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Researchers found that AI could increase the creativity of individual writers, but it also led to many similar stories.

Researchers found that AI could increase the creativity of individual writers, but it also led to many similar stories. Moor Studio/Getty Images hide caption

Research shows AI can boost creativity for some, but at a cost

July 12, 2024 • Amateur writers using AI tools produced stories that were deemed more creative, but the research suggests the creativity of the group overall went down.

The star cluster Omega Centauri contains millions of stars. The movement of some stars suggests that an intermediate-sized black hole lies at its center.

The star cluster Omega Centauri contains millions of stars. The movement of some stars suggests that an intermediate-sized black hole lies at its center. NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA hide caption

Astronomers spot a mysterious black hole nestled in a cluster of stars

July 10, 2024 • A report from Nature shows that astronomers may have found a medium-sized black hole, a kind they've long looked for.

Astronomers spot a mysterious black hole nestled in a cluster of stars.

Like humans, these ants can perform leg amputations to save lives

Some ants, like the Florida carpenter ant, treat the injured legs of comrades, and will even perform medical amputations when necessary. Zen Rial/Getty Images hide caption

Like humans, these ants can perform leg amputations to save lives

July 10, 2024 • Some ants herd aphids. Some farm fungi. And now, scientists have realized that when an ant injures its leg, it sometimes will turn to a buddy to perform a lifesaving limb amputation. Not only that — some ants have probably been amputating limbs longer than humans! Today, thanks to the reporting of ant enthusiast and science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce, we behold the medical prowess of the ant.

A generic drug that's used to treat transplant patients has been shown to extend the life span of some animals.

A generic drug that's used to treat transplant patients has been shown to extend the life span of some animals. Guido Mieth/Getty Images hide caption

Shots - Health News

Rapamycin may slow aging. here's one way the drug will be tested.

July 1, 2024 • Longevity researchers are taking a generic drug they think may help extend people's lives. Now a dentist is testing if rapamycin stops gum disease — a canary in the coal mine for age-related diseases.

Anti-aging drug Rapamycin to prevent gum disease 

Paleontologist Dany Azar holds up one of his treasures that he discovered in Lebanon in a piece of amber from the early Cretaceous: The oldest mosquito ever found.

Paleontologist Dany Azar holds up one of his treasures that he discovered in Lebanon in a piece of amber from the early Cretaceous: The oldest mosquito ever found. Ari Daniel/For NPR hide caption

In Lebanon, the 'Amber Man' digs up golden time capsules from the age of the dinosaurs

June 28, 2024 • When dinosaurs reigned some 130 million years ago, flowering plants were taking over the world. That change is sealed in ancient amber specimens on the slopes of Lebanon that Danny Azar knows so well.

Named after the Norse god Loki, meet Lokiceratops, a new horned dinosaur species

Reconstruction of a Lokiceratops rangiformis being surprised by a crocodilian in the 78-million-year-old swamps that would have existed in what is now northern Montana. Andrey Atuchin/Museum of Evolution hide caption

Named after the Norse god Loki, meet Lokiceratops, a new horned dinosaur species

June 28, 2024 • A brand new species of ceratops, or horned dinosaur, was recently discovered in northern Montana. The dinosaur is called Lokiceratops rangiformis , after the Norse god Loki, and is believed to have lived roughly eighty million years ago. The bones of the plant-eating dinosaur were found on private land in an area well known for its large amount of fossils, and at first, researchers thought the bones belonged to another species of dinosaur!

Why you shouldn't worry about invasive Joro spiders

Joro spider sits in the middle of a spider web. GummyBone/Getty Images hide caption

Why you shouldn't worry about invasive Joro spiders

June 14, 2024 • Joro spiders are spreading across the east coast. They are an invasive species that most likely arrived in shipping containers from eastern Asia. Today, we look into why some people find them scary, why to not panic about them and what their trajectory illustrates about the wider issue of invasive species.

Misconduct claims may derail MDMA psychedelic treatment for PTSD

Later this year, the FDA plans to decide whether MDMA can be used to treat PTSD Eva Almqvist/Getty Images hide caption

Misconduct claims may derail MDMA psychedelic treatment for PTSD

June 3, 2024 • People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may soon have a new treatment option: MDMA, the chemical found in ecstasy. In August, the Food and Drug Administration plans to decide whether MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD will be approved for market based on years of research. But serious allegations of research misconduct may derail the approval timeline.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds a press conference following the verdict in his hush-money trial at Trump Tower on May 31, 2024 in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump holds a press conference following the verdict in his hush-money trial at Trump Tower on May 31 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

Trump repeats claims — without evidence — that his trial was rigged

May 31, 2024 • Former President Donald Trump reiterated many of claims — without evidence — that his criminal trial was rigged, a day after a New York jury found him guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Plastic junk? Researchers find tiny particles in men's testicles

Researchers have detected microplastics in human testicles. Volodymyr Zakharov/Getty Images hide caption

Plastic junk? Researchers find tiny particles in men's testicles

May 22, 2024 • The new study has scientists concerned that microplastics may be contributing to reproductive health issues.

