(Left to right): Tim Fitzharris/Minden Pictures; NASA; SMITHGROUPJJR

Top stories: Vanishing insects, merging neutron stars, and why we haven’t made alien contact

Merging neutron stars generate gravitational waves and a celestial light show

Four times in the past 2 years, physicists working with mammoth gravitational-wave detectors have sensed something go bump in the night, sending invisible ripples through spacetime. This week, they announced the detection of a fifth such disturbance—but this time astronomers saw it, too, at every wavelength of light from gamma radiation to radio waves. Just as physicists had predicted, the unprecedented view of the cosmic cataclysm—in which two superdense neutron stars spiraled into each other—brought with it a cornucopia of insights, each of which by itself would count as a major scientific advance.

Analysis of China’s one-child policy sparks uproar

A new study of China’s one-child policy is roiling demography, sparking calls for the field’s leading journal to withdraw the paper. The controversy has ignited a debate over scholarly values in a discipline that some say prioritizes reducing population growth above all else. Chinese officials have long claimed that the one-child policy—in place from 1980 to 2016—averted some 400 million births, which they say aided global environmental efforts. Scholars have contested that number as flawed. But the new paper argues that the figure may, in fact, have merit.

Germany’s insects are disappearing

In just 3 decades, insect populations—everything from parasitic wasps to hoverflies and wild bees—have plummeted by more than 75% in German nature reserves, according to a new study. The reasons for the decline aren’t clear, but the pattern is consistent over a swath of western and northern Germany, and it’s likely having wide-ranging effects on plants and other animals, such as insect-eating birds.

Can the Museum of the Bible overcome the sins of the past?

Next month, the lavish Museum of the Bible will open its doors in Washington, D.C. The grandiose new venture is bankrolled by the Greens, the billionaire family that owns the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby and that has donated to the museum hundreds of artifacts purchased on the antiquities market. But although the Museum of the Bible is trying to establish itself as a legitimate academic enterprise by hiring respected curators and consultants, scholars worry that it will use its artifacts to further an evangelical view of the Bible as historically accurate and immutable, and they wonder how many items in the museum’s collection may have been looted from archaeological sites.

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds

Might ET be buried under too much ice to phone Earth? That’s what one planetary scientist has concluded may be delaying our contact with alien civilizations. Most extraterrestrial creatures are likely deep inside their home planets, in subsurface oceans crusted over in frozen water ice. The hypothesis could explain the lack of signals from other technologically advanced civilizations, especially if they think that everyone else is trapped in their own icy bubbles.

Why wolves are better team players than dogs

Dogs may be social butterflies, but wolves are top dog when it comes to working together as a team. That’s because, unlike dogs, wolves haven’t evolved to avoid conflict; instead, members of a pack “sort things out” as they forage together, according to a new study. The work calls into question a long-held assumption that domestication fostered more cooperative individuals.