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Science and Technology News, Science Articles | Discover Magazine

Science news, articles, current events and future views on technology, space, environment, health, and medicine.

When US Navy Suicide Drones Went to War  

During the Korean War, a life-or-death race took place between an U.S. Navy Hellcat fighter aircraft and a group of North Koreans on a railroad handcar. Apparently believing that the fighter was preparing to attack with its machine guns, the North Koreans frantically pumped the railroad handcar's arm as they headed for the safety of a railroad tunnel. They made it inside just before the aircraft crashed into the hillside near the tunnel entrance. The strange incident marked one of the...

2017-02-18 17:07:17

Gore Verbinski Diagnoses His Own "Cure for Wellness"  

If you feel like there is something deeply unhealthy about the modern world, director Gore Verbinski has just the movie for you. If you roll your eyes at New Age cures, he's got you covered, too. And if some mornings you wake up wondering if you sleepwalked into the wrong corner of the multiverse...yes, he's on top of that one as well. Verbinski's new A Cure for Wellness is a rich stew of psychological themes, mythologies, medical musings, and surrealist flights of fancy. It is utterly bonke

2017-02-17 16:24:43

Facial Recognition Software: The Next Big Thing in Species Conservation?  

How do you care for the creatures you love? You shoot them with tranquilizer darts, capture them in cages, embed microchips, pierce their ears or make them wear funny collars. For scientists who monitor endangered species, these are tried-and-true methods to count and track individuals in a given population—along with photography and experts' sharp eyes. But capturing or sedating an animal can be stressing (and could cause physical harm), and boots-on-the-ground counts can be inconsis...

2017-02-17 14:05:31

Watch a Record 104 Satellites Tumble Into Orbit  

An Indian rocket delivered a record-setting 104 satellites into orbit Tuesday night. A camera on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle captured the spacecraft, most of them tiny CubeSats, as they tumbled into orbit—the most placed into orbit by a single vehicle. A majority of the satellites belong to a U.S.-based company called Planet which hopes to establish a network of tiny satellites to provide near-real-time imaging of Earth. An...

2017-02-17 10:59:40

Rebirth and Recovery in the Shadow of Chernobyl  

Regular readers of this blog know that I normally focus on cosmic topics: comets, exoplanets, dark matter, the search for alien life, and the like. I don't tangle so much with the everyday challenges of life here on the ground. I enjoy taking a break from the quotidian. But the truth is, the two sides are never very far apart. They are both--all--part of one universe, governed by one set of physical laws. The nuclear reactions that regulate the afterglow of a supernova explosion are the exac

2017-02-17 10:02:52

The Fantasy of Connecting Two Spinal Cords  

A peculiar new paper proposes the idea of "connecting two spinal cords as a way of sharing information between two brains". The author is Portuguese psychiatrist Amílcar Silva-dos-Santos and the paper appears in Frontiers in Psychology. Frontiers are a publisher with a troubled history of publishing dubious science. But this paper is unusual, even by Frontiers' standards, because it contains virtually no science at all. In a nutshell, Silva-Dos-Santos suggests that it would be interes...

2017-02-17 08:49:02

Even without a boost from El Niño, January 2017 was 3rd warmest such month in records dating back 137 years  

Unlike last year, January 2017 got no temperature boost from El Niño. Yet it was still remarkably warm. In their monthly analyses, both NASA and NOAA concur that this past month was the third warmest January since record keeping began in 1880. Last month's temperature was 0.20 degrees Celsius cooler than the warmest January on record, which occurred just last year, according to NASA. Even so, the agency reports that January 2017 was 0.92 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean temperatu...

2017-02-17 04:53:15

Collective False Memories: What's Behind the 'Mandela Effect'?  

Would you trust a memory that felt as real as all your other memories, and if other people confirmed that they remembered it too? What if the memory turned out to be false? This scenario was named the 'Mandela effect' by the self-described 'paranormal consultant' Fiona Broome after she discovered that other people shared her (false) memory of the South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. Is a shared false memory really due to a so-called 'gl...

2017-02-16 07:21:50

What's in a name? Venoms vs. Poisons | Toxinology 101  

Scientists refer to the study of biological toxins as toxinology (not to be confused with toxicology, with a C—as I explain below). From bacterial toxins like anthrax to the deadliest snake venoms, toxinology examines the chemical warfare between animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. This is the first in a new series I call Toxinology 101, where I explain and explore the fundamentals of toxin science to reveal the unusual, often unfamiliar, and unnerving world created by our planet's most ...

2017-02-16 07:18:07

Metagenomic Sleuthing Treats Illness Like a Crime Scene  

Pathogens move fast. You wake up one morning feeling ready to take on the world. On your way to work, you notice your throat's a bit scratchy, your forehead a bit warm. By lunch you've got a pounding headache and it hurts to breathe. Co-workers agree, you've got whatever's been going around. You end the day early, using the last of your strength to drag yourself to bed. Identifying the organism causing your misery can confound even trained physicians. When tests fail to reveal ...

2017-02-16 04:14:41

The High Stakes of Handshakes  

What's in a handshake? If the widespread scrutiny of President Donald Trump's characteristic "yank and grab" is any indication, a lot. If anything, however, the recent spate of armchair psychology surrounding his handshakes says as much about us as it does about him. A handshake, done well, sets a precedent for collaboration and trust. Executed incorrectly, a sloppy handshake is a cringeworthy affair to witness. Why do we invest so much emotional capital into a simple gesture?  ...

2017-02-15 04:52:54

When Earth Became a 'Mote of Dust'  

We first glimpsed Earth's curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home. In 1968, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders captured the iconic Earthrise photo. We contemplated the beauty of our home. But on Valentine's Day 27 years ago, Voyager 1, from 4 billion miles away, took one final picture before switching off its camera foreve...

