Top stories: Chasing a cancer blood test, and how a Mormon lawyer transformed archaeology in Mexico

‘Liquid biopsy’ promises early detection for cancer

Scientists have gotten one step closer to a universal blood test for the early detection of cancer. The new test, which examines cancer-related DNA and proteins in the blood, yielded a positive result about 70% of the time across eight common cancer types in more than 1000 patients whose tumors had not yet spread. The work could one day lead to a tool for routinely screening people and catching tumors when chances are best for a cure.

Make replication studies ‘a normal and essential part of science,’ Dutch science academy says

Scientists, universities, funding agencies, and journals alike should be doing much more to ensure the reproducibility of scientific research, according to a report released this week by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The group makes a number of recommendations, including teaching scientists how to conduct replication studies. The new report adds to a growing number of voices calling for fundamental changes in the way science is conducted and published.

One of history’s worst epidemics may have been caused by a common microbe

The Aztecs called it pestilence. Victims turned yellow from jaundice and blood ran from their ears and noses. They had hallucinations and agonizing convulsions, and they died in days. But even today, nobody knows exactly what caused an epidemic that first appeared in 16th century Mexico. Now, new DNA evidence published this week suggests the culprit might have been salmonella—a common food-borne illness—brought by European colonizers.

No more pancake syrup? Climate change could bring an end to sugar maples

Savor that sticky, slightly nutty sweetness drenching your Sunday morning pancakes now. The trees that make maple syrup will struggle to survive climate change, a new study reveals. Researchers thought pollution might buffer sugar maples against an increasingly warm climate by supplying soils with fertilizing nitrogen. But the new analysis finds that the extra boost of nitrogen won’t be enough. Researchers say sugar maples will eventually disappear if current climate conditions continue.

How a Mormon lawyer transformed archaeology in Mexico—and ended up losing his faith

In 1948, a Mormon lawyer went looking in the jungles of Campeche in Mexico, for the place where Jesus appeared—according to the Book of Mormon—after rising from the dead. What he found were ancient ruins, an understudied cultural crossroads, and a new window on Mesoamerica’s past. But, as he and the archaeological expeditions he inspired unearthed traces of the region’s earliest complex societies, proof for his beliefs eluded him.