Here are the latest reports from The Washington Posts ‘Speaking of Science’.
Leaping eels and manipulative babies: What you may have missed in science this week
You probably didn’t know moss was this cool. Yes, that moss — the kind that grows on trees. It can thrive in the harshest environments, with very few obvious sources of water. A recent study took a closer look at moss’s survival system — specifically its upside-down water collection strategy. Scientists studied Syntrichia caninervis, a […]
This baby planet is likely being torn apart by its own sun
This possible planet is the Icarus of the Milky Way.
The history of the penis bone is utterly perplexing
Despite some incredibly misleading euphemisms, human penises are entirely boneless. But that’s not the case for many of our mammalian relatives. From cats and dogs to primates and rodents, the males of many mammal species have a special genital bone called the baculum. Researchers have long been unsure whether this mysterious structure evolved just once, early on […]
How an evolutionary arms race with snakes turned newts super toxic
It’s a tale as old as time: Newt meets snake, snake eats newt, newt evolves to produce increasingly deadly toxins. Newt kills snake, snake adapts, snake eats newt and — well, that part goes on pretty much forever. And this tale, like all good tales, involves a campfire with three dead hunters around it. Three […]
Why don’t birds get lost? They may have mastered quantum mechanics.
Understanding physics can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Now imagine doing it with a bird brain.
These honeybees invade foreign hives and live without males
You know when you just want to steal someone else’s food, lay on their couch, and swear off men forever? Yeah, same. And the Cape honeybee gets it, too. This species has evolved a unique survival strategy that allows its female worker bees to squat in foreign nests and lay viable eggs without any help […]
For the second time in history, a living scientist has an element named in his honor
Just before the end of 2015, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced the official discovery of four new elements, filling up the period table’s seventh row. Now, after much speculation, their proposed names have been unveiled. All of these names were proposed by the scientific teams responsible for the elements’ discovery, […]
Scientists catch a black hole in an unusual feeding frenzy
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a black hole chowed down on a chilly supper of cold gas — a clumpy rainstorm in space. Now, scientists are watching the feast unfold. This is the first time a black hole has been seen eating such a refreshing meal: Scientists previously had only observed black […]
Glow-in-the-dark fish have evolved over and over again
In the dark, cold expanse of the deep ocean, bioluminescent creatures light up their world like stars in an inky sky. According to a new study, the ability to create light may have evolved independently 27 times in marine ray-finned fishes. If you count sharks and rays, it’s evolved 29 times. And being able to […]
Ancient teeth and bone point to the origin of our mysterious ‘hobbit’ cousins
The ‘hobbits’ were a tiny, separate species of hominin, researchers say — and a new discovery could explain how they got so small.
National Academies: Too soon to release ‘gene-drive’ organisms into nature
An elite panel of experts convened by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has concluded that it is premature to use “gene-drive” technology to spread genes through insects in an effort to combat malaria, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, Lyme and other diseases. But the panel said this kind of genetic engineering offers great promise, […]
Did the death of the dinosaurs allow meek mammals to thrive? Not exactly.
For over 100 million years, mammals skittered and scurried through a dinosaur-dominated world. They were small – the largest was no bigger than a badger – and paleontologists used to think that mammal evolution only took off once a mass extinction wiped all the non-avian dinosaurs off the planet. But over the past 20 years […]
The sneaky ways babies get inside our heads
Big eyes, bigger heads and squishy little noses. The physical characteristics that make babies so squeezable are called the Kindchenschema, and they keep parents all over the animal kingdom from leaving stinky infants to their own devices. But research suggests that this cuteness does more than just tell your lizard brain that the squirming screamer in your […]
Fish can recognize human faces (and we know because they keep spitting at us)
Archerfish are already stars of the animal kingdom for their stunning spit-takes. They shoot high-powered water jets from their mouths to stun prey, making them one of just a few fish species known to use tools. But by training Toxotes chatareus to direct those jets of spit at certain individuals, scientists have shown that the little […]
Moss is a master of mechanical engineering
Desert moss’s water collecting is strikingly efficient — and stunning to watch.