To escape hungry bats, these flying beetles create an ultrasound 'illusion'

Harlan Gough holds a recently collected tiger beetle on a tether. Lawrence Reeves hide caption

To escape hungry bats, these flying beetles create an ultrasound 'illusion'

May 22, 2024 • A study of tiger beetles has found a possible explanation for why they produce ultrasound noises right before an echolocating bat swoops in for the kill.

A sea otter in Monterey Bay with a rock anvil on its belly and a scallop in its forepaws.

A sea otter in Monterey Bay with a rock anvil on its belly and a scallop in its forepaws. Jessica Fujii hide caption

When sea otters lose their favorite foods, they can use tools to go after new ones

May 20, 2024 • Some otters rely on tools to bust open hard-shelled prey items like snails, and a new study suggests this tool use is helping them to survive as their favorite, easier-to-eat foods disappear.

On this unassuming trail near LA, bird watchers see something spectacular

Lauren Hill, a graduate student at Cal State LA, holds a bird at the bird banding site at Bear Divide in the San Gabriel Mountains. Grace Widyatmadja/NPR hide caption

On this unassuming trail near LA, bird watchers see something spectacular

May 13, 2024 • At Bear Divide, just outside Los Angeles, you can see a rare spectacle of nature. This is one of the only places in the western United States where you can see bird migration during daylight hours.

AI gets scientists one step closer to mapping the organized chaos in our cells

The inside of a cell is a complicated orchestration of interactions between molecules. Keith Chambers/Science Photo Library hide caption

AI gets scientists one step closer to mapping the organized chaos in our cells

May 13, 2024 • As artificial intelligence seeps into some realms of society, it rushes into others. One area it's making a big difference is protein science — as in the "building blocks of life," proteins! Producer Berly McCoy talks to host Emily Kwong about the newest advance in protein science: AlphaFold3, an AI program from Google DeepMind. Plus, they talk about the wider field of AI protein science and why researchers hope it will solve a range of problems, from disease to the climate.

NOAA Issues First Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Since 2005

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a strong solar flare on May 8, 2024. The Wednesday solar flares kicked off the geomagnetic storm happening this weekend. NASA/SDO hide caption

NOAA Issues First Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Since 2005

May 10, 2024 • Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed a cluster of sunspots on the surface of the sun this week. With them came solar flares that kicked off a severe geomagnetic storm. That storm is expected to last throughout the weekend as at least five coronal mass ejections — chunks of the sun — are flung out into space, towards Earth! NOAA uses a five point scale to rate these storms, and this weekend's storm is a G4. It's expected to produce auroras as far south as Alabama. To contextualize this storm, we are looking back at the largest solar storm on record: the Carrington Event.

In a decade of drug overdoses, more than 320,000 American children lost a parent

Esther Nesbitt lost two of her children to drug overdoses, and her grandchildren are among more than 320,000 who lost parents in the overdose epidemic. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images hide caption

In a decade of drug overdoses, more than 320,000 American children lost a parent

May 8, 2024 • New research documents how many children lost a parent to an opioid or other overdose in the period from 2011 to 2021. Bereaved children face elevated risks to their physical and emotional health.

Largest-ever marine reptile found with help from an 11-year-old girl

This illustration depicts a washed-up Ichthyotitan severnensis carcass on the beach. Sergey Krasovskiy hide caption

Largest-ever marine reptile found with help from an 11-year-old girl

May 6, 2024 • A father and daughter discovered fossil remnants of a giant ichthyosaur that scientists say may have been the largest-known marine reptile to ever swim the seas.

When PTO stands for 'pretend time off': Doctors struggle to take real breaks

A survey shows that doctors have trouble taking full vacations from their high-stress jobs. Even when they do, they often still do work on their time off. Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

Perspective

When pto stands for 'pretend time off': doctors struggle to take real breaks.

May 4, 2024 • What's a typical vacation activity for doctors? Work. A new study finds that most physicians do work on a typical day off. In this essay, a family doctor considers why that is and why it matters.

'Dance Your Ph.D.' winner on science, art, and embracing his identity

Weliton Menário Costa (center) holds a laptop while surrounded by dancers for his music video, "Kangaroo Time." From left: Faux Née Phish (Caitlin Winter), Holly Hazlewood, and Marina de Andrade. Nic Vevers/ANU hide caption

'Dance Your Ph.D.' winner on science, art, and embracing his identity

May 4, 2024 • Weliton Menário Costa's award-winning music video showcases his research on kangaroo personality and behavior — and offers a celebration of human diversity, too.

Orangutan in the wild applied medicinal plant to heal its own injury, biologists say

Researchers in a rainforest in Indonesia spotted an injury on the face of a male orangutan they named Rakus. They were stunned to watch him treat his wound with a medicinal plant. Armas/Suaq Project hide caption

Orangutan in the wild applied medicinal plant to heal its own injury, biologists say

May 3, 2024 • It is "the first known case of active wound treatment in a wild animal with a medical plant," biologist Isabelle Laumer told NPR. She says the orangutan, called Rakus, is now thriving.

