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This Week In Science!

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Katy Evans

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Katy Evans

Managing Editor

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

Managing Editor

Image credit: IFLScience 

JWST Has Partially Deployed Its Sunshields And Could Double Planned Mission Length

After its successful Christmas Day launch, the world is holding its breath until the largest and most expensive telescope ever built fully deploys and starts its mission. It’s off to a great start, as its sun shields – designed to protect JWST's optics from the Sun – have begun to be deployed, and it’s even used less fuel than expected, meaning its mission length can be extended for a possible further five years, doubling its original length.

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Head Lice Provide Best Ever Human DNA Extracted From Mummies

The best ever human DNA extracted from ancient mummies has been gathered from an unexpected source: the "glue" nits use to stick their eggs to hair. Gross, maybe, but invaluable nonetheless. Trapped within the "cement" head lice use to secure their eggs, researchers found DNA in the hair of mummified remains from Argentina that date back to 1,500-2,000 years ago. Excitingly, this technique actually works better than previous methods and allows us to sample human remains in a way that's less invasive.

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There May Be A Better Way Of Detecting Omicron

Hot on the heels of news rapid antigen tests may not be as sensitive to Omicron comes a paper that found nasal swabs weren't the best way to detect the Omicron variant anyway. It turns out saliva swabs were much more accurate compared to swizzling a stick up the schnoz, beating them hands-down with a 100 percent accuracy rate. This adds to increasing anecdotal evidence throat swabs are vital for picking up Omicron.

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China Reports Elon Musk’s Starlink To UN After Claims Satellites Almost Hit Its Space Station

China’s space agency says its space station was forced to take evasive action on two occasions this year in order to avoid being struck by satellites operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In a report to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space, Chinese officials claimed the Starlink satellites “constituted dangers to the life or health of astronauts aboard the China Space Station,” and urged the UN to remind the US of its responsibilities in orbit.

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Scientists Figure Out How The World's Largest Ever Flying Creature Got Airborne

Aerodynamics seldom scale well. The challenges large birds have in getting airborne today have left paleontologists puzzled as to how much larger animals managed it in the past. Now, research has shed some insights on Quetzalcoatlus northropi, probably the largest pterosaur that ever lived and therefore the largest creature ever to take to the skies, and how it actually got airborne (spoiler: it involves a rather large jump).

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How Can Psychedelics Help Heal Mental Illness?

An infamous public health campaign once famously claimed that drugs do nothing but turn users’ brains into fried eggs. However, a growing body of research suggests that psychedelics may in fact help unscramble the mind, resulting in major improvements in mental health.

In the second of our new series on psychedelics, we explore how scientists are attempting to understand how these consciousness-altering drugs bring about their therapeutic effects.

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