Editors' Choice

Science  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6311, pp. 430
  1. Cognition

    Should I stay or should I go?

    1. Sacha Vignieri

    Dogs understand our gestures perhaps even better than our words.

    PHOTO: TIERFOTOAGENTUR/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

    Much recent research on communication between dogs and humans has shown that dogs understand both our verbal and gestural commands, a fact well known to dog owners. Looking at working water rescue dogs, D'Aniello et al. asked which of these two types of commands has priority, especially if conflicting signals are given. Dogs responded better to gestural than to verbal commands, when given separately. Generally, priority was also given to gestures when conflicting commands were made, though females were better at responding to gestures, whereas males responded better to words. Interestingly, when asked both to “stay” and “come,” dogs tended to choose to come, especially when the handler was walking away, suggesting that they sometimes chose the option that better coincided with their own choice.

    Anim. Cogn. 10.1007/s10071-016-1010-5 (2016).

  2. Antibiotic Resistance

    Quantifying the alarm from antibiotic resistance

    1. Caroline Ash

    Antibiotic resistance is a major global fear, but how fearful should we be? Multidrug resistance (MDR) is high among developing economies that are vulnerable to purveyors of substandard drugs and where over-the-counter sales are not controlled. Lim et al. collected mortality data on bacteremia from 10 public hospitals in northeast Thailand between 2004 and 2010. During this period, the incidence of bacteremia increased, and high case fatality rates were observed for MDR strains, especially hospital-acquired Acinetobacter spp. Extrapolating to the whole of Thailand for 2010 indicates that among patients with hospital-acquired MDR bacterial infection, 43% of deaths represented excess mortality caused by MDR—which is high compared with similar estimates for the United States or Europe.

    eLife 10.7554/eLife.18082 (2016).

  3. Bioethics

    Personalized medicine by another name

    1. Barbara R. Jasny

    A vision of the Human Genome Project was that molecular profiling would enable identification of the molecular underpinnings of disease on an individual basis; “personalized medicine” became a watchword. However, a rebranding has been occurring since roughly 2012 in which the concept has been transmogrified into “precision medicine.” Juengst et al. describe conclusions from interviews and case studies conducted since 2011 with 143 supporters of personalized genomic medicine. The terminology change may minimize unrealistic expectations. However, a shift from “personal” could mean a reversal of the trend toward patient autonomy in decision-making. The need for population-level sequencing to identify groups with particular molecular profiles carries its own risks in terms of pressures to participate and the possibility of stigmatization.

    Hastings Cent. Rep. 46, 21 (2016).

  4. Climatology

    Atmospheric circulation in a warmer world

    1. H. Jese Smith

    One of the most visible effects of climate change in recent decades has been the reduction of sea ice in the Arctic, which has raised the question of how weather at lower latitudes might be affected. This question has lately been asked often after a number of particularly cold winters in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Meleshko et al. conducted a modeling study of how the polar and mid-latitude atmosphere might respond when a summer sea ice–free state is reached in the Arctic, as is projected for the next century. They find that although climate warming enhances northward heat transport, the resulting increase in polar surface air temperatures does not cause increased oscillation of atmospheric planetary waves, as has been proposed elsewhere.

    Arctic summer sea ice is expected to disappear by mid-century.

    PHOTO: ROWAN ROMEYN/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

    Tellus A, 10.3402/tellusa.v68.32330 (2016).

  5. Superconductivity

    Controlling superconducting pairing

    1. Jelena Stajic

    Interfacing superconductors with materials that have strong spin-orbit coupling can modify the superconductivity in unusual ways. Hart et al. sandwiched a HgTe quantum well between two superconducting leads, forming a junction. Normally, Cooper pairs—whose formation makes materials superconductive—consist of electrons of opposite momenta. Applying a magnetic field in the plane of the well, combined with an unusual electronic spin texture in HgTe, caused the Cooper pairs in the junction to acquire a nonzero total momentum. By comparing their data to theoretical models, the researchers were able to probe the nature of spin-orbit coupling in the system.

    Nat. Phys. 10.1038/NPHYS3877 (2016).

  6. Germ Cell Development

    Primate germ cell origin

    1. Beverly A. Purnell

    For species survival, reliable and efficient gamete production is crucial. In mammals, gametes arise from primordial germ cells (PGCs) that make their way to the developing gonads. Much is known about murine germ cell specification in the embryonic epiblast, but the mechanism in primates is less clear. Murine and primate embryos display different anatomical structures during development, so PGC origin may also vary. By examining cynomolgus monkeys (or crab-eating macaques, Macaca fascicularis), Sasaki et al. found that cynomolgus PGCs originate in the dorsal amnion, which itself provides signals to specify these cells. PGCs then migrate to the posterior yolk sac and eventually to the gonad. Preliminary analyses suggest that human germ cells may have a similar amniotic origin.

    Dev. Cell. 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.09.007 (2016).

  7. Barred Galaxies

    Stellar bars knock holes in galaxy discs

    1. Keith T. Smith

    The barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073

    PHOTO: NASA & ESA

    About half of all spiral galaxies have a bar structure in their central region, but how these morphological features evolve over time remains uncertain. Kim et al. studied the distribution of infrared light in more than a hundred barred galaxies, using decomposition to separate the bar from other galaxy components. They quantify a deficit in surface brightness that appears around strong bars and investigate how it varies with other galaxy properties. They conclude that as the bar evolves, stars that were on near-circular disc orbits are perturbed onto the highly eccentric orbits that form the bar, causing the deficit.

    Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 462, 3430 (2016)

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