Scientists in California have turned a dead rat clear, rendering it the world’s first transparent mammal. Julia Calderone explains the procedure in Scientific American’s October Advances, which scientists say could also be applied to humans, opening up a world of possibility for biologists—and crime show producers.

Those producers should stay tuned, too, because forensic scientists are studying how soil microbes react to a dead body that is left outside to rot. Three dead pigs dutifully participated in an experiment to this end, and Jennifer Frazer explores how amoebas caught underneath the corpses could help investigators identify when a body hit the ground.

A cheap new reality is emerging for gamers and therapists alike with the debut of the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset. The technology won’t hit stores until 2015 but Corinne Iozzio reports that scientists are already testing virtual reality’s ability to combat heroin addiction, social anxiety and PTSD.

If you dumped a heavy bucket of cold water over your head this summer for charity, you may have wondered, “What is the point of this, exactly?” Tara Haelle reports on new research on neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—the disease at the center of the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign—along with Huntington's and Alzheimer's diseases. Scientists have shown the proteins that cause these disorders move from cell to cell—a discovery may lead to future treatments.

Also in October’s Advances section: