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Science news roundup for 2012

While the political upheavals across several states in the Middle East have taken up the bulk of interest in 2012, there were exciting developments for science research and the science community in the region as well.

Over the next few days, we will look back at the most important and most read stories and research published on Nature Middle East throughout the year.

Following up from our roundup of research conducted or partially conducted in the Arab world, here are the top most read news articles of 2012, ranging from health and brain analysis to climate change and water security.

  1. Mummy diagnosed with prostate cancer: Researchers performed X-ray computer tomography scans on three Egyptian mummies and discovered evidence of prostate cancer in one of them. This is the second oldest case of prostate cancer found, prompting researchers to suggest that cancer may not have been as rare in the past as expected, but it was just harder to discover than it is today.
  2. Iraq’s soil turning white: Rising salinity in Iraq’s agricultural land due to an aging and failing drainage system is threatening the country’s food security. With nearly 2 million hectares of agricultural land becoming unsuitable for crop cultivation, the Iraqi government has reached out to ICARDA to launch an initiative to address the problem. They are working with local farmers to determine best cultivation practices and develop ways to improve the drainage system.
  3. The unseen risks of water pipe smoking: Water pipe smoking, a popular social habit in the Arab world, continues to spread in the region and further to Europe and the US. While the social perception is that it is less harmful than cigarette smoking, new research is suggesting it may be just as bad for health, damaging lung functions as much as deep inhalation cigarette smoking.
  4. Africa floats on underground water reserves: Researchers studying hundreds of underground maps of Africa have produced a comprehensive map of aquifers found in the continent, which has underground water reserves 100 times more than those on the surface. the catch, however, is that these water resources – especially the largest which are located in North Africa – are so deep underground that they cannot be used as a viable source of water for agriculture.
  5. What’s in a language?: Researchers in New York University Abu Dhabi will use a new laboratory in the university housing a magnetoencephalography (MEG) machine to study how the human brain processes languages. They have starting with Arabic, studying how the brain processes the different dialects of the complex language.

This rounds up the list for our most read and shared news stories from 2012. Tomorrow we’ll highlight the best commentaries and features from the year.

What was your favorite news story on Nature Middle East in 2012? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

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