This spaceship is great at falling through space — which could help us understand the universe
Just four months after scientists announced the first detection of gravitational waves — ripples in space time that could help us learn about mysterious objects such as black holes — researchers from the European Space Agency have taken a vital step toward catching some for themselves. On Tuesday, the team behind the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Pathfinder mission, […]
How did the first people migrate to the Americas? Bison fossils could help settle the debate.
To figure out whether humans took a route through the glaciers that covered Canada, a team of paleontologists followed their food.
Watch these leaping electric eels validate one of science history’s wackiest stories
In 1800, the naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt described a fanciful scene involving “fishing with horses.” A modern study suggests that the story wasn’t so fanciful after all.
Dear Science: When you lose weight, where does it actually go?
Welcome to the first installment of Dear Science, an advice column where the women of Speaking of Science use scientific know-how to help solve your problems. Have a question you would like us to address? Submit it here. Dear Science, My doctor says I should shed a few pounds, but all this calorie counting has […]
This funny-looking ancient fish is actually your great-great-great-great (you get the idea) granduncle
The predatory prehistoric creature Qingmendous could help us understand how our ancestors crawled onto land.
Hold on tight: The universe is expanding faster than we thought
You’ve probably already heard that the universe is expanding. It’s been doing so since the big bang — about 13.7 billion years ago — so you’ve had plenty of time to get in the loop. But according to new research, that relentless, ever-quickening expansion is happening at a rate 5 to 9 percent faster than previously […]
This ‘ancient city’ below the sea wasn’t built by humans
When tourists snorkeling near the Greek isle of Zakynthos first spotted mysterious structures about 20 feet under the sea, they thought they might have stumbled upon a lost city. And you can’t blame them: The site features what appear to be clusters of cobblestones and symmetrical stone cylinders with Hellenic flair. It’s easy to see […]
After secret Harvard meeting, scientists announce plans for synthetic human genomes
Three weeks ago, 130 scientists, entrepreneurs and policy leaders held an invitation-only, closed-door meeting at Harvard University to discuss an ambitious plan to create synthetic human genomes. Now, after a flurry of criticism over the secrecy of the effort, the participants have published their idea, declaring that they’re launching a project to radically reduce the […]
Scientists say they’ve one-upped photosynthesis with a ‘bionic leaf’
It doesn’t look anything like a leaf, but it turns sunlight into fuel ten times more efficiently.
Pluto’s icy heart is still ‘beating’ like a ‘cosmic lava lamp’
This time last year, space enthusiasts all over the world were eagerly awaiting photos of Pluto. As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zipped toward its July 2015 flyby of the Pluto system, every image it sent home was the best, clearest image we’d ever seen. And one of the first features that emerged — the first sign that […]
‘Like’ it or not, teen brain is primed to join the crowd
About the easiest action you can take in social media is to “like” a tweet or a photo. If you’re a teenager, your brain is particularly primed to “like” what others have “liked,” according to researchers from UCLA. Their new study, published in Psychological Science, is thought to be the first to replicate the social […]
The vocal tricks political candidates use to sound like leaders
Does the voice of a particular politician rub you the wrong way? At this point in the (seemingly endless) 2016 election season, it’s hard to blame anyone who can’t stand to hear another word from presidential hopefuls. But if linguist and psychologist Rosario Signorello has his way, you won’t turn off your speakers just yet. […]
These male spiders are devoured by their mates after sex. No wonder they’re so picky.
“He’s really no more use to her,” researcher Eric Yip said. Except as “a nice protein-rich meal.”
Two of the most famous examples of evolution have the same, simple explanation
Scientists say they’ve found the gene behind for two textbook cases of evolution by natural selection: mimetic butterflies and the British peppered moth.
