Science

  • Explainer: Insects, arachnids and other arthropods
    Beetle. Spider. Centipede. Lobster. Arthropods come in almost every shape and color imaginable. And they can be found in diverse environments, from the ocean deep to dry desert to lush rainforest. But all living arthropods have two key characteristics in common: hard exoskeletons and legs with joints. That last should come as no surprise. Arthropod…
  • Honeybees fend off deadly hornets by decorating hives with poop
    Giant hornets from Asia can quickly kill off an entire honeybee hive. But bees have found one stinky way to fend off these predators. Their tactic: smearing the entrance to their hives with animal dung. Honeybees are known for collecting pollen, nectar and tree sap. So Gard Otis was puzzled to find strange, brown spots…
  • Scientists Say: Molecule
    Molecule (noun, “MOLL-eh-kewl”) A molecule is usually two or more atoms held together with chemical bonds. Molecules can be homonuclear. That means they contain atoms of only one element. The oxygen we breathe, for example, is a molecule of two oxygen atoms — O2. Other molecules are heteronuclear — made of more than one element.…
  • Dew collector brings water to thirsty plants
    Besides healthy soil, all plants need water. This makes it hard to grow plants where it’s dry. But researchers in Texas may have found a way to keep plants from dying of thirst at arid sites. They developed a soil additive. When mixed into the ground, it will steal water from the air to share…
  • Camels have been dying after mistaking plastic for food
    Marcus Eriksen was studying plastic pollution in the Arabian Gulf when he met camel expert Ulrich Wernery. “You want to see plastic?” Wernery asked him. “Come with me.” So they went deep into the desert. Before long, they spotted a camel skeleton. As the two dug through sand and bones, Eriksen recalls, “We unearthed this…
  • What the mummy’s curse reveals about your brain
    Two men peered through a small hole in the wall of a tomb. It was the final resting place of an ancient Egyptian king. “Can you see anything?” asked one. “Yes, wonderful things,” answered the other. Statues and golden treasure glinted in the dim light. The two men were Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon. For…
  • Let’s learn about gravity
    What goes up must come down. On Earth, anyway. Why? There’s a lot of gravity to that situation. Gravity is the attraction that objects with mass have to other objects with mass. The more massive something is, the more gravity it has. The gravity from the Earth’s mass pulls on your body’s mass, keeping you…
  • Africa’s poisonous rats are surprisingly social
    African crested rats — fluffy, rabbit-sized furballs from East Africa — are finally starting to reveal their secrets. In 2011, scientists discovered that the rats lace their fur with a deadly poison. Now researchers report that these animals are surprisingly friendly toward each other, and may even live in family groups. Sara Weinstein is a…
  • Our feverish universe is getting hotter every day
    Global warming, meet cosmic warming. Today, the universe is 10 times warmer than it was 10 billion years ago. Back then, the average temperature of deep space was around 200,000º Celsius (360,000º Fahrenheit). Now it’s roughly 2 million ºC (3.6 million ºF). “This is the first time we can confirm the precise value of the…
  • Scientists Say: Respiration
    Respiration (noun, “RES-per-a-shun”) Respiration has different meanings, depending on where it takes place. In our lungs, respiration can refer to the act of breathing. If you breathe in and out 20 times per minute, you have 20 respirations per minute. It also refers to what happens when we breathe in and out. Respiration describes how…
  • Loneliness makes our brains crave people
    A hungry brain craves food. A lonely brain craves people. A new brain study demonstrates this. After being isolated, it shows, people’s brains perked up at the sight of other people. The action was in the same brain region that revs up when a hungry person sees food.   “There’s a ton of research showing…
  • What kids need to know about getting a COVID-19 shot
    On December 14, the first Americans got a vaccine designed to protect them from COVID-19. Health-care workers were put at the head of the line to get these shots. So were older adults living in care facilities. That’s according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Over the coming months,…
  • Bye-bye batteries? Power a phone with fabric or a beacon with sound
