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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.

Another Big Earthquake Hits Mexico, This Time Near Mexico City  

For the second time this month, a large earthquake has struck Mexico. Unlike the M8.1 earthquake that occurred off the Pacific coast and far from Mexico City, this one was located under central Mexico and only ~150 kilometers from the massive Mexican capital. This new earthquake was a M7.1 located ~51 kilometers beneath the surface. That will hopefully help dampen some of the potential damage as over 8.5 million people live within 100 kilometers of this temblor. UPDATE: The death toll is no...

2017-09-19 17:34:27

Why Scientists Are Flying Blood Over the Desert  

Drone delivery is sexy. We've seen Domino's pizza and 7-11 Slurpees dropped by drone. And then there are drones delivering something every human needs to live: blood. Timothy Amukele, a pathologist with Johns Hopkins University, and his team flew a drone for three hours with blood samples as its payload to see if drones offer a viable solution to transport blood over long distances in hot temperatures. It took a little ingenuity, but they once again demonstrated the usefulness of gett...

2017-09-19 14:11:52

Octopuses Are Building Underwater 'Cities'  

Underneath the waves lies a lost city, home to untold riches and guarded jealously by the strange creatures who make their homes within its confines. Well, the riches are all shellfish, but "Octlantis," a newly discovered settlement inhabited by around a dozen common Sydney octopuses, does have some strange residents. Tale of Two Cities Octopuses were once considered solitary creatures, thought to roam the depths alone, meeting only to mate. But recent discoveries have begun to overtur...

2017-09-19 12:24:23

Intravaginal Tunes and Didgeridoos: Your 2017 Ig Nobel Winners  

Not all science needs to be so serious. Since 1991, the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony has proven that the best scientific research can sometimes be a mix of impactful and irreverent. Let's check out this year's winners, broken down by scientific category. Physics: "On the Rheology of Cats" Cat owners are familiar with the peculiar quality of felines to fill whatever vessel they occupy, much like a liquid. So it's only appropriate that the field of rheology, or the branch of physics ...

2017-09-18 18:49:35

Animal Hoarding Is a Unique Mental Disorder, Researchers Say  

The "cat lady" may be more than just a stereotype. After investigating roughly 30 people who collected nearly 1,400 animals total in southern Brazil, researchers now suggest that such men and women are afflicted with what they called animal hoarding disorder—not to be lumped in with object hoarding. The first scientific reports of people living with an excessive number of animals first appeared in 1981. Animal hoarding is currently thought of a variant of hoarding disorder, in which peo...

2017-09-18 12:57:09

This Exoplanet Is Burning Hot and Pitch Black  

An exoplanet twice the size of Jupiter is hot, egg-shaped and coal-black. Wasp-12b orbits around a Sun-like star some 1,400 light-years away. It makes a complete orbit around its sun in just 24 hours because it lies so close to its star, and the proximity pushes the temperature to around 4,700 degrees Fahrenheit. It's so hot that molecules there are broken down into atomic hydrogen and helium, and the extreme conditions give it an albedo of just .064, making the planet's atmosphere even...

2017-09-18 04:42:55

Scientific Papers Are Getting Less Readable  

"The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time", according to a new paper just out. Swedish researchers Pontus Plaven-Sigray and colleagues say that scientists today use longer and more complex words than those of the past, making their writing harder to read. But what does it mean? Here's the key result. This image shows text readability metrics from 709,577 abstracts, drawn from 123 biomedical journals, published in English between 1881 and 2015. There's been a clear

2017-09-16 18:16:47

Last Days of Cassini: An Insider's Story  

The death of the Cassini spacecraft marked the end of an era--not just the end of a mission, but the end of a whole style of exploration. Cassini was a multi-billion dollar probe, a versatile scout in the style of the Voyager and Galileo probes. It bristled with instruments that allowed it to take the measure of every part of Saturn's staggeringly complex system of moons, rings, clouds, and magnetic activity. As Cassini's program manager and a veteran of the mission since 1993, Earl H. Ma

2017-09-16 08:28:40

Even With Police Body-Cam Footage, Witnesses Can Be Misled  

Body-worn cameras on police are increasingly called for in the hope they might help ease heightened tensions between officers and communities. However, scientists now find that falsified police reports and personal biases may change a person's memory of such footage to see things that were not there or never happened. Cell phone videos of clashes between police and citizens, such as that involving the death of Eric Garner in 2014, have helped drive the call for body-worn cameras on police

2017-09-15 20:40:34

Cassini's Bittersweet Symphony  

The Cassini team members filled the chairs of mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. As a long-time astronomy journalist, I was invited to witness the end of an era. At 4:55 a.m. PST, Cassini's 13-year mission came to a bittersweet end when we lost signal from the spacecraft as it pierced through the cloud tops at Saturn. We've gathered in a lecture hall lined with spacecraft models, Voyager, Juno and of course, Cassini. Few people were witho...

2017-09-15 19:46:14

Scientists Find 21 New Bird Species by Asking the Birds  

Same-or-different is the concept behind the most basic toddler games. We encourage kids to put the square block in the square hole, find two cards that match, place the cow in the cow-shaped puzzle slot. But in nature, the cow-shaped slots are harder to see. Deciding whether two animals are the same or different species frequently causes debates among scientists. In Central and South America, researchers tried to find the differences between many pairs of closely related birds by simply as...

