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  • Science Visualized

    The gene sequencing future is here

    As recently as the 1980s, scientists collected genetic data by laboriously tracking the diffusion of DNA molecules through slabs of gel. Now researchers stand by as machines gush billions of letters of DNA code a day, and struggle to cope with the data deluge.

    In the past two decades, the speed of sequencing has leapt from around 10,000 bases per day per machine to more than 1 billion (...

    02/06/2014 - 08:29 Technology
  • Mars ‘air’ found thinner

    The atmosphere on Mars is as thin as the earthly air 15 miles above the surface, the American Meteorological Society meeting in Los Angeles was told. Martian “air” is mostly nitrogen, with a little carbon dioxide and traces of oxygen and water vapor, unlike that on earth. The Martian atmosphere has now been found to be about a third as dense as previously believed. The finding has forced...

    02/04/2014 - 09:00 Planetary Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    Eye in the sky

    As many a medieval castle-builder knew, the view from above is a privileged one.

    Now, with its free Images of Change iPad app and online gallery, NASA makes the aerial perspective available to all, with results both stunning and disturbing.

    For several decades, the agency’s Earth-observing satellites have been capturing dramatic views of land-changing events such as fires,...

    02/03/2014 - 08:53 Earth, Climate
  • It's Alive

    Disco clams put on a streak show

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    Blow a kiss. Then pinch your lips into a thin line. Now alternate kiss and pinch several times a second for a pathetic, low-wattage human attempt at mimicking a disco clam.

    Scuba divers call Ctenoides ales the disco or electric clam because the restless, curling lips of its mantle flash bright streaks. “It’s very vivid and very dramatic,” says Lindsey Dougherty of...

    01/31/2014 - 09:20 Animals, Biophysics
  • Science Stats

    Smoking equality

    A study of tobacco smoking patterns reports that more men than women smoke in every country except Sweden. In some nations, the smoking disparity between the sexes is large. But smoking is on the rise among women in some countries, especially in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The biggest increases in smoking among women from 1980 to 2012 were in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and...

    01/30/2014 - 14:00 Health
  • Mystery Solved

    Synchronous birth

    For young banded mongoose moms, there’s only one choice for when to give birth — the same day as older, dominant mothers. In communities of these cat-sized animals, all females give birth together, no matter when they became pregnant.

    It’s in the subordinate mongoose’s best interest to synchronize labor to give her young their best chance at survival, researchers now report. When...

    01/30/2014 - 10:18 Animals
  • Feature

    Grape expectations

    Antonio Busalacchi knows quality wine. As a sommelier, his educated palate can discern the oak undertones or mineral accents of a wine — flavors that elude most wine drinkers. He picks up on other nuances too. One sip of deep, inky purple, and he can distinguish the jammy, syrup-ripe fruit flavor of a shiraz grown in a warm climate from the lean olive notes of a syrah, made from the same grape...

    01/24/2014 - 14:50 Climate, Ecosystems
  • Feature

    Life’s early traces

    Western Australia’s Pilbara region isn’t known for its hospitality to life. Dry creek beds carve paths through dusty red earth, and razor-sharp grasses cover the area’s low hills. In this place with record-setting heat and months of minimal rainfall, hardy plants and animals eke out an existence.

    But the Pilbara may have been prime real estate for the planet’s earliest complex life-forms...

    01/24/2014 - 14:50 Earth, Evolution
  • Society News

    Forty finalists selected in 2014 Intel Science Talent Search

    Teen researchers from 14 states have made it to the final phase of the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search, securing a chance to earn a grand prize of $100,000 and share in awards totaling $630,000.

    The 40 young scientists will visit Washington, D.C., March 6–12 to tour the White House and other national landmarks, present their research to judges and the public in a poster session at the...

    01/22/2014 - 07:00 Science & Society
  • News

    V-flying birds pick efficient flapping pattern

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    A bird migrating with others in a V formation turns out to be a master of the well-timed flap, able to match the up-and-down path traced by the wing tip of the bird in front of it. 

    Fighter pilots know the benefits of flying in a V formation. Wings create a vortex of whooshing air trailing from their tips, and a rearward plane that keeps one of its wing tips in a...

    01/15/2014 - 13:37 Biophysics, Animals