Without a doubt the biggest news in the science world this week came from California, where Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility announced that the energy of 192 lasers beamed at hydrogen isotopes in a canister made of gold produced more energy than the lasers put in – a major turning point for the long-pursued goal of controlled nuclear fusion.

Nuclear engineering professor Carolyn Kuranz from the University of Michigan explains why this experiment was a big deal and cites some of the technical challenges before fusion can – perhaps one day, decades from now – be a source of electric energy. If you’re interested in a deeper dive on nuclear fusion, check out a podcast we produced earlier this year that explains how scientists in Europe are using a different approach – called magnetic confinement – to fusing atoms to produce energy.

Another big science announcement yesterday came with the release of the annual Arctic Report Card, which details the profound changes occurring in the rapidly warming Arctic. One of the key changes is that the region is seeing more precipitation, and it is falling as rain when historically it would have been snow. “Arctic-wide, this shift toward wetter conditions can disrupt the lives of animals and plants that have evolved for dry and cold conditions, potentially altering Arctic peoples’ local foods,” authors of the report write.

In another instance of climate change affecting weather patterns, this year’s drought has constricted the flow of goods through the Mississippi River, one of the country’s most important shipping corridors. Earth scientists from the University of Memphis write that this year’s headaches are a sign of things to come as climate change increases the chance of drought as well as flooding. “This year’s historic event in the Mississippi River watershed is evidence that climate change is altering large rivers as high temperatures increase evaporation and make soil more ‘thirsty,’” they write.

Also in this week’s science news:

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The target chamber at the National Ignition Facility has been the site of a number of breakthroughs in fusion physics. U.S. Department of Energy/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Why fusion ignition is being hailed as a major breakthrough in fusion – a nuclear physicist explains

Carolyn Kuranz, University of Michigan

The promise of abundant, clean energy powered by nuclear fusion is one big step closer thanks to a new experiment. The results are a historic scientific milestone, but energy production remains a ways off.

Rainier winters make life more difficult for Arctic wildlife and the humans who rely on them. Scott Wallace/Getty Image

Arctic Report Card 2022: The Arctic is getting rainier and seasons are shifting, with broad disturbances for people, ecosystems and wildlife

Matthew L. Druckenmiller, University of Colorado Boulder; Rick Thoman, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Twila Moon, University of Colorado Boulder

The annual report is also a reminder that what happens in the Arctic affects the rest of the world.

A barge maneuvers its way down the drought-narrowed Mississippi River at Tiptonville, Tenn., Oct. 20, 2022. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Record low water levels on the Mississippi River in 2022 show how climate change is altering large rivers

Ray Lombardi, University of Memphis; Angela Antipova, University of Memphis; Dorian J. Burnette, University of Memphis

Record low water levels on the Mississippi and other major rivers, as seen in 2022, could become more common, threatening transportation of many key goods and raising prices.

As viral infections skyrocket, masks are still a tried-and-true way to help keep yourself and others safe

Emily Toth Martin, University of Michigan; Marisa Eisenberg, University of Michigan

Decades of research show that respiratory illnesses are dramatically reduced when people wear face masks.

China’s loosened COVID-19 policies – following years of aggressive lockdowns and quarantines – have left the country vulnerable

Elanah Uretsky, Brandeis University

Strict lockdowns, quarantines and testing have prevented many people in China from catching COVID-19. With concerns over Chinese vaccine efficacy and uptake, China may be facing a looming COVID-19 surge.

Toilets spew invisible aerosol plumes with every flush – here’s the proof, captured by high-powered lasers

John Crimaldi, University of Colorado Boulder

Toilets eject aerosol droplets that may carry disease-causing pathogens. Learning about how these particles move could help reduce exposure in public restrooms.

People can have food sensitivities without noticeable symptoms – long-term consumption of food allergens may lead to behavior and mood changes

Kumi Nagamoto-Combs, University of North Dakota

Food allergies have been linked to behavioral and mood disorders, including depression, anxiety and ADHD.

Nasal vaccines promise to stop the COVID-19 virus before it gets to the lungs – an immunologist explains how they work

Michael W. Russell, University at Buffalo

An effective nasal vaccine could stop the virus that causes COVID-19 right at its point of entry. But devising one that works has been a challenge for researchers.

China’s new space station opens for business in an increasingly competitive era of space activity

Eytan Tepper, Indiana University; Scott Shackelford, Indiana University

China has completed construction of the Tiangong space station, and science projects are now underway. The station is an important piece of China’s ambitious plans for space activity in coming years.

Ada Lovelace’s skills with language, music and needlepoint contributed to her pioneering work in computing

Corinna Schlombs, Rochester Institute of Technology

Lovelace was a prodigious math talent who learned from the giants of her time, but her linguistic and creative abilities were also important in her invention of computer programming.

That annoying ringing, buzzing and hissing in the ear – a hearing specialist offers tips to turn down the tinnitus

Bradley Kesser, University of Virginia

Although there’s no cure for tinnitus, help is out there – including sound-generating devices, background noise and talk therapy.