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Top Stories: Bacteria found in space, mid-air ultrasonic frequencies, and parasite allergies
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Eye of Science/Science Source; NASA; Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015

Top stories: Bacteria found in space, midair ultrasonic frequencies, and parasite allergies

Got allergies? Blame parasites

Why are millions of people allergic to peanuts or pollen, but hardly anyone seems to have a reaction to rice or raisins? Because some of these foods have proteins that mimic those of nasty parasites that send our immune systems into hyperdrive. The new findings could help researchers predict what other foods might cause allergies and give doctors a more accurate way to dose allergy shots. 

The International Space Station is home to potentially dangerous bacteria

The International Space Station (ISS) has a dirty little secret: It’s storing loads of bacteria and fungi alongside its human cargo. In the most comprehensive hunt for bacteria on the ISS to date, scientists analyzed dust from an ISS air filter and vacuum bags and found that microorganisms from human skin are present throughout the station. Some of the bugs could cause serious harm to astronauts, who have compromised immune systems after months of living in microgravity. The next steps are to isolate intact bacteria and assess them for virulence factors. 

Deadly 60°C days will come to the Persian Gulf

People living along the Persian Gulf are soon going to need more than nanoparticle sunscreen and strong air conditioning to handle the heat. New climate simulations project that the region could hit temperatures as high as 60°C (140°F) for extended parts of the summer as soon as 2070. The intolerable heat waves will be fatal to many and will likely make the  region occasionally uninhabitable. 

Researchers create a sonic tractor beam

Using a simple set of loudspeakers, scientists have figured out a way to levitate and rotate objects in midair. Scientists have already used sound to levitate objects before, but instead of audible sound, sonic levitation utilizes higher ultrasonic frequencies that are beyond the range of human hearing. If perfected, this “sonic tractor beam” could be used for a range of scientific feats from treating kidney stones to creating artificial gravity on the International Space Station. Be sure to check out the video!

The penis only evolved once, suggests study of reptile embryos

The diversity of genitals in amniotes—reptiles, birds, and mammals—has long puzzled scientists. Why do adult tuataras have no penis but snakes have double “hemipenes”? After recreating slides of Victorian-era lizard embryos in 3D, we finally have some answers. 

Feature: How the Amazon became a crucible of life

Did a biblical-scale flood or the rise of the Andes give the Amazon its amazing biodiversity? Writer Lizzie Wade addresses this question in an exclusive Science feature online.  The story explores why the eastern foothills of the Andes are one of the most diverse places on the planet, and how rocks, fossils, and living plants hold clues to the diversification of Amazonian flora. Watch the videos to see how hard it is to solve these mysteries!

NIH refocuses research into chronic fatigue syndrome

In the wake of mounting criticism that researchers aren’t paying enough attention to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week that it is investing more in understanding and treating the disorder. NIH’s Clinical Center plans to launch a patient study of people shortly after they develop CFS-like symptoms from unidentified infections.

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