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Top stories: HPV vaccine debate, 2000-year-old pollution, and a lawmaker’s views on sea level rise

Journal retracts paper claiming neurological damage from HPV vaccine

Scientific Reports retracted a controversial paper claiming to show that mice given a human papillomavirus vaccine showed signs of neurological damage. The paper was assailed by critics as "pseudoscience" that could have "devastating" health consequences by undermining public confidence in a vaccine given to girls to prevent cervical cancer. However, the controversy seems likely to continue. "The Authors do not agree with the retraction," the announcement states.

Rise and fall of Roman Empire exposed in Greenland ice samples

Modern people aren’t the only ones who’ve polluted the atmosphere. Two thousand years ago, the Romans smelted precious ores in clay furnaces, extracting silver and belching lead into the sky. Some of that lead settled on Greenland’s ice cap and mixed in with ever-accumulating layers of ice. Now, scientists studying annual deposits of those ice layers have found that spikes and dips in lead pollution during the Roman era mirror the timing of many historical events, including wars fought by Julius Caesar.

Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean are causing sea level rise

The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. That’s just one of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee this week. The lawmakers at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming. A leading climate scientist testifying before the panel spent much of his 2 hours there correcting misstatements.

Study of short Peruvians reveals new gene with a major impact on height

Hundreds of genes influence how tall a person is, but most make an imperceptible difference—perhaps a millimeter, for example. Now, a group studying the genetics of Peruvians, one of the world's shortest populations, has turned up a gene variant that cuts a person's height by more than 2 centimeters, on average. "It's amazing that they saw such a change," says Emma Farley, a genomicist at the University of California, San Diego. "It's quite a large effect."

What makes a man attractive? Hint: Look at his limbs

A man may be attractive because of his curly, blond hair or slick pin-striped suit, but strip everything away and one luring piece remains, a new study finds: how proportional his body is, especially his legs. More than 800 heterosexual U.S. women were asked to rank the attractiveness of computerized male models. How long the model’s arms were relative to his height didn’t seem to matter, and women cared only a little about how the elbow or knee divided a limb. But women noticed if the legs made up more or less than half his height—and they didn’t like it, preferring a man’s legs to be about half his height.