2017-02-14 20:49:23

El Niño Dramatically Reshaped Western Coastlines  

Beaches and shorelines are locked in an eternal battle between land and sea. The struggle usually comes out to a draw — the rate of erosion is offset by the amount of new sediment deposited. But as weather patterns grow more erratic and storms intensify, our shores could begin yielding ground to the waves. The most recent El Niño event was one of the most energetic in years and brought powerful storms and punishing waves to the Pacific Northwest. While this may have been good news f...

2017-02-14 05:54:55

Mamma Mia! Fossil Is First Hint Of Live Birth In Ancient Reptile  

Here's some egg-citing news: for the first time in the fossil record, researchers have discovered a specific type of marine reptile that was carrying an advanced embryo at time of death. Why is that interesting? Because the specimen is an archosauromorph, an early member of the same gang of vertebrates that includes dinosaurs as well as pterosaurs, birds and crocodiles, all of which we thought, based on previous evidence, were exclusively egg-layers. Today that changes. Some 245 million...

2017-02-14 01:46:45

Authorship Means Responsibility  

Last week Retraction Watch covered a case of a psychology paper that was retracted after it emerged that the graduate student who collected the data had faked the results. Here's the retraction notice: The retraction follows an investigation by the University of Alabama's Office for Research Compliance. That investigation found that a former graduate student in William Hart's lab altered the data in strategic ways. The investigation found that William Hart was unaware when the articl...

2017-02-13 09:18:15

Buzzkill: Will America's Bees Survive?  

The science and politics of saving America’s bees gets messy. And the bees continue to die.

2017-02-13 03:58:14

Scientists Narrow in on Landing Site for NASA's Next Mars Rover  

The Curiosity Mars rover is in the prime of its robotic life, approaching dramatic layered deposits on the slopes of Mt. Sharp. But even as the four and a half year-old mission reaches the features it was initially sent to investigate, scientists and engineers are feverishly planning for the next rover mission, Mars 2020. 2020 is shaping up to be a busy year on the Mars exploration calendar: in addition to the NASA rover, the European Space Agency and China have missions slotted for the f

2017-02-12 21:54:36

Bye bye La Niña, we hardly knew you. (And btw, is that your baby brother, El Niño, lurking there in the shadows?)  

The La Niña of 2016 is now officially gone. Following on from a monster El Niño, it turned out to be one of the shortest and weakest on record. La Niña, which can influence weather across many parts of the world, is characterized by abnormally cool surface waters in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. Those have now mostly dissipated, leaving behind temperatures that are close to average for February. Forecasters expect these neutral conditions to continue for the next few month...

2017-02-11 17:14:49

California rivers are so swollen from runoff that the impact is easily seen in these before and after satellite images  

This animation of satellite images shows in dramatic fashion just how far California has come following one of its most devastating droughts on record. To get the full effect, make sure to click on the animated GIF. On Feb. 9, 2016, California was still in the grips of the drought. At that time, the waterways of the Sacramento River Delta were barely visible from space, as seen in the first image of the animation, acquired by NASA's Aqua satellite. The second image, acquired today by T

2017-02-11 01:12:52

Look Closely, This Ant Is Carrying a Passenger  

Sometimes even experienced entomologists need a double-take to fully grasp what they're seeing. And upon closer examination, they found a new species hiding in plain sight. A new kind of beetle discovered in the Costa Rican rainforest almost passed by unnoticed, because it hides so well on the army ants it uses for transportation. It was only after the researchers tried to puzzle out the mystery of the ants with two abdomens that they spotted the squat beetle, named Nymphista kronaeuri ...

2017-02-10 14:58:53

Part Turtle, Part Pig, Bulbasaurus Was a Stout Survivor  

You may have seen the story: Last week scientists decided to name a recently discovered mammalian ancestor after the Pokemon, Bulbasaur. But in this case, fiction is stranger than truth. Indeed, the new species goes by the name Bulbasaurus phylloxyron, but its association with pocket monsters is coincidental. In taxonomy, it's common to name a new species after its prominent features, and Bulbasaurus (bulbous lizard ) phylloxyron (leaf cutter) is simply a nod to its unique nasal protu...

2017-02-10 11:56:10

Extraordinary warmth continues to afflict the Arctic, taking a wicked toll on its floating cap of sea ice  

In January, average extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record A journalist would never write a story saying, "No homes burned down today." Novelty makes news, not humdrum, every day stuff. So why another story here at ImaGeo saying that Arctic sea ice has set yet another record for lowest monthly extent since the satellite record began in 1979? After all, in addition to the low extent observed this past January, multiple record lows were also set last year — in January, Februa...

2017-02-10 02:31:34

With the new GOES-16 satellite, Earth has never looked more stunningly beautiful from space  

forecasts, severe storm warnings, solar flare alerts, and a host of other benefits In recent weeks, two new weather satellites — GOES-16, lofted into orbit by the United States, and the Japanese Himawari-9 — have begun sending back spectacular images of the home planet. With GOES-16, the United States is actually playing catch-up with the Japanese, whose incredibly capable Himawari-8 satellite has been in operation since July of 2015. Himawa...

2017-02-09 10:53:06

The Eternal Mummy Princesses  

They lived lives of prestige and power. In death, these women still command attention.

2017-02-09 03:37:26

Elusive Blue Lightning Filmed Dancing Above a Thunderstorm  

In Earth's upper atmosphere, blue jets, red sprites, pixies, halos, trolls and elves streak toward space, rarely caught in the act by human eyes. This mixed-bag of quasi-mythological terms are all names for transient luminous events, or, quite simply, forms of lightning that dance atop thunderstorm clouds. Airplane pilots have reported seeing them, but their elusive nature makes them hard to study. But ESA astronaut Andreas Morgensen, while aboard the International Space Station in S...

