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This Week In Science: Building A Better Particle Accelerator, Global Warming Allergies And Squirrels On Steroids

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Seven days; lots of science in the news. Here’s our roundup of this week’s most notable and quotable items:

new particle accelerator design that uses a chamber filled with a hot plasma of lithium gas could form the basis of smaller, more powerful atom-smashers than the Large Hadron Collider. People are just as good at raising baby penguins as the birds themselves, but a rover disguised as a penguin proved to be better than a person at infiltrating penguin colonies. Scientists captured the best view yet of planetary formation in action, snapping a picture of concentric dust rings surrounding the star HL Tau.

The initial analysis of the Antares rocket crash last week points to a problem with a pump in the Soviet-era engines used to propel the private spacecraft. Investigators probing the Virgin Galactic space plane crash, also from last week, are examining possible pilot error, due to the fact the craft’s movable tail section was prematurely unlocked.

Researchers identified brain regions involved in hallucinations of ghostly presences, and used this knowledge to make a robot that could induce the feeling of an invisible visitor. A new treatment being developed for methamphetamine addiction uses gene therapy to create anti-meth antibodies that remove the drug’s high. Colon cancer rates are on the rise among U.S. adults under 50 years old; doctors aren’t sure why. A newly discovered fossil of an amphibious “fish-lizard” may be the missing link between ichthyosaurs—sea-going reptiles—and their land-based ancestors.

Children exposed to high levels of air pollution are five times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Arctic ground squirrels (both male and female) get pumped up on steroids to survive the Canadian winter, and manage to avoid “roid rage” because only their muscles recognize the hormones. Global warming may make your pollen allergies a lot worse. According to a group of computational musicologists, the 1996 Spice Girls song “Wannabe” is the catchiest song of all time.

Featured image: Planet formation captured around the star HL Tau by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Credit: NRAO



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