New praying mantis honors Ruth Bader Ginsburg, equality and frilly neckwear
For the first time, scientists have used the genitals of female praying mantises to formally distinguish one species from another. And using this novel technique, they’ve identified a previously unknown creature: Ilomantis ginsburgae. The lovely new mantis is named in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for her efforts toward […]
Asteroids splashed into the young moon – and they may be the source of its water
From the outside, the moon seems to be as dry as a bone. But in addition to frozen water molecules, scientists have found that our satellite hides tiny bits of liquid water inside its volcanic rocks — enough to fill 4 billion Olympic-size swimming pools, by some estimates. A new study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, suggests that […]
Signs of Madagascar’s first settlers discovered — and they came from 3,000 miles away
The settlement of Madagascar by people from southeast Asia has been called “the single most astonishing fact of human geography for the entire world.”
Study: Same-sex experiences are on the rise, and Americans are increasingly chill about it
A rise in bisexuality is driving a sharp increase in same-sex experiences in the United States, according to a new study – and Americans are increasingly open to the idea. Using data from the General Social Survey (GSS), a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults conducted since 1972 including a total of 33,728 participants, a […]
Crabbers use sex to catch naked soft-shell crabs
The soft-shell crab stands apart from other quintessential summer treats: For starters, you can deep fry it. But it’s also pretty much the only food that requires spying on an animal, waiting until it gets naked, and then cutting its face off. I always assumed that soft-shell crabs, freshly molted blue crabs I associate with […]
Stephen Hawking may be a genius, but he can’t explain Donald Trump
Sometimes, really brilliant folks with a reputation for being brilliant start to comment on subjects outside their area of expertise, as if their level of genius so transcends the intelligence of the unwashed masses that they can be called on as an authority in literally any subject. Stephen Hawking has arguably been guilty of this […]
Rosetta’s comet has the right ingredients for life
There isn’t alien life on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But according to new results from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter, which has been circling the comet for nearly two years, the dirty snowball has some of the rare building blocks considered essential to the evolution of living organisms. That could help support the theory that these […]
Bees’ secret superpower explained: How they sense flowers’ electric fields
Bees’ knees (and the rest of their bodies) are covered in electricity sensing hairs, scientists say.
These porpoises, like me, are literally always hungry
If you’re looking for any additions to your Google doc entitled “spirit animal candidates,” here’s one to consider: the harbor porpoise. These marine mammals are constantly hungry. As soon as they finish eating, they are on the hunt for more food. Spot one in the wild? It’s probably eating. Or about to eat. Or wanting […]
Here ‘lies’ Aristotle, archaeologist declares — and this is why we should care
For starters, he is the father of Western science and Western philosophy. He invented formal logic and the scientific method and wrote the first books about biology, physics, astronomy and psychology. Freedom and democracy, justice and equality, the importance of a middle class and the dangers of credit — they’re just a sampling of Aristotle’s political and economic […]
Do cellphones cause cancer? Don’t believe the hype.
First things first: No one has proven that cellphones cause cancer. No one has proven that cellphones cause cancer. In fact, most research suggests otherwise! But you might not realize that, based on some news circulating Friday morning. Many publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones, are trumpeting the results of a U.S. government study […]
Schrödinger’s cat just got even weirder (and even more confusing)
Everyone’s heard of Schrödinger’s cat, and if you’re not a physicist or a liar you can probably admit that you don’t really get it. Well, hold onto your hats: A new study pushes the thought experiment into even stranger territory. Scientists have given Schrödinger’s kitty a second box to play in. If the infamous imaginary cat can be […]
Lonely ants may have sad, shrunken brains
Growing up all alone sounds a bit sad, but for some ants it can get much worse than that. Parts of their brain end up stunted, and their behavior turns them into social pariahs for life. A recent study in The Science of Nature shows just how bad isolation is for Camponotus floridanus, otherwise known as the […]
This odd ancient Australian marsupial had an insatiable appetite for snails
Scientists have dubbed it malleodectes mirabilis, or “wondrous hammer biter.”
