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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.

The New Science of Daydreaming  

Daydreams seem like a waste of time, something to avoid. But they actually can lead to creative ideas.

2017-06-23 05:49:10

Why Do Bird Eggs Come in So Many Shapes?  

When something is described as egg-shaped, the ubiquitous hen's egg typically comes to mind. But for birds, eggs come in myriad shapes: owl eggs look like ping-pong balls, hummingbird eggs are shaped like jelly beans, swift eggs are pointed at one end like a pear. So what's the reason? Biologists have been asking that question for quite some time, and their hypotheses are perhaps just as varied as the eggs themselves. Scientists in the past have concluded that cliff-dwelling birds la...

2017-06-22 21:58:01

A Better Touch Screen, Inspired by Moth Eyes  

Moth eyes and lotus leaves may be important to the future of touch screens. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and National Taiwan University designed an anti-reflective coating that was inspired by moth eyes. The coating reflects about 10 times less light than the best anti-glare technique in commercial use. Optical Properties The ability to see your phone's display is a competition between display brightness and reflected ambient light. Relying on extra bright screen...

2017-06-22 03:31:14

Physicists Tackle the Wobbly Suitcase Problem  

Rolling luggage is both a blessing and a curse for hurried travelers. While we no longer need gym-toned biceps to heft our sundries through the airport, the slightest misstep can send a two-wheeled suitcase rocking and spinning into an uncontrollable disaster. Now, scientists think they know why rolling suitcases are so annoyingly unsteady at exactly the wrong times. French researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, say that the problem comes down to simple physics....

2017-06-21 13:07:43

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Auroras  

Colorful shape-shifters of the heavens.

2017-06-21 04:34:01

When Did People Start Using Money?  

Sometimes you run across a grimy, tattered dollar bill that seems like it's been around since the beginning of time. Assuredly it hasn't, but the history of human beings using cash currency does go back a long time - 40,000 years. Scientists have tracked exchange and trade through the archaeological record, starting in Upper Paleolithic when groups of hunters traded for the best flint weapons and other tools. First, people bartered, making direct deals between two parties of desirab...

2017-06-20 15:58:47

Persistent, Deadly Heat at the Equator Could Be the Norm by 2100  

Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, the temperature kept some planes grounded. Phoenix was projected to reach of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a near-record for the desert city, and hot enough that small planes cannot generate enough lift to fly. Phoenix and other cities have experienced similar conditions before, but only rarely—for now. The grounded passengers got to sit inside an air-conditioned terminal, at least. But in other parts of the world where temperatures are set to soar regularly above...

2017-06-20 12:28:41

Kepler's Final Crop of Promising Exoplanet Discoveries  

The newest Kepler catalog draws out 219 new planetary candidates and infers that 10 of them may be habitable — doubling the number of planetary candidates in the habitable zone of their star. The Kepler catalog now stands at 2,335 confirmed planets and 4,034 strong candidates. This catalog marks the final results of the first Kepler mission, which stared at the same portion of the sky for three-and-a-half years before a busted reaction wheel forced NASA to pivot the mission to other for...

2017-06-20 01:45:40

Meet What's-His-Name, the Apollo Astronaut You've Never Heard Of  

There are some astronauts we know a lot about, or at least whose names are familiar, like Neil or Buzz (as in Armstrong and Aldrin, the first men on the Moon). More nerdy space fans will also recognize the names Gene and Pete (as is Cenan and Conrad). But what about Donn, is Eisele? Donn Eisele — whose last name is pronounced Eyes-lee, not Eye-zell — is a fascinating character who flew on the first Apollo mission but most people have never heard of him. Like all his peers, because NASA'...

2017-06-20 01:03:10

Meerkats Can Thank Bacteria for Their Signature Butt Scents  

When Disney's animators were creating Timon, the energetic meerkat sidekick in The Lion King, the part where he turns his anal pouch inside-out and marks his territory must have been left on the cutting room floor. Not once does Timon smear scented butt paste on a branch. But real meerkats use their anal scent glands to communicate with each other. And each animal's distinctive scent seems to come from its personal community of bacteria. Both male and female meerkats have anal scent...

2017-06-19 16:24:45

Is Science Broken, Or Is It Self-Correcting?  

Media coverage of scientific retractions risks feeding a narrative that academic science is broken - a narrative which plays into the hands of those who want to cut science funding and ignore scientific advice. So say Joseph Hilgard and Kathleen Hall Jamieson in a book chapter called Science as "Broken" Versus Science as "Self-Correcting": How Retractions and Peer-Review Problems Are Exploited to Attack Science Hilgard and Jamieson discuss two retraction scandals that reade...

2017-06-19 13:29:43

Ancient DNA Unravels Cat Domestication Like Ball of Yarn  

The truth about cats and dogs is this: despite being the two species that humans are most likely to have as pets, Rex and Ruffles had very different paths from the wild to our couches. Analyzing ancient and modern cat DNA, researchers believe they have figured out much of the mystery surrounding cat domestication — and no, it didn't start in ancient Egypt. Both the archaeological and paleogenetic record show that dogs are unique in being the only animal domesticated prior to the a...

2017-06-19 08:31:28

The Human Project Aims to Track Every Aspect of Life  

If you smoke cigarettes, you're putting yourself at a heightened risk for heart disease. That correlation is well-known and unchallenged today, but that wasn't always so. It took an ambitious, years-long project, the Framingham Heart Study to uncover the link, and it only happened because of the study's commitment to comprehensive data collection. The Framingham study is a near-canonical example of the power of longitudinal studies, those that follow participants for decades, and which ca

2017-06-19 03:21:25

Creating a Universe in the Lab? The Idea Is No Joke  

Physicists aren't often reprimanded for using risque humor in their academic writings, but in 1991 that is exactly what happened to the cosmologist Andrei Linde at Stanford University. He had submitted a draft article entitled 'Hard Art of the Universe Creation' to the journal Nuclear Physics B. In it, he outlined the possibility of creating a universe in a laboratory: a whole new cosmos that might one day evolve its own stars, planets and intelligent life. Near the end, Linde made a ...