2017-02-08 16:26:56

Astronomers Identify a New Class of Black Holes  

Some black holes are small. Some black holes are giant. But oddly enough, in the cosmic fight between innocent passing stars and voracious black holes, scientists have never found a mid-sized black hole. Until now. The star cluster 47 Tucanae, located about 13,000 to 16,000 light years from Earth, is a dense ball of stars. Hundreds of thousands of stars compacted into a 120 light-year span give off gamma rays and X-rays and more energetic events, but to date, no black holes had been found

2017-02-08 09:08:30

Check out this breathtaking view of the Colorado Plateau, as seen from the International Space Station  

When I first spotted this stunning image on NASA's Earth Observatory site, it stopped me dead in my tracks. It's a view over Lake Powell on the Colorado River, the second-largest artificial reservoir in the United States, after Lake Mead further downstream. Almost the entire lake is visible in this photograph, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station last September. I was really struck by the clarity, the color, and the oblique angle at which it was taken. The phot...

2017-02-08 05:18:05

Researchers Lambast Daily Mail's Climate Change Article  

A recent article published in the Daily Mail critical of climate science has drawn sharp criticism from multiple climate researchers. The controversy concerns a paper, published in 2015 by a team of NOAA researchers led by Thomas Karl, that revealed a purported "pause" in global warming was nothing more than an artifact of incomplete data. Now, the Daily Mail has published an article based on an exclusive interview with former NOAA employee John Bates alleging that the Karl paper mis...

2017-02-07 07:14:09

Midwest Meteor: Where Did You Come From, Where Did You Go?  

Dash cam footage of a meteor streaking over the Midwest on Feb. 6 is collecting views and instigating an envy of regional night owls who witnessed the event live. The National Weather Service detected the meteor around 1:29 a.m. It flew over Lake Michigan between Sheboygan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The meteor was spotted as far south as Kentucky and as far east as New York, Astronomy reports. Based on this fireball's characteristics and similarities to a 2003 Forest Park, Illino...

2017-02-07 01:39:13

Snakes Use Their Tongues and Tails as Lures for Prey  

The African puff adder kills more people with its venomous bite than any other snake on the continent. To find prey, it doesn't need to go hunting; the snake simply lies in wait and attacks small animals that wander past. An ambushing puff adder is both camouflaged and unsmellable to predators. This snake is not goofing around—but it does like to stick its tongue out. Researchers discovered that puff adders in the wild waggle both their tongues and their tails to lure prey, like a prolo...

2017-02-07 01:18:25

Has Dogma Derailed the Search for Dark Matter?  

According to mainstream researchers, the vast majority of the matter in the Universe is invisible: it consists of dark-matter particles that do not interact with radiation and cannot be seen through any telescope. The case for dark matter is regarded as so overwhelming that its existence is often reported as fact. Lately, though, cracks of doubt have started to appear. In July, the LUX experiment in South Dakota came up empty in its search for dark particles - the latest failure in a plane...

2017-02-06 01:58:52

Ultrasound Waves Turn Wine into Something Better  

Brandies, such as cognac, are renowned for colors, flavors and aromas that require years to achieve. But scientists in Spain have used ultrasound to cut the time needed for such spirits to mature down to days. Brandies, stemming from the Dutch brandewijn, or "burned wine," are powerful alcoholic spirits distilled from wines or other fermented fruit juices. One brandy connoisseur of note, the poet Samuel Johnson, noted that "claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires...

2017-02-03 07:31:41

Science Has A Plagiarism Problem  

Retraction Watch reports on three scientific papers (1,2,3) that have been retracted or deleted after I reported that they were plagiarized. Neuroskeptic became suspicious about the three unrelated papers - about food chemistry, heart disease, and the immune system and cancer - after scanning them with plagiarism software. After alerting the journals, two issued formal retractions for the papers - but neither specifies plagiarism as the reason. These three retractions represent the fruit...

2017-02-03 02:07:20

No, Political Polling Isn't Dead  

Political polls may have taken a beating in the last presidential election, but we shouldn't count them out quite yet. After President Donald Trump, who was predicted to lose the election by a wide margin, emerged victorious from the 2016 presidential race, stories about polls were thrown into the "fake news" shredder. Although the fault may have lain with how we interpret them, polls lost a significant amount of hard-earned trust in the eyes of the public. Polls Down, But Not Out If we

2017-02-02 18:32:11

Will Biden's Cancer Moonshot Survive the Trump Administration?  

President Donald Trump's administration has placed programs initiated during Barack Obama's tenure as president, even those with bipartisan support, on unsure footing. However, the cancer moonshot may have the critical momentum needed to achieve its goals. Former President Barack Obama announced the initiative at his final State of the Union Address with the goal to accelerate cancer research; to achieve in five years what was anticipated for 10. Speaking before the World Economic ...

2017-02-02 07:03:15

Energy Observer: Around the World on Renewables  

For over two decades, 45-year-old, French documentary maker Jerome Delafosse has been diving into oceans the world over to film marine life, and he's thrilled about his next expedition—above water. This spring, he will serve as chief explorer aboard the Energy Observer, a boat powered by the sun, wind and hydrogen. In a first-of-its-kind endeavor, Delafosse and his team plan to circumnavigate the globe over six years, visiting 101 ports in 50 countries, while relying entirely on renewable...

2017-02-02 03:56:17

Hydrogel 'Hand' Catches Fish With Ease  

Caught by an invisible hand, these fish don't know what hit them. The transparent appendage isn't the latest fad in fishing technology; however, it's a demonstration of the power of soft robots made from hydrogels—a squishy blend of polymers and water. Researchers from MIT devised a way to 3D-print custom structures from the material and bring them to life with the help of a simple water pump. The real struggle was devising a way to make the robots fast and strong while maintaining t...

2017-02-01 21:25:11

Who Isn't Profiting Off the Backs of Researchers?  

ResearchGate-gate isn't quite as catchy as other scandals, but it is something we might be hearing more about in the future. A recent article published by Sarah Bond at Forbes encouraged researchers to remove all of their articles from the for-profit company, This has led to a wave of account deletions at the site, and also at ResearchGate, two sites dueling with each other to become the "Facebook for academics." The issue Bond raises is this: Why should companies g...

