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Science and Technology News, Science Articles | Discover Magazine

Science news, articles, current events and future views on technology, space, environment, health, and medicine.

Shark Survives Over A Year With A Hole Between Its Stomach And The Sea  

Sharks are pretty incredible animals. They've lived on this planet for more than 400 million years, and in that time, come to dominate the oceans they inhabit. That kind of survival when so many other lineages have gone extinct requires serious resilience. Now, a lemon shark off Florida has shown off just how tough these animals can be: he survived for at least 435 days with a hole in his body created as he shoved a swallowed fishing implement out of him through his flesh. The shark wa...

2017-07-21 06:17:08

African Wild Dogs Can't Take The Heat, Face Extinction From Climate Change  

Things aren't looking good for Africa's iconic wildlife. Already, many species are threatened by human activities and habitat loss. Even species once thought to be resilient, like giraffes, are suddenly struggling. Just earlier this week, scientists reported that aardvarks, one of sub-saharan Africa's most successful and adorable insect-eaters and essential ecosystem engineers—face severe declines and even extinction as rising temperatures and declining rainfall dry out the continent. Now...

2017-07-20 07:39:23

If You Could Dig a Hole Through The Earth, Here's Where You'd Pop Out  

Almost every child, shovel in hand, is struck by a tempting thought. What if I just kept digging and popped out on the other side of the world? The imagination conjures a muddy face emerging in the middle of a Shaolin temple or some such, China being the nominal "other side of the world" to Americans. That image is wrong, unfortunately, as a map showing the Earthly antipodes makes clear. Antipodes on a sphere are the pair of points furthest away from each other, and on Earth, most of the...

2017-07-20 05:23:17

People Are Terrible at Spotting Fake Photos  

We exist in a veritable flood of digital images, with at least 350 million a day uploaded to Facebook alone, and odds are significant number of those images are fake. And, given results from a recent study, most people can't tell the difference. Can you identify the part of the top photo that's been altered? Don't worry, we'll tell you later. Psychologist Sophie Nightingale and her colleagues at the University of Warwick used photo-editing software to doctor real-world photos in ways t

2017-07-20 03:04:52

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Ancient DNA  

The lure and limitations of a coded past.

2017-07-20 01:02:38

First half of 2017 was 2nd warmest such period on record  

The month of June by itself was third warmest in records dating back 138 years, according to NOAA The Earth has been cooling somewhat since the epic El Niño of 2015/2016. But even so, conditions are still plenty warm. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rates January through June of 2017 as the second warmest first half of any year since record-keeping began in 1880, behind the record year of 2016. The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces...

2017-07-19 18:20:05

The First Australians Arrived 65,000 Years Ago  

New archaeological evidence supports an idea previously suggested by genetic studies: The first humans arrived in Australia at least 65,000 years ago. This earlier arrival date means humans were present Down Under before its widespread megafauna extinction, an event in which human activity has been debated. The discovery is also at odds with the conventional date for our species leaving Africa, and adds fuel to the growing bonfire of what was the evolutionary timeline for Homo sapiens....

2017-07-19 13:31:50

Is Neuroscience Underpowered? "Power Failure" Revisited  

Back in 2013, a Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper appeared called Power failure: why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience. This paper got a lot of attention at the time and has since been cited a dizzying 1760 times according to Google. 'Power Failure' made waves for its stark message that most neuroscience studies are too small, leaving neuroscience lacking statistical power, the chance of detecting signal in the noise. As the authors Kate Button et al. wrote The

2017-07-19 09:48:48

Here's How Much Plastic Humanity Has Produced  

I want to say just one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics. There was indeed a great future in plastics back in 1967 when "The Graduate" came out, and those words ring true even today as plastic production continues to soar. Try imagining toothbrushes, dashboards, pens, video game controllers, the ephemera of our daily lives, made from wood or metal — plastics are indispensable. Our appetite for cheap, durable materials is such that humans have produced 9.1 ...

2017-07-19 06:21:58

Join the Hunt for Planets Around Our Closest Neighboring Stars  

The Pale Red Dot team is coasting off the success of their discovery last year of a planet in the Proxima Centauri system system by casting its net even wider as the Red Dots campaign. Whereas Pale Red Dot focused just on Proxima Centauri, Red Dots is looking toward Barnard's Star and Ross 154 as well. These three stars will be held up to intense scrutiny by the team in the hunt for planets — or in the case of Proxima, additional planets. Barnard's Star has been a popular target sin...

2017-07-18 18:08:10

Artificial Intelligence Experts Respond to Elon Musk's Dire Warning for U.S. Governors  

If you hadn't heard, Elon Musk is worried about the machines. Though that may seem a quixotic stance for the head of multiple tech companies to take, it seems that his proximity to the bleeding edge of technological development has given him the heebie-jeebies when it comes to artificial intelligence. He's shared his fears of AI running amok before, likening it to "summoning the demon," and Musk doubled down on his stance at a meeting of the National Governors Association this weekend, ...

2017-07-18 15:09:39

Adorable, Miniature Drone Joins the International Space Station Crew  

An adorable documentarian has joined the International Space Station crew. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently shipped its spherical camera drone to the ISS—thank you, SpaceX—to serve as another set of eyes and ears for ground control. It's called the JEM Internal Ball Camera, but everyone's referring to the little feller as "Int-Ball." Last week, JAXA released the first images of Int-Ball on the job. The ...

2017-07-18 12:26:27

Dog Domestication: Is A New Study Barking Up The Wrong Tree?  