A sea sponge the size of a minivan could be one of the world’s oldest living animals
The deep sea is dark and full of mysteries. Way below the water’s surface north of the Hawaiian islands, a remotely operated vehicle has spotted a massive creature hitherto unknown to science. The ROV captured footage of the spectacularly large sponge during a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deep-sea expedition, and the species was identified for the […]
Think Mars is cold now? Scientists say it used to be in the grip of an ice age
Almost 400,000 years ago, bright white ice would have covered much of Mars’ surface, turning the red planet pink.
170,000 years before Stonehenge, Neanderthals built their own incredible structure
Deep inside a French cave, an enigmatic stone ring is challenging scientists’ assumptions about what Neanderthals were capable of.
NASA’s first inflatable space habitat falls flat – but they’ll try again on Friday
Expansion of #BEAM stopped for today; will resume tomorrow after ground teams review data: https://t.co/KX5g7zfYQe https://t.co/h86BknpfiR — NASA (@NASA) May 26, 2016 Around 6:00 am eastern on Thursday, astronauts started the process of inflating the very latest in space architecture: The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an inflatable habitat that can be snapped onto the International […]
Why scientists are freezing the sperm of sex-swapped flounder
You probably didn’t expect to learn about flounder sex changes today, but here we are. There aren’t any southern flounder farms yet, but the fish has some traits valuable for aquaculture, or fish farming. “It’s one of the few food-sized flounders that can grow in freshwater,” said Harry Daniels from North Carolina State University. And that’s […]
Dolphin snot might play a crucial role in echolocation
You might think it’s funny, but it’s snot! Okay, sorry. I’m really sorry. Please don’t leave. Aaron Thode, a research scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, believes he’s uncovered the key to the high-pitched “clicks” that make dolphin echolocation possible. And, well, it’s snot. It’s thought that dolphins create their high-pitched sounds […]
These animals relied on each other for 100 million years. Now climate change is killing them both.
A new study documents the ancient association between crayfish and flatworms — which is likely doomed by climate change.
That study critiquing NASA’s ‘bad science’ on asteroids is pretty bad science
On Monday, the New York Times published a piece on Nathan P. Myhrvold, former chief technologist of Microsoft. Myhrvold, who’s now built a reputation for himself as something of a patent troll, says he’s shown that NASA’s research on asteroids is a mess. Myhrvold has a PhD in physics, but no experience with asteroids – which he […]
Could black holes be the dark matter everyone has been looking for?
We’re waiting again for LIGO. And waiting. You remember LIGO, right? Cast your mind back to February and the big hoo-hah at the National Press Club at which many of the world’s top physicists celebrated the discovery of gravitational waves. Einstein affirmed again. Decades of hard work rewarded. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory — two sprawling […]
For meerkat moms, it’s survival of the fattest
In the world of meerkats — more intense than any reality TV competition — only those who weigh the most are allowed to have babies.
Fruit fly sperm is epically long, and we may finally know why
Sperm is cheap, eggs are dear. If you’ve ever sat through the most basic of biology classes, you’ve probably heard some version of that adage. But here’s the thing — it isn’t always true. Scientists have spent years trying to figure out why, and a new study suggests a possible explanation for the monstrous sperm cells […]
Broken pottery reveals the sheer devastation caused by the Black Death
A 45 percent decline in pottery shards buried beneath England is evidence of the dramatic population drops that towns experienced in the wake of the plague, one archaeologist says.
How helpless babies helped make humans so smart
Defenseless babies need smart parents to take care of them — a fact that may have driven the evolution of the human brain.
Surprising ancient beer recipe revealed by Chinese pottery shards
New research on 5,000-year-old pottery fragments found in China shed light on the region’s earliest beer brewing practices — and may provide new insight into the history of Asian agriculture. “This beer recipe indicates a mix of Chinese and Western traditions — barley from the West, millet, Job’s tears and tubers from China,” Jiajing Wang of Stanford University, […]
Could this ‘Mars Base Camp’ really send astronauts to the Red Planet in 2028?
