Top stories: NASA’s carbon monitoring cuts, a cancer drug flop, and the fight over one salmon gene | Science

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Top stories: NASA’s carbon monitoring cuts, a cancer drug flop, and the fight over one salmon gene | Science

(Left to right): © JACQUES JANGOUX/SCIENCE SOURCE; STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE SOURCE; DAVID MCLAIN

Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the program, jeopardizing plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords.

A promising new cancer drug has hit a major setback, raising questions about whether the field is moving too fast

Last month, the surprising failure of a large clinical trial of a promising cancer immunotherapy drug quickly reverberated across the pharmaceutical industry. Three companies have canceled, suspended, or downsized 12 other phase III trials of the compound, epacadostat, or two similar drugs, together slated to enroll more than 5000 patients with a variety of advanced cancers. The drugs “moved to randomized clinical trials too fast,” says neuroimmunologist Michael Platten of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Now, we realize the effect of the drugs is “still a black box,” he says.

Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species, thanks to a single gene

In 2017, a California tribe asked the U.S. government to declare a spring run of Chinook, or king, salmon endangered—and to protect it separately from genetically similar fish that migrate up the same river in the fall. The tribe’s argument hinges on recent genomic studies, which found that a single gene appears to control whether Chinook salmon, and another related species, migrate upriver before or after reaching sexual maturity. The research has sparked a fierce debate. At its heart: whether a single gene should be enough to qualify a population for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

One of the Milky Way’s fastest stars is an invader from another galaxy

In April, the collaboration behind the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite released a data set containing the motions, and much more, for 1.3 billion stars. Researchers quickly sprang into action to look at the data. Last week, one group reported the discovery of three white dwarfs—the dying embers of sunlike stars—hurtling through the galaxy at thousands of kilometers per second, perhaps flung out from supernovae explosions. Another group reported more than two dozen fast-moving stars, some apparently kicked out by our galaxy’s central black hole. The flood of discoveries has sent astronomers racing to their telescopes to check and classify the swift objects.

Tourism is four times worse for the planet than previously believed

Going on vacation may be fun for you, but it’s not great for Earth. The carbon footprint of global tourism is about four times larger than previously recognized, and it accounts for about one-twelfth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, a new study suggests. Previous analyses typically tallied only carbon dioxide emissions due to air travel. But the new study also includes emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases due to the construction and maintenance of infrastructure such as hotels and airports, as well as emissions associated with tourists’ purchases of food, beverages, and souvenirs.

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