Science

  • ‘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 when rising sea levels drown…
  • 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’ outer shells. Studies had shown…
  • 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 blue light enters the eyes,…
  • 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 is a mechanical engineer exploring…
  • ‘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 of pasta and how they…
  • 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 new finding also may help…
  • 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 masses. Researchers shared their discovery…
  • 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 on rare occasions, it might…
  • 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 bacteria can release a toxin…
  • 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 coral tissue. The disease has…
  • 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 miles) away. A new report…
  • 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 miles) away. A new report…
  • Climate may have sent drift of the North Pole toward Greenland
    Earth’s geographic poles aren’t fixed. Instead, they wander in seasonal and near-annual cycles. The weather and ocean currents drive most of this slow drift. But a sudden zag in the direction of that drift started in the 1990s. That sharp change in direction appears due in large part to the melting of glaciers, a new…
  • The secret to T. rex‘s incredible biting force is at last revealed
    The fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex had a tremendous bone-crushing bite. What made this possible was a stiff lower jaw. And that stiffness came from a boomerang-shaped bit of bone. A new study finds that this small bone braced what would have been an otherwise flexible lower jaw. Unlike mammals, reptiles and their close kin have a…
  • Stars made of antimatter could lurk in our galaxy
    All known stars are made of ordinary matter. But astronomers haven’t completely ruled out that some could be made of antimatter. Antimatter is the oppositely charged alter-ego of normal matter. For instance, electrons have antimatter twins called positrons. Where electrons have negative electric charge, positrons have positive charge. Physicists think the universe was born with…
  • Only 3 percent of Earth’s land is unchanged by people
    The African Serengeti looks much like it did hundreds of years ago. Huge herds of wildebeests, over one million strong, still roam the savanna. Lions, hyenas and other top predators stalk the herds. This keeps their prey from eating too much vegetation. Diverse trees and grasses support scores of other species, from vivid green-orange Fischer’s…
  • The pebbled path to planets
    Every big planet begins with a pebble. Okay, not just one. It starts with lots of pebbles — a flat sea of them stretching perhaps hundreds of times wider than the distance from Earth to the sun. Their sizes vary greatly. Some may be mere dust particles. Others may be small to fairly substantial rocks.…
  • How scientists can get a better view of our extinct relatives
    Depictions of extinct human ancestors and cousins often are more art than science. Take Australopithecus africanus. This member of the human family tree, or hominid, lived millions of years ago. Scientists made two sculptures showing what this hominid might have looked like. The busts were based on the skull of a child that lived 2.8…
  • Let’s learn about touch
    Four of your senses are located just on your head. Taste is in your mouth. Smell is in your nose. Sight in your eyes and hearing in your ears. But touch? Touch is all over your body. Your fingertips and face can sense touch, and so can the bottoms of your feet and the backs…
  • The Perseverance rover split CO2 on Mars to make breathable air
    The Perseverance rover has created a breath of fresh air on Mars. An experimental device on the NASA rover split carbon dioxide molecules into their component parts. This created enough breathable oxygen to sustain a person for about 10 minutes. It was also enough oxygen to make tiny amounts of rocket fuel. The toaster-size instrument…
  • Scientists Say: Pollen
    Pollen (noun, “PAH-len”) This is a mass of small grains released by seed plants. Each individual piece of pollen is called a pollen grain. Each grain contains a reproductive cell that corresponds to a sperm cell in an animal. A pollen grain can fertilize the egg cell of other plant of the same species, eventually…
  • Will this smartphone app become your exercise coach?
    When the COVID-19 pandemic closed gyms and put school sports on hold, many teens looked for other ways to stay active. Some took up at-home yoga or running. For high-school sophomore Michelle Hua, that wasn’t enough. This 16-year-old student at Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., invented an app to track her movements. It…
  • No animal died to make this steak
    It looks like a steak. It cooks like a steak. And according to the scientists who made and ate it, the thick and juicy slab smells and tastes like a steak. A ribeye, specifically. But appearances can be deceiving. Unlike any steak found on a menu or store shelf today, this one didn’t come from…
  • New robots can clean virus-laden surfaces so people won’t have to
    A robot prances on four slender legs. It almost appears to be dancing. Then it stops in front of a chair in an empty auditorium. Suddenly, a mist spews from a nozzle atop its head. The sci-fi-like machine now twists itself to the left, then to the right, then up and down. That mist is…
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