Top stories: Human shields for bears, genes that live on after death, and the discovery of a magnetic sixth sense—maybe

(Left to right): Stacy Walsh Rosenstock/Alamy Stock Photo; Spencer Lowell; Siegfried Klaus

Top stories: Human shields for bears, genes that live on after death, and the discovery of a magnetic sixth sense—maybe

Mother brown bears protect cubs with human shields

For a mother brown bear in Scandinavia, few sights are as terrifying as a strange male. Adult male bears are known to kill cubs that are not theirs—and sometimes the mother that defends them. A new study suggests that smart mama bears have found a surprising way to protect their young. To shield her cubs from male attacks, mom just has to raise them near an adult bear’s No. 1 enemy: humans.

‘Undead’ genes come alive days after life ends

Does death really mean the end of our existence? Great thinkers from Plato to Blue Öyster Cult have weighed in on that question. Now, a study shows that that at least one aspect of life continues: Genes remain turned on days after animals die. Researchers may be able to parlay this postmortem activity into better ways of preserving donated organs for transplantation and more accurate methods of determining when murder victims were killed.

Maverick scientist thinks he has discovered a magnetic sixth sense in humans

Birds do it. Bees do it. But the human subject, standing here in a hoodie—can he do it? Joe Kirschvink is determined to find out. For decades, he has shown how critters across the animal kingdom navigate using magnetoreception, or a sense of Earth’s magnetic field. Now, the geophysicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena is testing humans to see whether they, too, have this subconscious sixth sense. Kirschvink is pretty sure they do. But he has to prove it.

First proposed human test of CRISPR passes initial safety review

A cancer study that would represent the first use of the red-hot gene-editing tool CRISPR in people passed a key safety review this week. The proposed clinical trial, in which researchers would use CRISPR to engineer immune cells to fight cancer, won approval from the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a panel that has traditionally vetted the safety and ethics of gene therapy trials funded by the U.S. government and others. Breaking new ground, the CRISPR trial would modify three different sites in the genome at once, which has not been easy to do until now.

Why the Orlando shooter fired

Investigators probing the killer behind the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, are finding evidence of an angry young man likely conflicted about his sexuality. A small but growing body of research suggests that some men with strong homophobic attitudes may be gay themselves, and that homophobia itself may signal other mental issues. Such research could provide much-needed data in an era when gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are the largest target group for hate crimes in the United States, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, and twice as likely as African-Americans to be targets of violence.

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