(Clockwise) ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org); NASA/Goddard/Adler/University of Chicago/Wesleyan University; Professor Gareth Jones

Top Stories: Microbes to Make You Thin, Universal DNA Sequencing, and More

NIH Studies Explore Promise of Sequencing Babies’ Genomes

In a few years, new parents may go home from the hospital with not just a bundle of joy, but with the complete sequence of their baby’s DNA as well. A new $25 million National Institutes of Health research program will explore the promise—and ethical challenges—of sequencing every newborn’s genome.

Is a Slim Physique Contagious?

Weight gain isn’t as simple as calories in versus calories out. The microbes in our gut also play a part in how much we weigh. Now, researchers have shown that certain gut microbes found in lean mice can prevent obesity, even when given to mice that start out chubby. The catch? The bacterial takeover needs a healthy, high-fiber diet in order to stick.

Bats and Dolphins Evolved Echolocation in Same Way

Dolphins and bats don't have much in common, but they share a superpower: echolocation. Now, a study shows that this ability arose independently in each group of mammals from the same genetic mutations. The work suggests that evolution sometimes arrives at new traits through the same sequence of steps, even in very different animals. The research also implies that this convergent evolution is common—and hidden—within genomes, potentially complicating the task of deciphering some evolutionary relationships between organisms. 

A Racing Game to Rejuvenate the Brain?

Fighting the mental effects of aging is tricky. But NeuroRacer, a new racing video game created by neuroscientists, shows promise in reversing some signs of mental decline. An important question with such games is whether they can strengthen skills that are useful away from a computer. NeuroRacer seems to deliver: People who trained with the game saw improvements in multitasking, memory, and attention and were able to maintain at least some of these skills months after training.

Chilean Union Leader Speaks on ALMA Strike

For 2 weeks, observations at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, the world’s largest radio telescope, have been at a standstill, due to an ongoing strike by the 195-member ALMA workers union. Science chatted with the president of the union to get his take on the situation.

A Change Is in the (Interstellar) Wind

Earth could be in for some turbulence. Our solar system travels through space. Right now, it’s moving through an expanse of gas called the Local Interstellar Cloud. Astronomers have discovered signs of potential change in the wind inside the cloud. If the shift is real and continues for hundreds to thousands of years—a dicey extrapolation—it could be a harbinger of more dramatic changes in our solar system, including greater exposure to harmful galactic cosmic rays.

Posted in Scientific Community