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Top stories: Panspermia gets a boost, a hurricane intensifies, and Brazil turns right

(left to right): STSCL/ESA/NASA; JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES; ANDRE COELHO/BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

By Frankie Schembri

Cometlike objects could be spreading life from star to star throughout the Milky Way

‘Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped space rock that entered our solar system last year, has reignited the debate around the plausibility of galactic panspermia: a phenomenon in which cometlike objects spread life by ferrying microbes between distant star systems.

Why scientists had trouble predicting Hurricane Michael’s rapid intensification

Hurricane Michael became a monster overnight, undergoing at least three periods of “rapid intensification” on its march toward Florida. While meteorologists can predict a hurricane’s path with relative certainty, forecasting changes in intensity is more challenging, due to the complicated underlying physics and the difficulty of collecting data. Researchers are concerned that warmer ocean waters due to climate change will further complicate these observations, opening the door to hurricanes of greater intensity and unpredictability.

‘We are headed for a very dark period.’ Brazil’s researchers fear election of far-right presidential candidate

Brazil appears poised to elect a far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, as its next president. His rapid ascent has unnerved local researchers, who worry about the future of Brazilian science, protection of the country’s biodiversity, and Brazil’s role in the global struggle against climate change. Bolsonaro has vowed to withdraw Brazil from the 2015 Paris agreement and plans to eliminate the country’s Ministry of the Environment.

Can you guess the ages of these faces?

Humans are awful at estimating a person’s age based on their face alone. New research shows people are usually off by about 8 years, and their estimate might be shaped by the last face they saw.

A revolutionary treatment for allergies to peanuts and other foods is going mainstream—but do the benefits outweigh the risks?

More than 3000 people worldwide, most of them children, have undergone peanut immunotherapy for a peanut allergy, with the goal of protecting them if they accidentally encounter the food. Two biotechnology companies are racing to introduce a peanut-based capsule or patch, and both plan to apply for approval from the Food and Drug Administration this year. While the breakthrough is cause for celebration among many families, physicians fret about the therapy’s rigors—treatment must continue indefinitely—and its risks, which sometimes include the same allergic reactions it aims to prevent.

Source: Science Mag

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