2017-02-01 14:43:41

The Frog Tongue's Sticky Secrets Revealed  

How does one get stuck studying frog tongues? Our study into the sticky, slimy world of frogs all began with a humorous video of a real African bullfrog lunging at fake insects in a mobile game. This frog was clearly an expert at gaming; the speed and accuracy of its tongue could rival the thumbs of texting teenagers. Further YouTube research yielded amazing videos of frogs eating mice, tarantulas and even other frogs. The versatile frog tongue can grab wet, hairy and slippery surfac

2017-02-01 06:13:16

Islamic State Video Shows Weaponized Drones at War  

Islamic State's weaponization of consumer drones that anyone can buy off the shelf or on Amazon has reached new heights during the battle for Mosul that has been raging since October 2016. A recent propaganda video released by Islamic State showed off the militant group's increased confidence in using small quadcopter drones to hover in place and drop small bombs on Iraqi military forces. One snippet of the video even shows a drone's bomb striking a U.S.-manufactured Abrams tank in use b...

2017-02-01 05:54:45

Why Distracted Drivers Matter for Automated Cars  

When a 2015 Tesla Model S collided with a tractor trailer at highway intersection west of Williston, Florida, the resulting crash killed the Tesla driver. An investigation of the May 7, 2016 incident by federal investigators found that the Tesla car's Autopilot driver-assist system was not at fault and showed that the driver had at least seven seconds to spot the tractor trailer prior to the crash. But the tragedy emphasized the fact that the latest automated cars still require drivers t...

2017-02-01 04:50:14

Taking the Measure of Nothing in the Universe  

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about nothing. Not just because focusing on nothing is a helpful, meditative antidote to obsessing over the recent barrage of anxiety-inducing news, but also because nothing is the most common thing in nature. After all, the overwhelming majority of the universe is not stars and planets; it is empty space. But empty space is not really truly completely empty. That's what makes nothing interesting: Some places have a lot more of nothing than others, and ev...

2017-02-01 01:55:29

Three Candidates to Be Your New Personal Mascot  

Maybe you're feeling like the animal you most identified with in previous years (panda bear in snow, puggle, Betty White) just isn't adequate for 2017. If that's the case, here are three creatures that would like to apply for the job. Only one is venomous. *** An adorbs hermit crab with candy-cane stripes Are you one of those people who wishes Christmas could be year round? Cute but a homebody? Friendly with creatures that others consider hideous...

2017-01-31 17:15:50

You Might Be in a Medical Experiment and Not Even Know It  

In the long view, modern history is the story of increasing rights of control over your body - for instance, in matters of reproduction, sex, where you live and whom you marry. Medical experimentation is supposed to be following the same historical trend - increasing rights of autonomy for those whose bodies are used for research. Indeed, the Nuremberg Code, the founding document of modern medical research ethics developed after the Second World War in response to Nazi medical experim...

2017-01-31 16:30:16

Split Brain, Undivided Consciousness?  

A new paper challenges a decades-old theory in neuroscience: Split brain: divided perception but undivided consciousness According to the famous work of Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga, "split brain" patients seem to experience a split in consciousness: the left and the right side of their brain can independently become aware of, and respond, to stimuli. Split brain patients are those who underwent surgery to sever the corpus callosum, the nerve tract connecting the two hemispheres of

2017-01-31 08:51:34

A Surprise Worm  

The New England Journal of Medicine has released a remarkable set of images and a not-safe-for-the-squeamish video in their weekly feature "Images in Clinical Medicine" introducing the world to a gentleman infected with a six-foot parasitic worm. A 48 year old man presented to his physician in New Delhi, India with a complaint of abdominal pain for two months associated with lethargy. A physical exam found the patient to be pale in appearance; lab work confirmed anemia. This sort of cli...

2017-01-31 04:45:51

Preserved Dinosaur Protein Is 195 Million Years Old  

We know the chances of finding dinosaur DNA are virtually nil. Despite recent advances, the oldest genetic material of any animal that researchers have successfully extracted and sequenced is about 700,000 years old (Note: still impressive. Most impressive). DNA degrades and gets contaminated by bacteria and other gunk; it's unlikely researchers will push back that ancient DNA landmark much further. But what if I told you they've found something potentially even better than DNA to give us

2017-01-31 03:16:40

'Earth Wind' Bathes the Moon with Oxygen  

To study the ancient history of the Earth, we should look to the moon. A new study from Japanese researchers reveals that for the past 2.4 billion years, the moon has been bathed in a stream of oxygen particles stripped from the Earth's atmosphere. By combining measurements taken with the lunar orbiter Kaguya and studies of lunar rocks, researchers prove that Earth contributes it's own unique whiff of elements to the moon's surface. The findings adds substantial proof to the theory that s

2017-01-30 15:20:41

Our Oldest Ancestor: It's In The Bag  

Who's your daddy, give or take a few hundred million years? Researchers believe a 540-million-year-old creature unearthed in China is our oldest ancestor, and I can definitely see the family resemblance. Publishing today in Nature, the study introducing us to Saccorhytus coronarius places the tiny creature in the earliest days of the Cambrian Period, some 540 million years ago. Researchers discovered 45 specimens of the animal in limestone deposits in South-central China. The team cla...

2017-01-30 08:42:43

Bite from the past: new study on boomslang venom provides insights into the death of renowned herpetologist Karl Schmidt  

The actual bite happened in less than a second. Dr. Karl Schmidt, an American herpetologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, had been sent a live snake to identify by his colleague, Richard Marlin Perkins (then the director of the Lincoln Park Zoo). The animal appeared to be a boomslang (Dispholidus typhus), a kind of rear-fanged African snake, but there was something a bit odd about its scales, so Schmidt and his colleagues discussed the matter as they examined the serpent. It didn't take l...

