Solar sailing, big genomics and other science stories of the week

Welcome to your weekly science update – a curated list of this week’s most interesting stories in science.

Big genomics, big hype. A must read piece weighing the promises of precision medicine. “The problem is not so much that genetics fell short of its early promises. The problem is that big genomics players keep making similar promises.”

Fountain of youth. Results of 2014 studies suggesting a dose of “young blood” might be the key to rejuvenating old minds and bodies has been challenged by follow up studies. For more information on the potential for this technology see Standford Professor Tony Wyss-Coray’s talk at Davos 2015.

Awe and altruism. A new study suggests that awe-inspiring experiences can promote altruistic behaviour.

Fake data. A much-publicized study suggesting that the best way to reduce prejudice against individuals in a minority group is to boost interactions between them and the majority was found to be entirely faked by one of the paper’s authors.

Nuclear future. The slow trudge toward nuclear fusion reactors may get a boost forward with a new spherical design.

Limits of biotech. Scientists and bioethicists convened this week to discuss what ethical limitations should be placed on bio-technological research – one of several such discussions that are scheduled in response to rapid developments in fields like genome editing.

Solar sailing. The first privately funded solar sailing satellite has been launched into orbit and could transform the future of space travel.

Building a better body. New materials, robotics and brain-computer interfaces are turning prosthetics limbs from a disability to an advantage.

Training the immune system to fight cancer. Cancer immunotherapy was the dominant theme at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Political science. US lawmakers have received letters of protest from over two dozen science associations in reaction to the 2015 reauthorization of the America Competes Act. Criticism suggests the new law politicizes science funding choices.

Artificial intelligence meets public health. Computer model pinpoints animal-to-human disease risk with 90% accuracy.

Author: David Gleicher is Senior Programme Manager, Science and Technology, at the World Economic Forum

Image: North Korea (the dark area) and South Korea at night are seen in an undated NASA handout picture from the International Space Station. REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters

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