Dogs are our first friends — they're the only animal domesticated while we were still a bunch of motley hunter-gatherers. But pinpointing the where and the when of dog domestication has been difficult. With recent advances in ancient DNA (aDNA) extraction and sequencing, it's only natural that researchers would be rushing to answer those questions. A 2016 study offered a striking new theory about dog domestication, and today a different team offers another, which they say is a direct c...

2017-07-18 10:43:25

How Disney Tech Can Immerse Park Guests in 'Star Wars'  

Disney tech is getting ready to grant the wish of any Star Wars fan who ever wished to stand inside the cavernous space of a Star Destroyer hanger or help fly the Millennium Falcon during a space battle. The entertainment giant has promised a "revolutionary new vacation experience" at its theme parks that will supposedly include getting visitors dressed up in proper Star Wars attire and even allowing families to stay at a 100-percent immersive Star Wars hotel where everyone is in charact...

2017-07-18 10:41:08

Soar over Pluto's mountains and icy plains in this cool flyover based on data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft  

While mission scientists were at it, they also produced a spectacular flyover of Charon, Pluto's largest moon The still images of Pluto sent home to Earth by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft in July of 2015 were remarkable enough. The incredible distance to Pluto — 4.67 billion miles! — meant that until then, the dwarf planet was long shrouded in mystery. And then, BOOM! — mind boggling images of jagged mountains, flowing glaciers and icy plains. Now, mission scientists have...

2017-07-18 05:27:34

Everything Worth Knowing About ... the Future of Food  

How we'll serve 10 billion.

2017-07-18 02:35:20

The "Eleven Dimensional" Brain? Topology of Neural Networks  

Last month, a neuroscience paper appeared that triggered a maelstrom of media hype: The Human Brain Can Create Structures in Up to 11 Dimensions The human brain sees the world as an 11-dimensional multiverse Scientists find mysterious shapes and structures in the brain with up to ELEVEN dimensions The paper, published in Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, comes from the lab of Henry Markram, one of the world's most powerful neuroscientists. As well as being head of the Blue Br

2017-07-17 21:52:28

What Would It Take to Wipe Out All Life on Earth?  

The first exoplanet was spotted in 1988. Since then more than 3,000 planets have been found outside our solar system, and it's thought that around 20 percent of Sun-like stars have an Earth-like planet in their habitable zones. We don't yet know if any of these host life - and we don't know how life begins. But even if life does begin, would it survive? Earth has undergone at least five mass extinctions in its history. It's long been thought that an asteroid impact ended the...

2017-07-17 16:15:01

WATCH: an arresting view from space of powerful Hurricane Fernanda churning in the Pacific as day turns to night  

As of Monday afternoon, winds of about 125 miles per hour continued to swirl within Hurricane Fernanda as it churned westward in the eastern Pacific Ocean. But as the Category 3 storm begins to move over cooler surface waters, it should begin to weaken and eventually peter out, posing no threat to land. And a good thing, too, because Fernanda has been a very powerful storm, reaching Category 4 strength on Friday, July 14th and attaining maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. ...

2017-07-17 15:01:59

Acidifying Oceans Favor Sea Vermin  

Scientists predict that in the next twenty years, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere will rise from the roughly 404 ppm it is now to over 450 ppm—and as a result, ecosystems worldwide will change. Many impacts will be particularly felt in our planet's oceans. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, more of the gas dissolves into our seas, causing a chemical chain reaction which makes the water more acidic. Acidification can act independently or synergistically with rising te...

2017-07-17 10:26:58

This Spider Really Commits to Its Ant Impression  

It's a good thing field sobriety tests don't exist for bugs, because the jumping spider Myrmarachne formicaria would fail for doing what keeps it alive: walking in a wobbly line. The spider fools predators by imitating an ant. The act is so thorough that it includes how the spider looks, stands and even moves. Many, many types of jumping spiders have evolved to look like ants. Imitating another animal with better defenses is a tried-and-true strategy for avoiding predators. And ants are...

2017-07-16 05:44:14

Researchers Apologize For Writing "Derpy" In A Paper  

It appears that memes and science don't mix well. A pair of researchers have published an apology in a peer-reviewed journal - for using the word "derpy" in an earlier paper. In April 2016, Archives of Sexual Behavior published a piece called Fighting the Derpy Science of Sexuality by Banu Subramaniam and Angela Willey. In this paper, Subramaniam and Willey criticized studies of biological differences between human groups: The various sciences of''difference'' - sex...

2017-07-15 09:36:56

Dark Matter Might Clump to Form Planets  

A new theory suggests dark matter could coalesce into massive structures. Dark stars may not just be for Grateful Dead fans anymore. In a new paper uploaded to arXiv, Rutgers University astrophysics professor Matthew R. Buckley puts forth a truly wild hypothesis: It might be possible to build worlds out of dark matter. But the whole thing came to him from an unusual angle: He wanted to prove that dark matter structures were impossible. In a blog post, Buckley outlined his thinking.

2017-07-14 21:16:23

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Asteroids  

World killers. Life builders. And they could be worth trillions.

2017-07-14 04:30:39

"Brain Training" Doesn't Work?  

Lumosity "brain training" games have no beneficial effects on cognition, according to a paper just published in the Journal of Neuroscience. According to the authors, led by UPenn psychologist Joseph W. Kable, Lumosity "appears to have no benefits in healthy young adults above those of standard video games." In the study, 128 young adults were randomly assigned to either 10 weeks of Lumosity training, or a control condition: 10 weeks of playing normal, non-brain-based online videogames

2017-07-13 20:30:46

The Smallest Star Known to Humankind  

A team of astronomers at the University of Cambridge was on the lookout for new exoplanets when they came across an exciting accidental discovery: They found the smallest star measured to this day. This tiny new star, which is being called EBLM J0555-57Ab, is about 600 light-years from Earth, and has a comparable mass (85 Jupiter masses) to the estimated mass of TRAPPIST-1. The newly discovered star, though, has a radius about 30 percent smaller. Like TRAPPIST-1, EBLM J0555-57Ab is lik...