2017-09-15 18:28:51

Breaking: 5.7 Million-Year-Old "Hominin Footprints" In Jeopardy  

11:23 a.m.: Bournemouth University's Matthew Bennett, a co-author of the August paper laying out the case for the Trachilos footprints belonging to a hominin, has confirmed that several of the prints were cut out of the preserved rock layers at the site and stolen. Bennett added that, according to emails from his Greek colleagues who are in direct contact with municipal and regional authorities there, the individual responsible for the vandalism and theft has been arrested. More informa

2017-09-15 11:54:06

Scientist Shocks Himself With an Electric Eel...Because Science  

Electric eels are fascinating creatures. They emit high voltage electricity to track and control prey, but did you know they also jump out of water to attack threats? They've even been documented leaping at horses and humans. Kenneth C. Catania, a biologist and neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University who's studied eels in the past, put himself in harm's way in order to learn just how shocking eels are. In a study titled "Power Transfer to a Human During an Electric Eel's Shocking Le...

2017-09-15 10:14:02

A Little Synthesized Sugar Yields Cotton That Glows  

Everything is getting "smarter" these days: automobiles, refrigerators, garage door openers…trashcans? Even the shirt on your back is wising up and feasting on the data you generate with every step. The emerging e-textiles market promises threads that communicate, conduct energy, control body temperature and shapeshift. There are smart yoga pants, for example, that feature built in haptic vibrations to guide you into the perfect downward dog. The Supa sports bra links to an app and...

2017-09-14 18:21:17

Quantifying the Burden of Global Disease  

Later this month, global health luminaries will gather in Seattle to celebrate the anniversary of a relationship that had a rocky start back in 1986, when a brash young Rhodes scholar marched into the World Health Organization office of an epidemiologist who had published research papers on mortality in Africa. "Are you Alan Lopez?" the visitor asked. "Yes," Lopez remembers answering. "Well, I'm Chris Murray, and everything you've written about Africa is wrong." Lopez, ...

2017-09-14 17:17:58

Bubbly Ballistics: How Temperature Affects Champagne's Signature Pop  

Looking for a new party trick? In a study published in Scientific Reports researchers demonstrated that storing your champagne bottles at different temperatures can change the shape and even the color of the fog plume that's released after that characteristic "pop." Ah, the bubbly. Aside from being one of our favorite celebratory beverages, champagne has also been the subject of extensive scientific study - no, really. French scientist and champagne physicist Gerard Liger-Belair ...

2017-09-14 13:17:37

Ancient Asteroid Generated the Hottest Temp Ever Recorded on Earth  

When an asteroid smashes into the Earth things get pretty toasty. A 17 mile-wide crater in Canada was home to what scientists say is the hottest temperature ever recorded in Earth's crustal rock, a whopping 4,300 degrees Fahrenheit. They didn't just stick a thermometer in there, of course, the crater is some 36 million years old. Instead, researchers from Curtin University in Australia looked to the rocks. Embedded in the crater walls were crystals of cubic zirconia, a mineral that

2017-09-14 11:48:28

Cassini Scientist Would Be Surprised if Life Doesn't Exist on Enceladus  

The Cassini spacecraft has entered its final hours. And with the end nigh, Discover called up the Southwest Research Institute's Hunter Waite — a Cassini principal investigator — for a look back at how this has redefined our view of where alien life might live in our solar system. Before reaching Saturn in 2004, astronomers knew little about the gas giant's many moons. Voyager got a glimpse of the system decades earlier. And Titan — the only known moon with a thick atmosphere ...

2017-09-14 08:53:27

This Hybrid Drone Just Set an Unofficial Endurance Record  

What story would you believe: A story about a drone that can fly for 4 hours or 4 minutes? Probably the latter, but this is a story about a hybrid powered drone that can fly for hours. Whether it's a researcher using drones to drop bugs onto crops or a hobbyist trying to capture epic aerial photos, drone pilots are often plagued by low flight time. But that's not a problem with Skyfront's Tailwind drone, which the company says flew for 4 hours and 34 minutes. That's right. This drone...

2017-09-14 05:30:28

Update on the Journal of Stem Cells  

In April, I called attention to what I saw as serious ethical and scientific problems with a biomedical journal, the Journal of Stem Cells. Now, this publication has been removed from a leading journal index. I wrote in April that: I have discovered evidence of plagiarism in two papers in the Journal... the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal is the corresponding author on both of these papers, raising questions about the quality of editorial oversight. I also raised questions about appa

2017-09-14 03:22:15

Getting a Tattoo Might Also Stain Your Lymph Nodes  

It's not news that tattoos are hitting the mainstream, but a new study reported in the journal Scientific Reports reveals that tattoo inks' nanoparticles are adding color to other parts of your body. As the tattooed population knows all too well, the process of tattooing consists of placing insoluble deposits of pigmented ink just below the epidermis, or outermost layer of skin. As they also know, your body does pretty much anything it can to get that ink out — which is why new tatt...

2017-09-14 02:21:34

Good News for Women Who Hate Going to the Gyno  

Women may soon have more options when it comes to deciding how often they are screened for cervical cancer. But here's the thing ― age is important. Women ages 30 to 65 years can either get screened every three years with a pap smear or every five years with a high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) test, according to draft recommendations on cervical cancer screening released Tuesday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).  This draft recommendation is an update to the 201...

2017-09-13 20:15:26

Tool-wielding Macaques Are Wiping Out Shellfish Populations  

The advent of tools was a big deal for humanity. It made it far easier to manipulate our environment and mold the planet to serve our own interests—from the folsom point to the iPhone X. Some animals use tools too, like the macaques of Thailand, who have figured out that their favorite shellfish snacks are much easier to eat if they bash them open with rocks first. They've become proficient shellfish smashers, so much so that the macaques are actually threatening the existence of oyster...

2017-09-13 09:45:33

Are Genes to Blame for Cavity-causing Bacteria?  