2017-06-19 02:04:07

Australian Scientists Dredged the Deep Seafloor — Here's What they Found  

In a dark world of crushing pressures and barren landscapes, creatures we've never seen before, and, likely, couldn't even imagine, are swimming. The ocean's abyssal zone begins over two miles beneath surface; it's so deep that light never touches it. What little we know about it comes from sediment dredged up from the seafloor and brief snapshots captured by remotely operated submarines. This makes it a gold mine for marine biologists, for whom each rare glimpse beneath the waves offers

2017-06-16 12:47:17

Bendable, Stretchable Batteries Provide a Jump Start for Wearable Tech  

Incorporating electronic components into everything we wear is the fashion trend of the future. But those LEDs, health sensors, heaters and whatever else we'll come up with all need energy. A battery is a logical solution, but it's been difficult to design one that's rugged and efficient, but also comfortable. However, in a study published today in Science Advances, a team from the University of California, Berkeley described a battery that perhaps satisfies all of those parameters....

2017-06-16 01:13:03

Large-Scale, Unhackable Communication Networks Are Within Reach  

Veering from the path of their counterparts at other institutions, researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany say they've found an easier path toward large-scale, unhackable communication networks. They demonstrated that it's possible to distribute quantum information to locations on earth via satellite with only minor modifications to existing technology. Multiple arduous and costly endeavors have focused on developing new technology to achieve this goal, but this study, p...

2017-06-15 05:57:40

Largest US Employer Adopts Virtual Reality Training  

Virtual reality technology that has helped train NFL quarterbacks could also soon provide virtual training experiences for hundreds of thousands of Walmart associates. By the end of 2017, Walmart plans to roll out virtual reality training to the 140,000 associates who complete the retail giant's training academy program each year. The move by the largest private employer of American workers may represent the biggest step yet for virtual reality training. The immersion that comes...

2017-06-15 05:03:24

Microsoft AI Notches the Highest 'Ms. Pac-Man' Score Possible  

A Microsoft artificial intelligence has achieved the ultimate high score in Ms. Pac-Man, maxing out the counter at just under a million points. With its randomly-generated ghost movements, Ms. Pac-Man has proven a tough nut for AI to crack, as it cannot simply learn the patterns that govern the ghosts' movements. Maluuba, an artificial intelligence company recently acquired by the tech giant, succeeded in outwitting the hungry ghosts by breaking their gaming algorithm into around 160 dif...

2017-06-14 10:55:15

Surviving the Hunt: Female Elk Get Sneakier With Age  

Cougars, wolves, and bears (oh my!) all scour the landscape of Western Canada, ready to take out an elk if the opportunity arises. Although each of these predators poses a deadly threat to unsuspecting ungulates, elk have an even bigger problem to deal with: hordes of humans that invade the region every autumn armed with rifles, bows and arrows. But as female elk grow older and wiser, researchers have found, they learn to outwit fervent hunters by changing up their routines and laying low

2017-06-14 10:35:33

For Funding, Scientists Turn to Unorthodox Sources  

When Donna Riordan first moved to the idyllic Orcas Island just off the coast of Washington state, she had no plans of doing any sort of research, despite her background in science and education policy. But a few years later, in 2012, she learned that Pacific International Terminals, part of marine and rail cargo operating company SSA Marine, planned to build the largest coal transport terminal in North America. She'd be able to see it from her home. The proposed site was on top of two ...

2017-06-14 07:53:01

As We Age, Friends Can Trump Family Ties  

The importance of family relationships to happiness is pretty much viewed as a given. Blood relationships come with a closeness not found elsewhere in social relationships. Geneticists and sociologists tell us through science why this is the case. Friends, though, ride on the periphery: acknowledged as important anecdotally, but seldom the subject of rigorous introspection and scientific study. This is strange given that many families are geographically distant, as people make interstate

2017-06-14 05:56:16

Flatworm Travels to Space With One Head, Comes Back With Two  

Researchers have been sending animals to space for decades, and the growing roster includes everything from dogs and monkeys to scorpions and jellyfish. But a more recent animal space traveler returned to Earth with something never before seen: an extra head. The newly bi-cranial creature is a flatworm of the species Dugesia japonica, one of 15 flown above the International Space Station for five weeks by Tufts University researchers. The flatworms were cut in half before being launch...

2017-06-14 05:22:05

Alien Life Could Easily Planet Hop in This Tantalizing Solar System  

If we detect alien life on a planet in the TRAPPIST solar system, there's a chance they've already spread to one or more of the other six planets orbiting this ultra-cool, ultra-tiny star some 40 light-years away. In May 2016, scientists made headlines when they discovered three, Earth-size, rocky planets (in February scientists announced they found four more) orbiting a red dwarf star that's roughly the size of Jupiter. Planets in this system huddle around their home star in tightl...

2017-06-14 02:15:23

Noninvasive Deep Brain Stimulation - Has Neuroscience's Holy Grail Been Found?  

A high-profile paper in Cell reports on a new brain stimulation method that's got many neuroscientists excited. The new technique, called temporal interference (TI) stimulation, is said to be able to reach structures deep inside the brain, using nothing more than scalp electrodes. Currently, the only way to stimulate deep brain structures is by implanting electrodes (wires) into the brain - which is an expensive and potentially dangerous surgical procedure. TI promises to make deep brain sti...

