Letters to the Editor
Tarantulas evolved a blue hue at least eight times, but scientists aren’t yet sure what purpose the coloration serves, Susan Milius wrote in “Tarantula blue is no accident” (SN: 1/9/16, p. 4). In the article, spider researcher Bor-Kai Hsiung wonders if, for example, the blue might scare away predators or attract insects.
More than one reader wanted to...
“Up till now, we’ve been deaf to gravitational waves,” said David Reitze. “But today, we are able to hear them.”02/24/2016 - 09:00 Cosmology, Science & Society
It was one of many inspiring quotes from the news conference announcing the historic first direct detection of gravitational waves, the spacetime tremors forecast by Albert Einstein 100 years ago. Andrew Grant reported the announcement, which described the cosmic shake-up...
In a multivirus competition, a newcomer came out on top for its ability to transport genetic cargo to a mouse’s brain cells. The engineered virus AAV-PHP.B was best at delivering a gene that instructed Purkinje cells, the dots in the micrograph above, to take on a whitish glow. Unaffected surrounding cells in the mouse cerebellum look blue. Cargo carried by viruses like AAV-PHP.B could one day...
The Science Life
Sonia Vallabh knows what will probably kill her.
In 2011, the Boston-area law school graduate learned she carries the same genetic mutation that caused her mother’s death from a rare brain-wasting prion disease. Prions are twisted forms of normal brain proteins that clump together and destroy nerves. About 10 to 15 percent of prion diseases are caused by a mutation in the PRNP gene,...
Reviews & Previews
Early in the spring of 1980, immense and inexorable forces were roiling the Pacific Northwest. Oh, and one of the region’s most active volcanoes was getting ready to blow its top.
In Eruption, science writer Steve Olson goes well beyond recounting Mount St. Helens’ geologic awakening, deadly explosion and aftermath. This...
Reviews & Previews
The Prodigy’s CousinJoanne Ruthsatz and Kimberly StephensCurrent, $2802/19/2016 - 09:00 Psychology, Health, Human Development
In 1998, Joanne Ruthsatz traveled to Louisiana to meet a 6-year-old musical genius. Ruthsatz, a graduate student at the time, hoped to evaluate the boy as part of her work “unearthing the inner workings of the prodigy mind.” While taking a break from testing her subject, Ruthsatz met the boy’s cousin — a nonverbal...
Plutonium’s 25th year — The 25th anniversary of the discovery of plutonium was celebrated in February…. Plutonium, a highly radioactive metallic element, is made by bombarding uranium with neutrons…. The nuclear energy released by the fissioning of one pound of plutonium is equal to the explosive effect of 20 million pounds of TNT.… Plutonium is now emerging as the nuclear energy source...
WASHINGTON — Stem cells with memory may improve a powerful new type of cancer therapy.
Recently, scientists have engineered cells from a patient’s own immune system to fight blood cancers. The treatment with the engineered immune cells, called CAR-T cell therapy, may work even better if doctors transplant a subset of immune cells known as memory T cells, researchers reported February 14...
News in Brief
WASHINGTON — Scientists are getting a clearer picture of how ancient Egyptians painted lifelike portraits that were buried with mummies of the depicted individuals. These paintings sharply departed from Egyptians’ previous, simpler artworks and were among the first examples of modern Western portraits, archaeologist and materials scientist Marc Walton reported February 14 at the annual meeting...
News in Brief
WASHINGTON — Tiny orbs of brain cells swirling in lab dishes may offer scientists a better way to study the complexities of the human brain. Toxicologist Thomas Hartung described these minibrains, grown from stem cells derived from people’s skin cells, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Insights from experiments on animals are often...