Top stories: Naked mole rat superpowers, a deadly salamander disease, and alternatives to grant writing

Top stories: Naked mole rat superpowers, a deadly salamander disease, and alternatives to grant writing

Science is covering the March for Science worldwide. Be sure to check out our live coverage on the day of here, and also see all of our stories on the march.

With this new system, scientists never have to write a grant application again

Almost every scientist agrees: Applying for research funding is a drag. Writing a good proposal can take months, and the chances of getting funded are often slim. Funding agencies, meanwhile, spend more and more time and money reviewing growing stacks of applications. That’s why two researchers are proposing “self-organized fund allocation,” a radically different system that would do away with applications and reviews; instead, scientists would just give each other money.

Self-taught artificial intelligence beats doctors at predicting heart attacks

Doctors have lots of tools for predicting a patient’s health. But—as even they will tell you—they’re no match for the complexity of the human body. Heart attacks in particular are hard to anticipate. Now, scientists have shown that computers capable of teaching themselves can perform even better than standard medical guidelines, significantly increasing prediction rates. If implemented, the new method could save thousands or even millions of lives a year.

Giant shipworms discovered hiding in sulfurous lagoons

Digging 3 meters down into the dark marine mud of a former log storage pond in Mindanao, Philippines, scientists have discovered five live specimens of an elusive creature previously known only through the 1- to 1.5-meter-long calcium carbonate shells it left behind. By carefully chipping away at the end of a chalky tube, researchers found a long, black, wormlike mass oozing from its casing—the first live specimen of the giant shipworm Kuphus polythalamia.

Naked mole rats can survive 18 minutes without oxygen. Here’s how they do it

Naked mole rats are the superheroes of lab animals. They show few signs of aging, are resistant to some types of pain, and almost never get cancer. Now, scientists have discovered another superpower: The animals can survive more than 18 minutes without oxygen. They do that by essentially switching their bodies from using one fuel to another—a strategy that might point to new ways of combatting strokes and heart attacks in people.

A deadly salamander disease just got a lot scarier

Europe’s largest and best known salamander species, the fire salamander, is falling victim to a deadly fungus, and new research is making scientists more pessimistic about its future. A 2-year study of a population in Belgium, now entirely wiped out, has revealed that these amphibians can’t develop immunity to the fungus, as was hoped. To make matters worse, it turns out the fungus creates a hardy spore that can survive in water for months and also stick to birds’ feet, offering a way for it to spread rapidly across the continent. Two other kinds of amphibians, both resistant to the disease, also act as carriers for the highly infectious spores.

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