2017-06-13 02:20:29

A Rare Genetic Mutation Reveals Secrets of the Common Cold  

A rare mutation that nearly killed a young girl has revealed insights into the common cold. Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases conducted a genetic analysis of a child who had been laid low by repeated bouts of rhinovirus (the virus that causes colds) and influenza infections severe enough to place her on life support. By combing through her genome, they found a single mutation that they say obstructed her body's natural disease-fighting pathway. ...

2017-06-12 20:51:34

Meet Dean Lomax, Master of the Prehistoric 'Death March'  

Paleontologists study creatures that have long ceased to be, all in the hopes of "resurrecting" the history of their lives on Earth. But paleontologist Dean Lomax, an Honorary Visiting Scientist at the University of Manchester, has made a name for himself recreating a very specific part of ancient creatures' lives: their final struggle before death. Moments Captured in Time Lomax has a keen eye for so-called mortichnia, which means "death march," or the tracks left behind by anima...

2017-06-12 06:31:51

Visual Face-preference in the Human Fetus?  

Even before we're born, human beings are sensitive to face-like shapes, according to a paper just published in Current Biology. British researchers Vincent M. Reid and colleagues of the University of Lancaster used lasers to project a pattern of three red dots onto the abdomen of pregnant women. The lasers were bright enough to be visible from inside the womb. The dots were arranged to be either "face-like", i.e. with two "eyes" above one "mouth", or inverted. The inverted condition was a

2017-06-11 10:36:47

Data, Truth and Null Results  

Have you heard of the idea that smiling actually makes you joyful? Perhaps you know of the experiment where researchers got people to hold a pen in their mouth, so they had to smile, and it made them find cartoons funnier. If you're familiar with this idea, then you're familar with the work of German psychologist Fritz Strack, who carried out the famous pen-based grinning study, back in 1988. Now, Strack has just published a new piece, called From Data to Truth in Psychological Sci

2017-06-09 10:55:13

Drone and 360-Degree Video Tech Showcases Aquaculture in Tanzania  

SecondMuse, an agency that collaborates with organizations to help solve complex problems, looked to the latest drone and 360 video technologies to help showcase aquaculture — the farming of aquatic life-forms — in Tanzania. Last year, the Blue Economy Challenge awarded 10 projects for their creative uses of aquaculture. Led by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's InnovationXchange, in partnership with SecondMuse, the goal was to award projects that both help reduc...

2017-06-08 11:42:06

The Mother of All Apples Is Disappearing  

In the wilds of Kazakhstan, there's an unassuming tree that bears an unassuming fruit. Like many plant species, development encroaches on its usual territory while climate change makes it harder for the tree to thrive and bear healthy yields of fruit. You probably haven't eaten this fruit before, but you may have one of its ancestors in your house right now. After all, its children have more than 7,500 varieties in an assortment of colors and tastes and textures. This plant is Malu...

2017-06-08 07:40:51

Don't Drain That Swamp! Accidental Wetlands Are Good for Cities  

What's so bad about wetlands? These mucky, sometimes mosquito-ridden landscapes have a bad reputation, but they offer benefits to their neighborhoods too. Researchers say "accidental" wetlands—pockets of cities that have turned into swamps through flooding and neglect—might be a valuable resource to both the environment and the humans around them. It's hard to guess exactly how many accidental wetlands there are, say Monica Palta of Arizona State University and her colleagues. But it's ea...

2017-06-08 07:21:45

Aliens, Comets or Crap? What's Going On With The Wow! Signal?  

In 1977, Ohio State University math professor Jerry Ehman walked into the Big Ear Observatory and looked over the past few nights' observations. At the time, the radio telescope was the only observatory exclusively devoted to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). It also was underfunded and had no full-time staff. That means no one was listening for aliens the night SETI had its closest call with the big one. On the night of Aug. 15, 1977, a 72-second signal arrived from ...

2017-06-08 04:41:40

For the First Time, Astronomers Measure the Mass of a Star Using General Relativity  

For the first time, astronomers have measured the mass of a star by observing the way its mass deforms light passing by it. It's an observation that Einstein predicted but thought could never actually happen, due to the incredibly precise alignment between distant astronomical objects it entails. But using modern observing tools, researchers recently found and tracked two distant stars as they lined up almost perfectly. Bent By Gravity Though the stars were thousands of light-years apar

2017-06-08 03:36:49

Meet The New Oldest Homo Sapiens — Our Species Evolved Much Earlier Than Thought  

For decades, based on both the fossil record and, more recently, paleogenomic modeling, researchers have generally put the start date for Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago. A trove of fossil and artefact finds from Morocco, however, pushes the age of our species back — way back. The new findings have implications far beyond how many candles to put on our collective birthday cake. In 2004, when researchers revisited the previously excavated early hominin site of Jebel Irhoud, abo...

2017-06-08 02:51:29

The 4 Big Discoveries Underpinning Our Knowledge of the Universe  

For many, science is nothing more than that class you were required to take in school. However, whether you realize it or not, science is all around us, and it impacts every aspect of our lives. And, the stories behind key scientific discoveries, though not commonly known, are truly inspiring. So, if you want a quick refresher on how the universe works, focus on these four fascinating discoveries and the history behind them: Energy Is Always Conserved By 1609, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) ...

2017-06-07 11:49:32

Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?  

We all know that feeling: the burning sensation as we slice into a fresh onion, eyes watering and wincing to relieve the stinging. There are claims that home remedies can solve this problem, including burning a candle, putting the onion in the freezer before chopping, or cutting the onion underwater. In this article we will investigate the culprit behind our onion tears and a possible scientific resolution that has emerged in the 21st century. The teary-eyed response to cutting an onion i

2017-06-06 12:47:17

Just Say No To Feathered Tyrannosaurs  

It's a good day here at Dead Things: A new study provides a nice big nail in the coffin of the notion that T. rex and its kin ran around all kitted out in feathers. Lovers of old-school, scaly dinosaur renderings, rejoice! Maybe I'm showing my age, but when I was learning about dinosaurs they were tail-dragging, vaguely reptilian, monochromatic lugs. You had your gray dinosaur, your green dinosaur and usually a brownish-tan one. Maybe some blobby dots or stripes, if the book you wer...

2017-06-06 08:51:11

These Pine Trees Always Point Toward the Equator, But Why?  

In a world of upright trees, one species dares to be different. Cook pines, a type of tall, slim evergreen native to a remote island in the South Pacific, at first glance appear to be falling over. Many tilt precariously to the side as if caught in a heavy wind, though no breeze ruffles their foliage. Though it may seem the result of chance, observe a stand of Cook pines, especially in locations far from their native habitat, and a kind of unnerving hive-mentality emerges. The trees all l

2017-06-06 08:09:43

The Dark Side of Laughter  

When you hear someone laugh behind you, you probably picture them on the phone or with a friend - smiling and experiencing a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Chances are just the sound of the laughter could make you smile or even laugh along. But imagine that the person laughing is just walking around alone in the street, or sitting behind you at a funeral. Suddenly, it doesn't seem so inviting. The truth is that laughter isn't always positive or healthy. According to science, it can be ...

2017-06-06 04:41:55

Battle of the Breads: Industrial White or Artisanal Whole-Grain?  

What's a more healthful option for a sandwich: industrially processed white bread, or artisanal whole-grain bread? To those who seek clear-cut, black-and-white answers to burning questions like this one, we apologize preemptively. The answer is both; it simply depends on who's eating it. The Better Bread? That conclusion is from researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science who recently compared the short-term health effects of switching to a diet heavy in calories from whit...

2017-06-06 01:07:34

Malaria During Pregnancy Could Bolster Babies' Immunity  

You have a bit of your mother in you, literally. When scientists performed biopsies of young adults' organs, they've found maternal cells embedded in hearts, kidneys, and liver. This phenomenon, called microchimerism, is caused by a small number of cells passing through the placenta during pregnancy. The transfer goes both ways, and scientists think it's like a meet-and-greet between mom and fetus, preventing their immune systems from treating each other's cells as dangerous inva...

2017-06-05 21:37:14

This Exoplanet Is So Hot, It Might Be Evaporating  

Astronomers recently announced the discovery of the hottest known giant exoplanet. Sitting 650 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, Kelt-9b is a scorching ball of gas roughly three times the size of Jupiter. Temperatures there are estimated to reach 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough that the planet's atmosphere may be evaporating away into space, leaving a comet-like tail in its wake. Kelt-9b is so hot thanks to an extremely close-in orbit that takes it around its star jus...

2017-06-05 06:38:25

The Ketamine Consensus?  

Ten years ago, ketamine was a drug best known for its popularity on the rave scene. Yet it has since enjoyed a remarkable rebirth - as an antidepressant. Starting out with a handful of small clinical trials, there are now numerous reports that ketamine produces rapid antidepressant effects. In the US, various clinics have sprung up offering ketamine treatment to depressed patients - at least the ones able to pay the bill, because insurance doesn't tend to cover it. Now, a group of psychia

2017-06-04 13:15:18

Algorithm Accurately Reconstructs Faces From A Monkey's Brain Waves  

When you see a face, what indicates that it is, indeed, a face? The question has vexed neuroscientists for quite some time, especially because humans seem to be so darn good at recognizing faces — not just in other people, but on sandwiches, in car grills, and even on other planets. The phenomenon even has a name, pareidolia. It is thought that our brain's ability to conjure faces from random objects is due to something called configural processing—a face is more than the sum of its p...

2017-06-03 05:26:15

The Omentum: A Curtain of Tissue That Keeps Our Guts Working  

A push to renew research into an understudied gut organ is gaining momentum. The organ in question? The omentum. It's a curtain of fatty tissue that hangs down from our stomach and liver and wraps around the intestines, and is known to play a role in immune responses and metabolism, although exactly how that happens is only dimly understood. Because the omentum doesn't have a discrete function like, say, our stomach, it can be easy to overlook. But, as a new review published in the j...

2017-06-01 06:49:21

Retreating Ice Sheet Spurred Massive Methane Blowouts on the Seafloor  

A massive reserve of methane — a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide — is trapped deep within the seafloor. In northern latitudes, thick ice sheets act as a lid sequestering gases at the right temperature and pressure. But when that ice melts, it's akin to popping a cork on a pressurized bottle of champagne, rapidly releasing large volumes of the pent-up gas. For proof that warmer conditions can spur violent belches, a team of scientists based in Norway looked to the B...

2017-06-01 06:12:17

3rd Gravitational Wave Detection Is About Much More Than Black Holes  

Our sun was still dim. Waves crashed on martian beaches. Life was emerging on Earth. That's when the ghosts of two dead stars — black holes dozens of times more massive than our sun — merged in a far-off corner of the universe. In their final moments, these binary black holes were circling each other hundreds of times per second, as each one spun at 10 times that rate. The rumbles of distant thunder from that collision reached Earth on Jan. 4 of this year, passing through the det...