When are we going to Mars? The aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s answer is 2028 — but that date comes with an asterisk. The company last week unveiled its vision of a “Mars Base Camp.” This is a 256-foot segmented spacecraft that would carry astronauts to Mars just 12 years from now, under the Lockheed timeline. The […]
Squids and octopuses — the ‘weeds of the sea’ — are on the rise
I for one welcome our cephalopod overlords. The number of cephalopods — squid, octopus and other squishy sea aliens — has shot up over the past six decades, even as humanity’s influence on the ocean (read: climate change, pollution and overfishing) has caused many marine populations to plummet, according to a study published Monday in Current Biology. […]
Dear Science: Introducing a new advice column that uses science to solve your problems
We know that science sometimes seems very far removed from day-to-day life. Sequencing genomes? Detecting distant stars? It’s cool stuff, for sure, but what does it mean for you? You’ve got bigger problems: Maybe you’re trying to revive the cell phone you dropped in a puddle, or convince your roommate that he can’t blame his dirty […]
A violent sun and a sky full of laughing gas could have led to life on Earth
Though storms on the Sun are dangerous today, they may have kept the Earth warm and provided the ingredients for life in its infancy.
This bizarre sea monster shows how strange life gets after an apocalypse
A newly discovered marine reptile is giving scientists a glimpse into the wondrous feats of nature in the face of adversity. Sclerocormus parviceps lived about 247 million years ago — in the aftermath of the most devastating mass extinction we know of, often referred to as “The Great Dying.” Some 96 percent of all species went extinct, […]
A penis transplant, giraffe necks and GMOs: What you may have missed in science this week.
First U.S. penis transplant deemed a success We heard about the first penis transplant in the United States this week, only the third time the complex, high-risk surgery has ever been performed. The recipient, Thomas Manning, 64, lost most of his penis to cancer several years ago. Doctors say he’s doing really well and will […]
Snake venom evolved to kill specific squirrels with shocking precision
Sometimes, evolution favors species that can use their weapons like a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.
Fine feathers: Why red birds look so fit and sexy
For birds like the cardinal, red coloring is extremely important. The brighter the hue on a male’s feathers, the more likely a female is to take notice. Now two independent teams of scientists believe they’ve found the gene that allows birds to produce shades of red. And the identity of the gene might actually help explain […]
When trees droop at night, they might actually be ‘sleeping’
There are trees that “weep” and trees that “quake,” trees that are “bitter,” “brittle,” “common” and “dynamite.” But trees that sleep? Maybe. In research both charming and groundbreaking (sorry for the pun), scientists from Austria, Finland and Hungary used lasers to measure the overnight movements of birch trees. Their unexpected finding: During the hours of […]
Inspired by bees, flying robots use static to stick their landing
Most flying animals conserve their energy by occasionally perching. Engineers would love to copy this lazy energy-saving method in drones, especially itty-bitty microbots that can’t lug around heavy batteries. These hovering little critters could be sent into dicey situations — watching wildfires, searching precarious rubble for earthquake survivors, monitoring air safety after a chemical spill — but […]
These bugs have a startling strategy for keeping predators away
Birds, take note.
New Hubble photo captures Mars in all its glory
Mars may have an ugly history – giant tsunamis, blistering solar wind, robot invasions – but it’s looking pretty good in this new photo from the Hubble. This month, the planet comes closer to our own than it has for over a decade, and on May 12 the Hubble took full advantage and captured a shot […]
This incredible ‘liquid wire’ is inspired by spider silk
If you want to truly understand how something works, you should take it apart and try to put it back together again. That’s exactly what scientists from the University of Oxford and Pierre and Marie Curie University did with one of nature’s most fascinating materials: Spider silk. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of […]
The mysterious shipwreck that swallows deep-sea divers who try to find it
For decades, the Andrea Doria has lured daring treasure hunters and obsessive thrill seekers to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in search of the luxurious ocean liner, which sank off the Massachusetts coast on a foggy night in July 1956. Forty-six people died after the Andrea Doria collided with another ocean liner, shocking observers […]
Mars may have been carved up by massive ancient tsunamis
Today, Mars is either very dry, quite dry or totally dry, depending on who you ask. But while the red planet’s contemporary wetness remains to be determined, scientists pretty much agree that it once had quite a bit of water on it. These lakes and rivers – massive oceans, even, according to some researchers – […]
Ancient asteroid impact was even bigger than the one that killed the dinosaurs, scientists say
“The impact would have triggered earthquakes … caused huge tsunamis and would have made cliffs crumble,” researcher Andrew Glikson said.
