‘Tree farts’ make up about a fifth of greenhouse gases from ghost forests

If a tree farts in the forest, does it make a sound? No. But it does add a smidge of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. A team of ecologists measured these gases, or “tree farts,” released by dead trees in ghost forests. These spooky woodlands form…

Common parasite may help mussels survive heat waves

When is a parasite not a parasite? Answer: When it provides a benefit to its host. Consider some microbes long thought to bring only harm to coastal mussels. New research shows some may actually help their hosts survive dangerous heat waves. Called cyanobacteria (Sy-AN-oh-bak-TEER-ee-uh), these bacteria bore into the mussels’…

Sleep-friendlier lighting is on the way

Don’t watch TV close to bedtime. Put away your phone, too, or you may have trouble falling asleep. You may not realize it, but the blue light from device screens and even common lamps will confuse your brain’s internal 24-hour clock. Even “white” light contains these blue wavelengths. And when…

Mantis shrimp inspires somersaults of new soft robot

A tiny mantis shrimp found off the Pacific coast of South and Central America has inspired a new robot that somersaults and rolls as well as a circus acrobat — or Disney sidekick. Forty years ago, Roy Caldwell documented the somersaulting mantis shrimp in his lab.Credit: Roy Caldwell Wen-Bo Li…

‘Smart’ pasta morphs into fun shapes as it cooks

This pasta is no limp noodle. When imprinted with grooves, it can morph into tubes, spirals and other traditional shapes as it cooks. This new technique would allow uncooked pasta to take up less space. That means it would need less packaging. Pasta lovers “are very picky about the shapes…

Most species of beetles pee differently than other insects

Like most creatures, beetles and other insects release wastes in their pee. But most species of beetles appear to process urine differently from all other insects. That’s the finding of a new study. That finding could lead to a new method of pest-control: making beetles pee themselves to death. The…

The Milky Way’s ‘yellowballs’ are clusters of baby stars

Astronomers have cracked a curious cosmic case: What are “yellowballs”? These mysterious space objects were first thought to be signs of young, supermassive stars. Scientists now have confirmed that they do mark stellar nurseries. But these birthplaces for stars can host many types of stars with a wide range of…

Let’s learn about lightning

Around 100 times a second, every hour of every day, lightning strikes somewhere on Earth. It might strike over the ocean, far from where anyone might see it. It might hit the beach, perhaps forming a beautiful deposit of fulgurite. It might strike a tree, setting off a wildfire. And…

Pond scum can release a paralyzing pollutant into the air

The summer sun warms the still surface of a pond on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. This water contains fertilizer that had washed off of a nearby farm during a storm. In the warm water, cyanobacteria gorge themselves on nutrients from that fertilizer. Soon, their abundance mushrooms into a “bloom.” These…

A common antibiotic might save some sick corals

A dose of antibiotics seems to help some corals recover from a mysterious tissue-eating disease. And yes, they’re the same antibiotics used in people. Divers discovered the coral disease in 2014. It was afflicting reefs near Miami, Fla. Nicknamed skittle-D, it appears as white lesions that rapidly eat away at…

Warning: Wildfires might make you itch

A burnt orange sky greeted San Francisco’s early risers for several days in November 2018. The California city’s residents usually enjoy good air quality. For nearly two weeks in a row, however, the air quality ranged from unhealthy to very unhealthy. The cause: a raging wildfire some 280 kilometers (175…

Warning: Wildfires might make you itch

A burnt orange sky greeted San Francisco’s early risers for several days in November 2018. The California city’s residents usually enjoy good air quality. For nearly two weeks in a row, however, the air quality ranged from unhealthy to very unhealthy. The cause: a raging wildfire some 280 kilometers (175…

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