Top stories: Four vaccine myths, nanocar racers, and how science fares in the latest U.S. budget
Four vaccine myths and where they came from
Even though vaccination has driven down the rates of life-threatening illnesses like polio, mumps, and whooping cough, fears about vaccines have kept some parents from following through with shots. Vaccine skeptics have railed against vaccination requirements, have alleged government cover-ups, and—more recently—have called for the formation of a new “vaccine safety” commission. Now, you can read the history behind four common false claims against vaccines, and see for yourself why vaccines do more good than harm.
How science fares in the U.S. budget deal
The U.S. Congress finally reached a deal earlier this week on spending bills for the 2017 fiscal year, which ends on 30 September. The new agreement allows agencies to operate normally within the constraints of the spending plans, assuming that President Donald Trump signs the legislation (as is expected). It also averts a shutdown of the government that would have occurred next weekend if Congress failed to act in time. The deal staves off major cuts for federal science agencies that Trump had requested last month. A few, including the National Institutes of Health and NASA science programs, actually receive substantial increases.
DOE freezes millions in high-tech energy grants and gags staff
The Department of Energy (DOE) has stopped processing the paperwork on tens of millions of dollars in research that its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has agreed to fund. DOE officials aren’t saying why they have taken this unusual step, dubbed a “no-contract action.” It went into effect earlier this month and affects more than a dozen projects across four new ARPA-E programs. The move includes a gag order on ARPA-E program managers, leaving investigators in the dark about the status of their grants. The uncertainty is having a devastating impact on research teams, scientists say, and even threatens the viability of small companies for whom those major awards are so important.
Watch the world’s smallest cars race along tracks thinner than a human hair
In a battle for the ages, six cars vied for dominance last weekend on a race track in Toulouse, France. But you would have needed some serious binoculars for a glimpse of the action. That’s because the course was smaller than the width of a human hair, and the cars—designed by researchers from Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the United States—were just single molecules. The race has been billed as a way to advance the manipulation of molecular machines, a field that won last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Computer scientists have created the most accurate digital model of a human face. Here’s what it can do
If you’ve used the smartphone application Snapchat, you may have turned a photo of yourself into a disco bear or melded your face with someone else’s. Now, a group of researchers has created the most advanced technique yet for building 3D facial models on the computer. The system could improve personalized avatars in video games, facial recognition for security, and—of course—Snapchat filters.