Were you born to have bad teeth, or did you break them? When it comes to allocating blame for tooth decay, one of the most common chronic childhood diseases worldwide, experts point fingers at both genes and dental hygiene as causes. Excessive sugar consumption and acid buildup in the mouth have long been linked with cavities, but there are clearly other factors in play. That the causality waters are still muddy is evident when diligent brushers and flossers get cavities, while there a

2017-09-13 05:32:45

To Save Australia's Biodiversity, Put Kangaroo on the Menu  

In Australia, a question lingers: Do we shoot the kangaroos? The proposition sounds a bit inhumane at first blush, after all, the kangaroo stands proudly on the Australian coat of arms. The bouncing beasts are a fixture of the outback. But in recent years, the roos have been doing quite well—in fact, too well. Their numbers have been bolstered by the extinction of natural predators and generous rainfall; there are now so many kangaroos, that one ecologist is calling for increased consum...

2017-09-13 04:47:47

Can You Help Solve the 'Shackleton Scribble' Mystery?  

After more than a century, a mysterious shorthand message exhumed from the archives is confounding scientists and historical societies alike. In the winter of 1903, upon returning from his very first Antarctic expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton found himself in need of a job. He applied for a secretary position within the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS), an organization responsible for introducing the latest and most innovative technologies. Among them at the time: the telephone

2017-09-13 03:31:51

Transformer Drones Are Getting Real  

In the future, we may have drones that can autonomously change size, shape and function. Basically, Transformers is starting to get real. Currently, most autonomous robots are stuck with the function and form they were designed for, but scientists are working hard to change that. In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, a team led by Nithin Mathews of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium showcased its fleet of "mergeable nervous system" (MNS) robots. Basically, their

2017-09-12 09:21:41

Should Research Funding Be Distributed Equally Among Scientists?  

Instead of making scientists compete for grants based on project proposals, research funding could simply be divided equally among all 'qualified' researchers, according to a new paper. Authors Krist Vaesen and Joel Katzav argue that such an 'egalitarian' distribution of funds would still leave each grant holder with enough money to support their work and pay for students and junior researchers. But I'm not sure I agree with their logic. Vaesen and Katzav start by outlining the pro

2017-09-12 06:01:48

The monster in moonlight: striking satellite image shows Irma churning north in the dead of night  

As Hurricane Irma continued to churn north over Florida early in the morning of Sept. 11, the Suomi NPP spacecraft passed overhead and sent back this dramatic image. In the image, acquired by a nighttime sensor called the "Day/Night Band" on the satellite's VIIRS instrument, the hurricane is illuminated by the relatively faint light of the moon. But the image reveals more than that. "In addition to the cloud structures, this band can help identify power outages," writes Scott Li...

2017-09-12 05:52:47

Science, Interrupted  

War and strife have uprooted many researchers. Can their life’s work be saved?

2017-09-12 04:37:03

We're All a Little Plastic on the Inside  

You're made of water, bone, blood, muscle and fat; you're also a few parts plastic. That is, if you prefer sea salt on your meal. Or honey, shellfish, beer or tap water. Recent studies have found microplastics, tiny shards of degraded plastic, in them all. Even the air is filled with the minuscule plastic bits. Plastic Not-So-Fantastic Hold off on the panic though; it's still too early for researchers to say what the effects of microplastic consumption are, although preliminary studies...

2017-09-11 21:58:52

This Is What It's Like Flying a Drone in the Eye of a Hurricane  

Brian Emfinger is a lifelong storm chaser, and as a photojournalist and drone pilot for KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas, his work takes him places other people would flee. He was in Rockport, Texas, when Harvey came onshore. He flew his drone after the eye passed overhead, gathering gripping shots of the aftermath across the region. But as Emfinger geared up to chase Hurricane Irma into Florida, he knew he wanted to capture a drone perspective like no other. He wanted to fly his DJI Mavi

2017-09-11 01:45:39

The most extreme damage from Hurricane Irma may come from huge surges of water pushed onto land by wind  

Hurricane Irma is a true monster, exceeding the size of Florida itself, and threatening to flatten structures throughout the state with extreme winds. But perhaps the biggest risk is now posed by storm surge - water pushed up onto land. The animation above shows an experimental forecast for storm surge from the National Weather Service. It shows the height of water above the land's surface in feet over time, from 7 a.m. EST today through 7 a.m. on Tuesday. (Sept. 9 - 12, 2017.) "St...

2017-09-09 08:07:45

Viking Warrior In Famous Grave Was A Woman  

This one goes out to all my fellow shieldmaidens: researchers have confirmed through ancient DNA testing that the warrior buried in a famous Viking grave was a woman. Researchers have excavated hundreds of Viking-era graves at Birka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sweden. One of the graves, originally excavated in the 1880s, was particularly noteworthy for both its position — on a prominent terrace adjacent to what had been a garrison — and for its grave goods, which included a ...

2017-09-08 07:03:17

How Humans Are Evolving Right Now  

Studies of human evolution typically look at spans of thousands of years — the length of time it often takes various mutations to take hold and become noticeable. Evolution is more dynamic than that though; it's an ongoing process with subtle variations on traits emerging while others dip into the background. Measuring the kinds of changes that are going on right now would give us valuable insights about not only our past, but also into where we're headed. Evolution Is Now That's wh...

2017-09-08 05:49:32

Gesundheit! African Wild Dogs 'Vote' With Sneezes  

If you want to get something done in an African wild dog pack, you've got to be ready to sneeze. The animals seem to make group decisions based on a system of explosive exhalations — "sneezes" — that determine if they get up and go on the hunt. If the dogs reach a quorum of sorts, they all fall in line — no "bless you's" necessary. Sneeze If You're With Me Researchers from Swansea University and Taronga Conservation Society Australia noticed an abundance of "achoos" right before t...

2017-09-06 20:52:35

The monster's eye: satellite video offers a terrifying view of Irma, 2nd strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic  

As I'm writing this on Wednesday morning, the eye of Hurricane Irma — a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm - has passed over the islands of Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin, and was shortly headed for the Virgin Islands. I shudder to think what has been happening on the ground with the storm's maximum sustained winds clocked at 185 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. This video from Saint Martin says it all:

2017-09-06 02:18:06

Zika: A Potential Treatment for Brain Cancer?  

