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  • News

    This is the slowest radioactive decay ever spotted

    For the first time, researchers have directly observed an exotic type of radioactive decay called two-neutrino double electron capture.

    The decay, seen in xenon-124 atoms, happens so sparingly that it would take 18 sextillion years (18 followed by 21 zeros) for a sample of xenon-124 to shrink by half, making the decay extremely difficult to detect. The long-anticipated observation of two...

    04/24/2019 - 13:00 Particle Physics, Physics, Chemistry
  • News

    A neural implant can translate brain activity into sentences

    To communicate, people unable to talk often rely on small eye movements to spell out words, a painstakingly slow process. Now, using signals picked up by a brain implant, scientists have pulled entire sentences from the brain.

    Some of these reconstructed words, spoken aloud by a virtual vocal cord, are a little garbled. But overall, the sentences are understandable, researchers from the...

    04/24/2019 - 13:00 Health, Neuroscience
  • Science Visualized

    See beautiful fossils from top Cambrian sites around the world

    For most of the nearly 3.5 billion years of documented life on Earth, creatures were simple, dominated by organisms such as bacteria, algae and fungi (SN: 10/13/18, p. 10).

    Then, beginning about 541 million years ago, life quickly diversified into an array of new, complex forms. This flourishing, called the Cambrian explosion, took place within about 25 million years. Fossils from the...

    04/24/2019 - 07:00 Evolution
  • News in Brief

    NASA’s Mars InSight lander may have the first recording of a Marsquake

    Let’s get ready to rumble: NASA may have just captured the first recording of an earthquake on Mars. On April 6, the Mars InSight lander’s seismometer recorded a short series of howls, grumbles and pings. One of those sounds — a grumble — is probably a Marsquake, representing the first recorded sound from the interior of the Red Planet, scientists say.

    The recording, released by NASA...

    04/23/2019 - 17:59 Planetary Science
  • News

    Medicaid expansion may help shrink health gaps between black and white babies

    Black babies in the United States are twice as likely as white infants to be born at low birth weight, and 1.5 times as likely to be born prematurely. But states that expanded Medicaid health care coverage as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act may be shrinking that racial health gap, a study finds.

    Researchers analyzed birth certificate data in 18 states plus Washington, D.C., that had...

    04/23/2019 - 11:05 Human Development, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘An Elegant Defense’ explores the immune system’s softer side

    An Elegant DefenseMatt RichtelWilliam Morrow, $28.99

    We like to think of the immune system as our own personal military, ready to attack foreign invaders. Slice your finger, and immune cells rush in to destroy rogue pathogens.

    But it’s misleading to think of the immune system as solely a war machine. It must also keep the peace, assessing each threat and, in many cases,...

    04/23/2019 - 08:00 Immune Science, History of Science
  • Feature

    How an obscure sexually transmitted parasite tangos with the immune system

    Frances Mercer runs a fight club.

    In one corner, the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, which causes a widespread sexually transmitted infection that many people have never heard of. In the other corner are neutrophils, the immune system cells best equipped to take down the aggressor.

    Watching the two battle it out, Mercer, an immunoparasitologist at California State Polytechnic...

    04/23/2019 - 06:00 Biomedicine
  • News in Brief

    Mercury has a massive solid inner core

    The smallest planet in our solar system has a massive solid inner core.

    In its final trip around Mercury before crash-landing in 2015, NASA’s MESSENGER mission zoomed in close to the planet, enabling scientists to make detailed measurements of its gravity, spin and internal structure. Those data, researchers report April 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, suggest Mercury has a solid...

    04/22/2019 - 09:58 Planetary Science
  • News in Brief

    Ancient sculptors made magnetic figures from rocks struck by lightning

    People living at least 2,000 years ago near the Pacific Coast of what’s now Guatemala crafted massive human sculptures with magnetized foreheads, cheeks and navels. New research provides the first detailed look at how these sculpted body parts were intentionally placed within magnetic fields on large rocks.

    Lightning strikes probably magnetized sections of boulders that were later carved...

    04/22/2019 - 08:00 Archaeology
  • News

    The M87 black hole image showed the best way to measure black hole masses

    The measure of a black hole is what it does with its stars.

    That’s one lesson astronomers are taking from the first-ever picture of a black hole, released on April 10 by an international telescope team (SN Online: 4/10/19). That image confirmed that the mass of the supermassive black hole in the center of galaxy M87 is close to what astronomers expected from how nearby stars orbit —...

    04/22/2019 - 06:00 Physics, Astronomy