Launching an effective bird flu vaccine quickly could be tough, scientists warn

The federal government says it has taken steps toward developing a vaccine to protect against bird flu should it become a threat to humans. skodonnell/Getty Images hide caption

Launching an effective bird flu vaccine quickly could be tough, scientists warn

May 3, 2024 • Federal health officials say the U.S. has the building blocks to make a vaccine to protect humans from bird flu, if needed. But experts warn we're nowhere near prepared for another pandemic.

For birds, siblinghood can be a matter of life or death

A Nazca booby in the Galápagos Islands incubates eggs with its webbed feet. Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

The Science of Siblings

For birds, siblinghood can be a matter of life or death.

May 1, 2024 • Some birds kill their siblings soon after hatching. Other birds spend their whole lives with their siblings and will even risk their lives to help each other.

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Scientists discover a cause of lupus and a possible way to reverse it

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  • Feinberg School of Medicine

The autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus — known as lupus — affects more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. It can result in life-threatening damage to multiple organs including the kidneys, brain and heart. The causes of this disease have long been unclear. Existing treatments often fail to control the disease, the study authors said, and have unintended side effects of reducing the immune system’s ability to fight infections.

But now, Northwestern Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital scientists have discovered a molecular defect that promotes the pathologic immune response in lupus and show that reversing this defect may potentially reverse the disease.

“Up until this point, all therapy for lupus is a blunt instrument. It’s broad immunosuppression,” said co-corresponding author Dr. Jaehyuk Choi, associate professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine dermatologist. “By identifying a cause for this disease, we have found a potential cure that will not have the side effects of current therapies.”

“We’ve identified a fundamental imbalance in the immune responses that patients with lupus make, and we’ve defined specific mediators that can correct this imbalance to dampen the pathologic autoimmune response,” said co-corresponding author Dr. Deepak Rao, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-director of its Center for Cellular Profiling.

In a study published in Nature on July 10, the scientists report a new pathway that drives disease in lupus. There are disease-associated changes in multiple molecules in the blood of patients with lupus. Ultimately, these changes lead to insufficient activation of a pathway controlled by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), which regulates cells’ response to environmental pollutants, bacteria or metabolites, a substance created when the body breaks down food, drugs, chemicals or its own tissue. Insufficient activation of AHR results in too many immune cells that promote the production of disease-causing autoantibodies.

To show this discovery can be leveraged for treatments, the investigators returned the AHR-activating molecules to blood samples from lupus patients. This seemed to reprogram these lupus-causing cells into a type of cell that may promote wound healing from the damage caused by this autoimmune disease.

“We found that if we either activate the AHR pathway with small molecule activators or limit the pathologically excessive interferon in the blood, we can reduce the number of these disease-causing cells,” said Choi, also the Jack W. Graffin Professor at Feinberg. “If these effects are durable, this may be a potential cure.”

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MIT researchers introduce generative AI for databases

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A new tool makes it easier for database users to perform complicated statistical analyses of tabular data without the need to know what is going on behind the scenes.

GenSQL, a generative AI system for databases, could help users make predictions, detect anomalies, guess missing values, fix errors, or generate synthetic data with just a few keystrokes.

For instance, if the system were used to analyze medical data from a patient who has always had high blood pressure, it could catch a blood pressure reading that is low for that particular patient but would otherwise be in the normal range.

GenSQL automatically integrates a tabular dataset and a generative probabilistic AI model, which can account for uncertainty and adjust their decision-making based on new data.

Moreover, GenSQL can be used to produce and analyze synthetic data that mimic the real data in a database. This could be especially useful in situations where sensitive data cannot be shared, such as patient health records, or when real data are sparse.

This new tool is built on top of SQL, a programming language for database creation and manipulation that was introduced in the late 1970s and is used by millions of developers worldwide.

“Historically, SQL taught the business world what a computer could do. They didn’t have to write custom programs, they just had to ask questions of a database in high-level language. We think that, when we move from just querying data to asking questions of models and data, we are going to need an analogous language that teaches people the coherent questions you can ask a computer that has a probabilistic model of the data,” says Vikash Mansinghka ’05, MEng ’09, PhD ’09, senior author of a paper introducing GenSQL and a principal research scientist and leader of the Probabilistic Computing Project in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

When the researchers compared GenSQL to popular, AI-based approaches for data analysis, they found that it was not only faster but also produced more accurate results. Importantly, the probabilistic models used by GenSQL are explainable, so users can read and edit them.

“Looking at the data and trying to find some meaningful patterns by just using some simple statistical rules might miss important interactions. You really want to capture the correlations and the dependencies of the variables, which can be quite complicated, in a model. With GenSQL, we want to enable a large set of users to query their data and their model without having to know all the details,” adds lead author Mathieu Huot, a research scientist in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and member of the Probabilistic Computing Project.

They are joined on the paper by Matin Ghavami and Alexander Lew, MIT graduate students; Cameron Freer, a research scientist; Ulrich Schaechtle and Zane Shelby of Digital Garage; Martin Rinard, an MIT professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL); and Feras Saad ’15, MEng ’16, PhD ’22, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The research was recently presented at the ACM Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation.