This dinosaur had a heartbreaking life. Now she’s famous — and an inspiration.
A newfound dinosaur fossil likely survived pain, attacks, abandonment by her herd and 76 million years of global change to become the representative of a brand new species.
Andy Weir, author of “The Martian,” aims his pen at the moon
Lots of people who are interested in going to Mars have been gathering this week at George Washington University for the annual Humans to Mars Summit, and the star attraction this morning was Andy Weir. He’s the author of the novel “The Martian,” which has sold 3 million copies, been translated into something like 45 […]
Lady spiders demand gifts from their gentleman callers — or else they eat them
Look, if any of these male nursery web spiders out there want to get busy and perpetuate their lineage, they better not show up empty-handed. Because they could get eaten. Alive. “Nuptial gift-giving” has long been observed in nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis). Basically, male spiders offer female spiders insects wrapped up in silk (yes, a […]
New Horizons studies its first mysterious, distant space object after Pluto
The dwarf planet Pluto may have been New Horizons’ main focus, but NASA’s speedy little spacecraft didn’t clock out after it flew by the Pluto system in July. New Horizons is already zipping toward its second target, far out in the distant region of our solar system known as the Kuiper Belt. It’s going to take […]
More signs that Jupiter’s moon Europa might be suitable for life
You’ve got to love a good ocean world. Europa, one of the largest of Jupiter’s 67 or more moons, is thought to have an ocean sloshing around beneath its icy crust — and scientists have high hopes that it might harbor (or at least be a suitable environment for) some sort of life. If Europa’s rocky […]
If male and female brains are wired differently, could these worms show how it happens?
Researchers have identified sex-specific brain circuits in a tiny roundworm and have correlated those neurons with sex-specific behaviors, according to a new study published in the journal Nature that could have implications for a lot of creatures, including humans. Only a relatively small number of neurons in the nematode roundworm are exclusively male or female, biochemists Oliver […]
These ancient fossils fought the odds to become large and complex during Earth’s most boring period
A new discovery of 1.5 billion-year-old foot-long fossils challenges scientists’ conception of a time known as “the boring billion.”
Risky penis, face and hand transplants focus on improving lives – not saving them
In 1954, a plastic surgeon named Joseph Murray made history with the first organ transplant — the transfer of a kidney from one identical twin to another. In retrospect, this then-groundbreaking procedure had plenty of training wheels: The organ was living, taken from a donor as compatible as compatible can be (who, conveniently, could be expected […]
Are GMO crops safe? Focus on the plant, not the process, scientists say
No “substantiated” evidence exists that genetically engineered crops have caused health problems in humans or damaged the environment, but it’s too soon to making broad statements, positive or negative, about laboratory-based manipulations of crop genomes, an elite panel of scientists concluded in a report Tuesday. The panel of 20 experts, most of them academics, was convened by […]
How did the giraffe get its improbable neck? Genetic analysis finds some clues
Giraffes: They’re weird! These spindly creatures have necks so long that their bodies are studies in brilliant adaptation. Their torsos are stunted to support their impossibly long necks. Their dangerously thin legs grow super straight, keeping them from bowing under pressure. Their blood pressure is twice as high as our own — which allows […]
How do your 20,000 genes determine so many wildly different traits? They multitask.
Scientists find that lots of diverse and seemingly disparate traits seem to be linked to single “multitasking” genes.
The world’s smallest (and cutest) porpoise is close to extinction
It’s not fair that humans care about saving “cute” animals from extinction more than they care about “ugly” ones, but that’s just the way it is. And with that in mind, we strongly suspect you’ll have a feeling or two about the ever-dwindling odds of survival faced by Phocoena sinus, commonly known as the vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is […]
Why dying stars might be a good place to look for alien life
Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger says that life could exist on planets orbiting stars very different from our own Sun.
