Top stories: black hole swarms, scientific misconduct, and recognizing mutt breeds | Science

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(left to right): NASA/JPL-CALTECH/ESA/CXC/STSCI; DENIS TANGNEY JR./ISTOCKPHOTO.COM; TUCKER GOOD/UNSPLASH

A swarm of black holes may be lurking in our galaxy’s heart

Many galaxies, including our own, have one supermassive black hole at their core, which grows by slowly pulling in a host of smaller objects, including stars and entire star systems. Scientists have suspected that this core region may also contain numerous smaller black holes tightly orbiting the supermassive one, but they’ve lacked evidence of that—until now. A new study reports that hundreds of black holes may lie at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, a discovery that bolsters current models of how galaxies evolve, scientists say.

Why The Ohio State University decided to go public about misconduct

In an unusual move, The Ohio State University in Columbus last week released a detailed account of the scientific misbehavior of one of its former faculty members. The report was damning: It concluded that cancer researcher Ching-Shih Chen—once lauded as an “Innovator of the Year” and the winner of millions of dollars in federal funding—had committed misconduct in eight papers. The problems prompted the university to suspend a clinical trial of an anticancer compound Chen had identified, and led to his resignation last September.

Viking seafarers may have navigated with legendary crystals

For centuries, Viking seafarers ruled the North Atlantic, braving open seas peppered with icebergs to travel thousands of kilometers to their colonies in Iceland and Greenland—all without compasses. How they performed such a feat, especially given the region’s heavy clouds and fog, has long puzzled scientists. Now, one group of researchers has an answer, based on computer simulations—and legendary crystals. 

DNA legend James Watson gave his name to a Chinese research center. Now he’s having second thoughts

James Watson, the Nobel laureate who turned 90 this week, was the guest of honor at a March groundbreaking ceremony for a China-based research center that will bear his name. But the ambitious effort, meant to rival prestigious biomedical research centers in the West, is raising eyebrows—and doubts. “I left [China] rather pessimistic that the institute would ever be built,” says Watson, who wonders whether the necessary funding will materialize. The research agenda is also veering away from what he expected.

Can you identify a dog’s breed by its looks? This team wants to know

It’s not hard to tell a poodle by its curls, a greyhound by its deep narrow chest, or a pug by its flattened snout. But can people guess the ancestors of mixed breeds? Researchers at Darwin’s Dogs, a citizen science effort focused on the genetics of canine behavior, want to know. They’re launching a project where volunteers can try to identify the top three breeds that make up a given dog, and researchers will then compare that with the pooch’s actual genetic profile.



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