Combining models and databases

SQL, which stands for structured query language, is a programming language for storing and manipulating information in a database. In SQL, people can ask questions about data using keywords, such as by summing, filtering, or grouping database records.

However, querying a model can provide deeper insights, since models can capture what data imply for an individual. For instance, a female developer who wonders if she is underpaid is likely more interested in what salary data mean for her individually than in trends from database records.

The researchers noticed that SQL didn’t provide an effective way to incorporate probabilistic AI models, but at the same time, approaches that use probabilistic models to make inferences didn’t support complex database queries.

They built GenSQL to fill this gap, enabling someone to query both a dataset and a probabilistic model using a straightforward yet powerful formal programming language.

A GenSQL user uploads their data and probabilistic model, which the system automatically integrates. Then, she can run queries on data that also get input from the probabilistic model running behind the scenes. This not only enables more complex queries but can also provide more accurate answers.

For instance, a query in GenSQL might be something like, “How likely is it that a developer from Seattle knows the programming language Rust?” Just looking at a correlation between columns in a database might miss subtle dependencies. Incorporating a probabilistic model can capture more complex interactions.   

Plus, the probabilistic models GenSQL utilizes are auditable, so people can see which data the model uses for decision-making. In addition, these models provide measures of calibrated uncertainty along with each answer.

For instance, with this calibrated uncertainty, if one queries the model for predicted outcomes of different cancer treatments for a patient from a minority group that is underrepresented in the dataset, GenSQL would tell the user that it is uncertain, and how uncertain it is, rather than overconfidently advocating for the wrong treatment.

Faster and more accurate results

To evaluate GenSQL, the researchers compared their system to popular baseline methods that use neural networks. GenSQL was between 1.7 and 6.8 times faster than these approaches, executing most queries in a few milliseconds while providing more accurate results.

They also applied GenSQL in two case studies: one in which the system identified mislabeled clinical trial data and the other in which it generated accurate synthetic data that captured complex relationships in genomics.

Next, the researchers want to apply GenSQL more broadly to conduct largescale modeling of human populations. With GenSQL, they can generate synthetic data to draw inferences about things like health and salary while controlling what information is used in the analysis.

They also want to make GenSQL easier to use and more powerful by adding new optimizations and automation to the system. In the long run, the researchers want to enable users to make natural language queries in GenSQL. Their goal is to eventually develop a ChatGPT-like AI expert one could talk to about any database, which grounds its answers using GenSQL queries.   

This research is funded, in part, by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Google, and the Siegel Family Foundation.

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  • Martin Rinard
  • Probabilistic Computing Project
  • Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
  • Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

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SPROUT Awards support 6 novel research collaborations

By patrick gillespie.

From 3D-printing walls that protect against rising sea levels to leveraging machine learning to understand connections that lead to post-traumatic osteoarthritis , the latest of Cornell Engineering’s SPROUT Awards are enabling cross-disciplinary collaborators to pursue novel and impactful research at the intersections of multiple fields.

a logo reading 'sprout awards' with a digitized plant sprout in the middle

SPROUT – which stands for Support for Promising Research Opportunities and Unconventional Teams – launched in 2022. The annual program aims to fill a funding gap and provide encouragement for emerging collaborations, especially those that involve unexpected combinations of people and ideas, that have demonstrated early success but have yet to mature to the point of gaining meaningful external support.

“Novel and unconventional ideas can be among the most rewarding and impactful to pursue, and sometimes they require a little more time and support in their early stages,” said Lois Pollack, associate dean for research and graduate studies at Cornell Engineering. “SPROUT Awards are a testament to Cornell Engineering’s commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration and research that truly makes a difference.”

This year’s winning projects are:

Integrating machine learning, materials modeling, and high-throughput experiments for the discovery of ultra-stable metal-organic frameworks for water purification

The goal of this project by Nicole Benedek, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Julia Dshemuchadse, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Michael Thompson, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; and Phillip Milner, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is to integrate machine learning, first-principles atomistic and coarse-grained modeling, and autonomous experimentation for the rapid discovery of ultra-stable metal-organic frameworks for water purification.

Machine learning to understand the connection between cartilage mechanics, chondrocyte signaling and post-traumatic osteoarthritis

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis frequently develops secondary to joint injury, with clinical manifestations of pain and dysfunction lagging months to years after the injury. Effective therapies for treating the condition require in-depth understanding of signaling cascades and the spatial and temporal patterns of cellular phenotypes that result from joint injuries.

This project, led by Lawrence Bonassar, the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor in Biomedical Engineering in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering and the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, aims to determine how altering bioenergetics pathways in human articular cartilage affects the distribution of cellular phenotypes that develop in response to impact injury. Co-investigators include Itai Cohen, professor in the Department of Physics; Michelle Delco, the Harry M. Zweig Assistant Research Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Sabrina Strickland, associate professor at the Hospital for Special Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College; and Andreas Gomoll, professor at the Hospital for Special Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Ion transport through semiconducting mesocrystal membranes

Communication in biological systems relies on transporting ions and small molecules across nanoscale channels. Conversely, modern technology predominantly relies on electronic or photonic signals for communication. The longer-term vision is to bridge this divide by developing artificial synaptic membranes that enable programmable ion transport in the context of neuromorphic computing. Recent advances in the fabrication of epitaxially connected semiconducting quantum dot mesocrystal membranes present as a unique opportunity to explore this bold vision.