2017-07-13 10:26:46

DARPA Is Spending $65 Million to Meld Mind and Machine  

The U.S. defense agency that specializes in "out-there" science and technology endeavors is on a quest to bridge the gap between brain and computer. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently awarded $65 million to six different teams that will begin developing neural implants that convert neural activity into 1s and 0s of digital code. It's all part of the agency's Neural Engineering System Design program that was announced by the Obama Administration in Janua...

2017-07-13 08:33:37

Shape-shifters Once Ruled the Planet  

Before sharks and whales ruled the seas as the biggest bad boys (and girls) of the sea, there were rangeomorphs, a bizarre plant-looking-animal-type … thing. They roamed the seas of Earth around 540 million years ago, absorbing nutrients drifting in the water. Rangeomorphs were the biggest thing in the game — and had the shape-eshifting skills to make themselves as big or as small as they needed. That could range from a few millimeters up to a few meters. While that may not sound huge...

2017-07-12 19:47:20

New, Noninvasive Imaging Technique Finds Heart Disease Before It Hurts  

A new, noninvasive imaging method lets researchers pick up on the warning signs of heart disease long before a heart attack or stroke can take place. The noninvasive technique uses current computed tomography (CT) scanning technology to analyze images of fatty deposits lining blood vessels in order to flag potentially dangerous inflammation. Using the data from heart scans, researchers from the University of Oxford developed an index measuring changes in fat tissues around blood vessels t

2017-07-12 18:15:42

Satellite images reveal an iceberg with twice the volume of Lake Erie breaking off the Antarctic Peninsula  

It has been predicted for a long time, and now it has finally happened: One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has broken free of the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. Scientists monitoring a growing rift in the ice shelf confirmed today in a blog post that the trillion-ton iceberg had calved. It occurred at some point between Monday, July 10th and Wednesday, July 12th. The scientists, part of a research project called Project Midas, say the berg is about 2,230 squar...

2017-07-12 16:41:12

Jupiter's Great Red Spot Imaged Like Never Before  

On Monday, a human-built object got closer than any other before it to the most iconic, raging storm in the solar system. That is, of course, Jupiter's Great Red Spot, an anticyclone that's been swirling for hundreds of years, stuck between two of the planets jet stream bands. It's a storm twice the size of Earth, and wind speeds there top out at roughly 400 miles per hour. And earlier this week, NASA's Juno spacecraft dipped 2,200 miles above the turbulence to get a closer look a...

2017-07-12 15:09:39

A Delaware-sized Antarctic Iceberg Has Broken Into the Ocean  

After months of dangling on by a miles-thin thread of ice, an iceberg roughly the size of Delaware just calved off Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf and began drifting out into the ocean. Scientists say the complete breakthrough happened sometime between July 10 and today, July 12. It was spotted by NASA's Aqua MODIS satellite instrument. And after months of satellite photos showing the crack grow larger, the final break wasn't a surprise. But this trillion ton iceberg, likely to be name

2017-07-12 07:31:41

Everything Worth Knowing About ... The Perfect Battery  

How we're powering up our lives.

2017-07-12 02:34:03

Chronotypes: Evolution Explains Night Owls and Early Birds  

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight... catchy song, even if it misrepresents Panthera leo. Lions, like many other predators, are opportunistic about when they hunt, and that includes plenty of nocturnal prowling. New research suggests variation in chronotypes, or sleep and wakefulness patterns, gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage by helping them survive the dangerous hours of darkness. Remember that the next time you're wide-eyed at 2 a.m. watching Law &

2017-07-11 14:30:35

In a First, Photons are 'Teleported' from Earth to Space  

Chinese researchers have successfully transmitted quantum entangled particles from a station on earth to a satellite orbiting far overhead. The experiment is part of an ongoing effort by researchers using the Micius satellite to achieve long-distance quantum communication, a feat that would yield hacker-proof information networks. In this most recent work, researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China beamed photons to the satellite and transmitted the state of other...

2017-07-11 12:49:30

Remember the North Pole winter thaw? A new study finds a rising trend in Arctic warming spikes in winter  

During each of the past three years, something quite bizarre has happened in the central Arctic. No, global warming did not cause some Thing to rise up out of the ice and go on a rampage. It was temperatures that rose up. And not just by a little. This occurred during extreme warming events near the North Pole that sent temperatures spiking close to, or above, the freezing mark for one to three days. Compare that to average winter temperatures in winter: typically lower than m...

2017-07-11 09:18:18

How Ancient Peruvians Partied on Eclipse Day  

Solar-eclipse fever is about to heat up as millions of Americans celebrate the astronomical spectacle happening Aug. 21. Businesses and universities along its shadowy bandwidth from Lincoln Beach, Ore., to Charleston, S.C., are organizing days-long events. There will be festivals with live music, art displays and camping. A special event in Illinois features a performance by hard-rock legend Ozzy Osborne. Many more are organizing eclipse parties in their backyards. But this isn't the fi...

2017-07-11 01:36:59

Southern California wildfires blossom as the new GOES-16 satellite watches the action from space  

Meanwhile, 2,000 miles to the north, it's fire and ice — as seen by NASA's Terra satellite It's that time of year. Sixty-five wildfires — 20 of them new — are blazing in the United States across some 1,100 square miles of land. For the year to date, 32,737 fires have scorched more than 5,400 square miles — an area equivalent to the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and then some. In terms of acreage, that's about 30 percent ahead of the year-to-date average for the previous ten ...

