This week in science

Dancing Boston Dynamics robot and more: Understand the world through 10 images

University of Missouri

From dancing robots to lunar volcanoes...

Here are the biggest science stories of October 1–7, told through 10 stunning images.

Chinese National Space Agency’s (CNSA) Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center

October 7

A study of samples brought back from China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission revealed concentrations of 2-billion-year-old basalt. For it to have formed then, the Moon must have been volcanically active later than previously thought.

Beijing SHRIMP Center, Institute of Geology, CAGS

9. Chew on this

© AMNH/D. Finnin

October 7

A chemical analysis of amino acids in hair from the extinct Mylodon ground sloth revealed that the animals were omnivores. It’s the first finding that shows not all ground sloths were strict herbivores.

Artistic reconstruction: Jorge Blanco

8. “Living medicine”

María Lluch/CRG

October 6

Scientists created what they call “living medicine” — bacteria reprogrammed to attack other, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They could be used to fight colonies of bacteria called biofilm, which often stick to medical implants and are tough to eradicate.

María Lluch/CRG

7. Mapping the motor cortex

Allen Institute for Brain Science

October 6

Researchers completed an exhaustive cell census and atlas of the primary motor cortex in mammal brains, using mouse, marmoset, and human samples. The work aids understanding of how different cells function in the movement center of mammalian brains.

Allen Institute for Brain Science

October 6

Researchers discovered that humans’ late growing molars (compared to other apes) are due to our relatively slow physical development over a long lifespan. A person’s face shape and chewing muscles must align so that an extra molar won’t disrupt chewing before one will emerge.

H. Glowacka and G.T. Schwartz

October 6

Scientists identified Pendraig milnerae, the oldest meat-eating dinosaur ever found in the U.K., from fossils. The chicken-sized dinosaur is a theropod, the same group that includes T. rex and modern birds.

S. Spiekman, et al. ROYAL SOCIETY OPEN SCIENCE (2021)

4. Mys-tree solved

Patricia Álvarez-Loayza

October 6

A DNA analysis published in Taxon reveals a tree in the Amazon that had defied categorization for 50 years is a new species in the Picramniaceae family. Using traditional methods, scientists previously couldn’t identify which family it belonged to.

Patricia Álvarez-Loayza

October 4

Researchers identified a unique “team flow” brain state that emerges when two people are working closely together on a task. In this state, beta and gamma waves increase in the middle temporal cortex in both people’s brains.

Shehata et al., eNeuro 2021

2. A singular shape

Harvard SEAS

October 4

Researchers discovered differing growth rates of an apple’s core and stalk give the fruit its distinct dimpled shape. The finding comes from an application of singularity theory, which explains concepts as disparate as black holes and water droplet shapes.

Harvard SEAS

1. In the spotlight

University of Missouri

October 2

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot showed up to bust a move at a University of Missouri football game. While the performance was cute, testing dance moves is one way to improve the robots’ movements for decidedly less friendly police and military applications.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images