This project integrates the complementary areas of expertise of Tobias Hanrath, the Marjorie L. Hart ’50 Professor in Engineering in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Yu Zhong, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

3D-printed concrete walls for enhanced protection of shorelines against sea level rise

With nearly 10% of the world population living in areas less than 10 meters above sea level, the protection of shorelines against flooding and erosion is of paramount importance in coastal communities. Furthermore, the increased frequency of extreme weather events caused by climate change presents a looming risk in these areas.

This overarching goal of this work proposed by Sriramya Nair, assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Maha Haji, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Systems Engineering Program; Todd Cowen, professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Sasa Zivkovic, assistant professor in the Department of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, is to investigate the potential of additively constructed or 3D printed low-CO2e green concrete for developing resilient infrastructure to be adaptive to changing climate, specifically due to sea level rise.

Collective comb building in constrained geometries

Nature is rich with examples of swarms coordinating to create large complex adaptive structures – bacteria forming biofilms, termites building towering mounds, mole-rats building underground cities to name a few. While it is generally accepted that stigmergy, the process of indirect coordination via environmental modifications, plays a vital role in these systems, we lack an understanding of the extent of local cues required to build highly functional, adaptive structures.

This project, led by Nils Napp, assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Kirstin Petersen, associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will investigate comb-building in honeybees. Unlike other social insects, honeybees construct regular hexagonal lattices in the absence of obstacles, which make them an ideal model system where the base-line behavior before adaptation is known. The team will investigate how random – but biased – modifications of the structure can lead to these highly optimized combs.

The road to optical semiconductor devices travels through chiral polaritons

The interaction between light and matter is familiar through fundamental processes such as absorption and stimulated emission. It is typically assumed that the oscillating electromagnetic field doesn't significantly alter the states of the atoms involved – in other words, that they are weakly coupled. But in certain materials, the interaction is strong enough that this assumption breaks down. In these cases, the mixture of the photon and matter components form hybrid states known as “polaritons” with properties from unique both light and matter.

One of the objects of this research, headed by Richard Robinson, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Andrew Musser, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is to understand the photophysics of quantum dot polaritons. These polaritons could provide optimal conditions for photon-to-matter quantum transduction and hold promise for next-generation applications such as chiral lasing.

Patrick Gillespie is a communications specialist for Cornell Engineering.

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An Israeli airstrike killed at least 90 Palestinians in a designated humanitarian zone in Gaza on Saturday, the enclave's health ministry said, in an attack that Israel said targeted Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif.

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How Domestic Rabbits Become Feral In The Wild

Feral rabbits in South Australia

Researchers at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) have uncovered how natural selection “rewilds” domestic rabbits.

The study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, helps answer the question of how normally tame rabbits — which have many natural predators — can become a force of ecological destruction when purposefully or accidentally reintroduced to the wild.

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

Every gardener knows how much of a nuisance rabbits can be, but many people may not realize the magnitude of ecological destruction that rabbits are capable of.

“The classic example is Australia, which was colonized by rabbits to the point that it caused one of the largest environmental disasters in history,” said Dr. Leif Andersson, a professor in the VMBS’ Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences and a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. “In 1859, an Englishman named Thomas Austin released 24 European rabbits onto his estate as game animals, but the population of rabbits exploded, causing an infestation that continues to cause millions of dollars’ worth of crop damage each year.

a wild rabbit on a bright green lawn

“What is interesting is that rabbits had already been introduced to Australia in 1788. Why did Austin’s rabbit release cause such a population explosion and not the earlier release?” he said.

Thanks to the recent study, scientists now believe that they have the answer.

“After sequencing the genomes of nearly 300 rabbits from Europe, South America, and Oceania, we found that all of them had a mix of feral and domestic DNA,” Andersson said. “This was not what we had expected to find — we expected that feral rabbits were domestic rabbits that have somehow relearned how to live in the wild. But our findings show us that these rabbits already had a portion of wild DNA helping them survive in nature.”

Andersson’s discovery explains why the 24 rabbits introduced to the Australian landscape in 1859 were so quick to adapt to living in the wild — they already possessed the right genetic traits that would help them thrive.

Rewilding Domestic Rabbits

But returning a species to the wild after centuries of domestication isn’t a simple process. For example, domestic rabbits have been bred by humans to be more docile and trusting than their wild counterparts. They are also often bred to have certain coat colors that humans find attractive — like all-black or all-white coats — that would make them easier for predators to spot in the wild.

“During the rewilding process, natural selection removes many of these domestic traits because they are maladaptive — or unhelpful for survival — in the wild,” Andersson explained. “But it’s not just coat colors that change. We also observed that many of the genetic variants removed during natural selection are related to behavior, like tameness. This brings back the wild flight instinct that is important for eluding predators.”

