The detritus of human habitation reveals that Tell Brak, an ancient city in northeastern Syria, was urbanized more than 7,000 years ago and boasted suburbs most likely filled with immigrants as far back as 6,200 years ago. Instead of an ancient ruler willing a city into existence, analysis of clay potsherds show a more haphazard, perhaps squatter-promoted growth pattern. All told, the city swelled to cover 130 hectares (321 acres) by 3400 B.C., according to a paper in the August 31 Science. —David Biello


A mystery illness last winter wiped out 45 percent of bees among nearly one quarter of commercial U.S. beekeepers. Sophisticated genetic analyses have revealed the presence of an obscure bee bug, the Israeli acute paralysis virus, in almost all beekeeping operations affected by “colony collapse disorder” but in only a single healthy one. Pesticides and other stressors may have contributed to hives' vulnerability to the virus, which apparently spread from Australia three years ago. —JR Minkel


NASA not only aims for better rocket ships but also for better rocket chips. Past microchips could not withstand more than a few hours of searing heat before failing. Electronics engineer Phil Neudeck of the NASA Glenn Research Center and his colleagues have now built a chip that can continuously operate for 1,700 hours at 500 degrees Celsius, at least 100 times longer than before. This heat resistance could lead to circuitry capable of withstanding the heat of the surface of Venus or, nearer to Earth, the heat of jet engines or oil well drills. —Charles Q. Choi