Top stories: A bird-human partnership, a revolutionary protein designer, and inspecting nuclear warheads without looking

(Left to right): © Rich Frishman; L. Van Waerbeke and C. Heymans/CFHTLenS collaboration; © A. T. Willett/Alamy Stock Photo

Top stories: A bird-human partnership, a revolutionary protein designer, and inspecting nuclear warheads without looking

Unusual bird-human partnership runs even deeper than scientists thought

Of all the relationships between people and wild animals, few are more heartwarming than that of human honey hunters and a starling-sized bird called the greater honeyguide. Flitting and calling, the bird leads the way to a bee nest and feasts on the wax left after the hunters have raided it. A study in Science this week now shows that this mutualistic relationship is even tighter than it seemed, with the bird recognizing and responding to specific calls from its human partners. 

This protein designer aims to revolutionize medicines and materials

Over the last several years, computational biochemist David Baker’s team has all but solved one of the biggest challenges in modern science: figuring out how long strings of amino acids fold up into the 3D proteins that form the working machinery of life. Now, he and colleagues have taken this ability and turned it around to design and then synthesize unnatural proteins intended to act as everything from medicines to materials.

Turkish academics targeted as government reacts to failed coup

In the wake of a failed coup attempt last weekend, the Turkish government has brought higher education to a grinding halt. It appears to be part of a massive political purge in which the government has arrested and fired thousands of people. And educators across the country are bracing for more bad news after the government this week suspended thousands of teachers and academic deans.

Nuclear physicists may have just invented a 'zero-knowledge' warhead inspection system

Nuclear disarmament is all about trust—a hard thing for rival political powers to build, even under the best of circumstances. This week, a team of researchers revealed something that might make that process easier: a new technique that nuclear inspectors can use to verify whether a warhead is active, inactive, or a fake—all without learning anything about its design.

Attempt to explain away 'dark energy' takes a hit

For nearly 20 years, physicists have known that the expansion of the universe has begun to speed up. This bizarre acceleration could arise because some form of mysterious dark energy is stretching space. Or, it could signal that physicists' understanding of gravity isn't quite right. But a new study puts the screws on a broad class of alternative theories of gravity, making it that much harder to explain away dark energy.

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