2017-07-10 12:58:14

Tomato Plants Can Turn Caterpillars Into Cannibals  

It's a twist of fate that wouldn't feel out of place in a horror movie: A platoon of caterpillars, young and hungry, descend on a defenseless tomato plant to feast, but as they begin to eat something goes terribly wrong. The leaves no longer satisfy, and they turn on each other in a cannibalistic frenzy — feeding wildly until just one, sated and content, remains. You can read it as a Carrie-like moral parable, perhaps, but bringing out caterpillars' carnivorous tendencies is just so...

2017-07-10 08:34:48

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Surviving Space  

Settle the final frontier.

2017-07-10 05:10:03

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Marijuana  

The blunt truth.

2017-07-10 04:23:48

Political Neuroscience: "Growth Mindsets" and Disability  

On Twitter, I learned that the British government is citing neuroscience studies as part of a new welfare initiative. The "Health and Work Conversation" (HWC) is a newly-introduced procedure for welfare claimants receiving support because sickness or disability impairs their ability to work. The one hour "conversation" is mandatory in most cases and it seems intended to encourage people to seek whatever work they are able to do. A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed documen

2017-07-10 04:11:22

A Safer Way to Milk a Scorpion  

As a kid, Mouad Mkamel played with pet snakes, vipers and scorpions. As a Ph.D. student at University King Hassan II of Casablanca, Mkamel is now breeding scorpions and milking their venom using a robot he designed. At $7,000 to $8,000 per gram, scorpion venom is one of the most expensive liquids in the world. Mkamel believes scorpion venom has the potential to "create a new generation of medicine," estimating that there are about five million unstudied compounds in venoms that may be...

2017-07-07 15:04:14

Fun Fact: Praying Mantises Eat Bird Brains  

Poor hummingbirds. The fragile, fleet-winged birds often don't make it past their first year of life as they are tasty snacks for cats, large-mouth bass, snakes, get the idea. Now, perhaps surprisingly, we can add praying mantises to that macabre list. A new paper reviewing the avian death-literature finds that praying mantises are enthusiastic predators of the tiny birds, and they go about it in gory fashion, often burrowing in through the eye sockets to tear apart the bir...

2017-07-07 14:45:47

The "Electrosensitive" Brain  

A strange new paper reports "abnormal" brain activity in 10 patients with electrohypersensitivity (EHS) - a controversial condition allegedly triggered by electromagnetic fields from devices such as phones and power-lines. But the methods used in this study were very odd. According to the authors, Gunnar Heuser and Sylvia A. Heuser, the ten patients all suffered from symptoms such as Headaches, impairment of cognitive function, tremors, weakness, and others. Multi-system complaints we

2017-07-07 11:33:22

The little storm that could: Watch a tenacious tropical depression race ahead of a huge blob of Saharan dust  

It may have a humdrum name, but since Tropical Depression Four formed in the central Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday evening, it has certainly distinguished itself. It is a "small, tenacious depression" that "has continued to hold its own," the National Hurricane Center said in its update this morning. The spectacular animation above, from the GOES-16 weather satellite, suggests why that word, tenacious, is appropriate. Tropical Depression Four has managed to stay alive despite dry and d...

2017-07-07 04:44:11

Arctic sea ice is ebbing faster than normal, and by September it could bottom out at a very low level  

Under frigid winter conditions, the Arctic's floating lid of sea ice typically expands to a maximum extent in March. But thanks to human-caused global warming, that maximum seasonal spread of the ice has been shrinking over the years — and this past March it reached the lowest level ever observed for the month. But then, something unexpected happened: In May, sea ice retreated much more sluggishly. This prompted some people who deny the reality of humankind's impact on the climat...

2017-07-07 02:07:55

Mars More Toxic to Life Than Previously Thought  

Life on Mars ... does it exist? Depending on when you last checked in with news about the Red Planet, you could probably be convinced either way. As we discover more and more about the composition and planetary dynamics of Mars, there has been cause for both elation and disappointment regarding the likelihood that organic life could manage to eke out a living on the planet. The pendulum swung back toward the "no" side today with the release of a study examining how a special kind of salt

2017-07-06 20:40:32

Our Nearest Neighboring Planet May Have a Sister World  

Proxima Centauri b may not be alone out there. The 2016 announcement of Proxima Centauri b was a watershed moment in exoplanet research. Not only had researchers found a potentially habitable Earth-mass planet, but it was at the nearest star to Earth. This means it could be one of the easiest systems to study using future telescopes. But researchers are now looking into some promising signals suggesting there are more planets lurking in the system. Indeed, such a companion was sugge

2017-07-06 13:29:34

Memory Repression: A Dubious Theory That's Sticking Around  

Compared to the other generational tragedies of the late '80s and early '90s, the rise of memory repression cases is hardly remembered. But nevertheless, during that time hundreds of abuse cases in the courts hinged on unproven theories of Sigmund Freud, tearing hundreds of families asunder and solidifying memory repression in clinical lore. Harvard University psychologist Richard McNally famously called repressed memories "the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the ...

2017-07-06 11:19:08

Can Breathing Like Wim Hof Make Us Superhuman?  

Take a deep breath. Feel the wave of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide press against the bounds of your ribcage and swell your lungs. Exhale. Repeat. Before consciously inhaling, you probably weren't thinking about breathing at all. The respiratory system is somewhat unique to our bodies in that we are both its passenger and driver. We can leave it up to our autonomic nervous system, responsible for unconscious actions like our heartbeat and digestion, or we can seamlessly take over t...

