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  • Context

    Murray Gell-Mann gave structure to the subatomic world

    In Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Iris (played in the movie version by Glenn Close) tells Roy Hobbs that we all have two lives, “the life we learn with and the life we live with after that.”

    Murray Gell-Mann, the Nobel laureate physicist who died Friday, May 24, at age 89, also lived two lives. But both were spent learning — about how the world works.

    In his first life Gell-Mann...

    05/24/2019 - 17:09 History of Science, Physics
  • News

    Shy fish no bigger than a pinkie provide much of the food in coral reefs

    Nervous little fishes that divers rarely notice could be unexpectedly important to coral reefs. A new study finds that nearly 60 percent of the fish flesh that feeds bigger fishes and other predators on a reef comes from tiny fishes that stick close to crevices and other hiding places.

    These tiny species, called cryptobenthic fishes, may not look as if they amount to much among all the...

    05/24/2019 - 13:46 Animals, Ecology
  • News

    Mathematicians report possible progress on proving the Riemann hypothesis

    Researchers have made what might be new headway toward a proof of the Riemann hypothesis, one of the most impenetrable problems in mathematics. The hypothesis, proposed 160 years ago, could help unravel the mysteries of prime numbers.

    Mathematicians made the advance by tackling a related question about a group of expressions known as Jensen polynomials, they report May 21 in Proceedings...

    05/24/2019 - 12:03 Numbers
  • News

    Being bilingual is great. But it may not boost some brain functions

    Advantages of speaking a second language are obvious: easier logistics when traveling, wider access to great literature and, of course, more people to talk with. Some studies have also pointed to the idea that polyglots have stronger executive functioning skills, brain abilities such as switching between tasks and ignoring distractions.

    But a large study of bilingual children in the U.S...

    05/24/2019 - 07:00 Health, Neuroscience
  • News

    Big black holes can settle in the outskirts of small galaxies

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Big galaxies like the Milky Way have correspondingly big black holes. But small galaxies might have massive ones, too. A new survey picked up dozens of massive black hole candidates in diminutive dwarf galaxies.

    Surprisingly, some of those potential black holes aren’t at their galaxy’s center, but instead appear to roam the outskirts, astronomer Amy Reines said May 20...

    05/23/2019 - 10:57 Physics, Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Spherical flames in space could solve the mystery of soot-free fires

    Solving this burning question requires starting fires in space.

    Ongoing experiments on the International Space Station could help resolve a scientific debate about why some fires burn without producing soot. Made of carbon particles created when fuel fails to burn completely, soot is a pollutant. The particles are linked to health issues, including cancer (SN: 8/4/07, p. 69), and...

    05/23/2019 - 09:00 Physics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    Sweaty, vinegary and sweet odors mingle to make dark chocolate’s smell

    Scientists have sniffed out the chemicals that give some dark chocolates their smell.

    The compounds that mingle to make the candy’s aroma include pleasant-smelling ones such as vanillin, which gives vanilla its smell, and flowery linalool. But other molecules produce smoky or vinegary odors and even one that smells like sweat, researchers report online May 8 in the Journal of...

    05/23/2019 - 07:00 Chemistry
  • News

    Faulty cellular antennae may cause a heart valve disorder

    Cells with faulty antennae that can’t get their signals straight may be behind a common heart valve disorder.

    Newborn mice engineered to develop a flawed heart valve had stunted primary cilia in cells that help to form the valve during development, researchers report online May 22 in Science Translational Medicine.

    The heart valve disorder, called mitral valve prolapse, “is...

    05/22/2019 - 14:00 Health
  • News

    Emissions of a banned ozone-destroying chemical have been traced to China

    China has continued producing an ozone-destroying chemical called CFC-11 in violation of an international agreement, an analysis of atmospheric gas finds.

    Air samples collected in South Korea and Japan suggest that eastern China emitted around 7,000 metric tons more trichlorofluoromethane a year from 2014 to 2017 than it did from 2008 to 2012. This boost in emissions explains a large...

    05/22/2019 - 13:00 Pollution, Chemistry
  • Soapbox

    A cognitive neuroscientist warns that the U.S. justice system harms teen brains

    A teenager’s brain does not magically mature into its reasoned, adult form the night before his or her 18th birthday. Instead, aspects of brain development stretch into a person’s 20s — a protracted fine-tuning with serious implications for young people caught in the U.S. justice system, argues cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey of Yale University.

    In the May 22 Neuron, Casey describes...

    05/22/2019 - 11:00 Health, Neuroscience, Science & Society