Zika has largely faded from the news cycle as efforts to control the disease have taken hold and the number of new cases has dropped. Now, it's back, not as a pending epidemic, but as a potential treatment for brain cancer. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California, Santa Barbara have conducted preliminary tests with the virus as a treatment for glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. Zika, which doesn't carry man...

2017-09-05 10:13:37

Dramatic satellite video shows fire and smoke from roaring blazes across more than a million acres of the U.S. West  

Smoke from the fires appears to have blown all the way across North America and more than half way across the Atlantic As of this afternoon, 77 large fires are burning across 1.4 million acres in eight western U.S. states. That's an area more than three times the size of Houston. The burning is part of a long-term trend of increasing wildfire in the West, brought on by human-caused climate change. Hardest hit by fire right now is Montana, with 26 large wildfires blazing today across...

2017-09-04 09:45:31

New Dates For Neanderthals Shakes Up Long-Held Theory  

With every new find, our understanding of the twilight of the Neanderthals, our nearest hominin kin, advances. Or not. New research on some of the most famous Neanderthal fossils, from Croatia's Vindija Cave, suggest earlier analysis about their age and significance may be all wrong. Oops. More than 40 years ago, researchers in Vindija Cave unearthed hominin bones and a curious assemblage of stone and bone tools that seemed to be a mixed bag of technology styles: Some were of the t...

2017-09-04 07:06:28

What Made These Footprints 5.7 Million Years Ago?  

It's the Friday before a long weekend (at least for most of us in the U.S.) and I get it: You're thinking about your plans for the next few days, wrapping up some stuff before slipping out of the office maybe a little early. You're not in the mindset of having your paradigm shifted. Sorry. A new study suggesting hominins were walking across a Greek island 5.7 million years ago is here to blow your mind. In a year of big shake-ups in the story of human evolution, a study published in the

2017-09-01 06:41:02

Don't Trust Animal Characters to Teach Your Kids Morals  

Yes, Frog and Toad Are Friends, but they aren't moral authorities for your children. That's the finding of a new, fun-spoiling study on little kids and picture books. It found that kids learned a lesson about sharing from a book with human characters—but not from a book about a cute raccoon. Many children's books, of course, feature animals that act like people. And anthropomorphized animals have been imparting moral lessons since the time of Aesop. Nicole Larsen and her colleagues...

2017-09-01 05:22:51

To Study Global Warming, Researchers Heated the Ocean Themselves  

A perennial problem for climate science is that much of it lies in the realm of abstraction. Various models and forecasts compete for relevance, based on arcane statistical formulations that appear as so much gibberish to science reporters and readers alike. Well, rest easy, weary travelers — here's a climate study that leaves the ponderous math behind in favor of a real-world simulation of warming Antarctic waters. Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey decided to see what t...

2017-09-01 04:01:12

How Safe Is Your Connected Home?  

Security experts are both thrilled and anxious about the internet of things (IoT), the ever-growing collection of smart electronic gadgets that interact with the world around them. It includes devices like internet-connected garage door openers, refrigerators you can text to see if you're low on milk and tennis rackets that offer tips on a better backhand — even smart sex toys. The technology research firm Gartner estimates that 6.4 billion such IoT devices were connected online in 2016,...

2017-09-01 01:58:48

Is It Time to Give Bug Burgers a Chance?  

A Swiss supermarket is doing its part to get Westerners hooked on the eco-friendly superfood of the future: bugs. Coop is one of Switzerland's largest food retailers with over 2,200 outlets throughout the country, and it operates as a co-op with some 2.5 million members. Recently, Coop started stocking bug burgers and bug balls (like falafel) that are made by fellow Swiss company Essento. And according to Essento, the burgers and balls, made with ground mealworm and other ingredients, a...

2017-09-01 01:48:01

Views from space reveal the staggering extent of Harvey's flooding – now confirmed as a 1-in-1,000-year event  

As Harvey has lumbered to the northeast, the clouds have dissipated, finally giving satellites a clear view of what the 1,000-year flooding event in southeast Texas looks like. The animation above tells the tale. I created it using images acquired by NASA's Terra satellite, the first on May 2nd, long before Harvey stormed ashore, and the second image just today. Look carefully at the center of the images and you can see the pattern of roads in the Houston area. (Click on the th...

2017-08-31 07:44:48

No, NASA Isn't Going to Drill to Stop Yellowstone from Erupting  

Let's cut to the chase: The purported NASA plan to "defuse" Yellowstone is pure science fiction. OK, now that we have that out of the way, let's get into the details of the numerous articles that have jumped all over what might best be termed a "thought experiment" by scientists at NASA. Yellowstone, the massive caldera in the middle of North America, is definitely a volcanic threat. Is it a high volcanic threat? Not as much as other, much more active volcanoes in the United States. Howev

2017-08-31 04:04:26

Tiny Bat Shrugs Off Venom Of Deadly Scorpion  

Pallid bats (Antrozous pallidus) are quirky little creatures, the sole species in their genus. Their long ears, which can equal half their body length, make them look quintessentially batty, but unlike most of their night hunting relatives, they prefer to tackle ground-dwelling dinners—a strategy called "gleaning." Pallid bats glean as much as half their body weight in prey every night, and their diet includes a wide range of crunchy little critters, including crickets, praying mantis, ...

2017-08-31 04:04:24

The Myth of The 30 IQ Point "Communication Range"  

Earlier this week I tweeted a link to a Quora post which, I felt, was rather silly. The post was a response to the question "Are people with very high IQs generally happy?" and it answered in the negative: Let's say high IQ is a blessing which comes with a terrible price. And each and every person with reading east from 135 has paid that price. HIgh IQ persons usually have also extremely vivid and wide spectrum of emotions and emotional life, and when they are happy, they are in rapture, a...