2017-07-06 09:15:03

The iceberg about to crack off Antarctica will be a million times more voluminous than the Empire State Building  

According to a new estimate, the impending iceberg could be the size of Delaware and extend more than 60 stories beneath the surface An ever-widening rift in an Antarctic ice shelf has grown from 70 miles long back in December 2016 to 124 miles long now. That means there's just another three miles to go before the fissure reaches the ocean. When that happens, the ice shelf will let loose a berg extending across 2,316 square miles, according to a new estimate based on satellite rad...

2017-07-06 03:37:27

Cognitive Function and Menstruation, It's a Mythical Link  

Menstruating women experience no changes in cognition, according to a new study from Swiss and German researchers. It's a pervasive stereotype: cognitive performance is different when women are on their periods. It's an idea that has implications for women's professional lives, extending even to the last presidential election. However, there isn't reliable scientific research backing this ill-informed belief up, and what little exists is underwhelming and inconsistent. To explore this not

2017-07-06 02:35:44

Has the Sun blown its top?  

It sure looks that way in this animation showing the Sun up close and personal. And there are two other 'holes' visible as well. A big dark area in the north polar region makes it appear as if the Sun has blown its top. And in a way, it has. You can see what's going on by watching the animation above. It's based on data acquired by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft over 48 hours, starting on July 3rd and continuing into today (the 5th). Two other ...

2017-07-05 10:40:01

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Ice  

It's everywhere!

2017-07-05 01:41:52

Jurassic Megapredator Was Armed With T. rex Teeth  

Out of Madagascar comes a megapredator the stuff of nightmares: a massive croc-like carnivore that walked erect and had a mouthful of steak knife teeth more like those of T. rex than modern crocodiles. While this might sound like some crazy hybrid creature dreamed up for the next Jurassic Park sequel, this animal was real, and finding new pieces of it sheds light on a mysterious "ghost lineage." About 167 million years ago, what's now the northwest corner of the African island of Madag...

2017-07-04 11:03:51

Fetal Onanism: A Surprising Scientific Debate  

The medical journal Prenatal Diagnosis recently played host to a vigorous debate over whether a male fetus was spotted engaging in masturbation on ultrasound. The alleged case of antenatal autoeroticism was reported by Spanish gynecologists Vanesa Rodríguez Fernandez and Carlos López Ramón y Cajal in September last year. Their paper was called In utero gratification behaviour in male fetus. Here's the ultrasonic evidence of the act: Rodríguez Fernandez and López Ramón y...

2017-07-03 10:14:48

Designing a Safer Explosive  

This Fourth of July, as you and your family settle on a sandy beach or grassy lawn to watch a fireworks display, you're probably not thinking about the science behind the explosives you're witnessing. In fact, you probably are not even thinking of them as explosives. But that's exactly what they are—-and there's a lot of science that goes into creating that dazzling display of fire and colors. Fireworks often comprise mixtures of oxidizers and fuels that are ready to participate...

2017-07-03 08:20:38

Mississippi 'Clean Coal' Project Flops  

A once-promising clean coal plant in Mississippi is set to switch to natural gas instead. The facility, run by utility provider Southern Company, is over budget and behind schedule, and has failed to achieve its goal of producing electricity from coal with significantly reduced carbon emissions. A review by the Mississippi Public Service Commission gave the plant until July 6 to begin planning its future and recommended a switch to natural gas, reports the New York Times.  Small Succe...

2017-07-03 07:16:22

Self-Wrinkling Mini-Mazes Could Serve as Cybersecurity Moats  

Scientists are bringing wrinkles into style with self-organizing mini-mazes that could someday serve as digital fingerprints for secure technology. In a study published Friday in Science Advances, a team of researchers, led by Wook Park of Kyung Hee University in South Korea, demonstrated a fabrication technique that offers greater control over how wrinkling, usually a random process, occurs on a silica-based substrate. The new technique coats a piece of polymer with a silica substrate

2017-07-03 04:50:46

Did Boys Use To Wear Pink? Revisited  

Five years ago I blogged about the debate over whether the blue-for-boys, pink-for-girls color convention used to be the other way around. My post focused on a 2012 paper by psychologist Marco Del Giudice arguing that the idea of a cultural "pink-blue reversal" in the English-speaking world in the early 20th century is a myth. Now, Del Giudice has published an 'update' revisiting the issue. Based on text data from late 19th and early 20th century American newspapers and magazines, Del ...

2017-07-02 09:45:44

FrankenFungus Armed With Venom Toxins Could Join The War Against Malaria  

People are often surprised when I say that mosquitoes are the deadliest venomous animal in the world (the deadliest animal period, really, if we don't count ourselves). Mosquito bites—and the venoms delivered by them—kill upwards of 750,000 people worldwide every year thanks to the deadly diseases that harbor within. Most of those deaths are thanks to microscopic parasites in the genus Plasmodium, which are responsible for the diseases collectively called malaria. Malaria accounts for...

2017-07-01 05:33:04

China Profits as US Hesitates on Selling Armed Drones  

More than 15 years after a U.S. Predator drone launched its first Hellfire missile, the United States remains reluctant to sell armed drones to even its closest allies. That hesitation in selling armed drones has left the door open for countries such as Israel and China to dominate military drone sales across the world. Now the U.S. government runs the risk of losing influence in a world of drone proliferation unless it reconsiders its policy on sales of military drones, according to a new r

2017-07-01 04:53:38

The Strangest (and Second-Strangest) Star in the Galaxy  

There's an old saying: "Great discoveries don't begin with 'eureka!'; they begin with someone muttering, 'That's odd…'" I've long attributed the quote to the great science popularizer Isaac Asimov. Jason Wright gently corrects me. He has researched the line, he explains, and could find no evidence that Asimov ever spoke or wrote those words. It was a tidy encapsulation of what Wright is about. He is attracted to the odd side of science, and he is also a relentless sleuth. ...

