Top stories: A new ninth planet, a drug trial tragedy, and Lyme disease’s rapid spread

Left to right: T. Lawrence/ GLFC; Gary Alpert/Harvard University/; Alberto Cuadra/Science

Top stories: A new ninth planet, a drug trial tragedy, and Lyme disease’s rapid spread

Astronomers say a Neptune-sized planet lurks beyond Pluto

The solar system appears to have a new ninth planet. This week, two scientists announced evidence that a body nearly the size of Neptunebut as yet unseenorbits the sun every 15,000 years. During the solar system’s infancy 4.5 billion years ago, they say, the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun. The claim is the strongest yet in the centuries-long search for a “Planet X” beyond Neptune. 

Lyme disease–carrying ticks are now in half of all U.S. counties

The ticks that transmit Lyme disease, a debilitating flulike illness caused by Borrelia bacteria, are spreading rapidly across the United States. A new study shows just how rapidly. Over the past 20 years, the two species known to spread the disease to humans have together advanced into half of all the counties in the United States.

More details emerge on fateful French drug trial

Just 1 week after news broke about a clinical research tragedy in France, more details have emerged about what happened at the private research company in Rennes where the phase I study took place. An information sheet for prospective trial participants, posted on a French regional news site, provides an overview of the study's goal and procedures, while also offering a glimpse of what it's like to partake in a lengthy drug safety study.

Twins study finds no evidence that marijuana lowers IQ in teens

Roughly half of Americans use marijuana at some point in their lives, and many start as teenagers. Now, in the first study of its kind, scientists have analyzed long-term marijuana use in teens, comparing IQ changes in twin siblings who either used or abstained from marijuana for 10 years. After taking environmental factors into account, the scientists found no measurable link between marijuana use and lower IQ.

Montreal institute going ‘open’ to accelerate science

Starting this year, any work done at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) will conform to the principles of the “open-science” movementall results and data will be made freely available at the time of publication, for example, and the institute will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. MNI will be the first scientific institute to follow this path, its director says.

So long suckers! Sex pheromone may combat destructive lampreys

With their suction cup mouths and concentric circles of pointy teeth that suck the body fluid of unsuspecting victims, lampreys may seem like the stuff of horror movies. And indeed the 50-centimeter-long, eel-like creatures can wreak havoc on freshwater communities when they invade from the sea. Now, the U.S. government has approved of a new way to combat these fearsome fish by using their own sense of smell against them.

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