2017-08-31 01:47:51

Can a Wristband Conquer Speech Anxiety?  

For Americans, public speaking ranks higher on the list of fears than heights, blood, ghosts, clowns, flying, needles and…dying. Indeed, one in four Americans admits standing and delivering before a crowd of strangers is a dread inducing experience. On top of that, it's hard to get through life without encountering situations that force us to confront this fear in some form, which may explain why it's so pervasive. As such, there are countless remedies: picture the crowd naked, be y...

2017-08-30 19:34:13

Pikas Are Disappearing from California's Sierra Nevada Mountains  

According to a survey from Yale University's Program on Climate Change Communication, 70 percent of Americans think global warming is happening, but only 40 percent believe it will harm them personally. But what if those same people who believe they are somehow immune from harm were told climate change is being blamed for the demise of an adorable, fuzzy, innocent creature? Oh, the feels. Things, perhaps, just got personal. That's exactly what's playing out in a 165-square-mil...

2017-08-30 14:42:36

Satellites help track Harvey's staggering rainfall totals  

Here at ImaGeo, one of my main goals is to share compelling imagery about the science of our planet. Even when the imagery is the main focus of a post, I've ordinarily included a fair amount of explanatory text. But with a torrent of graphics coming in showing Harvey's impact, I think I'll try something new, starting with this post: the imagery with a bit less explanation, but including links to places where you can more info if you want to dig deeper. The animation above comes court...

2017-08-30 02:59:23

FDA Raids Immunotherapy Clinic, Seizes Smallpox Vaccine  

The FDA has seized vials of smallpox vaccine from a California immunotherapy company, claiming they had been used for an unauthorized cancer treatment. StemImmune markets an unapproved treatment for cancer involving stem cells and a type of virus commonly used to inoculate against smallpox. The virus, vaccinia, is an attractive option because it's good at getting into cancerous cells and can be genetically tweaked to improve effectiveness. It's not easy to get, however, because it can cau

2017-08-29 07:20:41

Why Sheep Calls Have That Unmistakable Vibrato  

Animals from sheep to fur seals share a curious acoustic trait: Their calls feature a vibrato-like trill. Vibrato is the small, quick oscillation in pitch that musicians use to accentuate certain notes. It makes a note sound a bit wobbly and helps catch our attention. It's found all over the animal kingdom, too — think the staccato "baaaaa's" of a goat. But animals' pulsating cries are far more than stylistic. A new study from University College Dublin says that these characteristic v...

2017-08-29 05:42:48

No Filter: Ancient Whales Were Wolves of the Sea  

The biggest animals on the planet right now are baleen whales, which upped their size thanks to efficient filter-feeding. How they got that specialized system has long been a mystery, but a new study nixes some theories about it evolving out of ancient whales' dentition. Those earlier animals, say researchers, were bitey predators with sharp teeth made for tearing things up. Let's face it, whales are kind of whacky. Millions of years after the early tetrapod transition from the sea t...

2017-08-29 03:56:26

Follow Harvey's calamitous multi-day meander over Texas in this extraordinary animation of satellite imagery  

As Harvey flooded Houston with relentless rains, the GOES-16 weather satellite watched from above One of the most destructive storms in U.S. history continues to pummel southeast Texas and the nation's fourth largest city for a fourth day, producing calamitous flooding and plunging a huge region into chaos. Harvey's center slowly drifted offshore into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, resulting in the buildup of new, intense thunderstorms that are forecast to pummel Houston with yet more rai

2017-08-29 01:58:45

How the Folsom Point Became an Archaeological Icon  

The Folsom spear point, which was excavated in 1927 near the small town of Folsom, New Mexico, is one of the most famous artifacts in North American archaeology, and for good reason: It was found in direct association with the bones of an extinct form of Ice Age bison. The Folsom point therefore demonstrated conclusively, and for the first time, that human beings were in North America during the last Ice Age—thousands of years earlier than previously thought. The Folsom discovery marked...

2017-08-28 10:55:26

The "Unbearable Emptiness" of Science on Twitter?  

The discussion of scientific papers on Twitter is largely dominated by spam bots, paid content promoters, and "monomaniacs" obsessed with a single issue. That's according to researchers Nicolas Robinson-Garcia and colleagues in a new paper called The unbearable emptiness of tweeting—About journal articles To reach their bleak conclusion, Robinson-Garcia et al. read 8,206 tweets. Tweets were included if they contained a link to a peer-reviewed paper in the field of dentristy and den...

2017-08-27 07:42:35

Eteplirsen: A Curious Scientific Controversy  

In April 2016, an FDA committee voted not to recommend acceptance of eteplirsen, a drug designed to treat muscular dystrophy. In September, however, the FDA did approve the drug, following a heated internal debate. This wasn't the end of the story, however. What followed was an unusual scientific controversy that played out in the peer-reviewed literature, discussed in a Retraction Watch post this week. Following the approval of eteplirsen, Ellis Unger and Robert Califf wrote a let

2017-08-25 13:17:38

Even Monkeys See Faces in Things  

The impression that your cup of coffee is laughing at you, or that your laundry machine has googly eyes, is uncanny but common. It's even the subject of a Twitter account called Faces in Things with more than half a million followers. The account has featured winking chairs, moping suitcases and a smug lemon loaf. But this illusion, called face pareidolia, isn't uniquely human. Monkeys can see it too.  Face pareidolia could be a side effect of humans' skill for abstraction, write ps...