2017-07-01 04:48:41

Report Tells Pentagon to Beware Nuclear Drone Bombers  

The U.S. Air Force's future B-21 Raider bomber may have the option to remove the human pilots from the cockpit and effectively become a large drone bomber. In one of the more unlikely scenarios, B-21 Raiders could theoretically end up carrying nuclear bombs or missiles without a human pilot onboard. That seems like an extremely remote possibility given the U.S. Air Force's current views, but other countries may not hesitate as much to turn uninhabited aircraft into nuclear drone bombers,...

2017-07-01 01:01:58

As wildfires explode across the western U.S., satellites above spy the giant smoke plumes — and bloviating partisans below politicize what's happening  

In blaming western wildfires on environmentalists and the Forest Service, politicians are ignoring science — and putting people at risk Thanks to hot, dry and windy conditions, new wildfires have exploded across the western United States in the last few days, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes and flee from encroaching flames. As of Thursday, June 29th, 29 large wildfires were blazing in ten states, 28 of them in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Ce...

2017-06-30 05:05:34

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Yeast  

A fungus of many trades.

2017-06-30 04:22:58

Will Robots Rule Finance?  

The year is 2030. You're in a business school lecture hall, where just a handful of students are attending a finance class. The dismal turnout has nothing to with professorial style, school ranking or subject matter. Students simply aren't enrolled, because there are no jobs out there for finance majors. Today, finance, accounting, management and economics are among universities' most popular subjects worldwide, particularly at graduate level, due to high employability. But that...

2017-06-29 18:42:03

An Algorithm Can Pick the Next Silicon Valley Unicorn  

In the world of venture capitalists, not everyone is Peter Thiel. The Silicon Valley investor reaped 1 billion dollars in 2012 when he cashed in his Facebook stocks, turning a 2,000 percent profit from his initial $500,000 investment. Stories like Thiel's may be inspirational, but they are by far the outlier. The start-up world sees thousands of hopeful companies pass through each year. Only a fraction of those ever return a profit. Picking a winner, the elusive "unicorn," is as much a m...

2017-06-29 15:30:28

Spit Take: Surprise! Indian Monocled Cobras Can Spit Venom  

Vishal Santra got more than he bargained for when he peered into a chicken coop in the Hooghly District of West Bengal, India in 2004. He was helping the local community with dangerous snake removals when he was called upon to wrangle an unwelcome guest in a fowl pen: a monocled cobra, Naja kaouthia. Monocled cobras, which can reach lengths of about 5 feet, are highly venomous animals, so Santra knew to avoid a quick strike. But the animal didn't lunge—instead, from over a foot away,...

2017-06-29 05:57:19

Do Criminals Read Psychology Papers?  

Psychologists and social scientists tend to see their research as a force for good. But can we assume this? Couldn't knowledge of human behaviour be exploited for malicious ends? As an example of what we might call the "goodness of psychology" assumption, consider this recent paper about Psychological Characteristics of Romance Scam Victims, from the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. The research is about online romance scams in which victims are convinced to s

2017-06-29 05:42:57

Carved Skulls Flesh Out Neolithic Cult Evidence  

Fragments of uniquely carved skulls — at least one of which may have also been decorated — have turned up at one of Turkey's most important Neolithic sites. Investigation into how the skulls were modified, and what they might have been used for, points to a skull cult that's the first of its kind in the world. The archaeological trove of Göbekli Tepe sits on an artificial hill in southeastern Turkey. It's a complex of monumental buildings with enormous pillars, many of them carved ...

2017-06-28 15:18:25

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Autism Spectrum Disorder  

Many questions, few answers.

2017-06-28 04:49:16

Yeast's Newest Trick: Detecting Deadly Pathogens  

Yeast, the ubiquitous little fungus that can seemingly do it all, is doing more. If you aren't familiar with yeast's accolades, here's a refresher: It gives beer its buzz, it can produce textiles, safer opioids, tasty food and is the workhorse model organism in scientific labs around the world. Now, researchers have put yeast to work detecting deadly, pervasive fungal pathogens. A team of researchers lead by Columbia University's Virginia Cornish designed an elegantly simple bios...

2017-06-28 04:40:50

Solving the Centuries-old Mystery of Rare 'Bright Nights'  

On rare occasions throughout history, the darkness of night fails to materialize. Even with the moon darkened, the sky fills with a diffuse glow that seems to filter out of the very air itself. Such "bright nights" have been recorded back to the days of Pliny the Elder around 132 B.C., although explanations for the phenomenon have been lacking. Using a special interferometer and data from the 1990s, two Canadian researchers say that they can explain why the sky seems so much brighter

2017-06-28 04:23:54

Fishing Fleets Threw Away 10 Percent of Their Catch Over the Past Decade  

"Waste not, want not." The origin of this proverb traces back centuries, but time has hardly tarnished its relevance. It's a warning every generation would do well to heed: Mismanaging precious commodities today will lead to an impoverished future. It's so simple. It's so true. It's so often ignored. Case-in-point: global industrial fishing operations. Over the past decade, fishing fleets simply threw away more than 10 percent—enough to fill 4,500 Olympic-sized swimming p...

