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  • News in Brief

    Only a third of Earth’s longest rivers still run free

    Free-flowing rivers are an endangered species on Earth. Only about a third of the world’s longest rivers still flow freely along their entire lengths, unchained by dams or reservoirs, scientists report in the May 9 Nature.

    The study is the first global map of river “connectivity,” the ability of river water to move freely downstream, across floodplains and into and out of aquifers...

    05/10/2019 - 07:00 Earth, Climate
  • Feature

    The search for new geologic sources of lithium could power a clean future

    The future of lithium is electrifying. Cars and trucks powered by lithium batteries rather than fossil fuels are, to many people, the future of transportation. Rechargeable lithium batteries are also crucial for storing energy produced by solar and wind power, clean energy sources that are a beacon of hope for a world worried about the rapidly changing global climate.

    Prospecting for new...

    05/07/2019 - 14:09 Earth, Technology, Sustainability
  • News

    A belly full of wriggling worms makes wood beetles better recyclers

    Having hundreds of roundworms living inside your abdomen may seem like a bad thing. But for horned passalus beetles, hosting wriggly nematode larvae may benefit them and the eastern U.S. forests they live in.

    Beetles that harbor Chondronema passali larvae eat more rotting wood than beetles without the larvae, researchers report May 1 in Biology Letters. That increased decomposition could...

    05/07/2019 - 07:00 Earth, Ecology, Animals
  • News

    Dry sand can bubble and swirl like a fluid

    Under the right conditions, sand can flow. When heavier grains are placed atop lighter grains in a container, the less dense grains can burble upward like the blobs of a lava lamp, a study finds.

    The research is the first to show how the mixing of sand grains can mimic how fluids flow. But even when grainy particles, such as sand or mud, behave like fluids, the underlying forces that...

    04/30/2019 - 14:21 Earth
  • News

    Here’s what causes the aurora-like glow known as STEVE

    We’re one step closer to understanding the mysterious atmospheric light show called STEVE.

    Short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, STEVE is an unusual type of sky glow that appears closer to the equator than auroras (SN: 4/14/18, p. 5). Unlike the shimmery green ribbons that make up the northern lights, STEVE consists of a mauve band of light that stretches east to west,...

    04/30/2019 - 07:00 Physics, Earth
  • News

    More than a million tiny earthquakes revealed in Southern California

    In between the “big ones,” millions of tiny, undetected earthquakes rumble through the ground. Now, a new study uncovers a decade’s worth of such “hidden” quakes in Southern California, increasing the number of quakes logged in the region tenfold. Such troves of quake data could shake up what’s known about how temblors are born belowground, and how they can interact and trigger one another,...

    04/18/2019 - 14:00 Earth
  • Science Visualized

    Warm, dry winds may be straining Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf

    Turquoise pools of snowmelt on the Antarctic Peninsula, including on the Larsen C ice shelf, have recently been forming months after the continent’s peak summer melt. Bursts of warm, dry wind cascading over mountains that run along the peninsula are largely to blame, researchers report April 11 in Geophysical Research Letters. In this March 2016 satellite image, meltwater on part of Larsen C...

    04/18/2019 - 06:00 Earth, Climate, Oceans
  • News

    Antarctica’s iceberg graveyard could reveal the ice sheet’s future

    Just beyond the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula lies an iceberg graveyard. 

    There, in the Scotia Sea, many of the icebergs escaping from Antarctica begin to melt, depositing sediment from the continent that had been trapped in the ice onto the seafloor. Now, a team of researchers has embarked on a two-month expedition to excavate the deposited debris, hoping to discover secrets from the...

    04/09/2019 - 09:00 Climate, Oceans, Earth
  • News

    How deadly, fast-moving flows of volcanic rock and gas cheat friction

    Dumping literal tons of hot volcanic material down a lab flume may finally have revealed how searing mixtures of hot gas and rock travel so far from volcanic eruptions.

    These pyroclastic flows can travel tens to hundreds of kilometers over rough terrain and even uphill (SN: 7/7/18, p. 32). Despite being made of gritty volcanic rock, “they seem to have as much friction with the ground as...

    04/08/2019 - 11:00 Earth, Physics
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers seek answers to stories about shingles, Neandertal spears and more

    Life after shingles

    In “With its burning grip, shingles can do lasting damage” (SN: 3/2/19, p. 22), Aimee Cunningham described the experience of Nora Fox, a woman whose bout with shingles nearly 15 years ago left her with a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia. Fox hadn’t found any reliable treatments, Cunningham reported.

    Fox praised Science News for our portrayal of...

    04/07/2019 - 07:00 Health, Anthropology, Earth