2017-06-01 06:11:40

The Universe According to Emmy Noether  

In the early 20th century, a young mathematician developed a theorem. Eventually it would become a bedrock of modern physics and used to discover new particles and better understand black holes.

2017-06-01 05:37:13

Cities Are Bad for Bumblebees—Except Detroit  

For bumblebees, big cities are a bummer. Layers of asphalt, concrete, brick and metal add up to fewer places for the insects to nest. But one big city—Detroit—reverses that trend. That means shrinking cities might be a growing opportunity for at-risk pollinators. Bumblebees (species with the genus name Bombus) are, like other bees, in trouble. Their numbers and diversity are decreasing across North America. Other native wild bees—the insects that have been living here and pollin...

2017-06-01 03:57:20

Lost Bomber of World War II Rediscovered  

About 75 years ago, the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber became famous as the twin-engined plane that helped the United States launch the first retaliatory attack on the Imperial Japanese homeland during World War II. The medium bombers mainly deployed in the Pacific theater of war, where they often served as low-flying gunships that attacked both land and sea targets with bombs and machine gun strafing. But not all of the bombers and their six-men crews returned home from those mi...

2017-06-01 02:39:29

How the Chemicals in Sunscreen Protect Our Skin  

Kerry Hanson, University of California, Riverside Not so long ago, people like my Aunt Muriel thought of sunburn as a necessary evil on the way to a "good base tan." She used to slather on the baby oil while using a large reflector to bake away. Aunt Muriel's mantra when the inevitable burn and peel appeared: Beauty has its price. Was she ever right about that price - but it was a lot higher than any of us at the time recognized. What sun addicts didn't know then was that w...

2017-05-31 07:17:25

Egyptian Mummy DNA Reveals the Region's Rich, Diverse History  

DNA recovered from ancient Egyptians mummies is revealing the mosaic of cultures that came to dominate the region. German researchers gathered genetic data from over 100 mummies stored in museum collections and analyzed it with updated sequencing techniques. They amassed 90 mitochondrial DNA sequences and three full genomes, a collection they say comprises the most reliable dataset of ancient Egyptian DNA to date. And their work is beginning to illustrate how the modern-day Egyptian...

2017-05-31 06:36:14

Tree-Climbing Goats Keep the 'Desert Gold' Growing  

What do goats and squirrels have in common? They both climb trees, of course. While squirrels live amongst the branches, goats, or at least those in arid regions, climb them for dinner. And that's good for the goats, and the trees. Scientists have discovered that the domesticated goats in southern Morocco benefit the argan trees, Argania spinosa, by spitting out the seeds of the fruits they eat, which helps in seed dispersal. Argan trees play an important role in southern Morocco act...

2017-05-31 05:50:33

Hacking and Doomsday Top Self-Driving Car Fears Online  

Silicon Valley tech giants and Detroit automakers have to convince people to trust self-driving cars before they can sell the futuristic technology to customers. That may prove tricky considering the public's lingering fears and concerns regarding self-driving cars. A recent AI-assisted analysis of more than one trillion social posts revealed that scared-face emoticons related to self-driving cars rose from 30 percent of all emoticons used on the topic to 50 percent by 2016. Top concer...

2017-05-31 05:35:03

X-ray Blast Produces a 'Molecular Black Hole'  

When researchers want to take pictures of very small things, like individual molecules, they have to get creative. When scales shrink to seemingly imperceivable levels, images must be captured using indirect techniques that record how the subject being photographed interacts with its environment. One way to do this is by observing how a beam of particles disperses around the object. Working backward, researchers can then infer what the object in question looks like. Beam Power The par...

2017-05-31 01:26:08

Memorial Day Parade 1922: Runaway Tank Kills Veteran  

New York City Memorial Day celebrations have featured parades of military hardware almost since the earliest commemorations following the U.S. Civil War. Barely 15 years after that war's end, Union Army veterans from New Jersey marched alongside a battery of rapid-fire Gatling guns in a New York City parade described as being "intended to eclipse all former demonstrations." As World War I loomed just beyond the horizon in 1914, crowds cheered a "wicked looking battery of machine gun t...

2017-05-30 03:50:43

Turtles, Spiders and Other Surprisingly Playful Animals  

Mammals aren’t the only ones who can have a good time.

2017-05-29 03:11:13

Unattractive People Are Seen As Better Scientists  

Good looking, sociable people don't make good scientists, according to popular stereotypes. This is one of the findings of an interesting new study of how scientists are perceived, from British researchers Ana I. Gheorghiu and colleagues. Gheorghiu et al. took 616 pictures of scientists, which they downloaded from the faculty pages at various universities. They gave the portraits to two sets of raters. The first group were asked to rate the attractiveness of the portraits and to say whet

2017-05-28 04:24:14

The Final Act of Larsen C?   

The Antarctic Peninsula's largest ice shelf has a 70-mile-long crack in it; scientists are watching closely.

2017-05-26 01:26:02

Seed Beetles Are Locked in a Brutal 'Sexual Arms Race'  

Cowpea seed beetle sex is complicated. During copulation, the male seed beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus, uses his sharp, spiky penis to damage females' reproductive tract while depositing sperm. All the while, the female vigorously kicks at her suitor—it hurts! As studies have shown, males with longer, harmful penis spikes enjoy more reproductive success, to the detriment of their partner's health. But the process of evolution has a way of balancing the scales. In a new study, L...

