Science

  • Please do not touch the Australian stinging tree
    Australia is famous for its dangerous wildlife. The continent is crawling with crocodiles, spiders, snakes and deadly cone snails. Its plants can pack a punch too. The stinging tree, for instance, delivers severe pain to anyone who touches it. Now scientists have identified its secret weapon. And the structure of this pain-producing chemical looks a…
  • There’s water on sunny parts of the moon, scientists confirm
    Past observations had suggested there’s water on the moon. New telescope observations now find those findings hold water. Spacecraft had seen evidence of water ice in permanently shadowed craters. This was at the moon’s poles. There also had been hints of water molecules on the sunlit surface. But water sightings in the sun had relied…
  • Third major vaccine shows great promise against COVID-19
    For the third Monday in a row, another major drug company released preliminary data on a COVID-19 vaccine. This one, too, can apparently cut the risk of getting sick from the novel coronavirus by at least 90 percent. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in England created this new vaccine. The treatment also appears to…
  • The diabolical ironclad beetle is nearly unsquishable
    The diabolical ironclad beetle is like a tiny tank on six legs. This insect’s rugged exoskeleton is so tough that the beetle can survive getting run over by cars. Many would-be predators don’t stand a chance of cracking one of these beetles open. Phloeodes diabolicus is basically nature’s jawbreaker. A study has now revealed now…
  • Scientists Say: Puberty
    Puberty (noun, “PEW-brr-tee”) This is the transition between childhood and adulthood. Humans and other primates, such as chimpanzees, go through puberty as they develop and grow. At the end of puberty, they’ll be at adulthood — the stage where an organism is mentally and physically mature. But of course, we all have to get there…
  • This artificial skin feels ‘ghosts’ — things you wish were there
    Long-distance communication may benefit from a robot’s touch. And that may come in the form of a new gadget developed by engineers in Australia. Haptic is a term for things that relate to one’s sense of touch. The new haptic device slips over someone’s finger like the tip of a glove. By stretching fabric, it…
  • Warning! Junk foods can harm a teen’s brain
    “You are what you eat.” When people say that, they mean a healthy diet can boost your health. But the opposite is also true. In fact, if you’re between the ages of 10 and 19, eating too much junk food can harm your body and your brain. Junk food shapes adolescent brains in ways that…
  • Teen athletes with even mild COVID-19 can develop heart problems
    COVID-19 can do some pretty scary things to the heart. For instance, it can inflame or even scar heart muscle. A study now shows that such things can happen even to teen athletes who got mild coronavirus infections. Some had not even shown symptoms of the virus. The good news: Most teens who become infected…
  • Surprising long-haul dust and tar is melting high glaciers
    Snow covers many of the Himalayan peaks year-round in South Asia. The same is true of peaks in the neighboring Karakoram range and the Hindu Kush. Together, these areas contain the largest volume of snow and ice outside of Earth’s polar regions. Owing to this area’s extreme elevation, it’s often called “the Roof of the…
  • Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 appears nearly 95 percent effective
    For the second week in a row, a major drug maker has issued data indicating that its new vaccine could be successful at fighting COVID-19. Preliminary results indicate that this coronavirus vaccine by Moderna Inc. is nearly 95 percent effective in preventing sickness. These results are the “first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent…
  • Scientists Say: Evolution
    Evolution (noun, “EE-vol-oo-shun”, verb “evolve,” “EE-volve”) In biology, evolution is a process by which species change over time. Evolution is a theory — an explanation about how the world works, backed by evidence. The theory of evolution states that groups of organisms change over time. The theory also explains how groups change. That’s because some…
  • This snake rips open a living toad to feast on its organs
    Some snakes eat toads by swallowing the creatures whole. Others slash a hole in a toad’s stomach, shove their heads in and gorge on organs and tissues. And all this happens while the amphibian is still alive. “Toads don’t have the same feelings and can’t sense pain in the same way as we can,” says…
  • Kids use more of the brain than adults do to process language
    Have you ever noticed that kids and adults seem to think differently? There may be a good reason for that. They don’t rely on the same parts of the brain to process words. That’s the finding of a new study. Our brains change in many ways as we grow. Now researchers have shown that this…
  • Computers are changing how art is made
    Maya Ackerman just wanted to write a song. She tried for years — song after song. In the end, she didn’t like any of the tunes she wrote. “I didn’t have the gift, if you will,” she says. “All the melodies that came into my mind were so boring that I couldn’t imagine wasting time…
  • Explainer: What is an algorithm?
    An algorithm is a precise step-by-step series of rules that leads to a product or to the solution to a problem. One good example is a recipe. When bakers follow a recipe to make a cake, they end up with cake. If you follow that recipe precisely, time after time your cake will taste the…
  • Analyze This: Ropes restore a gibbon highway through a rainforest
    Scampering or climbing along ropes, Hainan gibbons (Nomascus hainanus) can now cross a great gully carved by a landslide. These endangered primates live in the forest on China’s Hainan Island. A 2014 landslide had damaged the preferred route that these tree-dwelling apes took through the forest. They could cross by vaulting across the gap, catching…
  • Handwriting beats typing when it comes to taking class notes
    You can improve learning — and potentially remember more — by handwriting your class notes. Although computer technology is often necessary today, using a pen or pencil activates more areas of your brain than a keyboard does. These are findings of a new study. As digital devices have taken over society, “keyboard activity is now…
  • Explainer: What is a spike protein?
    Members of the coronavirus family have sharp bumps that protrude from the surface of their outer envelopes. Those bumps are known as spike proteins. They’re actually glycoproteins. That means they contain a carbohydrate (such as a sugar molecule). Spiked proteins are what give the viruses their name. Under the microscope, those spikes can appear like…
  • New Pfizer vaccine appears 90 percent effective against COVID-19
    The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine entered its final sprint, this week. On November 9, early and very promising results were released from a trial of a leading candidate vaccine. The vacine appears to keep nine in 10 treated people from getting sick with the new coronavirus. Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech…
  • Let’s learn about Mars
    Mars and Earth have a lot in common. They’re both rocky planets. Though Mars is smaller, both planets have a similar length of day. They both have ice, and Mars might even have liquid water like Earth. Mars may have earthquakes — er, well, Marsquakes. And scientists have been gathering evidence that Mars, too, may…
  • Attack of the inner-cannibal mega-shark
    Otodus megalodon is a giant among sharks. The 14-meter (45-foot) carnivore with razor-sharp teeth cruised the seas some 23 million to 2.5 million years ago. No other predatory shark has matched its size and ferocity. How did this creature get so ginormous? A group of scientists now suspects part of the reason may be that…
  • Scientists Say: Nucleus
    Nucleus (noun, “NOO-klee-us”, plural nuclei “NOO-klee-eye”) A nucleus can be any central part  of something that gathers other parts around it. It comes from the Latin “nuc,“ meaning “kernel.” So a popular person with a lot of friends could be the nucleus of their friend group. But in science, the nucleus can refer to the…
  • Jumping ‘snake worms’ are invading U.S. forests
    Add “snake worms” to the list of things Americans can worry about this year. These jumping earthworms, which came from Asia, are known for their wild thrashing behavior. Now they are eating their way across the United States. Along the way, they are displacing other earthworms, centipedes, salamanders and ground-nesting birds. This alters forest food…
  • Ordinary paper turns into flexible human-powered keypad
    Smartphones, tablets, fitness trackers, headphones. Most of the electronic devices we use today are made of rigid metal, plastic and glass. But electronics don’t have to be, says Marina Sala de Medeiros. Consider her team’s new electronic keypad. It has no batteries. The user’s touch gives it all the power it needs to run. “Any…