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  • The List

    World’s worst polluted

    A new report lists places around the world that pose the greatest pollution risk to human health. Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute screened more than 3,000 contaminated sites and rated health threats. The top 10 polluted places are listed below in alphabetical order and pictured in a slideshow:

    1.    Agbobloshie (Ghana)

    2.    Chernobyl (Ukraine)

    3.   ...

    12/12/2013 - 10:17 Pollution
  • Mystery Solved

    Ripple effect

    If you want ripples in your icicles, just add salt. This recipe comes from physicists reporting in the October New Journal of Physics. Antony Chen and Stephen Morris of the University of Toronto built a tabletop machine that allowed nearly ice-cold water to drip through a nozzle onto a slowly rotating support, where the water froze.

    Distilled water produced an unrippled, carrot-shaped...

    11/24/2013 - 15:56 Physics
  • Reviews & Previews

    The Accidental Species

    This is not a typical book about human evolution. There’s no chronology of fossil discoveries, no detailed description of hominid species or even an illustration of human family trees. In fact, the book is largely about what we don’t know about human evolution — and what we’ve gotten wrong.

    Gee, an editor at Nature and a former paleontologist, begins by taking a swipe at the...

    11/24/2013 - 14:46 Human Evolution
  • Science Stats

    Drug use on the rise in older set

    The use of illicit drugs has declined slightly over the last decade among teens but is growing more common in people over age 50. New data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that 23.9 million Americans over age 12 had used drugs in the previous month. Marijuana use is most common and rose from 5.8 to 7.3 percent of people over 12 from 2007 to 2012. The...

    11/23/2013 - 10:00 Biomedicine
  • It's Alive

    Fungal fight club

    Battles between mushrooms don’t make a sound, but they’re violent. “Good fighters can kill the less-good ones and take over their territories,” says mycologist Lynne Boddy of Cardiff University in Wales. “There are battles royal going on all the time.”

    Combat between fungal individuals is a bit like war between heaps of spaghetti. The main bodies of fungi are networks of long, thin...

    11/22/2013 - 16:45 Fungi
  • Screentime

    Cruise through a collider

    The doors to CERN, the particle physics lab near Geneva where the Higgs boson was discovered last year, are closed to most folks. But the researchers there let in a team from Google Maps Street View, and now anyone can tour the Large Hadron Collider and other CERN experiments in 360-degree photo panoramas online.

    Virtual visitors can “walk” through a tunnel housing part of the collider’s...

    11/22/2013 - 12:30 Physics, Particle Physics
  • Say What?


    A newly discovered structure where mouth-puckering compounds called tannins form inside plant cells. Plants from oak trees to corn make tannins, which discourage nibbling insects and reduce damage from UV light. Tannosomes are tiny organelles that arise in chloroplasts, structures that capture light energy. There, sacs of green pigment break into little spheres.

    The chloroplast membrane...

    11/20/2013 - 08:01 Plants
  • Science Visualized

    Solar explosion forms 'Canyon of Fire'

    Just when the sun was looking especially lethargic, a violent eruption left behind a vast chasm of superheated gas on the solar surface. On September 29–30, a searing filament of charged particles blasted away from the sun at more than 3 million kilometers per hour. The event left behind a scar that marks where the filament escaped into space. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this...

    11/17/2013 - 09:06 Astronomy
  • Reviews & Previews


    The challenge was to build a safe, mass-producible vehicle that can carry two people 100 miles using no more than the energy in a gallon of gas. In 2007, the X Prize Foundation offered $10 million to be shared by teams that could pull it off, and in 2010, three groups claimed the prize.

    Fagone, a journalist, chronicles the three-year scrum of engineering inspired by this bold...

    11/16/2013 - 11:06 Technology
  • Feature

    Science slowdown

    For two weeks in October, the largest maneuverable radio telescope in the world stood still. With the federal government shut down and the employees who control the Green Bank telescope on furlough, the research of astronomers around the world came to an abrupt halt.

    Astronomers Sheila Kannappan and David Stark of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had been allotted 80 hours...

    11/15/2013 - 15:01 Science & Society