2017-05-24 19:42:52

Unreliability of fMRI Emotional Biomarkers  

Brain responses to emotion stimuli are highly variable even within the same individual, and this could be a problem for researchers who seek to use these responses as biomarkers to help diagnose and treat disorders such as depression. That's according to a new paper in Neuroimage, from University College London neuroscientists Camilla Nord and colleagues. Nord et al. had 29 volunteers perform three tasks during fMRI scanning. All of the tasks involved pictures of emotional faces, which

2017-05-24 11:26:41

With Improvements, Humanity's 'Doomsday' Seed Vault Is Safe, Probably  

Just nine years after its official opening, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is undergoing renovations to protect it from climate change. The work was prompted by accidental flooding that took place last week, as melting permafrost seeped into the vault's access corridor. While the seeds were in no danger, the flooding is nevertheless a worrying sign at a facility meant to endure the worst this planet can throw at it. The list of vault improvements includes a ditch to divert m...

2017-05-24 06:45:58

Why Do Flamingos Stand on One Leg?  

Flamingos are striking not only for their brilliant pink plumes, but for how they often stand on a single slender leg, even when asleep. Now scientists find that standing on one leg may counter-intuitively require less effort for flamingos than standing on two. It's a finding that could help lead to more stable legged robots and better prosthetic legs. The One-Legged Problem One prior explanation for the mystery of why flamingos stand on one leg is that it conserved body heat, as doing

2017-05-23 10:22:26

Agar Art Contest Winners Grow Masterpieces with Microbes  

No matter how flamboyant your shower curtain mold is, it couldn't have competed with the fungus that won this year's Agar Art contest. This is the third year the American Society for Microbiology has run the contest, asking for "works that are at their core an organism(s) growing on agar." The artwork can be any kind of microbe colonizing any size or shape of petri dish. This year's winner, Jasmine Temple, used yeast to create this image of a sunset over the water: Temple is a lab...

2017-05-23 03:11:36

Death From Below: Invasive Lionfish Lurking in Deep Reefs, Sending Hungry Reinforcements to the Shallows  

In the last few decades, scientists have come to appreciate the incredible creatures living on the reefs that lie just below conventional diving limits in what is called the mesophotic zone. These incredible biodiversity hotspots are home to more endemic species than shallower reefs, and conservationists are hopeful they may serve as refuges—pockets of relatively pristine habitat out of reach of anthropogenic stressors—where species under threat from pollution, overfishing, and even the...

2017-05-23 02:35:38

Mice Born from Freeze-dried Space Sperm Are Doing OK  

Before they were born, these mice were astronauts. Or, rather, the sperm that would go on to deliver half of their genetic material were. For nine months, mouse sperm was kept aboard the International Space Station, freeze-dried to preserve it. Brought back to Earth, the sperm was rehydrated, introduced to an egg and allowed to divide for about 20 days. The resulting mouse pups carry the distinction of having traveled perhaps the farthest distance ever on their way to being born. Sperm I

2017-05-22 17:05:58

A Survey of Our Secret Lives  

What kinds of secrets does the average person keep? In a new paper, Columbia University researchers Michael L. Slepian and colleagues carried out a survey of secrets. Slepian et al. developed a 'Common Secrets Questionnaire' (CSQ) and gave it to 600 participants recruited anonymously online. Participants were asked whether they'd ever had various secrets, at any point in their lives. The results are a monument to all our sins: It turns out that extra-relational thoughts - meaning "thou

2017-05-21 06:43:15

Older, wiser, deadlier: "blood nuking" effects of Australian brown snake venom acquired with age  

There's an age old belief that baby snakes are more dangerous than adult ones. There are generally two proposed reasons why this could be: either a) young snakes have yet to learn how to control how much venom they inject, so they deliver all of their venom per bite, or b) that because the snakes are smaller, they need more potent toxins to successfully take out their prey. The first is misleading, because even if baby snakes did dump all their venom into each bite, they still have so m...

2017-05-19 20:42:41

A Peculiar Star Is Doing Peculiar Things, Again  

There's a star 1,300 light years away that has exhibited some of the strangest behavior ever seen: something dims 20 percent of its light, something that is beyond the size of a planet. It's called KIC 8462852, but most people shorthand it Tabby's Star, or Boyajian's Star for its discoverer, Tabitha Boyajian. Here's the thing, though. Absolutely nobody knows why it's dimming that much. It could be a massive fleet of comets or the debris of a planet. But it's not giving off m...

2017-05-19 04:42:01

The Power of Office Rituals  

Anthropologists have long studied how rituals bind practitioners together. From African tribes moving rhythmically around a fire to the scripted kneeling and standing by Catholics during Sunday mass, participants deepen group identity through ritual. But ritual also spills over into business and social situations. "The great thing about ritual is that anywhere humans are, a ritual will be there," says Nicholas Hobson, a psychology and neuroscience researcher at the University of Toron...

2017-05-19 03:05:42

Cold War-era Nuclear Tests Created Belts of Charged Particles Around the Earth  

Up until 1963, both the U.S. and Soviet governments conducted over 500 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. They blew up these weapons anywhere from 16 miles above Earth to 250, well into space. The resulting fallout is estimated to have raised levels of thyroid cancer across the country, and could one day even serve as a marker for the Anthropocene—the age of humans. But the effects of these tests spread far beyond the surface of the Earth. A nuclear explosion creates a storm of charged...

2017-05-19 01:51:08

April marked the 388th month in a row that the global temperature was warmer than average  

To find a month when the global average temperature over the land and oceans was below average, you have to go all the way back to December 1984, according to the latest monthly analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Including April 2017, that makes it 388 straight months in which the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average. Like NASA's independent analysis released earlier this week, NOAA finds that last month was the second warmest

2017-05-18 15:48:55

If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapsed...  

Antarctica is a desolate, far-away place, but what happens there could reshape life along the coasts.

