Curiosity rover decides—by itself—what to investigate on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012, in part to analyze rocks to see whether the Red Planet was ever habitable (or inhabited). But now the robot has gone off script, picking out its own targets for analysis—precisely as planned.
Computers are starting to reason like humans
How many parks are near the new home you’re thinking of buying? What’s the best dinner-wine pairing at a restaurant? These everyday questions require relational reasoning, an important component of higher thought that has been difficult for artificial intelligence (AI) to master. Now, researchers at Google’s DeepMind have developed a simple algorithm to handle such reasoning—and it has already beaten humans at a complex image comprehension test.
Can fake names tease out NIH reviewer bias?
When the label “white male” is attached to a research grant application, do peer reviewers give it a better score?
Potential building block of life found in very young star system
Two teams of researchers report today that they have detected a prebiotic molecule—a potential building block of life—around newly formed sun-like stars. The molecule, methyl isocyanate, has a structure that is chemically similar to a peptide bond, which is what holds amino acids together in proteins. The finding suggests that quite complex organic molecules may be created very early in the evolution of star systems.
Ravens remember people who suckered them into an unfair deal
Ravens can not only differentiate between “fair” and “unfair” individuals, but they retain that ability for at least a month
Superantibiotic is 25,000 times more potent than its predecessor
The world’s last line of defense against disease-causing bacteria just got a new warrior: vancomycin 3.0. Its predecessor—vancomycin 1.0—has been used since 1958 to combat dangerous infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. But as the rise of resistant bacteria has blunted its effectiveness, scientists have engineered more potent versions of the drug—vancomycin 2.0. Now, version 3.0 has a unique three-pronged approach to killing bacteria that could give doctors a powerful new weapon against drug-resistant bacteria and help researchers engineer more durable antibiotics.
Earliest evidence for dog breeding found on remote Siberian island
The hunter-gatherers of Zhokhov Island were a hardy folk. Nine thousand years ago, they survived frigid year-round temperatures in animal-skin tents some 500 kilometers north of what is now the Russian mainland, and they were the only people ever known to hunt large numbers of polar bears without firearms. Now it appears these ancient Arctic dwellers did something even more remarkable: They may have been among the first humans to breed dogs for a particular purpose.
Rice plant engineered with a ‘tunable’ immune system could fight multiple diseases at once
A strain of rice that can rapidly and reversibly ramp up its immune system in bursts that are strong enough to fend off offending pathogens but short enough to avoid the stunted growth seen in previously engineered crops.
There’s no such thing as a ‘pure’ European—or anyone else
Using revolutionary new methods to analyze DNA and the isotopes found in bones and teeth, scientists are exposing the tangled roots of peoples around the world, as varied as Germans, ancient Philistines, and Kashmiris. Few of us are actually the direct descendants of the ancient skeletons found in our backyards or historic homelands. Only a handful of groups today, such as Australian Aborigines, have deep bloodlines untainted by mixing with immigrants.
Earth’s forests just grew 9% in a new satellite survey
Using satellite imagery, a new study has found hidden forests all over the world—almost enough for a second Amazon—in areas with little moisture known as drylands.