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Top stories: What Trump’s nominees say about science and how air pollution affects your brain


(Left to right): Gage Skidmore/flickr; Sang-Heon Shim, Arizona State University; © David McNew/Getty Images

Trump officials suspend plan to delete EPA climate web pages

Trump administration officials appear to have walked back plans to scrub climate change references from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website. The new directive comes after staff were told earlier this week to remove the agency’s climate change page from its website. The backlash that erupted shortly thereafter may have prompted administration officials to change course. Controversies over communication shutdowns at other government agencies have also emerged, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The latter was a bungled attempt to communicate a longstanding USDA policy, not an instruction from the president’s office.

The polluted brain: Evidence builds that dirty air causes Alzheimer’s, dementia

How does polluted air affect our overall health? Some of the risks of inhaling fine and ultrafine particles are well-established, such as asthma, lung cancer, and, most recently, heart disease. But a growing body of evidence suggests that exposure can also harm the brain, accelerating cognitive aging, and it may even increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The link between air pollution and dementia remains controversial—even its proponents warn that more research is needed to confirm a causal connection and work out just how the particles might enter the brain and make mischief.

Diamond vise turns hydrogen into a metal, potentially ending 80-year quest

By squeezing hydrogen to pressures well beyond those in the center of Earth, scientists have seen a hint that it can morph into a solid metal, capable of conducting electricity in the lab. The feat, which took place last October at Harvard University, is more than an oddity. Solid metallic hydrogen is thought to be a superconductor, able to conduct electricity without resistance. It may even be metastable, meaning that like diamond, it could maintain its state—and even its superconductivity—once brought back to room temperatures and pressures. Still, claims of solid metallic hydrogen have come and gone before, leaving tumult over the most recent finding.

Facing ‘doomsday’ scenario, scientists consider fleeing Brazil

Declining federal support for science in cash-strapped Brazil had sapped funds for scholarships and lab infrastructure. Now, Rio de Janeiro’s funding agency, FAPERJ, is bankrupt. It has fallen $150 million behind on grant payments—and over 2 years has cut off funds to 3670 research projects. Last year, it devoted most of its spending—$30 million—to graduate scholarships. Science funding faces similar threats in other Brazilian states. As funds dry up, many Brazilian scientists consider taking their talent elsewhere.

What Trump’s nominees have said about science at their Senate hearings

This is the third week of U.S. Senate hearings on President Donald Trump’s nominees to his Cabinet. Most, if not all, of the nominees are expected to win confirmation, which requires just 51 votes. ScienceInsider is keeping a watch to see whether scientific issues—such as climate change and vaccination policy—get much discussion, and what comments draw fiery debate. Take a look at this week’s highlights.

Source: Science Mag