2017-08-25 08:54:27

A Russian Tanker Completes First Solo Trip Through the Arctic Ocean  

A Russian tanker ship has traversed the Arctic Ocean without the help of a separate icebreaker, marking a first for the Northern Sea Route. The Christophe de Margerie made the journey from Norway to South Korea in 23 days carrying a shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG), opening up the frigid route to sustained shipping traffic. Ships normally travel through the Suez Canal to reach Asia from Europe, a trip that takes some 30 percent longer. The ship, which has a reinforced hull allowing

2017-08-24 21:49:13

Can This Ancient Babylonian Tablet Improve Modern Math?  

Researchers in Australia say an ancient Babylonian tablet that's considered the world's oldest trigonometric table was a far more powerful tool than it's given credit for. The square tablet, known as Plimpton 322, is roughly the size of a cell phone and features four columns and 15 rows of cuneiform numbers written on it. Artifacts dealer Edgar Banks—the man who Indiana Jones is based off of— sold the 3,700-year-old artifact to New York publisher George Arthur Plimpton in 1923, ...

2017-08-24 14:27:23

Scientists Turn Back Time, Find a Way to Study Ancient Venom Toxins  

As a species, there is perhaps no topic that fascinates us more than mortality, especially our own. So unsurprisingly, there's no shortage of science fiction based on the idea of scientifically circumventing our mortal coils, most of which seems rather fantastical. But bringing the dead back to life isn't as impossible as it might appear. While we're still a long ways away from Dr. Frankenstein, recent developments in understanding how proteins and genes evolve has allowed scientists to rais

2017-08-24 09:12:55

Solar Eclipse Geometry  

What's happening in space and on Earth.

2017-08-23 05:58:55

A Secret Confederate Submarine Was So Deadly, Even the Crew Wasn't Safe  

On Feb. 17, 1864, naval warfare was changed forever. That night aboard the U.S.S. Housatonic, master John H. Crosby of the Union Navy saw what he described as a porpoise sliding through the water on a direct course for his vessel just a few hundred feet away. Three years prior, President Abraham Lincoln had ordered a blockade of all major Confederate ports, and the Housatonic, a sloop-of-war with 12 large cannons, was stationed in South Carolina's Charleston Harbor to help the presid...

2017-08-23 05:05:39

Volcanoes and Glaciers Seen from Space  

One of the most exciting aspects of geosciences in the 21st century is the ability to watch geologic events from space. We can see an eruption or earthquake as it happens—sometimes catching it in the act. We can also roll back the film and look at what things were like in images taken beforehand. It is one of the most fundamental changes to how we look at earth processes since we were able to go the other way and see rocks at a microscopic level. Here are two great examples. The first i...

2017-08-23 04:58:35

Please Enjoy This Total Eclipse 'Megamovie'  

As the eclipse laid a swath of darkness across the heart of the United States, thousands of amateur photographers pointed phones and cameras skyward to memorialize the occasion. The images together comprise a mosaic of stellar imagery spanning more than an hour and a half, and give scientists a chance to study a feature of the sun still shrouded in mystery: the corona. The delicate atmosphere of our home star, the corona is a wispy collection of

2017-08-23 01:12:54

Does It Snow on Mars?  

Given that there are ambitious plans to colonize Mars in the near future, it is surprising how much we still have to learn about what it would be like to actually live on the planet. Take the weather, for instance. We know there are wild fluctuations in Mars's climate - and that it is very windy and at times cloudy (though too cold and dry for rainfall). But does it snow? Might settlers on Mars be able to see the red planet turn white? A new study surprisingly suggests so. Mars i...

2017-08-22 13:36:14

Rediscovered USS Indianapolis Embodies Pacific Victory  

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis by an Japanese submarine in the closing days of World War II marked one of the U.S. Navy's greatest maritime tragedies. But the recent rediscovery of the lost warship's wreck on the bottom of the Pacific also represents a chance to remember how its wartime career paralleled the U.S. road to victory in the Pacific theater of war—a victory built upon industrial might and the ability to wage a long war. Much remembrance of the USS Indianapolis focus...

2017-08-21 14:46:56

"R-Factor" Unlikely To Fix Science  

A new tool called the R-factor could help ensure that science is reproducible and valid, according to a preprint posted on biorxiv: Science with no fiction. The authors, led by Peter Grabitz, are so confident in their idea that they've created a company called Verum Analytics to promote it. But how useful is this new metric going to be? Not very useful, in my view. The R-factor (which stands for "reproducibility, reputation, responsibility, and robustness") strikes me as a flawed idea.

2017-08-21 09:15:59

Livestream: The Great American Eclipse  

Today, I walked into the Discover magazine offices and found myself in a ghost town—I may have even seen a tumbleweed or two drift by as I made my way down the hall to hunker down in front of my computer screen for the day. Indeed, most of mu colleagues (who put their vacation requests in early) are by now somewhere near the path of totality, savoring one of the most awe-inspiring cosmic events we Earthlings can ask for. Me, well, I'm back here keeping the lights on. If you happen to...

2017-08-21 04:59:22

The Brain of Ben Barres  

A neurobiologist’s legacy: rewriting how cells operate — and how they go rogue.

2017-08-21 01:59:35

Here's what tomorrow's total eclipse would look like if you could watch it from a million miles away in space  

Millions of people across the United States will cast their gaze upward to watch tomorrow's total solar eclipse as it passes across the breadth of the nation. But what would it look like if you could gaze down on it from a million miles away in space? For an answer, check out the animation above. It consists of 13 images acquired by the EPIC camera aboard NASA's DSCOVR spacecraft during a total solar eclipse on March 9, 2016. Watch for the dark shadow that progresses across the Pacific...

2017-08-20 18:05:54

Israeli Military Veterans Built a Sniper Drone  

In 2015, Israeli Special Forces likely made history by using a sniper rifle mounted on a commercial drone to take out a target. The robotic solution that achieved such pinpoint accuracy came from Duke Robotics, a startup founded by veterans of the Israel Defense Forces. That startup has since developed a multi-rotor sniper drone capable of accurately firing a wide array of weapons such as military assault rifles and grenade launchers. This is not like the usual military drones flying...

