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Top stories: The origin of life, a new drug for Crohn’s, and chemical weapons

(Left to right) Joe Tucciarrone/Science Photo LIbraryCorbis; U.S. Government; NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Top stories: The origin of life, a new drug for Crohn’s, and chemical weapons

Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum

The origin of life on Earth is a set of paradoxes. Now, chemists report that a pair of simple compounds, which would have been abundant on early Earth, can give rise to a network of simple reactions that produce the three major classes of biomolecules—nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids—needed for the earliest form of life to get its start. Although the discovery does not prove that this is how life started, it may eventually help explain one of the deepest mysteries in modern science.

Speaking a second language may change how you see the world

Speakers of two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study. The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews, as their thinking can be more flexible.

Scientists may have solved mystery of dwarf planet’s enigmatic bright spot

A mysterious bright spot on Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, is looking more and more like ice—and could even be emitting water vapor into space on a daily basis.

House approves EPA 'secret science' bills despite White House veto threat

Defying a White House veto threat, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved two mostly Republican-backed bills that would change how the Environmental Protection Agency uses scientific data and advice in writing its regulations. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups have called the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry.

New drug for Crohn's disease targets RNA

A new drug, constructed with building blocks like those of RNA and DNA, seems to alleviate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a condition that can devastate the intestines. Still, there are lingering questions about how successfully the drug beats back the inflammatory illness, and researchers are now looking to launch a much larger clinical trial to address them.

New compound quickly disables chemical weapons

One roadblock to chemical weapons disposal is that heat and humidity quickly break down enzymes that can disable the deadly chemicals. Now, researchers have developed a highly stable compound that can inactivate nerve agents such as sarin in a matter of minutes.