2017-01-30 07:25:31

When Mongooses Attack  

Puerto Rico has a problem: a population of rabies-infected mongooses. The small American territory reports that 40% of its mongoose population is infected with the deadly rabies virus, and just last month the CDC published the first known case of rabies transmission by mongoose bite. On November 30th, 2015, a 54-year old man from southeastern Puerto Rico was admitted to a local emergency room with a strange constellation of symptoms.(1) Fever, cough, and chest tightness pointed to a respi

2017-01-30 05:03:17

When You're Drowsy, Is Your Brain Partly Asleep?  

When we're feeling very tired, we sometimes remark that we're "half-asleep". But is this more than just a figure of speech? A new paper suggests that parts of our brain may actually 'fall asleep' even while we're still awake. According to researchers Jeremy D. Slater and colleagues of the University of Texas, "local sleep" occurs throughout the human brain, with each brain region passing into and out of a sleep-like state over time. What's more, local sleep becomes more and more common in

2017-01-28 05:50:43

The Science is Clear, Torture Doesn't Work  

Whether it's the classic "good cop, bad cop" scenario played out in countless TV dramas or the psychological mind games that make True Detective's Rust Cohle such a chillingly effective detective, interrogators ply their trade with a range of shrewd tricks. This is to say nothing of the "enhanced interrogation" techniques that caused a controversy in 2009 after documents revealed that CIA had waterboarded, physically abused and humiliated prisoners in the wake of 9/11. After al...

2017-01-27 20:03:29

Why LSD Trips Last So Long and Connect Us to the Universe  

Two studies looking at one crucial receptor in our brains give different insights into the psychedelic effects of LSD. Two separate teams of researchers publishing papers today in Cell examined how LSD binds to serotonin receptors in our brains and what the consequences of those reactions are. Their results offer an explanation for two hallmarks of LSD use: Its long-lasting effects and apparent ability to give users a sense of deep connection to previously mundane items and ideas. Look ...

2017-01-27 02:29:42

Colliding Molecules in Mars' Atmosphere May Solve an Ancient Climate Mystery  

Climate change on Earth is a well-established phenomenon, but scientists have long struggled to explain an even more dramatic change of conditions, long ago in a far-off land. Mars is a dry, frigid planet today, with an average ground temperature of about -60 °C. Liquid water seems to be possible only under a narrow range of circumstances, but for the most part, water sublimates directly from solid ice to gaseous water vapor. And yet, features on the surface of Mars tell a very different...

2017-01-27 01:53:54

Archivists Want AI to Help Save, Analyze Everything Trump Says  

A week hasn't even passed since the inauguration, but television news is saturated with the flurry of activity from President Donald Trump's administration. Trump, via Twitter, promised to launch an investigation into illegal voting and threatened to "send in the Feds" if Chicago police can't fix the "carnage." And that was just between Tuesday and Wednesday. This heightened scrutiny compelled the Internet Archive, a repository of everything posted on the web, to launch its ...

2017-01-26 11:02:35

Predatory Publishers: Why I'll Miss Jeffrey Beall  

Last week, we learned that Scholarly Open Access, Jeffrey Beall's website and blog, had gone down. Beall, an academic librarian at the University of Denver, has earned fame, and notoriety, for his list of what he calls 'predatory' open access publishers and journals. It's still not clear what led to the demise of Beall's blog. There were rumors of possible legal threats. The University of Denver eventually released a statement saying that Beall "has decided to no longer maintain or publis

2017-01-25 12:31:58

Rogue Actors and the Coming Space Law Crisis  

Launching rockets into space has traditionally been the domain of nation states: only a handful of countries over the last several decades have mounted the technical expertise and financial resources to put payloads in orbit. With so few players, outer space was governed by the "Cold War principles" outlined in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which holds nation states accountable and reserves the use of space for scientific study and other peaceful purposes. Today, space law needs an ...

2017-01-25 06:27:26

Is Cloud Seeding Worth the Bet?  

"Make mud, not war." That was the slogan of the American 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squad, the first military force to engage in weather warfare. Throughout the Vietnam War, they flew 2,602 missions, releasing silver iodide, a compound that seeded clouds and exacerbated monsoons—or so the thinking went. Dubbed "Operation Popeye", this rainy warfare would last from 1966-72, until banned under the 1977 Enmod Treaty on weather warfare. Popeye wasn't the only attempt to weaponize...

2017-01-24 09:13:48

The Underrated Genius of Neanderthals  

(This post originally appeared in the online anthropology magazine SAPIENS. Follow @SAPIENS_org on Twitter to discover more of their work.)  For the last dozen years or so, Geico Insurance has run commercials featuring Neanderthals in modern contexts. The story line varies, but the take-home point does not: Switching to Geico is so easy that "even a caveman can do it," says the tag line. The Neanderthal's feelings are invariably hurt, and a stereotype gets perpetuated. Do Neande...

2017-01-24 07:46:56

Whip Spiders Use Their Feet to Smell Their Way Home  

After a late dinner, a jungle-dwelling whip spider can't rely on an Uber driver to get her home. She has to find the way herself, in the pitch-black, picking her way over thick undergrowth to reach the tree she lives on. It's a trick she can even manage when plucked from her home tree and tossed into the forest at random, up to 10 meters away. Now scientists think whip spiders don't use her eyes for this homing feat—they use their feet. Whip spiders hunt by night and hunker down at d...

2017-01-24 04:28:29

Fallout from an Ancient Asteroid Collision Still Rains on Earth  

Extraterrestrial objects are constantly bombarding Earth; thankfully the vast majority are microscopic. Thanks to the planet's atmosphere, we live largely unaware of this celestial fusillade, which averages about 100 tons a day and mostly burns up long before hitting the ground. From the few that do make impact, researchers can gather clues about the composition of our solar system, with the goal of understanding how planets and other bodies emerged from an embryonic disk of dust an...

