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Your search has returned 155 articles:
  • Science Visualized

    How math helps explain the delicate patterns of dragonfly wings

    The dainty veins gracing the wings of dragonflies and other insects are like fingerprints: Each wing displays a distinct pattern. A randomized mathematical process may help explain how certain thin filaments, called secondary veins, form these complex patterns, a new study finds.

    Insect wings consist of two types of veins, both of which provide structural support (SN: 6/24/17, p. 5)....

    09/23/2018 - 08:00 Animals, Biophysics
  • Reviews & Previews

    Smart plants can teach us a thing or two

    The Revolutionary Genius of PlantsStefano MancusoAtria Books, $30

    More than 200 years ago, French botanist René Desfontaines instructed a student to monitor the behavior of Mimosa pudica plants as he drove them around Paris in a carriage. Mimosa pudica quickly closes its leaves when touched — presumably as a defense mechanism. Desfontaines was interested in the plants’ response to...

    09/18/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Evolution, Biophysics
  • 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