2017-06-28 03:19:21

Dogs Notice When People (or Other Dogs) Sound Sad  

Your dog may act like a good listener—but does she really notice when you're feeling down? Or does she just know how to deploy a wet nose and a tail-wag to earn treats? A new study says negative emotions are contagious for dogs. They'll pick up a companion's bad feelings just by sound, whether that companion is human or canine. "Emotional contagion" is the most basic form of empathy, write Annika Huber of the University of Vienna's Clever Dog Lab and her colleagues. We're not ta...

2017-06-28 03:12:39

What Are "Hard" and "Soft" Drugs?  

A new study examines the blurry distinction between "hard" and "soft" drugs. The "hardness" of drugs is a concept that makes intuitive sense, but is difficult to put into precise terms. "Hard" drugs are those which are viewed as more addictive, more potent and more toxic than the comparatively benign "soft" variety. The concept has a normative aspect: "hard" drugs are bad, and you should avoid them, even if you use soft drugs. In the new paper, Slovakian researchers Peter Janik et al.

2017-06-27 09:04:03

Watch: Animation of satellite images shows smoke from the Brian Head fire drifting across much of Utah and beyond  

With hot, dry and windy conditions continuing, the dangerous Brian Head fire is expected to grow significantly Super dry conditions and winds gusting to more than 40 miles per hour yesterday have fanned Utah's Brian Head wildfire, reportedly sending flames shooting 100 feet into the air. Those flames lofted giant plumes of smoke that were easily seen by the GOES-West weather satellite. You can see it happening in the animation above, which I created using imagery acquired by the ...

2017-06-27 07:12:01

Another stunner from the Juno spacecraft: Jupiter's giant cloud bands and 'String of Pearls'  

After a bit of an absence for vacation, and to finish work on a feature article on Arctic climate change and geopolitics for bioGraphic magazine, I'm back to blogging here at ImaGeo. And when I spotted this arresting image of Jupiter from the Juno spacecraft, I knew this had to be my first post since returning. Before I get into the details, you might be wondering how images of far away planets fit in a blog dedicated in large measure to the science of our planet. That word, 'planet,' ...

2017-06-27 05:06:51

A dramatically detailed animation from the new GOES-16 satellite shows Hurricane Dora swirling in the Pacific  

Dora is the Western Hemisphere's 1st hurricane-strength storm of 2017 Click on the screenshot above and say hello to Dora, the first storm of 2017 in the Western Hemisphere to reach hurricane strength. The imagery that went into the animation comes from NOAA's new GOES-16 weather satellite. This is the first hurricane that the satellite has tracked since it was launched in November of 2016. As I'm writing this late on the afternoon of Monday, June 26th, Dora is a Category 1 hurrican...

2017-06-27 04:51:06

Music: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  

Our lives are awash in tunes. Songs are blasted through the radio, piped into supermarkets, they waft through the air at public gatherings and soundtracks can make or break a blockbuster movie. Humans seem obsessed with melody and rhythm. But when did it begin in hominin history? What purpose does it fulfill? And does music have a dark side? The first bands started gigging at least tens of thousands of years. Archaeologists have found 40,000-year-old flutes carved from bird bones. The

2017-06-26 06:07:47

Thoughts on Essays  

I've recently been doing some of every academic's favorite activity - marking student essays (papers). Here's a few observations on essays and on marking them. 1. Marking Essays is Subjective This is a bit of a truism: it's fairly obvious that not everyone will agree on how to grade an essay down to the exact mark. Unlike with, say, a multiple-choice exam, marking an essay is not a mechanical process. But it's easy to forget this when the marks are there in black and white (or r

2017-06-26 05:21:04

Forget The Sharks: How 47 Meters Down Fails Dive Science  

This is a guest post by Jake Buehler, who just so happens to be an AAUS certified scientific diver as well as a science writer based in the Seattle area. He blogs over at Sh*t You Didn't Know About Biology, which is full of his "unrepentantly celebratory insights into life on Earth's under-appreciated, under-acknowledged, and utterly amazing stories." Summer is finally here in the Northern Hemisphere. The days are long, the weather is warm, and the water is inviting. It's also t...

2017-06-24 05:17:39

Sex Sells? No, It Doesn't  

Chiseled abs and bikinis can sell just about anything, right? According to the minds behind those Carl's Jr. ads—and countless others—you'd think that'd be true. This idea that "sex sells" has hung around for more than a century, and by this point it's almost accepted as a doctrine. And those are exactly the types of claims researchers love putting to the test. John Wirtz, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois, conducted a meta-analysis of 78 peer-revie...

2017-06-24 04:52:07

Massive, 'Dead' Galaxy Puzzles Astronomers  

Objects in the distant universe appear small and difficult to see - unless they're sitting behind a cosmic magnifying glass. That's exactly the case for MACS 2129-1, a galaxy lensed by a massive foreground galaxy cluster. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have managed to catch a glimpse of this unusual object, which appears to be an old, "dead" galaxy that's already stopped making new stars just a few billion years after the Big Bang. Not only is this galaxy finish...

2017-06-23 09:32:47

The New Science of Daydreaming  

Daydreams seem like a waste of time, something to avoid. But they actually can lead to creative ideas.

2017-06-23 05:49:10

Why Do Bird Eggs Come in So Many Shapes?  

When something is described as egg-shaped, the ubiquitous hen's egg typically comes to mind. But for birds, eggs come in myriad shapes: owl eggs look like ping-pong balls, hummingbird eggs are shaped like jelly beans, swift eggs are pointed at one end like a pear. So what's the reason? Biologists have been asking that question for quite some time, and their hypotheses are perhaps just as varied as the eggs themselves. Scientists in the past have concluded that cliff-dwelling birds la...

