Barn owl ears age well. Unlike other animals, the birds don’t suffer from hearing loss as a hallmark of aging, a new study suggests.
Beyond people, age-related hearing loss has been documented in mice, gerbils and chinchillas. Those deficits are linked to deterioration of the tiny hair cells that line the sensory layer of the eardrum. But some evidence hints that birds may not suffer...
The Science Life
Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers on the market are intentionally brewed with yeast scavenged from nature, rather than the carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast used in most commercial beers.
Matthew Bochman is in on the action. By day, he’s a biochemist at Indiana University Bloomington who studies how cells keep their DNA intact. On the side, he can be found...
To the residents of Donora, Pa., a mill town in a crook of the Monongahela River, the daily haze from nearby zinc and steel plants was the price of keeping their families fed. But on October 27, 1948, the city awoke to an unusually sooty sky, even for Donora. The next day, the high school quarterbacks couldn’t see their teammates well enough to complete a single pass.
The town was...
Microbes are pushing glacial snow into the red.
An algae species that grows on glaciers gives the snow a crimson hue, which increases the amount of sunlight that the snow soaks up and makes it melt faster, new measurements confirm. On Alaska’s Harding Icefield, these microbes are responsible for about a sixth of the snowmelt in algae-tinged areas, researchers report September 18 in...
When it comes to some oddball fish, looks can be deceiving.
Polypterus, today found only in Africa, and its close kin have generally been considered some of the most primitive ray-finned fishes alive, thanks in part to skeletal features that resemble those on some ancient fish. Now a new analysis of fish fossils of an early polypterid relative called Fukangichthys unearthed in China...
Empty space might feel hot to a traveler zipping through at a rapidly increasing clip — or so some physicists predict. And a new experiment provides a hint that they might be right.
That idea, known as the Unruh effect, seems to be supported by an analogous effect that appears in a tank of rippling water. Patterns in the waves, when analyzed as if seen by an accelerating observer, appear...
Reviews & Previews
Big ChickenMaryn McKennaNational Geographic, $27
Journalist Maryn McKenna opens Big Chicken by teasing our taste buds with a description of the succulent roasted chickens she bought at an open-air market in Paris. The birds tasted nothing like the bland, uniform chicken offered at U.S. grocery stores. This meat had an earthy, lush, animal flavor. From this tantalizing oh-so-European...
Tiny balls of melanin could someday paint the rainbow. They’re one of the key ingredients in a new way to craft a spectrum of structural colors — hues created when light interacts with special nanostructures.
Structural colors are a longer-lasting alternative to chemical pigments, which lose all pizazz when they break down. Examples of durable hues abound in nature. For instance, many...
Finding a great glue is a sticky task — especially if you want it to attach to something as slick as the inside of the human body. Even the strongest human-made adhesives don’t work well on wet surfaces like tissues and organs. For surgeons closing internal incisions, that’s more than an annoyance. The right glue could hold wounds together as effectively as stitches and staples with less...
PASADENA, Calif. — Cassini went down fighting.
After 20 years in space and 13 years orbiting Saturn, the veteran spacecraft spent its last 90 seconds or so firing its thrusters as hard as it could to keep sending Saturnian secrets back to Earth for as long as possible.
The spacecraft entered Saturn’s atmosphere at about 3:31 a.m. PDT on September 15 and immediately began running...