2017-05-18 05:44:51

Polar eye candy: check out this spectacular aerial photo of a Greenlandic fjord from NASA's Operation IceBridge  

PLUS: a gallery of other compelling images from the mission I'm always looking for cool imagery to use here at ImaGeo, and today I stumbled on this photo. It's of a fjord in southern Greenland, taken during Operation IceBridge's final flight of the 2017 Arctic campaign, on May 12, 2017. Fractured sea ice floats between the towering cliffs, with a glacier visible in the far distance at the head of the fjord. NASA posted the image here today. I've done some modest processing to correct...

2017-05-17 18:17:54

The heat goes on: This past April was second warmest in records dating back to 1880 — as were February and March  

But with the monster El Niño of 2015/2016 far back in the rear-view mirror, temperatures in 2017 are running somewhat lower than last year NASA has come out with its monthly analysis of global temperatures, and the results are notable, if not terribly surprising: Last month was the second warmest April in 137 years of modern record-keeping. Last month beat out April of 2010 by just a small amount to achieve that distinction, according to the analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Sp...

2017-05-17 18:15:45

Emerging Editing Technologies Obscure the Line Between Real and Fake  

The image is modest, belying the historic import of the moment. A woman on a white sand beach gazes at a distant island as waves lap at her feet — the scene is titled simply "Jennifer in Paradise." This picture, snapped by an Industrial Light and Magic employee named John Knoll while on vacation in 1987, would become the first image to be scanned and digitally altered. When Photoshop was introduced by Adobe Systems three years later, the visual world would never be the same. Today, pre...

2017-05-17 16:53:18

Is Antarctica Gaining or Losing Ice? Nature May Have Just Settled The Debate  

For years, scientists have debated whether heavy inland snowfall on the vast East Antarctic Ice Sheet — Earth's largest — balances out the rapid melting in West Antarctica. Given enough snowfall, the continent might not yet be contributing to sea level rise. Most research shows the melt rate is so high that the continent is indeed losing ice. But in 2015, a group of NASA scientists published a controversial study that found Antarctica was instead gaining ice. The NASA team combin...

2017-05-17 04:34:49

The Dynasties of Science  

The auto industry had the Fords, oil had the Rockefellers, and politics had the Kennedys. Science, too, has its legacy lineages.

2017-05-17 01:25:35

3-D Printed Ovaries Yield New Life  

Mice with artificial, 3-D printed ovaries have successfully given birth to healthy offspring. It's another success for members of the same Northwestern University team that in March reproduced an entire menstrual cycle using organs-on-a-chip. This time, they've created ovaries from a type of gelatin hydrogel and infused them with immature egg cells before implanting them in female mice. The ovaries behaved like the natural ones, picking out an egg cell to mature and pass along, allowing t

2017-05-16 10:33:31

Garden Greenery is Brainier Than You Think  

They learn. They remember. They make decisions.

2017-05-16 05:05:26

Why you should take hyperventilating headlines about CO2 with a grain of salt — but still be quite concerned  

Back in late April, there was a spate of hyperventilating headlines and news reports about the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This one in particular, from Think Progress, should have made its author so light-headed that she passed out: The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit record concentrations. That story and others were prompted by measurements at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory showing th...

2017-05-15 12:06:46

Sergio Canavero: Will His Head Transplants Roll?  

Will the first human head transplant happen soon? According to Sergio Canavero, it will - and he'll be the man to do it. In 2015, Canavero announced his intention to carry out the pioneering operation, with the head being that of a Russian man, Valery Spiridonov, who has a muscle degenerative disease. The source of the donor body was never specified. More recently, Canavero has said that a Chinese patient will be the first to have their head transplanted. So who is Sergio Canavero,

2017-05-13 13:43:54

I am Lionfish, hear me ROAR!  

Ok, well maybe more like grunt or drum. Still, this recording comes from the first study to document that lionfishes—the invasive, venomous scourges of the Atlantic and Mediterranean—make sounds. [audio wav="Many fish species use noise to communicate—so many, in fact, that their sounds can create a morning chorus on a reef akin to the wakening melodies of birds. There is even an entire family of fishes, the Haemulidae or "gru...

2017-05-13 08:09:36

The Coral Microbiome May Offer Protection in Warming Seas  

Ofu Island - a speck of land emerging from the southwest Pacific Ocean - is a textbook paradise. Jagged, forest-covered peaks rise steeply from palm-fringed white sand beaches, as colorful birds sound off in the distance. But beneath the waves, it's a different story: Ofu Island's coral reefs are suffering. As temperatures in some lagoons eclipse 35 °C on a daily basis, extensive coral bleaching is leaving a graveyard of rocky, spindly skeletons reaching into the warming water. ...

2017-05-13 07:16:56

Tadpoles Seek Piggyback Rides to Escape Cannibal Siblings  

Swimming in a pool of cannibals after being abandoned by one's parents is a pretty grim situation. But a tadpole that finds itself here doesn't passively await its fate. Instead, it tries to jump onto the back of any visiting frog and hitch a ride to safety. Even if the frog has no interest in a rescue, the tadpole is ready to rescue itself. Not all Ranitomeya variabilis parents abandon their young. These Peruvian poison dart frogs lay two to six eggs at a time in water, and the fat...

2017-05-12 15:04:17

A Handy Way to Solve Crime  

The thrill of a crime story is the unfolding of "whodunnit," often against a backdrop of very little evidence. Positively identifying a suspect, even with a photo of her face, is challenging enough. But what if the only evidence available is a grainy image of a suspect's hand? Thanks to a group at the University of Dundee in the UK, that's enough information to positively ID the perp. The Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) can assess vein patterns, scars, nail ...

