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This Week in Science: Plague Gerbils, Spilling Coffee, and the Downside of Dishwashers

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

The waves of bubonic plague that washed through medieval Europe might have been driven by gerbils, not rats.

Doses of the “love hormone” oxytocin kept rats from getting drunk, suggesting a possible treatment for alcoholism.

Dragonflies have superior color vision, thanks to eyes containing up to 30 different kinds of opsins, a group of light-sensitive proteins; humans, by comparison, possess merely three types of opsins.

The ideal length of eyelashes is one-third the width of the eye.

It’s 12 billion times larger than the sun—this newly discovered black hole is so big that it’s challenging theories about how black holes grow.

After leaving Africa, groups of ancient humans lingered in Arabia for much longer than initially thought based on the trail of stone tools throughout the region.

A Google artificial intelligence program has learned to play Atari video games—and it’s already starting to beat people at them.

Physicists figured out why a cup of coffee is more likely to spill than a foamy latte.

Swedish children from families with a dishwasher are more likely to develop allergies. Likewise, kids who don’t eat peanuts before age 5 are seven times more likely to end up with a peanut allergy than those who scarfed them down when they were younger.

Three men, all suffering from severe nerve damage, had their hands amputated and replaced with bionic prosthetics that they can manipulate with their brains.

The periodic eruption of geysers like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful is due to kinks in their natural plumbing—bends and twists in underground rock passages that feed the vent trap steam for a time until it builds up into a boiling upsurge.

So-called basket studies may help fast-track different drug treatments on range of cancers.

(Illustration by: Sarah Peavey)


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