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Top stories: Vibrations that burn fat, new clues about Neandertals, and Trump’s tight belt for science

NIH, DOE Office of Science face deep cuts in Trump’s first budget

President Donald Trump’s first budget request to Congress calls for cutting the 2018 budget of the National Institutes of Health by $6 billion, or nearly 20%. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science would lose $900 million, or nearly 20% of its $5 billion budget. The proposal also calls for deep cuts to the research programs at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a 5% cut to NASA’s earth science budget. And it would eliminate DOE’s roughly $300 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. There appears to be no mention, however, of the National Science Foundation.


It wasn’t just Greece: Archaeologists find early democratic societies in the Americas

After a decade worth of surveys and excavation, archaeologists have come to a conclusion they never thought they’d make in Mesoamerica: It was home to a republic. The Mesoamerican city of Tlaxcallan, built around 1250 C.E. in the hills surrounding the modern city of Tlaxcala, Mexico, is now one of several premodern societies around the world that archaeologists believe were organized collectively, where rulers shared power and commoners had a say in the government that presided over their lives. These societies were not necessarily full democracies in which citizens cast votes, but they were radically different from the autocratic, inherited rule found—or assumed—in most early societies.

Good vibrations: A bit of shaking can burn fat, combat diabetes

It sounds like a crazy way to improve your health—spend some time on a platform that vibrates at about the same frequency as the lowest string on a double bass. But recent research indicates that the procedure, known as whole-body vibration, may be helpful in illnesses from cerebral palsy to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Now, a new study of obese mice reveals that whole-body vibration provides similar metabolic benefits as walking on a treadmill, suggesting it may be useful for treating obesity and type II diabetes.

Biological version of malware reverses antibiotic resistance in TB

As the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) has frighteningly become resistant to one drug after another, scientists for years have searched for new compounds that will stop the pathogen before it kills. Now, in a novel twist, researchers have found a way to recruit help from none other than Mycobacterium tuberculosis itself to make the deadly pathogen susceptible to an existing TB drug that it has learned to dodge.

New Portuguese skull may be an early relative of Neandertals

Half a million years ago, several different members of our genus, Homo, had spread throughout Europe and Asia, where some would eventually evolve into Neandertals. But which ones has been the subject of intense debate. A newly discovered partial skull is offering another clue to help solve the mystery of the ancestry of Neandertals. Found in 2014 in the Gruta da Aroeira cave in central Portugal with ancient stone hand axes, the skull is firmly dated to 400,000 years old and an archaic member of our genus.