Top stories: Fast-aging birds, how running shoes change your feet, and an encore performance for gravitational waves
(Left to right): V. Altounian/Science; LIGO/T. Pyle; Georgijevic/iStockphoto

Top stories: Fast-aging birds, how running shoes change your feet, and an encore performance for gravitational waves

How running shoes change your feet

Humans might have been born to run, but we definitely weren’t born to run on concrete. To cushion the blow from jogging on such hard surfaces, running shoes provide a barrier of springy foam between the road and our sensitive feet. But even as shoes have grown more advanced, the rate of running injuries hasn’t dipped for the last 40 years. That makes some researchers—and runners—suspect that the shoes might be doing more harm than good. Now, a new study tests that claim.

First mirror image molecule spotted in interstellar space

A new find in deep space may explain one of the biggest mysteries here on Earth. Researchers have spotted the first evidence of a chiral molecule—a molecule with two mirror image “twins”—in interstellar space. The molecule, used on modern-day Earth to make polyethylene plastics, was found in a gas cloud about 28,000 light-years away from our planet. And though it isn’t directly involved in biochemical reactions, it may shed light on how the chiral molecules that ultimately led to life on Earth formed in the first place.

LIGO detects another black hole crash

The biggest discovery in science this year—the observation of ripples in space-time called gravitational waves—was no fluke. For a second time, physicists working with the two massive detectors in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have detected a pulse of such waves, the LIGO team reported this week. Once again the waves emanated from the merger of two black holes, the ultraintense gravitational fields left behind when massive stars collapse into infinitesimal points. The new observation suggests that after fine-tuning, LIGO will spot dozens or even hundreds of the otherwise undetectable events each year.

This is what city living does to birds

City life is notoriously stressful, altering hormone levels and taking its toll on the immune system. Now, new research in birds suggests it might accelerate the aging process as well. Great tit chicks raised in urban settings had shorter telomeres than those raised in the country. Telomere length is thought to reflect cellular aging and their degradation over time may play a role in age-related problems. It’s unclear how widespread this phenomenon is, but shorter telomeres may mean a shorter life expectancy for all city life, including humans. 

Tumors have found a bloody new way to grow and spread

Scientists have long known that tumors trigger a process called angiogenesis, which creates new blood vessels that supply the tumor with essential nutrients and oxygen. Yet, some researchers think the tumor cells also create their own blood-delivery tubes in a process known as vasculogenic mimicry. If true, then targeting these DIY blood vessels built out of the tumor’s own cells may be a new treatment option for some cancers.

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