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Of heads and headlines: can a skull doom 14 human species?

By Darren Curnoe

A newly discovered 1.8 million-year-old skull from Eastern Europe has been pitched as disproving a decades-old paradigm in human evolution.

Its discoverers claim the find sinks more than a dozen species into a single evolutionary line leading to living people. But the new study highlights the propensity of some anthropologists to overstep the mark, interpreting the importance of their finds in a way that grabs the headlines.

More big claims

The more-than-150-year history of human evolutionary science is filled with many remarkable and headline-grabbing episodes.

Sticks and stones: Brain releases natural painkillers during social rejection

Finding that the opioid system can act to ease social pain, not just physical pain, may aid understanding of depression and social anxiety

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," goes the playground rhyme that's supposed to help children endure taunts from classmates. But a new study suggests that there's more going on inside our brains when someone snubs us – and that the brain may have its own way of easing social pain.

The findings, recently published in Molecular Psychiatry by a University of Michigan Medical School team, show that the brain's natural painkiller system responds to social rejection – not just physical injury.

Nobel prizewinners took chemistry from pipettes to programming

By Catherine Whitby, University of South Australia

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded for research that has revolutionised our understanding of how enzymes control the chemistry in our bodies.

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been jointly awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel for developing foundation computer software that chemists today use to investigate how biological molecules work.

Could the Higgs Nobel be the end of particle physics?

By Harry Cliff

While the discovery of the Higgs boson has been awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics, it hasn’t brought us any closer to answering some of the most troubling problems in fundamental science.

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs for their work that explains why subatomic particles have mass. They predicted the existence of the Higgs boson, a fundamental particle, which was confirmed last year by experiments conducted at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Bread, beer and botox: the science behind the 2013 Nobel Prize for medicine

By Jenny Martin

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded "discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic". What does this mean and why is it important?

What do bread, beer and botox have in common with this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine? More than you might think. But more on that in a minute.

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to James Rothman, Randy Schekman, and Thomas Südhof “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.”

Diamond 'super-Earth' may not be quite as precious

An alien world thought to be the first known planet to consist largely of diamond appears less likely to be of such precious nature.

A planet 40 light years from our solar system, believed to be the first-ever discovered planet to consist largely of diamond, may in fact be of less exquisite nature, according to new research led by University of Arizona astronomy graduate student Johanna Teske.

Scientists link DNA to marital satisfaction

Study links genetics, emotions and marital satisfaction.

What makes some people more prone to wedded bliss or sorrow than others? Researchers at UC Berkeley and Northwestern University have found a major clue in our DNA. A gene involved in the regulation of serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships, according to a new study that may be the first to link genetics, emotions, and marital satisfaction. The study was conducted at UC Berkeley.

Making Martian clouds on Earth

Cloud-chamber experiments show that clouds on Mars form in much more humid conditions than clouds on Earth

At first glance, Mars' clouds might easily be mistaken for those on Earth. Images of the Martian sky, taken by NASA's Opportunity rover, depict gauzy, high-altitude wisps, similar to our cirrus clouds. Given what scientists know about the Red Planet's atmosphere, these clouds likely consist of either carbon dioxide or water-based ice crystals. But it's difficult to know the precise conditions that give rise to such clouds without sampling directly from a Martian cloud.

Care and consent: the fraught ethics of international clinical trials

By Agomoni Ganguli Mitra, University of Münster

Two large US-funded studies on cervical cancer screening in India are being investigated by the US Office of Human Research Protection for ethical violations. Concerns were raised about the trials after a large number of women in the control groups died from cervical cancer.

Extraordinary 'missing link' fossil fish found in China

By John Long

Discovery gives us powerful new insights about the building of the human body plan, which began seriously with these ancient fossil fishes.

A spectacular new “missing link” fossil has been unearthed in China. The 419 million year old armoured fish, called Entelognathus, meaning “complete jaw” solves an age-old debate in science. For palaeontologists this fish is as big as finding the Higgs-Boson particle because of its immense significance to our understanding of early vertebrate evolution.