2017-06-22 21:58:01

A Better Touch Screen, Inspired by Moth Eyes  

Moth eyes and lotus leaves may be important to the future of touch screens. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and National Taiwan University designed an anti-reflective coating that was inspired by moth eyes. The coating reflects about 10 times less light than the best anti-glare technique in commercial use. Optical Properties The ability to see your phone's display is a competition between display brightness and reflected ambient light. Relying on extra bright screen...

2017-06-22 03:31:14

Physicists Tackle the Wobbly Suitcase Problem  

Rolling luggage is both a blessing and a curse for hurried travelers. While we no longer need gym-toned biceps to heft our sundries through the airport, the slightest misstep can send a two-wheeled suitcase rocking and spinning into an uncontrollable disaster. Now, scientists think they know why rolling suitcases are so annoyingly unsteady at exactly the wrong times. French researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, say that the problem comes down to simple physics....

2017-06-21 13:07:43

Everything Worth Knowing About ... Auroras  

Colorful shape-shifters of the heavens.

2017-06-21 04:34:01

When Did People Start Using Money?  

Sometimes you run across a grimy, tattered dollar bill that seems like it's been around since the beginning of time. Assuredly it hasn't, but the history of human beings using cash currency does go back a long time - 40,000 years. Scientists have tracked exchange and trade through the archaeological record, starting in Upper Paleolithic when groups of hunters traded for the best flint weapons and other tools. First, people bartered, making direct deals between two parties of desirab...

2017-06-20 15:58:47

Persistent, Deadly Heat at the Equator Could Be the Norm by 2100  

Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, the temperature kept some planes grounded. Phoenix was projected to reach of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a near-record for the desert city, and hot enough that small planes cannot generate enough lift to fly. Phoenix and other cities have experienced similar conditions before, but only rarely—for now. The grounded passengers got to sit inside an air-conditioned terminal, at least. But in other parts of the world where temperatures are set to soar regularly above...

2017-06-20 12:28:41

Kepler's Final Crop of Promising Exoplanet Discoveries  

The newest Kepler catalog draws out 219 new planetary candidates and infers that 10 of them may be habitable — doubling the number of planetary candidates in the habitable zone of their star. The Kepler catalog now stands at 2,335 confirmed planets and 4,034 strong candidates. This catalog marks the final results of the first Kepler mission, which stared at the same portion of the sky for three-and-a-half years before a busted reaction wheel forced NASA to pivot the mission to other for...

2017-06-20 01:45:40

Meet What's-His-Name, the Apollo Astronaut You've Never Heard Of  

There are some astronauts we know a lot about, or at least whose names are familiar, like Neil or Buzz (as in Armstrong and Aldrin, the first men on the Moon). More nerdy space fans will also recognize the names Gene and Pete (as is Cenan and Conrad). But what about Donn, is Eisele? Donn Eisele — whose last name is pronounced Eyes-lee, not Eye-zell — is a fascinating character who flew on the first Apollo mission but most people have never heard of him. Like all his peers, because NASA'...

2017-06-20 01:03:10

Meerkats Can Thank Bacteria for Their Signature Butt Scents  

When Disney's animators were creating Timon, the energetic meerkat sidekick in The Lion King, the part where he turns his anal pouch inside-out and marks his territory must have been left on the cutting room floor. Not once does Timon smear scented butt paste on a branch. But real meerkats use their anal scent glands to communicate with each other. And each animal's distinctive scent seems to come from its personal community of bacteria. Both male and female meerkats have anal scent...

2017-06-19 16:24:45

Is Science Broken, Or Is It Self-Correcting?  

Media coverage of scientific retractions risks feeding a narrative that academic science is broken - a narrative which plays into the hands of those who want to cut science funding and ignore scientific advice. So say Joseph Hilgard and Kathleen Hall Jamieson in a book chapter called Science as "Broken" Versus Science as "Self-Correcting": How Retractions and Peer-Review Problems Are Exploited to Attack Science Hilgard and Jamieson discuss two retraction scandals that reade...

2017-06-19 13:29:43

Ancient DNA Unravels Cat Domestication Like Ball of Yarn  

The truth about cats and dogs is this: despite being the two species that humans are most likely to have as pets, Rex and Ruffles had very different paths from the wild to our couches. Analyzing ancient and modern cat DNA, researchers believe they have figured out much of the mystery surrounding cat domestication — and no, it didn't start in ancient Egypt. Both the archaeological and paleogenetic record show that dogs are unique in being the only animal domesticated prior to the a...

2017-06-19 08:31:28

The Human Project Aims to Track Every Aspect of Life  

If you smoke cigarettes, you're putting yourself at a heightened risk for heart disease. That correlation is well-known and unchallenged today, but that wasn't always so. It took an ambitious, years-long project, the Framingham Heart Study to uncover the link, and it only happened because of the study's commitment to comprehensive data collection. The Framingham study is a near-canonical example of the power of longitudinal studies, those that follow participants for decades, and which ca

2017-06-19 03:21:25

Creating a Universe in the Lab? The Idea Is No Joke  

Physicists aren't often reprimanded for using risque humor in their academic writings, but in 1991 that is exactly what happened to the cosmologist Andrei Linde at Stanford University. He had submitted a draft article entitled 'Hard Art of the Universe Creation' to the journal Nuclear Physics B. In it, he outlined the possibility of creating a universe in a laboratory: a whole new cosmos that might one day evolve its own stars, planets and intelligent life. Near the end, Linde made a ...

2017-06-19 02:04:07

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