Top stories: Trump’s pick for science, a sun-chasing probe, and a better flow battery
Trump’s pick to head White House science office gets good reviews
President Donald Trump announced this week that he intends to nominate meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, a university administrator and former vice-chair of the governing board of the U.S. National Science Foundation, to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Although many in the research community lamented the nearly 560-day wait for the announcement of a presidential science adviser, Droegemeier, a respected veteran of the Washington, D.C., policymaking scene, has already garnered positive reviews from science and university groups.
Plan to replicate 50 high-impact cancer papers shrinks to just 18
An ambitious project to replicate experiments from 50 high-impact cancer biology papers now expects to complete just 18 studies. The Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology launched in October 2013, but quickly drew criticism from authors of the original studies that the contract labs lacked the expertise needed to replicate the work. The project was plagued by rising costs and delays, and it was eventually whittled down, as organizers reckoned with the difficulty of reproducing the studies.
NASA’s Parker Probe will venture closer than ever to the sun to explore its mysterious atmosphere
In the coming weeks, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is set to blast off toward the sun’s corona, a tenuous atmosphere of hot plasma, on the first of 24 flybys between now and 2024. During those flybys, its carbon heat shield must withstand temperatures up to a blistering 1370°C, keeping the probe from becoming a modern Icarus. If all goes well, the spacecraft will beam back over the course of its mission a record of the corona’s plasma and the tangled net of magnetic fields that shape it.
Staying slim during pregnancy carries a price
Scientists have long criticized Japan’s official guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy as too low. A recent survey shows many pregnant Japanese women strive to keep their weight gain below even those targets. This combination of factors has led to an unusually high percentage of low-weight births, which is likely the reason the height of the average Japanese adult has declined every year for those born after 1980. The trend could create long-term health problems, scientists warn, and affect longevity.
This ‘flow battery’ could power green homes when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing
With solar and wind electricity prices plunging, the hunt is on for cheap batteries to store all the resulting green power. Now, researchers have gotten one step closer with a new kind of flow battery, a device that uses pairs of electrodes to convert energy stored in chemicals into electricity and electrolytes to ferry charges from one electrode to another. Instead of expensive electrolytes made from vanadium metal, researchers are looking to cheaper, but shorter-lived organic molecules. In a recent study, researchers tinkered with a molecule called a quinone and extended its life span in a battery from days to years.