The entire process appears to depend on whether the rabbits already have wild genes in their DNA as a sort of foundation for the rewilding process.

“We hope that this study will help lawmakers understand the importance of preventing domestic animals from being released into the wild,” Andersson said. “This project has helped us understand not only how rabbits become feral but also how other species like pigs and cats can become feral nuisances.”

The study is a collaboration with the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO) , a Portuguese research organization.

Media contact: Jennifer Gauntt, [email protected]

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What makes a news story trustworthy? Americans point to the outlet that publishes it, sources cited

A man reads a newspaper in Bryant Park in New York City on May 19, 2021, as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

Americans see a variety of factors as important when it comes to deciding whether a news story is trustworthy or not, but their attitudes vary by party affiliation, demographic characteristics and news consumption habits, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey .

Overall, broad majorities of U.S. adults say it is at least somewhat important to consider each of five surveyed factors when determining whether a news story is trustworthy or not: the news organization that publishes it (88%); the sources cited in it (86%); their gut instinct about it (77%); the person, if any, who shared it with them (68%); and the specific journalist who reported it (66%). Just 24% of adults say it’s at least somewhat important to consider a sixth factor included in the survey: whether the story has a lot of shares, comments or likes on social media.

Republicans, Democrats consider a variety of factors when deciding whether a news story is trustworthy

But notably fewer Americans see each of these factors as very important. Half of U.S. adults point to the news organization that publishes a story as a very important factor when determining its trustworthiness, while a similar share (47%) point to the sources that are cited in it. Fewer cite their gut instinct about the story (30%), the specific journalist who reported it (24%), the person who shared it with them (23%) or the engagement it has received on social media (6%), according to the March 8-14 survey of 12,045 adults. The survey was part of a broader study of media coverage of President Joe Biden’s first 60 days in office.

This analysis examines the factors that Americans see as important when deciding whether a news story is trustworthy or not. It is based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted from March 8-14, 2021, among 12,045 U.S. adults. Everyone who took the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology .

This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are slightly more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to say it’s very important to consider the news organization that publishes a story (55% vs. 47%) and the sources that are cited in it (51% vs. 44%). Republicans, in turn, are more likely than Democrats to see their own gut instinct as very important (35% vs. 26%), though this is a minority view in both parties.

Older Americans are generally more likely than younger Americans to point to the news organization that publishes a story and the sources that are cited in it as critical factors when determining its trustworthiness. For example, among those 65 and older, 57% say the news organization is a very important factor and 54% say the same about the sources cited. Smaller proportions of adults under 30 see these as very important factors (42% and 41%, respectively). These findings are consistent with previous Pew Research Center studies, which found that younger Americans tend to feel less connected to their sources of news and are less likely to remember the sources of online news links they clicked on.

When it comes to education, 59% of adults with a college degree say it’s very important to consider the news organization that publishes a story, and 54% say the same of the sources that are cited in it. That compares with around four-in-ten of those with a high school diploma or less education (43% and 40%, respectively). Conversely, those with a high school diploma or less are more likely than those with a college degree to see the other factors asked about as very important when determining a news story’s trustworthiness.

Black Americans are more likely than those in other racial and ethnic groups to see some factors as very important when determining the trustworthiness of a news story. For example, around four-in-ten Black adults (38%) point to their own gut instinct as a very important factor, compared with three-in-ten or fewer White (30%), Hispanic (26%) and Asian American adults (22%). Black adults are also more likely than other Americans to point to the specific journalist who reported the story and the person who shared it with them; about a third of Black adults say these are very important factors to consider.

Avid news followers are more likely to see all of the factors asked about in the survey as critical when deciding on a news story’s trustworthiness. For instance, Americans who are very closely following news about the Biden administration are especially likely to say it’s very important to consider the news organization that publishes a story (69%) and the sources that are cited in it (65%). Among those who are following Biden administration news less closely, fewer see these factors as very important.

Most Americans pay attention to the sources cited in news stories

Around one-in-five Americans pay very close attention to the sources cited in news stories

In addition to asking about the factors that the public considers when deciding whether a news story is trustworthy, the survey asked Americans how closely they pay attention to the sources they see in the news. Overall, 22% of U.S. adults say they pay very close attention to the sources that are cited in news stories, while another 45% say they pay somewhat close attention.

Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they pay very close attention to the sources cited in news stories (25% vs. 19%) – a finding that aligns with the fact that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see sourcing as very important to a story’s trustworthiness. Americans ages 65 and older (27%), those with a college degree (27%) and Black adults (28%) are also especially likely to say they pay very close attention to the sources that are mentioned in news stories.

Americans who have been following news about the Biden administration very closely are again the most likely to say they pay very close attention to the sources cited in news stories. Nearly half of these Americans (47%) say this, compared with smaller shares of those who follow news about the Biden administration fairly closely (20%) or not too or not at all closely (8%).

Note: Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology .

  • Trust in Media

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John Gramlich is an associate director at Pew Research Center .

Americans’ Changing Relationship With Local News

Introducing the pew-knight initiative, 8 facts about black americans and the news, u.s. adults under 30 now trust information from social media almost as much as from national news outlets, u.s. journalists differ from the public in their views of ‘bothsidesism’ in journalism, most popular.