2017-01-23 18:43:05

The Arctic in the Age of Trump  

"I am fearful this will affect the Arctic in ways that we have not seen yet" — Margot Wallström, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Note: I've written this from Tromsø, Norway, where I'm covering the Arctic Frontiers conference. A version of this commentary is also scheduled to be published in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.  On January 18, U.S. climate-monitoring agencies confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year in records dating back to 1880. And that made it a climatic ...

2017-01-23 06:02:23

No 'Westworld' Can Contain the Real Rise of AI  

Nobody would accuse the HBO show "Westworld" of being a sunny science fiction tale about artificial intelligence. The show features humanlike robot "hosts" who live, die, and live again to serve the fantasies of human guests visiting a Western-themed amusement park. But the dark premise of "Westworld" is still escapist fiction compared with real concerns surrounding the rise of artificial intelligence. The lurking threat of a "Westworld" robot uprising begins with the premise of ...

2017-01-21 20:07:49

Researchers Uncover Twitter Bot Army That's 350,000 Strong  

There's an army lurking in the underbelly of Twitter. Legions of fake Twitter accounts, called bots, roam the virtual social media landscape, often wreaking havoc wherever they go. You've probably encountered these accounts, those so-called eggheads, in Twitter's untamed wilderness. They seem drawn to political conversations, but are often used to artificially inflate the number of followers a profile has, send spam and manipulate online sentiment. Herded by shadowy "botmasters," these ...

2017-01-20 13:30:39

A Unified Theory of Fairy Circle Formation  

The mysterious fairy circles that form regular hexagonal patterns in the Namibian desert have long mystified researchers. Thousands of bare patches arranged in a grid and measuring anywhere from six to over a hundred feet in diameter speckle the desert throughout the country. A similar phenomenon was recently documented in Western Australia as well. To date, their origin is still unknown — the fairy circles are held to be the footprints of the gods by the native Himba, or the result of...

2017-01-19 17:28:58

Thylacines: Getting Inside the Head of an Extinct Predator  

While I have mixed feelings about de-extinction, particularly for animals that have been out of the picture for thousands of years (I'm looking at you, woolly mammoth), I'd argue the species with the strongest case for giving it a shot would be Thylacinus cynocephalus, better known as the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine. This fascinating marsupial, once found in much of Australia (particularly the island of Tasmania, as its name suggests), went extinct in the 20th century — though reports...

2017-01-19 02:50:21

Lasers Could Generate Shields Out Of Thin Air  

Lasers could turn Earth's atmosphere into a defensive, or offensive, tool in the future of warfare. Proposed by BAE Systems, a defense and aerospace company founded in the United Kingdom, the conceptual Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) would use lasers to ionize and heat the atmosphere in a way that temporarily endows small pockets of it with useful characteristics. This could take the form of an aerial lens used to magnify objects far away, or even a kind of refractive shield to ...

2017-01-19 02:13:11

Chromosomes Aren't the Only Determiners of a Baby's Sex  

The concept of being able to predict the sex of a baby during early pregnancy or even influence it by eating or doing certain things when trying to conceive has been the subject of public fascination and debate for many centuries. But surely the sex of a fetus is exclusively determined by the father's sperm, carrying an X chromosome for girls and a Y chromosome for boys? It turns out this is not the full story. Since the 17th century, it has been recognized that slightly more boys are b...

2017-01-18 15:37:02

After a Cave Turns Deadly, Scientists Seek Answers  

A deadly mystery lingers in a cave in northern Spain. A sign at the entrance warns visitors not to enter. For decades, speleologists have trained inside CJ-3, a 164-foot-deep cave in Cañon del Río Lobos Natural Park in the Soria province. But in 2014, visitors to the cave experienced something new at the bottom: they nearly suffocated, and one person fainted. The oxygen levels had suddenly, and inexplicably, dropped. The unusual incident prompted park officials to contact geologist...

2017-01-16 08:48:52

Op, Op, Op. The Neuroscience of Gangnam Style?  

"Our results revealed characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with Gangnam Style". So say the authors of a new paper called Neural correlates of the popular music phenomenon. The authors, Qiaozhen Chen et al. from Zhejiang in China, used fMRI to record brain activity while 15 volunteers listened to two musical pieces: Psy's 'Gangnam Style' and a "light music" control, Richard Clayderman's piano piece 'A Comme Amour'. Chen et al. say that Gangnam Style was associated with "

2017-01-16 08:22:41

What Can fMRI Tell Us About Mental Illness?  

A remarkable and troubling new paper: Addressing reverse inference in psychiatric neuroimaging: Meta-analyses of task-related brain activation in common mental disorders Icahn School of Medicine researchers Emma Sprooten and colleagues carried out an ambitious task: to pull together the results of every fMRI study which has compared task-related brain activation in people with a mental illness and healthy controls. Sprooten et al.'s analysis included 537 studies with a total of 21,427

2017-01-14 08:58:45

A wimpy La Niña is on the way toward La Nada status  

La Niña typically cools the Pacific. But this time, large swathes of warmer-than-average sea temperatures have muted the cooling. The surface waters of the Pacific Ocean have been considerably warmer than average lately — with one exception: a small spear of coolness along the equator that's characteristic of La Niña. Apparently, all that warmth has prevented the current La Niña — a cool phase in the Pacific that influences weather worldwide — from gaining much strength. In ...

2017-01-14 02:34:37

NASA Has the Asteroid Protection Plan, But Where's the Money?  

Asteroid impacts have the distinction of being one of the few sci-fi concepts that will definitely happen at some point. But despite the clear and present (although potentially far off) danger of getting smacked by an asteroid, we've devoted few resources to averting such a catastrophe. As Discover reported in 2013, NASA's budget for such operations is barebones, and it's unclear how that might change under the Trump Administration. NASA in 2015 cut funding to the Sentinel, and simi...

2017-01-13 21:28:19

With the Flip of a Switch, These Mice Attack  

With a flash of light, researchers have induced mice to pounce on anything in their line of sight. Researchers from Yale University and the University of São Paulo isolated the regions of the mouse brain that control both hunting and biting, and say they can activate the neurons involved on command. The research should help illuminate another small part of the neural pathways that connect the outside world to our internal computations. Between the Action and the Reaction In this case...

