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Muons — massive, unstable cousins of the electron — seem to be more magnetic than the standard model of particle physics predicts. If this result holds up, it could ultimately force major changes in theoretical physics and reveal the existence of completely new fundamental particles. The Muon g – 2 experiment upheld sensational findings, first announced in 2001, that showed the muon’s magnetic moment — a measure of the magnetic field it generates — is slightly larger than theory had predicted. The results are “extremely encouraging” for those hoping to discover other particles, says physicist Susan Gardner.
Scientists have sequenced the oldest Homo sapiens DNA on record, which showed that many of Europe’s first humans had Neanderthals in their family trees. All present-day people whose ancestry isn’t solely African carry Neanderthal DNA, but there are questions about when and how the genetic mixing occurred. Three individuals found in Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria, dated to between 45,900 and 42,600 years old, had “huge chunks” of Neanderthal DNA and probably had Neanderthal ancestors as recently as the past six or seven generations. A woman found in the Zlatý kůň cave in the Czech Republic is thought to be well over 45,000 years old and has Neanderthal ancestry going back considerably longer: 70–80 generations. None of the individuals are related to later Europeans, but the Bacho Kiro people shared a connection with contemporary East Asians and Native Americans. The research adds to growing evidence that modern humans mixed regularly with Neanderthals and other extinct relatives.
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) looks set to receive a US$100-billion boost as part of a $2.3-trillion proposal to revitalize the United States’s ageing infrastructure. Lawmakers plan to introduce a technology directorate, including an agency to commercialize promising climate-related technologies. If the plan comes to pass, it will be a significant expansion for the nation’s second-largest research-funding agency, which currently has an $8.5-billion budget.
Two treatments are showing promise for treating addiction to one of the most hard-to-quit drugs: methamphetamine. In one, researchers combined an opioid blocker with an antidepressant to help quash cravings and raise dopamine levels in the brains of people addicted to meth. In a trial of 403 heavy users, 13.6% of people on the regimen stayed mostly meth-free over 6 weeks, compared with 2.5% of people given a placebo. The other is a psychosocial intervention called contingency management, which reinforces abstinence with prizes. It is showing promise in the US Department of Veterans Affairs health system.
Features & opinion
During the pandemic, technology companies have been pitching their emotion-recognition software for remotely monitoring workers and even children, writes Kate Crawford, who studies the social implications of artificial intelligence (AI). But there is deep scientific disagreement about whether AI can detect emotions. Digging into the evidence, Crawford argues that these technologies are reminiscent of discredited ‘lie detector’ tests and should be regulated to protect those who might fall foul of unwarranted uses.
Protecting the oceans is not as simple as the hit Netflix documentary Seaspiracy would have you believe, argues marine ecologist and writer Josh Silberg. The documentary’s conclusion that ending global seafood consumption is the best way to protect the oceans lacks nuance and ignores the importance of fishing in many communities around the world, writes Silberg.