Peeling adhesive tape can create nanosecond bursts of x-rays. The effect occurs when electrons from the stuck surface leap to the sticky side of the tape. They travel so fast that on impact with the adhesive side, they give off radiation. The x-rays appear only in near-vacuum conditions, however—air molecules slow down the electrons enough so that they produce just a faint glow. The discovery, which came to light in the October 23 Nature, could lead to inexpensive x-ray machines that do not require electricity. —Susannah F. Locke


The world's 40 billion commercial chickens are susceptible to crippling disease outbreaks because they are genetically uniform. On average, farmed chickens lack 50 percent of the genes in the chicken genome. To avert mass deaths and preserve a reservoir of potentially useful genes, farmers could breed commercial varieties with other types of chicken—possibly at the expense of traits such as enhanced egg-laying, however. The study appears in the November 11 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. —David Biello


Strong magnetic fields might make the brain run slow. Scientists at Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France, had repeatedly seen delayed response times during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, which generate a two-tesla magnetic field (30,000 times stronger than the earth's field at its magnetic poles). To investigate this phenomenon, the researchers had subjects press buttons when they saw a particular cue on a monitor, such as an “X” in a flow of consonants. As the scientists reported online October 29 in Nature Precedings, fMRI slowed response times up to 30 percent. Magnetic fields might be dampening the excitability of brain cells. —Charles Q. Choi