The stereotype of a Neanderthal is very tough, but they had big Bambi eyes. This may have been a problem. The theory is that their big eyes helped them see better in cloudy, rainy, snowy Ice Age Europe. But primates with big eyes generally have bigger visual centers in their brain. Which is fine, but there's only so much room in a skull. Oxford anthropologists propose that the big visual centers crowded out some of the space for more abstract thinking, in particular for social thinking. A rather fine-drawn inference from size of eye-socket, but an interesting idea.
Pre-Clovis in South America (Science News)
Archeologists working in Brazil have found stone tools that may date back 22,000 years. That would make them earlier than the Clovis culture, 13,000 years ago. Mainstream archeological opinion used to be that the Clovis people were the first in America, but there has been a steady series of claims for pre-Clovis discoveries.
Chinese in Africa before Columbus (Science Daily)
Archeologists have found a Chinese coin in Kenya, 600 years old. So it looks like there was some commerce between China and Africa several decades before Columbus. The archeologists believe the coin got there in the exploratory fleet of Admiral Zheng He. In a move crucial to the course of history, the Chinese dropped their explorations after Zheng He's time, leaving the seas open for Columbus.
The AIDS virus is very hard to kill, but biologists have found a new way to do so, in vitro at least, using a component from bee venom, loaded into nanoparticles. Most anti-viral medications try to keep the virus from reproducing; this method just kills it on contact.
Gene therapy for arthritis (Discover Magazine)
There's a protein called lubricin that helps keep joints working smoothly. It gets scarce as we get old, and this scarcity is a common cause of arthritis. Gene therapy on mice, boosting lubricin production, has made the mice much more resistant to arthritis. At the moment, no gene therapy is approved for use on humans, but results like this could change that.
Higgs now official (Science Daily)
Back in July, physicists at CERN announced that they were pretty sure they had detected the Higgs boson, a particle predicted by the "standard model" of particle physics, and the last one left to discover. Now, they have looked over a lot more data and have decided, yes indeed, they've found the Higgs.
Balancing quarks (Science Daily)
Back in 1957, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle deduced the nuclear reactions in stars that produce heavier elements out of hydrogen and helium. He figured out that, for there to be as much carbon in the universe as there is, the carbon atom had to have a certain specific energy structure. Very specific.
That was before quark theory. Now, going back over the reactions in terms of quarks, physicists find that, if the masses of the quarks were 2% to 3% different from what they are, carbon and oxygen would be enormously rare elements. Which would make life even rarer.