2017-01-12 15:25:53

In Search of a Universal Flu Vaccine  

No one wants to catch the flu, and the best line of defense is the seasonal influenza vaccine. But producing an effective annual flu shot relies on accurately predicting which flu strains are most likely to infect the population in any given season. It requires the coordination of multiple health centers around the globe as the virus travels from region to region. Once epidemiologists settle on target flu strains, vaccine production shifts into high gear; it takes approximately six months to

2017-01-12 06:38:23

Two Manifestos for Better Science  

Two new papers urge scientists to make research more reproducible. First off, Russ Poldrack and colleagues writing in Nature Reviews Neuroscience discuss how to achieve transparent and reproducible neuroimaging research. Neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI, are enormously powerful tools for neuroscientists but, Poldrack et al. say, they are at risk of "a 'perfect storm' of irreproducible results", driven by the "high dimensionality of fMRI data, the relatively low power of most...

2017-01-11 03:59:25

In the Brain, Binge-Drinking and Binge-Eating May Go Hand in Hand  

After bartenders announce last call, like clockwork, pizza joints and 24-hour diners fill to the brim with drunk revelers. It seems counter-intuitive: Alcohol contains ample calories and the body should recognize it as a source of energy, adjusting our appetites accordingly. This predilection for imbibing and pigging out has been a scientific curiosity for some time now, and researchers have attributed the "drunchies" to our sense of smell, our taste buds or our deactivated social inh...

2017-01-10 08:29:25

Mammals: Is It Better To Be Horny or Brainy?  

The arms race between prey and predator has been around since the first time one microbe evaded another; it's a never-ending spiral of adaptations to be faster, stronger or better-defended. Now a new study looking at antipredator defenses across 647 species of mammals has found animals seem to have taken a couple different evolutionary paths to avoid being eaten. Each path came with a trade-off, however. According to the paper published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biolo...

2017-01-10 08:20:37

For Rhinos, Social Media Is a Heaping Dung Pile  

To get the latest news and notes, white rhinos visit the local dung heap. Although it's well known that mammals use scents in urine to convey information about fertility and demarcate territory, the way dung is used to communicate is less established. White rhinos defecate in communal mounds, called middens, and researchers believe these troves of waste serve as important information hubs about their community. And test their hypothesis, an international team of scientists pulled a...

2017-01-10 03:41:05

Teaching Our Teeth to Heal Themselves  

Instead of filling our cavity-ridden teeth with putties and cements, a new method that kicks stem cells into action could help teeth repair themselves. Researchers from King's College London implanted collagen sponges soaked with three inhibitor,s including a drug which has been tested as a therapeutic for Alzheimer's, in damaged mouse teeth. Once in place, the drug-infused sponges catalyzed stem cells inside of the dentin — the bony material beneath hard enamel — filling cavities w...

2017-01-09 16:58:43

Here's what Earth and the Moon look like to a telescope on a Mars orbiter that's 127 million miles from home  

Just two days ago, I posted a spectacular picture from the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars showing a fresh blast zone and crater gouged into the surface of Mars by an impacting space rock. Now, comes this spectacular composite image, acquired around the same time. You're looking at Earth and the Moon, as seen on Nov. 20, 2016 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Mars orbiter was 127 million miles from our home p...

2017-01-09 12:58:13

A new "hole" in the Sun's atmosphere has sparked stunning displays of the northern lights here on Earth  

As the coronal hole rotated into view of the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the spacecraft captured a video of what it looked like Ok, let's say it straight away: A "hole" in the Sun's corona is completely natural. It's just one of those things that happens from time to time. Even so, when it occurs, the results can be spectacular — on the Sun itself, as well as here on Earth. And it just happened. Again. The video above shows the Sun spinning on its axis and carrying an elonga...

2017-01-09 10:53:13

New analysis: global sea ice suffered major losses in 2016  

The extent of sea ice globally took major hits during 2016, according to an analysis released yesterday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. At both poles, "a wave of new record lows were set for both daily and monthly extent," according to the analysis. In recent years, Arctic sea ice has been hit particularly hard. "It has been so crazy up there, not just this autumn and winter, but it's a repeat of last autumn and winter too," says Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC. ...

2017-01-09 10:25:49

Experience with Traffic Makes Pigeons Reckless  

You might expect city-dwelling birds to be savvy about traffic. Birds didn't evolve around giant, motorized predators made of metal—but once they realize how quickly a cab or bus can bear down on them, they should take heed. A recent study, though, found that pigeons do just the opposite. Travis DeVault is a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Center. Based in Ohio, he looks for ways to keep birds, bats, deer and other animals fro...

2017-01-09 05:15:06

In 2022, We Might Witness the Explosive End to a Stellar Death Spiral  

In five years, you could have a front row seat to an explosive event that occurred 1,700 years ago. And all you'll have to do is look skyward. Larry Molnar, an astronomer at Michigan's Calvin College has been studying the behavior of an odd object located in the Cygnus constellation, named KIC 9832227. Discovered a bit over a decade ago, it was recently shown to be a contact binary star — two stars orbiting each other so tightly that their atmospheres are conjoined in a stellar embrace....

2017-01-06 14:02:08

What's the Universe Made Of?  

How much of you lies among the stars? How are the elements that make up life distributed among stars and planets? As trippy as the questions seem, astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) announced today at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society that they knew the answers — or, at least, were starting to learn them. SDSS, "the energizer bunny of sky surveys," according to spokesperson Karen Masters, is a massive data collection project that's been going...

2017-01-06 13:33:01

We Got The Mesentery News All Wrong  

Earlier this week, a story begging to go viral fell onto writers' laps: We have a new organ called the mesentery, which is a broad, fan-shaped fold that lines the guts. Here at Discover we pounced on the story, and so did CNN, the Washington Post, LiveScience, Smithsonian, Vice News Tonight, Jimmy Kimmel and many, many more. We got it all wrong, and it's time for us to spill our guts. In our reporting, one burning question we wanted answered was who, or what, determines when a hu...

