Top stories Sewageloving giant viruses the original Brexit and mental health risks

first_img(Left to right): Norwegian Institute for Nature Research; Warren Wong/Creative Commons; Imperial College London/Chase Stone Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Top stories: Sewage-loving giant viruses, the original Brexit, and mental health risks for Ph.D.s Email By Ryan CrossApr. 7, 2017 , 4:30 PM Is dark energy an illusion?For the past 20 years, physicists have known that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, as if some bizarre “dark energy” is blowing up space like a balloon. In fact, cosmologists’ well-tested standard model assumes that 69% of the content of the universe is dark energy. However, there may be no need for the mysterious stuff, a team of theorists claims. Instead, the researchers argue, the universe’s acceleration could be driven by variations in its density. If so, then one of the biggest mysteries in physics could be explained away with nothing other than Albert Einstein’s familiar general theory of relativity. Other researchers remain skeptical.Ph.D. students face significant mental health challengesApproximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659 students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of mental health issues in academia.Norway plans to exterminate a large reindeer herd to stop a fatal infectious brain diseaseA year after a deadly and highly contagious wildlife disease surfaced in Norway, the country is taking action. Chronic wasting disease, caused by misfolded proteins called prions, has already ravaged deer and elk in North America, costing rural economies millions in lost revenue from hunting. Last week, Norway’s minister of agriculture and food gave the green light for hunters to kill off the entire herd in which three infected individuals were found. That’s about 2000 reindeer, or nearly 6% of the country’s wild population.The original Brexit: How tremendous ice age waterfalls cut off Britain from EuropeFor millions of years, Britain was part of Europe. A high ridge of limestone—now famously exposed as the chalky cliffs of Dover—extended all the way to what is now France, allowing mammoths, hippos, and eventually humans to freely pass back and forth. But about 450,000 years ago, this rocky road was cut off by a flood of unimaginable proportions. Now, a team of researchers has detailed evidence of how this torrent of destruction was unleashed. Giant viruses found in Austrian sewage fuel debate over potential fourth domain of lifeTourists visiting the Austrian town of Klosterneuburg often head for the 12th century monastery or the nearby memorial to author Franz Kafka. Virologists and evolutionary biologists, however, may one day pay homage to the town’s sewage treatment plant, which has yielded a genome that appears to be from the most cell-like viruses yet. These oddities challenge the controversial hypothesis that so-called giant viruses are descendants of a vanished group of cellular organisms—a fourth domain of life. Instead, a new study argues, these outsized viruses have more pedestrian origins. Click to view the privacy policy. 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