Top stories: an Alzheimer’s gamble, a new kind of brain cell, and catching asteroids

The Alzheimer’s gamble: NIH tries to turn billions in new funding into treatment for deadly brain disease

Congress has tripled the National Institutes of Health’s annual budget for Alzheimer’s and related dementias over 3 years to $1.9 billion. The boost—a response to lobbying by patient advocates and concerns about burgeoning costs to the U.S. health care system—is aimed at helping meet a controversial national goal to develop effective treatments for the disease by 2025. The National Institute on Aging, which oversees the new funds, is luring investigators from other fields to bring in fresh ideas. But the recent failure of several major Alzheimer’s clinical trials has amplified concerns that U.S. officials and some scientists have oversold the plan.

Mysterious new brain cell found in people

In a mysterious addition to the brain’s family of cells, researchers have discovered a new kind of neuron—a dense, bushy bundle that is present in people but seems to be missing in mice. These “rosehip neurons,” were found in the uppermost layer of the cortex, which is home to many different types of neurons that inhibit the activity of other neurons.

Asteroid miners could use Earth’s atmosphere to catch space rocks

In a new study, scientists propose using a technique called aerobraking to slow small asteroids enough that they don’t just shoot straight past Earth, but stay in orbit, where they could be mined for platinum or water. Those resources could then be taken to space stations to supply future missions or operations. Water could even be split into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. All it would take is a precisely calculated push from an unmanned spacecraft.

Pentagon fires a warning shot against EPA’s ‘secret science’ rule

The U.S. Department of Defense expressed concern about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposal to restrict the use of scientific research in writing new regulations. EPA’s proposed rule would generally limit the agency to using studies for which the underlying research data “are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.” Critics view that premise as a smokescreen for thwarting consideration of research that would help justify stricter regulations.

After years of effort, physicists spot Higgs boson decaying in most ordinary way

Physicists working with the world’s biggest atom smasher spotted their newest, weirdest particle—the Higgs boson—undergoing its typical decay. A single subatomic particle weighing as much as 130 protons, the Higgs lasts for a mere 10-trillionths of a nanosecond before it decays into less massive particles. This week, physicists spotted the Higgs decaying into a particle called a bottom quark and its antimatter counterpart, an antibottom quark, reported researchers working with the Large Hadron Collider at the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland.