(Left to Right): age fotostock/Alamy; Image courtesy of Equinox Graphics; Wikimedia

Top Stories: Shutdown Science, Stormy Sex, and Snooty Books

Science and the Shutdown

The U.S. government ground to a halt on Tuesday after Congress failed to pass a spending bill to finance the government for the 2014 fiscal year. The only agencies and staff members still working are those deemed essential for public safety and national security. Follow our continuing coverage to find out how the shutdown is affecting science and research; which researchers, agencies, and projects have been hit; and how scientists are reacting.

Want to Read Minds? Read Good Books

Fifty Shades of Grey may be a fun read, but it’s not going to help you probe the minds of others the way War and Peace might. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that, compared with mainstream fiction, highbrow literary works do more to improve our ability to understand the thoughts, emotions, and motivations of those around us.

Quantum Computers Check Each Other’s Work

Quantum computers can solve incredibly complex problems in a fraction of the time it would take a normal computer. But how can we be sure that they’re getting the answers right? Scientists have come up with a neat solution: Use a simpler quantum computer—whose results humans can actually check—to verify the results of other dramatically more powerful quantum machines.

Sex Before the Storm

There’s lots to do before a storm rolls in—close the windows, bring the washing in, batten down the hatches. Cucurbit beetles have a different priority: sex. When the bugs sense the change in air pressure that usually precedes bad weather, they forgo their usual courtship rituals and go in for a quickie.

Invasion of the Nostril Ticks

A scientist who inadvertently brought a tick home from Uganda—in his nose—may have discovered a new species of parasite that preys on primates. The “nostril tick” belongs to the genus Amblyomma, which is known to carry diseases that can infect mammals ranging from cows to people. This particular individual may have evolved to live in the noses of chimpanzees, and hopped to the researcher when he got too close.