2017-08-18 07:27:18

What Time Is the Total Solar Eclipse?  

We're now counting down the time until the Great American eclipse in hours, not days. Are you ready? If you aren't, don't worry, we have you covered with the Eclipse 2017 Widget from our partners at Astronomy magazine. Powered by SkySafari 5, this interactive widget well let you know exactly when the show will begin, and when you'll reach maximum eclipse in your area. If you click "view" on the time readouts in the event column, you can also get a rough preview of what you can expect ...

2017-08-18 04:50:45

Yes, Scotch Whiskey Is Better With a Splash of Water  

A true Scotch drinker doesn't pour an aged Macallan in order to, as less refined revelers might say, "get the party started." Quite the contrary, the seasoned aficionado attends to certain norms and customs before imbibing, not unlike a traditional tea ceremony, in a nod to enlightenment, restraint and discernment—the finer things. The experts recommend pouring Scotch into a tulip-shaped glass to swirl the matured flavors. Sip, but never gulp, as that would be heresy to the histor...

2017-08-17 18:27:42

Roman Pipes Delivered Water — And Toxic Antimony  

The elaborate system of pipes that carried water to Roman households was an engineering marvel—for its time. Unfortunately, their sophisticated water utility may have been poisoning everyone. An analysis of a pipe fragment from Pompeii revealed the presence of high levels of antimony, an element that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even organ damage at high enough concentrations. It was probably included to harden the soft lead pipes, which were a luxury for Roman citizens at the tim...

2017-08-17 15:37:56

Do We Manage Online and Offline Friendships the Same?  

Social media has been a boon to social science. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms serve as online laboratories that reveal all kinds of stuff about the users, researchers say. The rise of these platforms has sparked a flurry of scientific papers describing people's social network interactions. A lot of the conclusions of the studies can engender the response, "Well, no kidding." But offering validation for intuitive or common sense knowledge isn't such a bad thing. ...

2017-08-16 18:06:56

On the Shores of Lake Erie, Endangered Birds Catch a Lucky Break  

Protecting species in peril doesn't happen overnight. Rather, it's all about stringing together small wins that, in the long-term, make all the difference. A little luck can also go far. When waves surged on the Pennsylvania coast of Lake Erie early this summer, it could easily have been the end for a nest of piping plover eggs caught in the water's path. Fortunately, a dynamic team of biologists, zookeepers and volunteers swooped into action, rescuing the eggs and rearing them at a qui...

2017-08-16 14:32:41

More on "Behavior Priming" and Unconscious Influences  

Last year, psychologists B. Keith Payne and colleagues breathed new life into the debate over 'social priming' with a paper called Replicable effects of primes on human behavior. Behavioral or social priming - the idea that subtle cues can exert large, unconscious influences on our behaviour - was a major topic of research for many years, but it's since been largely discredited. The field's reputation suffered when Diederik Stapel, a leader in the field, was exposed as a fraud. Many res...

2017-08-16 11:19:09

Mount Marilyn: A Name That Will Stick...Finally  

In 1968, Jim Lovell became the first human to pilot a spacecraft — Apollo 8 — around another world. And two years later, his Apollo 13 heroics earned him an eternal place in spaceflight history. But those feats also left Lovell as the only person to visit the moon twice but never walk its surface. In July, Lovell got his chance to leave a lasting mark on our satellite. Explorers have always named newly discovered landmarks. But things didn't work out that way for Apollo astronauts ...

2017-08-16 06:12:15

Ulcer-fighting Robots Swim Through Stomachs to Deliver a Cure  

Tiny robots powered by bubbles have successfully treated an infection in mice. The achievement is another step forward in a field that has long shown promise, and is only now beginning to deliver. The therapeutic robots in this case were tiny spheres of magnesium and titanium coated with an antibacterial agent and about the width of a human hair. They were released into the stomach, where they swam around and delivered a drug to the target before dissolving. Robots In the Stomach Resear

2017-08-16 05:56:01

Marijuana: An Environmental Buzzkill  

Pot growers have turned public lands into industrial agricultural sites. And the ecosystem effects are alarming.

2017-08-16 05:39:49

Despite an unusually chilly Arctic, and El Niño's absence, July 2017 tied for warmest such month on record  

That makes last month one of the warmest our planet has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880 Up in the high north, it was unusually cool last month. And unlike last year, there was no El Niño to help amp up temperatures for the globe overall. Yet July 2017 was in a statistical tie for warmest such month in 137 months of record keeping, according to the monthly climate, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Spa...

2017-08-16 04:55:55

Why Are Oddly Satisfying Videos So...Satisfying?  

If you've never seen a master lathe operator at work, I highly recommend it. Deft movements and practiced flourishes turn a block of spinning wood into a bedpost, top, bowl or some other circular object, each motion peeling away curls of wood to uncover the beauty hidden inside. It's hard to explain why the motions feel so right, but there is an undeniable allure to the work, as if it scratches an itch you didn't know you had. As it will, the internet discovered lathe turners — and ...

2017-08-15 15:19:27

New Evidence for That Huge Dinosaur Family Tree Rewrite  

Remember that paper that dropped a few months ago completely rewriting the dinosaur family tree? Well, the researchers are back, this time using one of the odder dinos out there as evidence for their explosive claim. Is it legit or just hype? Back in March, researchers argued for a total takedown of the long-established dinosaur family tree. Today, Matthew Baron and Paul Barrett, two of the three authors of that previous Nature paper, try to bolster their case with a new look at Chi...

