Top stories: Data thugs, dirty drinking water, and a sports car in space | Science

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Top stories: Data thugs, dirty drinking water, and a sports car in space | Science

(Left to right): Reuters/Jim Young; SpaceX/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; The New York Times/Redux

Don’t panic: The chance of this space-traveling sports car hitting Earth is just 6% in the next million years

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk grabbed the world’s attention last week after launching his Tesla Roadster into space. But his publicity stunt has a half-life way beyond even what he could imagine—the Roadster should continue to orbit through the solar system, perhaps slightly battered by micrometeorites, for tens of millions of years. Although it’s impossible to map the car’s orbit out precisely, there is a small chance that it could return and crash into Earth. But don’t panic: That chance is just 6% over a million years, and it would likely burn up as it entered the atmosphere.

Meet the ‘data thugs’ out to expose shoddy and questionable research

When it comes to correcting scientific literature, styles vary. Some scientists prefer to go through “proper channels,” such as private conversations or letters to the editor. Others leave anonymous comments on online forums where papers are discussed, such as PubPeer. Then there is the more public approach Nick Brown and James Heathers are taking. The two watchdogs have been remarkably effective at uncovering problematic publications. So far, Brown estimates that the analyses he and Heathers have done have led to the full retraction of roughly 10 papers and triggered corrections to dozens more.

Turkish-American NASA scientist sentenced to 7.5 years in prison

Serkan Golge, a Turkish-American research scientist at NASA in Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 7.5 years in a Turkish prison on 8 February on terrorism charges. The verdict, which has been condemned by the U.S. government, has put his career on hold and left his family and friends reeling. Golge, a dual citizen who had been studying the effects of radiation on astronauts, was swept up in a crackdown that followed Turkey’s 2016 failed military coup.

Millions of Americans drink potentially unsafe tap water. How does your county stack up?

Tainted tap water isn’t just a problem in Flint, Michigan. In any given year from 1982 to 2015, somewhere between 9 million and 45 million Americans got their drinking water from a source that was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a new study. Most at risk: people who live in rural, low-income areas. Researchers examining data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that problems with drinking water crop up every year, and in some municipalities, year after year.

Genome editor CRISPR’s latest trick? Offering a sharper snapshot of activity inside the cell

Airplane flight recorders and body cameras help investigators make sense of complicated events. Biologists studying cells have tried to build their own data recorders, for example by linking the activity of a gene of interest to one making a fluorescent protein. A new cellular recorder that borrows from CRISPR, the revolutionary genome editing tool, now offers what could be a better taping device that captures its data on DNA. In proof-of-concept experiments, researchers have shown in both bacterial and human cells how this tool can record exposure to light, antibiotics, and viral infection; it can also document internal molecular events.

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