Doctors have performed the first penis transplant in the U.S.
Don’t giggle: Penis transplants are no joke. The complex, basically uncharted surgery carries immense physical and psychological risks. Until this month, it had been performed only twice worldwide, and one of those patients asked doctors to remove the organ a few days into his recovery. The New York Times reports that a Massachusetts man named Thomas Manning, […]
Sharks’ electricity-sensing organs are even more powerful than we realized
The most powerful proton conductor in the natural world is in the head of a shark, scientists say.
New planets, artificial skin and other science news you may have missed
Mercury passed in front of the sun, and it was awesome. Mercury passed in front of the sun this week. The phenomenon, which happens only 13 times each century, was visible around much of the globe. From Earth it looked like a tiny black dot passing slowly in front of its host star, the sun. […]
Ancient tools and bone found in Florida could help rewrite the story of the first Americans
Archaeologists say the underwater discovery proves humans arrived on the continent at least 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
The Hubble captured rare images of a comet’s close encounter with Earth
Even though it was more than 3 million miles away from Earth when it zipped past us back in March, 252P/LINEAR made one of the closest encounters of any comet in recorded history. And it has the distinction of being the closest celestial object — other than the moon — ever observed by the Hubble Space […]
Secret Harvard meeting on synthetic human genomes incites ethics debate
About 150 scientists assembled at Harvard on Tuesday for an off-the-record, no-media-allowed discussion of how to create, from scratch, an intact genome, including the genetic code of a human being. The idea is to go beyond “reading” genetic material to actively “writing” it, George Church, a Harvard Medical School researcher who helped organized the event, […]
Microbes shape our world – and a new White House initiative will figure out how
On Friday, the Obama administration will announce a “moonshot” that focuses on our world’s tiniest inhabitants. The National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) will dive into the microbes that live on, in and around us – providing a wave of funding and support for one of the hottest young scientific fields. “Although new technologies have enabled exciting […]
‘It’s a whole new world of weird stuff’: This strange cell could challenge a basic rule of biology
A single-celled organism taken from the gut of a chinchilla is missing one of the cell structures that biologists thought were essential for life.
This tiny fetus is the youngest ancient Egyptian mummy ever found
British archaeologists dug up the tiny coffin in Giza, Egypt, nearly 100 years ago, and it’s sat in a Cambridge museum ever since. For decades, researchers thought the small bundle inside was nothing more than a bunch of mummified internal organs, the sort of gruesome thing you end up with after a routine adult embalming. […]
A bit of debris chipped the International Space Station. That’s just one piece of a much bigger problem.
When you sit around imagining life aboard the International Space Station (we all do that, right?) one thing you probably don’t want to think about is a space junk slamming into your vessel. And you almost certainly don’t want to imagine a piece of that junk taking a chunk of your spacecraft’s window with it. Especially […]
The humble dung beetle has a fantastic way of navigating the world
If you’re a dung beetle, you spend a good portion of your life dancing around on top of a ball made of poop – a ball of poop that, with any luck, will eventually become dinner. But the researchers who’ve devoted their lives to studying these coprophagic critters say the insects have a surprising adaptation: […]
The weird history of vitamin D — and what it actually has to do with sun
As you soak in rays of almost-summer sunshine, your thoughts may turn to vitamin D — because you probably know it has something to do with the sun. But do you actually know what it is? Humans are kinda capable of photosynthesis, and they use it to produce what scientists believe to be […]
Life in the ocean’s darkest depths is even weirder than scientists thought
A global biodiversity map shows how deep sea creatures exist in defiance of the rules that govern life everywhere else on Earth.
Why scientists are making polar bears’ poop glitter
Stephen Petersen, head of conservation and research at the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, hadn’t done much work with glittery poop before working with the Assiniboine Park Zoo. “I’m fairly new to the zoo world,” he told The Post. “Zookeepers are all familiar with this idea, but I was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ ” Indeed, […]