2017-05-12 05:13:28

Meltdown: On the Front Lines of Climate Change  

After watching over Earth’s poles for decades, NASA aviators see new warnings of the chaos to come.

2017-05-11 07:21:08

What if We Discovered an Alien Civilization Less Advanced Than Our Own?  

Readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of Quora, because it lets non-experts raise the kinds of speculative questions that don't normally come up in formal scientific discussions. One frequent theme that comes up is the issue of what we would do if we found intelligent life on a planet around another star. A recent posting in particular caught my eye: "What would we do if we found an Earthlike planet with intelligent life that is 500 years behind us in technology and advancements?"

2017-05-10 16:53:12

Vaccines, Autism, and Retraction  

Arbitrary and unfair behavior by scientific journals risks damaging the public's perception of science. Two weeks ago, the Journal of Translational Science published a paper that reported a correlation between vaccination and autism in 666 children. On Monday, the paper disappeared from their website, with no explanation or retraction notice. Google's cache still has the paper here. Retraction Watch has more details. In my view, this journal's behavior is a perfect illustration of

2017-05-10 10:43:24

Can Math Can Save You From the Slow Line?  

It seems obvious. You arrive at the checkouts and see one line is much longer than the other, so you join the shorter one. But, before long, the people in the bigger line zoom past you and you've barely moved toward the exit. When it comes to queuing, the intuitive choice is often not the fastest one. Why do lines feel like they slow down as soon as you join them? And is there a way to decide beforehand which line is really the best one to join? Mathematicians have been studying these ...

2017-05-10 05:31:40

New Chamber Reveals Most Complete Homo Naledi To Date  

With a series of papers out today, Homo naledi gets both a birthdate and more complete. Discovered in a South African cave, H. naledi first came to light in 2015, in a paper by University of the Witwatersrand anthropologist Lee Berger. Though the remains were undated at the time, estimates put them at anywhere from 100,000 to several million years old. This was based on a physical analysis of the bones, which contained a curious mixture of modern and archaic traits. Now, after putting...

2017-05-09 13:43:39

Meet Zuul Crurivastator: I Ain't 'Fraid Of No Ankylosaur  

Don't let the ferocious name of a new armored dinosaur found in Montana fool you: Zuul crurivastator (the new genus is a nod to the main Ghostbusters villain) is actually quite the softie. At least in terms of soft tissue. The wonderfully preserved specimen has loads of it, opening up a lot of possibilities for further research. Zuul roamed North America about 75 million years ago and was about as badass as an herbivore can be. It was a large ankylosaurine, one of the armor-plated dinos

2017-05-09 06:32:56

The War Over Reality  

Quantum physics may be well understood, but scientists still don’t agree on what it means.

2017-05-08 04:32:33

Neuropeptides and Peer Review Failure  

A new paper in the prestigious journal PNAS contains a rather glaring blooper. The paper, from Oxford University researchers Eiluned Pearce et al., is about the relationship between genes and social behaviour. The blooper is right there in the abstract, which states that "three neuropeptides (β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine) play particularly important roles" in human sociality. But dopamine is not a neuropeptide. Neither are serotonin or testosterone, but throughout the paper, Pe...

2017-05-08 02:30:18

This stunning image of Jupiter from NASA's Juno spacecraft is simply out of this world — except it's not  

The filagree of atmospheric patterns at Jupiter's south pole bears an eerie resemblance to a phenomenon here on Earth When I spotted this image of Jupiter on NASA's website, I felt a bit disoriented. At first glance, it looked like a fanciful artist's conception of the giant planet. But it's actually a real image of Jupiter's south polar region, acquired by the Juno spacecraft. (Make sure to click on it, and then click again to enlarge it.) The image has been enhanced to help bring ...

2017-05-08 02:06:16

An IBM Patent on Midair Handoffs for Delivery Drones  

Amazon and Google's dreams of delivery drones dropping off packages or pizza still face the problem of short delivery ranges. Most drones have limited battery life that restricts their services to less than a 10-mile delivery radius. A recently-approved IBM patent offers an unusual way to extend delivery ranges by having drones transfer packages in midair. The IBM patent envisions several possible ways for delivery drones to hand off their packages without having to land. One idea woul...

2017-05-06 03:27:53

Scientists Race to Understand Why Ice Shelves Collapse  

An 80-mile crack is spreading across the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf. And once that crack reaches the ocean, it will calve an iceberg the size of Delaware. The chunk looked like it could break off a few months ago, but it's still clinging on by a roughly 10-mile thread. Earlier this week, scientists from the MIDAS project, which monitors Larsen C, reported a new branch on that crack. Icebergs naturally calve from ice shelves all the time. But scientists are concerned that...

2017-05-05 20:44:51

Is Technology Too Good for an Old-School Test of Einstein's Relativity?  

On Aug. 21, sky-gazers from around the world will converge in the United States as a total solar eclipse charts a path from Oregon to South Carolina. In between, on Casper Mountain in Wyoming, you'll find Don Bruns with his telescope. A retired physicist, Bruns is using the rare opportunity to test Albert Einstein's general relativity like Sir Arthur Eddington, who was the first scientist to test the theory back in 1919. At that time, Newton's law of universal gravity was still vogue,...

2017-05-05 17:01:44

Heading into the summer, Arctic sea ice is in bad shape  

Arctic sea ice extent in April was nearly 394,000 square miles below the long-term average — an area one-and-a-half times the size of Texas. The Arctic's floating lid of sea ice continued to decline in April, tying the record set last year for lowest April extent. This makes it four straight months of record lows in 2017, leaving Arctic sea ice in a precarious state as seasonal warming accelerates with the approach of summer. According to the latest report from the National ...

2017-05-05 10:35:48

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