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Top stories: Mice with autismlike behavior, our violent sun, and the roots of lactose tolerance

Gut bacteria may contribute to autism symptoms, mouse study finds

Genes are a powerful driver of risk for autism, but some researchers suspect another factor is also at play: the set of bacteria that inhabits the gut. That idea has been controversial, but a new study offers support for this gut-brain link. It reveals that mice develop autismlike behaviors when they are colonized by microbes from the feces of people with autism. The result doesn’t prove that gut bacteria can cause autism. But it suggests that, at least in mice, the makeup of the gut can contribute to some hallmark features of the disorder.

Scientists tackle a burning question: When will our quiet sun turn violent?

For all of February, the sun was nearly spotless. But in 5 years or so, the sun will be awash in sunspots and more prone to violent bursts of magnetic activity that can damage electrical grids and satellites. In about 11 years, the solar cycle will conclude and the sun will again grow quiet. Now, scientists are trying to understand what drives this 11-year cycle so they can predict solar maximum, when sunspots are more common—as are the dangerous solar storms that hurl charged particles at Earth.

Study raises questions about roots of lactose tolerance in Africa

About 5500 years ago—around the same time that herding of animals like cattle, sheep, and goats began in Europe—the practice was also catching on in East Africa. Now, a new study reveals how such pastoralism spread throughout the region.

IEEE, a major science publisher, bans Huawei scientists from reviewing papers

A major scientific society has banned employees of Huawei Technologies, the Chinese communications giant, from reviewing submissions to its journals because of U.S. government sanctions against the company. The New York City–based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers told editors of its roughly 200 journals this week that it feared “severe legal implications” from continuing to use Huawei scientists as reviewers in vetting technical papers.

Former football pros die at a faster rate than baseball veterans—and the reasons are surprising

The men competing in the National Football League and Major League Baseball (MLB) are some of the most elite athletes in the world. But their death rates differ markedly, a new study of thousands of former pro athletes has found. Former pro football players had a higher overall death rate than baseball veterans and were felled by cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative illnesses at strikingly higher rates than their MLB peers. On average, the football players died 7 years earlier than MLB players, the research found.