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Top Stories: Beefy Brains, Nobel Prizes, and Shutdown Science

Science and the Shutdown

ScienceInsider has been tracking the partial U.S. government shutdown since it began 11 days ago. So who’s still working—and who’s been hit the hardest?

2013 Nobel Prizes

Most of the Nobel Prizes for science were announced this week, starting with the prize for physiology or medicine awarded to three researchers who studied cellular traffic. The physics Nobel unsurprisingly went to Peter Higgs and his fellow theorist François Englert for, essentially, predicting the Higgs boson. Three U.S. scientists who devised ways for computers to model chemical processes won the Nobel Prize for chemistry. And today, the Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to a chemical weapons watchdog group. Stand by for coverage of the economics prize on 14 October.

How Exercise Beefs Up the Brain

If you’re too sated on pumpkin spice lattes to get to the gym this fall, here’s an extra reason to go: It’s good for your neurons. And now we might finally know why—a team of Harvard researchers thinks it’s finally figured out the molecular link between physical exercise and a healthy brain.

Did Modern Jews Originate in Italy?

Modern Jews may traditionally trace their ancestry to the Holy Land, but a new genetic study finds otherwise. A detailed look at thousands of genomes suggests that Ashkenazim—who make up roughly 80% of the world’s Jews, including 90% of those in America and half of those in Israel—ultimately came not from the Middle East, but from Western Europe, perhaps Italy.  

A Good Enough Malaria Vaccine?

The perfect should not be the enemy of the good, especially when it comes to fighting a disease like malaria. A new vaccine, which prevented symptomatic disease in less than half the older children who received it, is rapidly moving toward the marketplace in a field desperate for good news. Given that more than 200 million people fall ill with malaria each year, even a partially effective vaccine could spare huge numbers of people from the disease’s debilitating effects.

Banned Chinese Scientists Get Second Chance to Attend Ames Research Meeting

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has extended an olive branch to several Chinese scientists who were banned from an upcoming meeting at NASA’s Ames Research Center as part of the space agency’s attempt to thwart foreign spies. But due to the U.S. government shutdown, it’s not clear if his peace offering will make any difference.