When Lauren Arrington decided to study the lionfish for her sixth grade science fair, the 12-year-old had no idea she would make a discovery that would surprise conservationists.
The Jupiter, Florida, youth had long been interested by the lionfish, an invasive species known for its spiky (and venomous) fin rays. Along with her father, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, Lauren worked on determining how far lionfish can make it in water that's not salty. Her dad believed they wouldn't be able to survive in salinity of less than 12 parts per 1,000, which is about a third as salty as ocean water. Lauren decided to go lower than that, and slowly went down to six parts per 1,000. The fish continued to do well, but Lauren stopped there, afraid she might kill her subjects if she dipped below that number.
Lauren's research shows conservationists that lionfish might be able to make their way into more waters than previously thought. North Carolina State University ecology professor Craig Layman used her findings and expanded upon them in a new study; he was sure to give Lauren credit for her discovery. Catherine Garcia
The Senate on Tuesday announced an agreement to move ahead on a stalled human trafficking bill, a development that should finally result in a long-delayed confirmation vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.
"As soon as we finish the trafficking bill," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "we'll move to the president's nominee for attorney general in the next day or so."
Democrats repeatedly filibustered the trafficking bill due to language restricting abortions — language they claimed Republicans sneaked into the bill at the last minute. Republicans responded by refusing to hold a confirmation vote for Lynch — whose nomination has been pending since November — until the Senate finished work on the trafficking bill. Jon Terbush
A startup company wants to change the way we approach breast cancer screenings.
Color Genomics has developed a way of testing whether women are genetically at risk for breast cancer, and it's a lot less expensive than traditional breast cancer screenings. The saliva test is only $249, which is about a tenth of the cost of other genetic breast cancer screenings, The New York Times reports. The saliva test looks at BRCA1 and BRCA2, the primary genes where mutations can occur and increase the risk of breast cancer, as well as 17 other cancer-risk genes.
Traditionally, women who have family histories of breast cancer undergo genetic testing to assess their risks of the disease. But the accessibility and ease of Color Genomics' test could allow many women to be tested who may not have been able to in the past.
Some experts have expressed concern that the test could create confusion among women whose test results weren't clear, such as a test signaling a mutation, but not whether it was dangerous or benign. And Color Genomics wants the test to be sold through its website, a policy another startup took with testing in 2013, only to be shut down by the FDA, the Times notes. Meghan DeMaria
Support for ObamaCare is creeping up, and it could tick even higher if Americans were better informed about the specifics of the law, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Tuesday.
In the survey, only eight percent of adults correctly responded that ObamaCare is costing less than expected. Meanwhile, 50 percent of adults — and a whopping 70 percent of Republicans — said it was costing more than planned, while 18 percent said the cost remained unchanged, and 23 percent were unsure.
In March, a Congressional Budget Office report concluded ObamaCare would cost 11 percent less than expected.
Despite that confusion, though, for the first time since November 2012 a plurality of Americans hold a favorable opinion of the law. While support for ObamaCare bottomed out at 33 percent in late 2013 following the law's blundering debut, it rose to 43 percent in the latest survey. —Jon Terbush
The Koch brothers may not be settling on a Republican presidential candidate just yet. One day after The New York Times reported that the Kochs were getting behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a "top Koch aide" tells Politico the billionaire brothers are going to give Jeb Bush a "chance to audition for the brothers' support."
The reason for the reconsideration, according to Mike Allen: "Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner."
It's possible the Kochs really are undecided. It's also possible they're doing some damage control to contain the fallout from the Times story.
Either way, David Koch, fresh off proclaiming Walker should be the nominee, walked back the remark in a statement to Politico. While Walker would make a "terrific" president, he said, "I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point." Jon Terbush
Archaeologists have discovered an incredibly rare, advanced weapon, and they found it by accident.
A Russian archaeological team was studying a sabre that was discovered seven years ago in Yaroslavl. They were only conducting a routine examination, but closer inspection revealed that the sabre was actually the oldest crucible steel weapon found in eastern Europe.
— MongolsChinaSilkRoad (@MongolsSilkRoad) April 21, 2015
Asya Engovatova, who led the research, said in a statement that the discovery was "highly unexpected," since the sabre had already been on display at a local museum for seven years. In 2007, Engovatova's team found the weapon at a mass grave site for civilians killed in a massacre in 1238. The site also yielded skeletons and household items, including dishes and jewelry.
Analysis of the sabre revealed that it was a sword made from crucible steel, a rare and expensive material. The archaeologists believe the sabre could have belonged to a wealthy warrior from the army of Batu Khan, who led the 1238 invasion. They also believe the sabre was burned during a ritual before it was buried. There's still much for historians to explore about the weapon, but for now, the sabre has returned to its display at the Yaroslavl Museum. Meghan DeMaria
On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Kansas City/St. Joseph diocese. Finn pleaded guilty in 2012 to charges that he failed to report suspected child abuse to authorities — he waited six months to tell police that Rev. Shawn Ratigan had hundreds of explicit photos on his computer of young girls from around churches where he worked — and was sentenced to two years of probation. Ratigan was given 50 years for child pornography.
— 41 Action News (@41ActionNews) April 21, 2015
Finn, 62, offered his resignation under a section of canon law that allows early departure of duties due to illness or other "grave" reason that renders them unfit for duty. Last month, Pope Francis demoted Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland and stripped him of all priestly "duties and privileges" after O'Brien admitted to sexual misconduct in 2013, but Finn is the first U.S. bishop removed for failing to report a suspected child abuser. Archbishop Joseph Naumman will temporarily lead the Kansas City diocese. Peter Weber
The universe's largest known structure has turned out to be nothing more than a supervoid — a.k.a, a really big hole.
Scientists discovered the supervoid, a blob that's a stunning 1.8 billion light years across, during a recent astronomical survey. Istvan Szapudi, who led the research, told The Guardian that the hole may be "the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity."
— Discovery News (@DNews) April 21, 2015
Szapudi explained that the astronomers had hoped to find the void, because it provides an explanation for why previous reports showed the area as "unusually cool," The Guardian reports. The new research suggests that the "Cold Spot," where the hole was discovered, could be a result of the supervoid draining the energy from light traveling through the region. The void could help explain the universe's formation after the Big Bang, because light photons would lose energy and become cooler after passing through the void, The Guardian explains.
A giant hole may not seem exciting, but for scientists, the rare find is spectacular. "It just pushed the explanation one layer deeper," Roberto Trotta, a cosmologist at Imperial College London, told The Guardian. "Now we have to figure out how does the void itself form." Meghan DeMaria