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Guest Essay

All the Alzheimer’s Research We Didn’t Do

An illustration shows a profile of a person overlaid with a microscope.

By Charles Piller

Mr. Piller is an investigative journalist for Science magazine and the author of a forthcoming book on fraud in Alzheimer’s research.

What if a preposterous failed treatment for Covid-19 — the arthritis drug hydroxychloroquine — could successfully treat another dreaded disease, Alzheimer’s?

Dr. Madhav Thambisetty, a neurologist at the National Institute on Aging, thinks the drug’s suppression of inflammation, commonly associated with neurodegenerative disorders, might provide surprising benefits for dementia.

It’s an intriguing idea. Unfortunately, we won’t know for quite a while, if ever, whether Dr. Thambisetty is right. That’s because unconventional ideas that do not offer fealty to the dominant approach to study and treat Alzheimer’s — what’s known as the amyloid hypothesis — often find themselves starved for funds and scientific mind share.

Such shortsighted rigidity may have slowed progress toward a cure — a tragedy for a disease projected to affect more than 11 million people in the United States by 2040.

The amyloid hypothesis holds that sticky plaques and other so-called amyloid-beta proteins build up in the brain and prompt changes that cause Alzheimer’s disease’s cruel decline, gradually stealing a person’s mastery of everyday life, cherished memories and, finally, their sense of self.

In the early 1990s, legions of researchers began to sign on to the idea that removing amyloid from the brain could stop or reverse that process. But anti-amyloid drugs failed time and again. Then, in 2006, an animal experiment published in the journal Nature identified a specific type of amyloid protein as the first substance found in brain tissue to directly cause symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. Top scientists called it a breakthrough that provided a key target for treatments. The paper became one of the most cited in the field, and funds to explore similar proteins skyrocketed.

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A Guide to News Research: Where to Find News Articles: Recent News

  • Recent News
  • Post-1980 Coverage
  • Pre-1980 U.S. Coverage
  • Pre-1980 International News
  • Ethnic News
  • Where are the Newspapers?
  • Early U.S. Newspapers
  • Early English Newspapers
  • Caveats about News Sources

Today's News and Recent News

  • Access World News Database. Access funded by the Library . Coverage and format: Current, from roughly the mid-1980s on (start dates vary widely). Over 7,000 newspapers (50/50 international and U.S.) and newswires, including some web-only titles. Mainly plain text, but 100+ titles are now available in color PDFs.
  • Factiva Database. Access funded by the Library . Scroll down to the Newsstand: US box on the Factiva home page to browse the last two weeks of the following news sources—every article, plain text (no graphics)— The New York Times , Wall Street Journal (U.S. edition), and Washington Post from the print editions . Articles in the online versions may not be available in Factiva! Use the Search/SearchBuilder menu to query the full database content. Access limited to 10 simultaneous users.
  • Financial Times/FT.com Access funded by the Library and the S C Johnson College of Business . Online website of the Financial Times . Go to the library catalog record and follow the link to set up your free account. All faculty, students, and staff have access.The default edition is the "International Edition." You can switch to the UK Edition on the ft.com homepage.
  • Global Newsstream Aggregates all the ProQuest Newsstream databases in one searchable interface, including U.S. Newsstream with all regional Newsstreams, Canadian Newsstream, and International Newsstream (Asian, Australian & New Zealand, European, Latin American, and Middle Eastern & African). Current, searchable full-text access to five major U.S. daily newspapers ( Chicago Tribune , Los Angeles Times , New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , and The Washington Post ) is now available in the U.S. Major Dailies database , a subset of Global Newsstream. See more details in the U.S. Major Dailies entry below . Coverage and format: 1980s to date. Plain text.
  • Library PressDisplay aka PressReader.com Database. Access funded by the Library . Full-color, full-text online versions of a few major print newspaper titles, over 700 magazine and news titles from 55 countries. More frequently-used sources are usually displayed first. Use discretion in picking from these news sources; many popular magazines and non-news sources are included. NB: The last 90 days is available with some exceptions .
  • New York Times Online/nytimes.com Cornell undergraduates can sign in here for unlimited, free access to nytimes.com, funded by the Student Assembly. Law School students, faculty, and staff have access funded by the Law Library. New York Times articles can also be accessed online by all Cornell students, faculty and staff via the U.S. Major Dailies database provided by the library.
  • Nexis Uni Database. Access funded by the Library . Over 15,000 sources including newspapers, journals, wire services, newsletters, company reports and SEC filings, case law, government documents, transcripts of broadcasts, and selected reference works. Formerly LexisNexis Academic.
  • ProQuest Digitized Newspapers [PQDN] / ProQuest Recent Newspapers Full coverage for 31 titles (plus five multi-title regional newspaper collections) starting from either 1/1/2008, 1/1/2009, 1/1/2010, or 1/1/2011, and ending "within days of the current issue." Primarily publisher PDFs backed by full text searching of OCRed text with some searching of publisher's text feed for the newest issues.
  • U.S. Major Dailies Access funded by the Library. A subset of ProQuest's Global Newsstream database. Current, plain-text access back to 1980 for The New York Times , Washington Post , The Wall Street Journal , Los Angeles Times , and Chicago Tribune . Replaces Factiva as the go-to database for access to current and recent articles in these titles
  • U.S. Northeast Newsstream ProQuest. Subscription. Coverage varies by title: 1980s to date. Plain text. About 100 current newspaper titles from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont plus additional non-newspaper titles.
  • Wall Street Journal Online/wsj.com Access funded by the Library and the Johnson School . Online website of the Wall Street Journal . Available free to all Cornell faculty, staff, and students . To set up free access, go to https://partner.wsj.com/partner/cornelluniversity and register. Select your account type from the drop-down menu, add a password, and agree to the Privacy Policy. Then click Create and you have access. All faculty, students, and staff at Cornell.
  • Washington Post Online/washingtonpost.com Paywall situation : Free access is limited to a few articles per month for nonsubscribers. Alternative access for current news: Articles from the last 2 weeks in plain text format are on Factiva’s Newsstand: U.S. box on the home page (see the Factiva entry above).
  • World Politics Review [WPR] Access funded by the Library . Continuously updated. Articles provide analysis of trends and events in international affairs. Published entirely online, WPR's original articles are written by a network of analysts, journalists, and scholars. Articles cover diplomacy, military affairs, energy, economics and related subjects.

