Smoke caused by wildfires in Southern California can lead to health problems, and vulnerable populations such as homeless people and farmworkers may be especially at risk. Wildfire seasons have been getting longer in the West, and geographer John Abatzoglou noted that warm conditions can "accelerate the rate at which vegetation dries up and becomes receptive to igniting and carrying fire."
On average, 63.3% of white students earn a bachelor's degree within six years -- compared with 53.6% of Latino students -- according to a report from Education Trust. However, data show that the racial gap on college degrees has closed by 2.7 percentage points between 2002 and 2015.
A genetic mutation has been found in six members of the same Italian family that makes them feel very little, if any, physical pain, a finding that could one day lead to new pain relief medications, according to findings published in Brain. Researchers found the same mutation in the ZFHX2 gene in a 78-year-old matriarch, her two daughters and three grandchildren.
The fossil of a Triassic Period plesiosaur has been found in Germany and is giving researchers clues about how the warm-blooded sea reptiles lived through a mass extinction, according to findings published in Science Advances. "Warm-bloodedness probably was the key to both their long reign and their survival of a major crisis in the history of life, the extinction events at the end of the Triassic," said Martin Sander, who examined the Rhaeticosaurus mertensi fossil.
Hydrogel disks inspired by the organs of electric eels have been developed as a new, flexible device that produces energy like a battery. The disks are made of a water-based polymer and may one day be used to power such things as soft robots or wearable technology, according to findings published online in Nature.
A re-examination of tiny fossils once thought to be arthropod embryos has determined they are actually jellyfish ancestors and that they developed very differently from their modern relatives, jumping directly from their embryonic stage to adulthood. "Evidently, some Cambrian jellyfish were organized in a very different way to their living counterparts, changing perception of the nature of ancestors," said Philip Donoghue, an author of the study published in Biological Sciences.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $750,000 grant to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to create a Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts to research how the arts can nurture empathy. The museum has also received a $520,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation to fund its work on diversity and inclusion.
The British Council has awarded a total of $2 million to four stem cell research projects by the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange program. The projects are examining possible stem cell therapies for diabetes, heart disease, leukemia, anemia and Alzheimer's disease.
Ryan Enos, a political scientist and associate professor at Harvard University, explores how geography shapes political views in a new book. "We treat places where the people are not like us -- cities versus suburbs, red state versus blue -- as different than places that are like us," he says.