Editors' Choice

Science  12 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6202, pp. 1307
  1. Forest Ecology

    Legacy of a storm

    1. Andrew M. Sugden

    Damage in Hyde Park, London, after the October 1987 storm


    A severe windstorm has increased plant species diversity in British broadleaved woodlands. In September 1987, hurricane-force winds uprooted an estimated 15 million trees in southeastern England. Smart et al. monitored the understory plant community in forest plots before and after the storm, and compared affected and unaffected sites. In the 15 years after the storm, the number of species in wind-damaged plots increased by 32%. Most were native woodland species rather than invasives. This single massive event reversed a 40-year background trend toward decreased plant diversity in undisturbed woodlands.

    J. Ecol. 10.1111/1365-2745.12291 (2014).

  2. Antibiotic Resistance

    Giving bacteria the old one-two…three-four

    1. L. Bryan Ray

    Is it possible to streamline the complex task of finding new drugs to fight resistant bacteria and other disease targets? Most biological processes are controlled by complicated regulatory networks, so combinations of two or more drugs are likely to be more effective than any single agent. Finding combinations that work means first screening enormous numbers of possibilities. Cheng et al. examined mixtures of genetic elements in millions of different combinations. Those combinations with the desired effect in a biological test could be identified afterward by highthroughput sequencing capable of detecting associated DNA “barcode” identifier sequences. Results are promising and revealed combinations of transcription factors that enhanced lethal effects of an antibiotic by a millionfold.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1400093111 (2014).

  3. Influenza

    Flu survivors are an inflammatory club

    1. Kristen L. Mueller

    Kill it: That is the immune system's response to most viral infections, including influenza. Eliminating infected cells rids the body of the infection. Heaton et al. now report that a special type of epithelial cell in the lungs of mice—called club cells—survive influenza infection. How do they do it? Gene expression analysis suggests that club cells express high amounts of antiviral genes in response to infection. Although this process probably helps the animal contain the virus during early infection, club cells also produced pro-inflammatory molecules that cause lung pathology. Whether club cells play a role in inflammation-induced mortality, as seen in the H5N1 and H1N1 influenza pandemics, remains to be seen.

    J. Exp. Med. 10.1084/jem.20140488 (2014).

  4. Black Holes

    The spinning heart of the Einstein Cross

    1. Margaret M. Moerchen

    Supermassive black holes power entire galaxies from their cores, but how they grew so large is uncertain. When astronomers describe a black hole, they rely on two features: its mass and how fast it spins. The spin rate provides information about how the black hole grew, but it is tricky to measure. Reynolds et al. have determined the spin for the most distant quasar yet, a source called the Einstein Cross. This source got its name because the quasar's light is bent around a massive galaxy and reimaged four times. The high spin rate suggests that several dramatic accretion events produced the black hole rather than many small ones.

    Astrophys. J. Lett. 10.1088/2041-8205/792/1/L19 (2014).

  5. Paleontology

    New titanosaur unearthed in Argentina

    1. Monica M. Bradford

    Researchers working in Argentina have discovered the most complete skeleton of a titanosaur, giant plant-eating dinosaurs that dominated the Southern Hemisphere beginning 90 million years ago. Dreadnoughtus schrani was 26 m long and weighed 59 metric tons—twice as long as Tyrannosaurus rex and as heavy as a herd of elephants. Lacovara et al. recovered 70% of the dino's skeleton, including most of its vertebrae but not the head. The researchers say the beast was so big it would have had no fear of predators (Dreadnoughtus, from Old English, means “fearing nothing”). And an examination of its back and shoulder bones indicates that the animal was still growing when it died.

    Sci. Rep. 10.1038/srep06196 (2014).

  6. Optical Metrology

    Shining light on precision time-keeping

    1. Ian S. Osborne

    Keeping time typically works by counting the ticks on a clock. A new generation of clocks based on the optical transitions of atoms can sub-divide each second into billions of finer ticks, making it possible to measure even the fleetest of moments. The physical mechanism (or clockwork) of such accurate timepieces is complex, limiting them largely to national laboratories. Papp et al. show that a chip-based approach, in which optics are integrated with semiconductor-based microresonators, can provide an easy way to engineer such complex clockwork. Their approach promises a new era of metrology that makes precision timekeeping widely available.

    Optica 10.1364/OPTICA.1.000010 (2015).

  7. Drug Delivery

    A complementary refill? Yes, please!

    1. Paula A. Kiberstis

    Drugs delivered throughout the body often cause collateral damage to healthy tissues. When disease or injury is localized, patients can avoid this problem by using a drugdelivery device implanted in the target tissue. However, such devices eventually run out of drugs and must be removed surgically and refilled. Brudno et al. designed a drug-delivery device that can be refilled noninvasively and tested it in a mouse tumor model. They made the device from a gel tethered to short DNA sequences. To refill it, they coupled gel strands to drugs and tethered them to complementary DNA sequences, then injected the strands intravenously into the mice. Because of the complementary DNA sequences, the strands homed directly to the device.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1413027111 (2014).

  8. Education

    Collaborating on assessments

    1. Melissa McCartney

    When teachers collaborate with educational researchers, everyone wins: Teachers focus on their practice and researchers learn about the challenges teachers face. Education reforms require these often separate communities to overlap. Szteinberg et al. merged both groups and tasked them with developing a sequence of knowledge that students are expected to learn in their chemistry class, as well as a way to assess their learning. Participants evaluated their own work, and responses suggest that the approach to merge theory and practice greatly influenced teachers' views of assessment. Specifically, teachers reported a greater value on measuring the substance of their students' thinking and less emphasis on the selection of assessments themselves.

    J. Chem. Educ. 10.1021/ed5003042 (2014).