salad greens
Juice from torn-up leafy greens helps Salmonella spread in bagged salads.
people toasting
50 years later, scientists are still searching for genes that influence drinking.
penicillin rash
Most people are either mislabeled with a penicillin allergy or get over it with time, and doctors don’t always think to check.
9 week ultrasound
Pap smear during pregnancy could offer an early way to test for fetal genetic disorders.

Reviews & Previews

2016 Book Covers
Science News writers and editors compiled a list of the books they were most excited about this year.

Letters to the Editor

Coral engineering, ancient almanacs and more in reader feedback.

Science Visualized

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a barge
Successful landings by SpaceX and Blue Origin raise the prospect of cheaper and more efficient spaceflight.