2017-01-06 12:49:26

Top 10 Citizen Science Projects of 2016: From Microbes to Meteors  

Top 10 Projects of 2016 Happy New Year! Looking for opportunities to make the world a better place this year? Start with these popular projects, which had the most traffic on SciStarter in 2016. Find more on SciStarter then simply bookmark your favorites to receive seasonal reminders! Cheers! The SciStarter Team Photo: LLNL American Gut There a

2017-01-06 10:23:38

The first of several climate verdicts is in: 2016 was the warmest year on record — as widely expected  

On the heels of a study confirming that there had been no slowdown in global warming, there is now this news: 2016 was indeed the warmest year on record. The analysis was announced Thursday by the the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service. Scientists have been predicting for quite some time that 2016 would achieve this dubious distinction. SEE ALSO: "Might not feel like it today, but 2016 will be the warmest year in the surface temperature records" The announcemen...

2017-01-06 03:23:30

NASA Plans to Peer Inside a Black Hole  

Neutron stars, black holes and other remnants of stellar explosions are some of the universe's most intriguing objects - and some of the hardest to study. But when NASA's newest Explorers Program mission, IXPE, launches, we'll see them like never before. Stellar remnants such as black holes and neutron stars are difficult to see. Because of their tiny size and oftentimes obscuring disks of dust and gas, direct measurements of these objects have long eluded astronomers. However, such e...

2017-01-05 20:33:57

Deadly (And Delicious!) Nightshades Much Older Than Thought  

Preserved for more than 50 million years, a pair of fossilized tomatillos from Argentina are rewriting the story of nightshades, those sometimes deadly, sometimes delicious, sometimes hallucinogenic plants common the world over. Nightshades include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, belladonna, petunias and tobacco, a few of which are commonly used as plant models in scientific research, and several of which probably landed on your dinner plate recently (though hopefully not the po...

2017-01-05 12:50:28

3,000 Ride-Sharing Vehicles Could Replace 13,500 Taxis in NYC  

New York City taxis, they ain't so smart — yet. A new study from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) estimates that just 3,000 ride-sharing cars guided by an algorithm could serve the needs of busy New Yorkers. That's compared to the roughly 13,500 taxis currently in operation in the city, famous for its frenzied rush hours. May I Have This Ride? The researchers used taxi data from the University of Illinois spanning 2010-2013 for their analysis, an...

2017-01-05 11:58:22

A chunk of interplanetary debris recently slammed into Mars and left this fresh crater and spray of ejecta  

Small asteroids and chunks of cometary debris frequently slam into the surface of Mars, gouging out new craters. Thanks to a high resolution camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists can often spot such impacts relatively soon after they occur. The image above, acquired by the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a compelling example. It shows a crater and blast zone from an impact that likely occurred as recently as this past August, and no la...

2017-01-05 08:48:59

21st Century Camouflage Confuses Face Detectors  

When it comes to disguises, silly mustaches and fake noses won't cut it anymore. As facial recognition capabilities grow more sophisticated, cameras and algorithms can to do more with less. Even grainy images, like those you might find on a gas station surveillance camera, can hold enough information to match a face to a database. But there are ways to hide.  Gathering Knowledge Your face is garnering a lot of interest these days. Police departments use facial recognition systems t...

2017-01-05 08:20:51

Dad Turns Newborn Daughter's Sleeping Patterns Into Stunning Graphic  

Life for a rookie parent can be utterly terrifying. For the first time they're 100 percent responsible for another human being's survival. One freshly minted dad, fully comprehending the gravity of the situation, left no stone unturned when it came to caring for his newborn daughter. In addition to feedings and diaper changes, Andrew Elliot, an industrial designer by day, recorded his daughter's sleeping patterns to make sure all systems were normal. And after manually collecting ...

2017-01-05 03:44:19

Fast Radio Bursts Now a Bit Less Mysterious  

For as long as astronomers have known about Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), they've been stumped. About a decade ago, researchers discovered in archived 2001 data an extremely fast — just a few milliseconds — burst of radio emissions. They'd never seen anything like it before, and didn't know where it came from or what could cause it. Finally, we're starting to get a few answers. Astronomers announced today at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society that, for the first...

2017-01-04 14:44:39

Prepare for the Future or Grow While You Can? Biology's Central Dilemma  

Natural selection is a rigorous master, demanding tough choices and efficiency of all living organisms. Even when things are good and the living is easy, trade-offs are required. For example, as a microbe is enjoying a nutritionally replete buffet, it begins to grow, laying the groundwork for proteins that will build biomolecular scaffolds and ultimately generate a new cell through replication. But as quickly as this process begins - as DNA is transcribed into the RNA that will serve as...

2017-01-04 10:03:58

This Map Shows Ecosystems Most Affected by U.S. Consumption  

For all the talk of American manufacturing, it's pretty difficult to find products that come solely from the U.S. anymore. In the quest for new markets and resources, the global economy has stretched its tentacles to far-flung corners of the globe, pulling in resources and harnessing the power of cheap labor. Unfortunately, many of the most economically lucrative regions are also hotspots of biodiversity, harboring species close to the brink of extinction. It's the classic division bet...

2017-01-04 07:38:20

Now You Can Own the NASA-Certified Space Coffee Cup  

If you're planning a trip to space, or for some reason find yourself craving espresso while free falling, you can sip your favorite beverage like an astronaut. IRPI, an Oregon-based firm that specializes in spacecraft fluid systems, developed a uniquely shaped mug that let astronauts drink coffee like they would on earth. Recently, they've spun the feat of engineering into a side hustle, called Spaceware, to sell them. It all started back in 2008, when NASA astronaut Don Pettit had...

2017-01-04 03:35:37

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