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  • News in Brief

    Here’s how clumps of honeybees may survive blowing in the wind

    A stiff breeze is no match for a clump of honeybees, and now scientists are beginning to understand why.

    When scouting out a new home, the bees tend to cluster together on tree branches or other surfaces, forming large, hanging clumps which help keep the insects safe from the elements. To keep the clump together, individual honeybees change their positions, fine-tuning the cluster’s...

    09/17/2018 - 11:00 Biophysics
  • News

    Soaring spiders may get cues from electric charges in the air

    Spiders may lack wings, but they aren’t confined to the ground. Under the right conditions, some spider species will climb to a high point, release silk strands to form a parachute, and float away on the breeze. Buoyed by air currents, they’ve been known to drift kilometers above Earth’s surface, and even to cross oceans to reach new habitats (SN: 2/4/17, p. 12).

    Now, new research...

    07/05/2018 - 16:48 Animals, Biophysics
  • Feature

    Meet the speedsters of the plant world

    Somewhere in the wetlands of South Carolina, a buzzing fly alights on a rosy-pink surface. As the fly explores the strange scenery, it unknowingly brushes a small hair sticking up like a slender sword. Strolling along, the fly accidentally grazes another hair. Suddenly, the pink surface closes in from both sides, snapping shut like a pair of ravenous jaws. The blur of movement lasts only a...

    05/16/2018 - 12:11 Plants, Biophysics, Physics
  • Science Visualized

    See (and hear) the stunning diversity of bowhead whales’ songs

    In the pitch-black waters beneath the Arctic ice, bowhead whales get funky. A small population of endangered bowheads belt an unusually varied repertoire of songs, which grows more diverse during mating season.

    Hunted to near extinction in the 1600s, these fire truck–sized mammals now number in the 300s in the frigid waters around the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Underwater audio...

    04/30/2018 - 07:00 Animals, Biophysics, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    These hummingbirds aim their singing tail feathers to wow mates

    There’s more subtlety than humans have realized in dropping out of the sky so fast your tail feathers sing.

    Male Costa’s hummingbirds in western North America are masters of the tail-screaming courtship plunge. Acoustic cameras recorded these repeated stunts and revealed that, as the male whooshes down, he twists half of his tail sideways, says ornithologist Christopher J. Clark of the...

    04/12/2018 - 12:39 Animals, Biophysics
  • News

    Colorful moth wings date back to the dinosaur era

    Tiny light-scattering structures that give today’s butterflies and moths their brilliant hues date back to the days of the dinosaurs.

    Fossilized mothlike insects from the Jurassic Period bear textured scales on their forewings that could display iridescent colors, researchers report April 11 in Science Advances. The fossils are the earliest known examples of insects displaying structural...

    04/11/2018 - 14:14 Paleontology, Biophysics, Animals
  • News in Brief

    Why cracking your knuckles can be so noisy

    “Pop” goes the knuckle — but why?

    Scientists disagree over why cracking your knuckles makes noise. Now, a new mathematical explanation suggests the sound results from the partial collapse of tiny gas bubbles in the joints’ fluid.

    Most explanations of knuckle noise involve bubbles, which form under the low pressures induced by finger manipulations that separate the joint. While some...

    03/29/2018 - 09:00 Biophysics
  • News in Brief

    Live heart cells make this material shift color like a chameleon

    To craft a new color-switching material, scientists have again taken inspiration from one of nature’s masters of disguise: the chameleon.

    Thin films made of heart cells and hydrogel change hues when the films shrink or stretch, much like chameleon skin. This material, described online March 28 in Science Robotics, could be used to test new medications or possibly to build camouflaging...

    03/28/2018 - 14:00 Materials, Biophysics, Technology
  • News

    Earwigs take origami to extremes to fold their wings

    To quickly unfurl and refold their wings, earwigs stretch the rules of origami.

    Yes, those garden pests that scurry out from under overturned flowerpots can also fly. Because earwigs spend most of their time underground and only occasionally take to the air, they pack their wings into packages with a surface area more than 10 times smaller than when unfurled, using an origami-like series...

    03/22/2018 - 14:10 Biophysics, Animals, Materials, Robotics
  • News in Brief

    These petunias launch seeds that spin 1,660 times a second

    Nature may have a few things to teach tennis players about backspin.

    The hairyflower wild petunia (Ruellia ciliatiflora) shoots seeds that spin up to 1,660 times per second, which helps them fly farther, researchers report March 7 in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. These seeds have the fastest known rotations of any plant or animal, the authors say. Plants that disperse seeds a...

    03/06/2018 - 19:06 Plants, Biophysics