(Left to right): Yuriy Chernyavskiy/Creative Commons; V. Altounian/Science; Sarah Wagner

Top stories: Flapping bat robots, a march for science, and an 80-million-year-old dinosaur protein

Scientists retrieve 80-million-year-old dinosaur protein in ‘milestone’ paper

It’s not quite Jurassic Park: No one has revived long-extinct dinosaurs. But two new studies suggest that it is possible to isolate protein fragments from dinosaurs much further back in time than ever thought possible. Together, some argue the papers have the potential to transform dinosaur paleontology into a molecular science, much as analyzing ancient DNA has revolutionized the study of human evolution.

 

Watch a new robot fly just like a bat

Forget drones. Think bat-bots. Engineers have created a new autonomous flying machine that looks and maneuvers just like a bat. Weighing only 93 grams, the robot’s agility comes from its complex wings made of lightweight silicone-based membranes stretched over carbon-fiber bones. In addition to nine joints in each wing, it sports adjustable legs, which help it steer by deforming the membrane of its tail. Complex algorithms coordinate these components, letting the bot make batlike moves including banking turns and dives.

This mysterious $2 billion biotech is revealing the secrets behind its new drugs and vaccines

Moderna Therapeutics has shared little detail in published papers about the technology it's developing, though there are clues in its abundant patent filings. Until recently, even the targets of drugs already in clinical trials weren't publicized. But as more trials get underway, Moderna is gingerly opening up. Being a startup valued at more than a billion dollars—an anomaly that venture capitalists dub a unicorn—comes with scrutiny, and many wonder whether Moderna's pipeline, consisting mostly of vaccines for now, will expand to match the company's original vision of mRNA as a broad treatment platform.

On 22 April, empiricists around the country will march for science

The grassroots team coordinating the March for Science in Washington, D.C., have now set a date: 22 April. And they are inviting organizers in cities around the world to lead parallel demonstrations. Organizers have said they want to appeal to anyone who, as their mission statement puts it, “champions publicly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” Organizers have emphasized that the march is not just for practicing scientists, but for “anyone who believes in empirical science.”

Ancient women found in Russian cave were close relatives of today’s indigenous population

The ancient DNA of two 7700-year-old women from a mountainous cave in far east Russia suggests they were closely related to the people who live in this remote and frigid corner of Asia today. The new discovery also suggests that in this region, farming spread through gradual cultural changes, rather than by an influx of farming people.