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  • Experiences

    Hunting fossils in England

    As rain plopped onto our jackets, my tour group huddled against the side of the Lyme Regis Museum on the southwest coast of England, struggling to hear our fossil-hunting guide over the sound of wind and waves.

    “This is really the weather you want for fossil collecting,” said marine biologist Chris Andrew, the museum’s education director. “It lets the fossils wash down from the cliffs.”...

    01/21/2014 - 10:00 Paleontology
  • Science Stats

    Vaccine vindication

    View the slideshow

    At least 103 million cases of childhood disease have been prevented by vaccines since 1924, according to a new survey tracking reports of 56 diseases back to 1888.

    Within five years of introducing the measles vaccine, 95 percent of cases were prevented. Some diseases have seen recent resurgences as parents delay or skip immunizations for their children;...

    01/20/2014 - 16:50 Health
  • It's Alive

    Sperm on a stick for springtails

    For springtails, sex can be an Easter egg hunt. Many males of the tiny soil organisms sustain their species by leaving drops of sperm glistening here and there in the landscape in case a female chooses to pick one up.

    “The male never meets the female,” says Zaira Valentina Zizzari of VU University Amsterdam, who studies a species of these extreme loners called Orchesella cincta. Just...

    01/19/2014 - 20:23 Animals
  • Mystery Solved

    Transfixing tetrahedrons

    As a whirling dervish spins, his long skirt can form mesmerizing shapes such as a three-faced pyramid that rotates more slowly than its wearer. Dervishes are Sufi Muslims who represent the revolving heavens with their spinning dance, and it turns out the dance also mirrors the physics of a spinning Earth.

    The flowing shapes made by a dervish’s skirt, physicists have discovered, depend on...

    01/17/2014 - 09:30 Physics
  • Reviews & Previews

    Life at the Speed of Light

    Biology has come a long way from the days of mixing things in petri dishes and hoping something interesting happens. In his new book, Venter introduces readers to a future of precise biological engineering, guided by DNA and targeted to create life forms never before thought possible.

    Venter has the scientific chops to back up these claims. His first book related the story of how he...

    01/16/2014 - 10:20 Genetics
  • Screentime

    Tracking fireballs for science

    Watching a meteor race across the night sky is a romantic experience. And now it can be a scientific one as well. The new Fireballs in the Sky app lets you track fiery objects and enter them into a research database.

    Scientists at Curtin University in Australia are tracking fireballs (meteors that are very large and bright) using cameras across Australia in a project called the Desert...

    01/14/2014 - 11:27 Science & Society, Astronomy
  • Science Visualized

    Bladderwort opens wide

    Under a microscope, the tiny trap of a carnivorous plant becomes an impressive gaping maw. Rootless and adrift in its wetland habitat, the humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba) preys on water fleas and other small invertebrates. Organisms that trip the plant’s sensory hairs are sucked inside bladderlike traps to be digested.

    Neurobiologist Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical...

    01/12/2014 - 11:45 Plants
  • “Black holes” in space

    Space may be peppered with “black holes.” This was suggested at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Cleveland by astronomers and physicists who are experts on what are called degenerate stars…. Degenerate stars are made of densely packed electrons and nuclei, or cores of atoms…. Because a degenerate star is so dense, its gravitational field is very...
    01/11/2014 - 09:31 Astronomy
  • Feature

    The long and winding Colorado

    Standing on a mesa high above the town of Rifle, Colo., Andres Aslan is having a hard time staying quiet. The lanky geologist from nearby Colorado Mesa University normally speaks in a low-key professorial drone. But here, looking down at a sprawling river valley blazing with autumnal cottonwoods, his enthusiasm cranks up his volume. “This could be it,” says Aslan, gesticulating wildly. “This...

    01/10/2014 - 14:00 Earth, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Tomorrow’s catch

    There’s something fishy going on with Pacific sardines. The pint-size swimmers, whose abundance sustained California’s famed Cannery Row for decades, all but disappeared from coastal waters in the 1950s. Numbers remained low until the late 1980s, when enough fish finally reappeared to make commercial harvesting worthwhile again. By then, sardines in the highly productive California Current...

    01/10/2014 - 14:00 Numbers, Conservation