2017-08-15 13:34:05

Nearly 100 Volcanoes Discovered Beneath Antarctica's Ice  

You could say Antarctica sings a song of fire and ice. The continent's frigid reputation is well known, but researchers from the University of Edinburgh analyzed radar scans of the West Antarctic Rift System and found 138 volcanoes hiding under the thick ice sheet. Of those, 91 were previously unidentified, they say, and the discovery could change our understanding of how the overlaying ice layer grows and shrinks. Hidden Volcanoes The West Antarctic Rift is bounded by the Transantarct...

2017-08-14 21:38:15

In Paris, a Glimpse of Public Transportation's Driverless Future  

France may be famous for its cheese and wine, but it's also a longtime leader in driverless transit. Paris boasted one of the earliest models of automatic trains in 1983, when two metro lines ran without a conductor onboard. And the push toward driverless transportation continues in this city, with several planned upgrades before it plays host to the summer Olympics in 2024. So it was with high expectations and a sense of history that I boarded the driverless Line 1 to the bustling busi...

2017-08-14 09:05:07

Call of MRI: Action Video Games And The Brain  

No sooner had I published my last post, on the much-discussed "women's brains are more active than men's" study, than another neuroscience paper triggered a fresh media storm. This time, the subject was videogames, and the headlines were alarming: Playing shooter video games damages the brain, study suggests Violent shooter video games really DO rot your brain Playing these video games could lead to brain disease Here's the paper, published in Molecular Psychiatry by University of M

2017-08-14 08:06:20

System of Super-Earths Discovered Around A Nearby Star  

If you look up at Earth's night sky and find the constellation Cetus — it looks something like a sea monster — you might also notice a rather average looking star called Tau Ceti. It's slightly smaller than our sun and sits just 12 light years from Earth. Now, a new study suggests that the system has at least four planets, and two of them orbit on the edge of their habitable zones — the region where liquid surface water might exist. All four are likely super-Earths, and some cou...

2017-08-11 08:49:31

Wait, What Happened in Cuba?  

U.S.-Cuban relations have taken an unusual turn after several U.S. diplomats, and at least one Canadian diplomat, experienced hearing damage after being targeted by a covert "sonic device" in Havana. Huh? A what? On Wednesday, U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity revealed that in the fall on 2016, at least five U.S. diplomats began experiencing unexplainable hearing loss and other physical symptoms while serving at the embassy in Havana—so...

2017-08-11 06:57:59

The record global warming streak of 2014-2016: a snowball's chance in hell that this was natural  

Okay, I admit that I don't really know the odds of a snowball surviving in hell. But a new study suggests that's an apt way of describing the chances that 2014 through 2016's record-setting heat was natural. The study finds that there was a 1 in 3,000 chance that natural causes alone were to blame for the sequence of three consecutive global warming records set in 2014, 2015 and 2016. When humankind's influence on the climate is taken into account, the odds rise dramatically. In...

2017-08-11 04:03:37

Chimps Understand Rock-Paper-Scissors as Well as Preschoolers  

Rock smashes scissors. Scissors cut paper. Paper covers rock. The rules behind the favorite game of schoolyard kids and adults deciding who takes out the trash are pretty simple. But they also represent a kind of logic problem. Four-year-olds can learn the rules, and so can chimpanzees—but the differences in how kids and apes become proficient reveal a little about how their minds work. The relationship between the three items in rock-paper-scissors is circular. There isn't a straightf...

2017-08-11 01:13:57

Canadians Are First to Sample Genetically Modified Salmon  

After a protracted fight, salmon have become the first genetically modified animal to be sold in stores. The salmon, implanted with genes that boost their growth, come from the U.S.-based biotech firm AquaBounty Technologies, which has been attempting to gain regulatory approval for their product for some 25 years. Last week, AquaBounty announced it had indeed sold salmon fillets to customers in Canada after receiving regulatory approval in 2016, though it isn't clear where they were so...

2017-08-10 19:30:50

CubeSats Have 1 Major Shortcoming, But Not for Long  

Over the past decade and a half, satellites the size of a toaster have opened up new possibilities for using space. Called CubeSats, these diminutive spacecraft offer several appealing virtues for scientific and national security missions and one major handicap—but a fix is on the way. Built to a standard size of roughly 10 centimeters on each side, the featherweight CubeSats can be quickly developed and inexpensively launched, because they piggyback on rockets hauling bigger payloads i...

2017-08-10 16:06:18

Were Modern Humans in Indonesia 73,000 Years Ago?  

The conventional timeline of human evolution and migration continues to crumble in the face of new research. The latest finding puts anatomically modern humans deep in Indonesia up to 73,000 years ago — tens of thousands of years before once thought possible. The old school timeline, still widely taught, went something like this: Homo sapiens evolved into a distinct species from earlier hominins about 200,000 years ago in Africa and became anatomically modern humans (AMHs) about ...

2017-08-10 03:08:18

Everything Worth Knowing About ... When We Left Water  

How our tetrapod ancestors first came ashore.

2017-08-10 02:07:54

Oldest Gliding Mammals Shed Light on the History of Flight  

The oldest gliding mammals ever discovered are strengthening the case for taking to the skies. Well, they couldn't exactly soar like the eagles, but the two new species, discovered in China, at least sampled the aerial life. Both date to around 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, when mammals as a lineage were first getting off the ground — both metaphorically and literally. They're not directly related to the gliders of today, however. Gliding instead seems to be advantag...

2017-08-10 01:02:42

Everything Worth Knowing About ... How We Decide  

Make up your mind already!

2017-08-09 03:28:53

Female Brains Are More Active?  

Another day, another over-hyped sex differences neuroscience study. The headlines this time around are especially cringeworthy: Study Finds Women's Brains Are Far More Active Than Men's Women Are Using A LOT More Of Their Brains Than Men. Surprise, surprise 😏 Women really DO overthink things! Scans reveal they have 'more active brains than men' The paper in question was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and it comes from a group led by Dr. Daniel Amen. A...

2017-08-08 18:10:15

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