International Regional News Services:

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Once overcooked and overlooked, brussels sprouts bounce back as Australia's best-value vegetable

ABC Rural Once overcooked and overlooked, brussels sprouts bounce back as Australia's best-value vegetable

Brussels sprouts, stacked on a wooden board

Brussels sprouts are making a culinary comeback, with the once-shunned veggies rated the fastest-growing vegetable in 2022/23 in terms of value. 

With most Australians failing to eat enough greens, a 53 per cent surge in sales is being hailed as a boon for nutrition and the horticulture industry.

Innovations including chocolate-coated sprouts are helping to promote healthier eating and combat food waste.  

Most Australians are not eating enough vegetables , but a surprising trend is emerging with more people picking up a bag of sprouts at the checkout.

Brussels sprouts were often considered to be something horrible that was served as a side dish at grandma's house, but new research shows Australians are falling in love with the humble brussels sprout again. 

"We've seen a massive growth in the category — a 53 per cent surge in the last 12 months," Hort Innovation Australia general manager for production and sustainability research and development Anthony Kachenko said.

"As the fastest-growing vegetable in 2022/23 in terms of value, there is no denying the humble brussels sprout is making a comeback.

"At a time when we all know we need to be eating more vegetables in our diet, brussels sprouts are one of those versatile crops — you can fry them or eat them raw."

A basket of brussels sprouts

Eat your greens

About 95 per cent of Australians are not consuming the recommended minimum of five serves of fruit and vegetables per day.

If you are one of the people behind the upward trend in brussels sprout, dietitians say you're doing something fantastic for your body.

"Brussels sprouts are very nutritious — they are high in fibre, which is good for our gut health," dietitian and nutritionist Jemma O'Hanlon said.

"They're also high in a range of different vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, K, folate and carotenoids as well.

"It's great to see that brussels sprouts intake is increasing."

A plate of sauted brussels sprouts

Ms O'Hanlon said sprouts had had a bad rap in the past as "soft, soggy and sulphurous".

"A lot of us grew up with over-boiled brussels sprouts that looked grey and really unappetising on the plate," she said.

"But when we cook them in healthy ways, they can taste nutty and sweet and really make for a delicious meal ."

To maintain the nutritional properties of sprouts, Ms O'Hanlon said it was best to saute, steam, roast or cut them up finely and eat them raw.

"Don't boil them. You lose the soluble vitamins, like vitamin C, through the water."

Brussels sprouts growing on a farm.

Chocolate sprouts

If the memory of frumpy brussels sprouts still has you avoiding the brassica bud, would a chocolatey treat get you over the line?

Hort Innovation has developed a sprout-filled chocolate sprout to tempt those wary of the vegetable.

"It's an opportunity to introduce brussels sprouts [in a new way]," Dr Kachenko said.

"This makes it a bit fun, to get kids to go, 'wow, vegetables in chocolate — that's great'.

"Kids learn by having an experience when they're developing their palate and understanding how we should be looking after ourselves as we grow up.

"What a great way to get them hooked young."

A table with brussel sprouts and chocolate

Dr Kachenko said this was also an example of how new ideas could combat food waste by using produce that might otherwise be discarded.

"I think once horticulture sees the opportunity of the new products that could come about, we're going to see more," he said.

"Whether it's confectionary alternatives or healthy crisps and snacking options, we need to try and raise the consumption."

Tasmanian brussels sprouts grower Caitlin Radford praised the chocolate initiative as a creative way to reduce waste and generate additional income for growers. 

"There is so much potential for what we typically consider waste," she said. 

"Our primary goal as producers is to deliver high-quality produce. Innovations in alternative food products can help minimise waste by utilising excess or lower-grade produce."

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