    Imagine if the swishing threads inside your jeans pocket could charge your cell phone. Picture sensors that don’t need batteries because they make their own power. Both and more may soon be possible, thanks to new piezoelectric materials and devices. Pressing, squashing or twisting such materials produces an electric charge. Add a circuit to capture…
  • Analyze this: Microplastics are showing up in Mount Everest’s snow
    Bits and pieces of plastic are turning up all over, including in the snow on Mount Everest. Reaching 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) above sea level, that mountain is Earth’s tallest peak. Researchers found plastic in snow scooped from a spot 8,440 meters (27,690 feet) high, near Everest’s summit. “We’ve known that plastic is in the…
  • A taste map in the brain is a scattering of tiny flavor islands
    Take a sip of lemonade and you taste an explosion of flavor. The sweetness of the sugar and the sourness of the lemons burst on your tongue. But the tongue doesn’t taste all by itself. It needs the brain to take chemical signals from food and turn them into what we sense as sweet and…
  • Early details emerge about the new U.K. coronavirus variant
    Researchers recently identified a new variant of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom. It appears to be behind a recent spike in local COVID-19 cases. In fact, it might be linked to a faster spread of disease. That’s what U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock announced on December 14. Since then, evidence to support this has…
  • Scientists Say: Algebra
    Algebra (noun, “AL-jeh-brah”) This is a kind of math in which letters and symbols take the place of numbers. By substituting letters for numbers, algebra allows us to take specific equations and make them apply to more situations. For example, in arithmetic (which is another kind of math), we could say that 1 + 2…
  • Touching allows octopuses to pre-taste their food
    Octopus arms have minds of their own.  Their eight powerful limbs can pluck crusty crabs from hiding spots. They can grab hold of a lazy lobster. They can snag a frolicking fish. And they do all this without using their brains. That’s because their arms can think for themselves. Oh, one other thing: An octopus…
  • Rogue planets wander the galaxy all alone
    Not all planets orbit stars. Some zip through our galaxy all on their own. And now astronomers have found the smallest of these rogue planets yet. The newly discovered wandering world has roughly the mass of Earth. With no sun in its sky, it’s always nighttime on this lonely planet. And that sky is a…
  • Tracking Santa with science
    When Santa Claus takes off on Christmas Eve, he won’t be doing it in secret. Millions of children around the world will be waiting. And the North American Aerospace Defense Command (or NORAD) will be watching too. This military organization will be sending information to a Santa tracker, where waiting kids (and parents) can follow…
  • A soil-based ‘concrete’ could make buildings green, even on Mars
    Tech advances have been moving 3-D printers from labs and maker shops into factories. Now researchers have developed a soil-based “ink” for 3-D printing. The novel material can take the place of concrete in constructing new buildings. “Concrete is one of the most widely used construction materials by far,” notes Aayushi Bajpayee. But from an…
  • Scientists Say: Lachryphagy
    Lachryphagy (verb, “Lah-CRIH-fih-gee”) This is a thirst for another animal’s tears. Scientists have observed insects — especially butterflies, bees and flies — crawling into the eyes of animals. There, the insect will sip on the animal’s tears. This might sound creepy, but tears have ingredients insects can use. In particular, tears are high in both…
  • Utah mink is first known case of the coronavirus in a wild animal
    A wild mink in Utah is the first wild animal found to be infected with the new coronavirus.  A December 13 report by researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests the animal picked up its infection from farmed mink. The wild animal hosted a version of the virus that appears identical to what was…
  • Strongest bones come from Goldilocks recipe of exercise and rest
    Adults develop most of their bone strength by age 20. So one gauge of how healthy our bones will be as adults is how much strength we build into them while we’re kids, notes Dot Dumuid. She studies physical activity and bone health at the University of South Australia in Adelaide. Her team’s new research now suggests what the ideal…