It’s hard to believe that polio is back in the news, given the disease was considered eradicated in the U.S. in 1979. But earlier this month New York state declared a public health emergency after finding community spread of the viral disease. This followed the first case in New York of polio in nearly a decade in July. University of Connecticut’s Jennifer Girotto, who works on immunizations and pediatric infectious diseases, explains how we’ve come to this point – and why there’s concern for the future. Most notably, she writes polio vaccination rates vary significantly across the U.S., which means areas of the country hover “dangerously close” to the needed threshold of herd immunity.

Misinformation, in my mind, is one of the most destabilizing forces in society today. And deepfakes – manipulations of video and audio media to put words into someone’s mouth – take the potential to spread false information to a new level. Two researchers at the University of Florida recently presented a paper that provides a glimmer of hope that phony audio can be detected. In an article explaining this work, they write that the technique uses a computer model and fluid dynamics to detect the difference between computer-generated voice samples and those created by human speakers.

Unraveling the mysteries and importance of the microbiome has long been an interest of our science editors, and this story goes even further on that quest by examining the evolutionary history of microbes that “have been along for the evolutionary ride [with humans] for over hundreds of thousands of years.” Having greater insight into how the microorganisms in our guts partnered with humans could lead to microbiome-based treatments for specific populations and better understanding of their role in human well-being, they write.

Also in this week’s science news:

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In 1956, during the height of the polio epidemic in the U.S., health officials in Chicago offer polio shots at a public school. Bettmann via Getty Images

Polio vaccination rates in some areas of the US hover dangerously close to the threshold required for herd immunity – here’s why that matters

Jennifer Girotto, University of Connecticut

With poliovirus circulating in New York, health authorities worry that pockets of the county with low polio vaccination rates could give the virus a foothold.

With deepfake audio, that familiar voice on the other end of the line might not even be human let alone the person you think it is. Knk Phl Prasan Kha Phibuly/EyeEm via Getty Images

Deepfake audio has a tell – researchers use fluid dynamics to spot artificial imposter voices

Logan Blue, University of Florida; Patrick Traynor, University of Florida

AI-generated voice-alikes can be indistinguishable from the real person’s speech to the human ear. A computer model that gives voice to the dinosaurs turns out to be a good way to tell the difference.

The gut microbiome may also play a role in personalized medicine. nopparit/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Humans evolved with their microbiomes – like genes, your gut microbes pass from one generation to the next

Taichi A. Suzuki, Max Planck Institute for Biology; Ruth Ley, Max Planck Institute for Biology

As early modern humans spread across the globe, their gut microbes genetically changed with them. Understanding the origins of gut microbes could improve understanding of their role in human health.

Mars is littered with 15,694 pounds of human trash from 50 years of robotic exploration

Cagri Kilic, West Virginia University

Discarded pieces of landing gear, crashed spacecraft and wear and tear have produced a lot of debris that is now scattered around the Martian surface.

1,000-year-old stalagmites from a cave in India show the monsoon isn’t so reliable – their rings reveal a history of long, deadly droughts

Gayatri Kathayat, Xi'an Jiaotong University; Ashish Sinha, California State University, Dominguez Hills

As water dripped in a remote cave, it left behind evidence of every monsoon season for a millennium. Scientists say it holds a warning for a country about to become the most populous on Earth.

2022’s supercharged summer of climate extremes: How global warming and La Niña fueled disasters on top of disasters

Kevin Trenberth, University of Auckland

A climate scientist explains the forces behind the summer’s extreme downpours and dangerous heat waves, and why new locations will be at risk in the coming year.

Super-Earths are bigger, more common and more habitable than Earth itself – and astronomers are discovering more of the billions they think are out there

Chris Impey, University of Arizona

Newly discovered super-Earths add to the list of planets around other stars that offer the best chance of finding life. An astronomer explains what makes these super-Earths such excellent candidates.