THE WOODLANDS, Texas — It’s been six months since NASA’s Cassini spacecraft plunged to its doom in the atmosphere of Saturn, but scientists didn’t spend much time mourning. They got busy, analyzing the spacecraft’s final data.
The Cassini mission ended September 15, 2017, after more than 13 years orbiting Saturn (SN Online: 9/15/17). The spacecraft’s final 22 orbits, dubbed the Grand...
As mice plumped up on a high-fat diet, some of their taste buds vanished. This disappearing act could explain why some people with obesity seem to have a weakened sense of taste, which may compel them to eat more.
Compared with siblings that were fed normal mouse chow, mice given high-fat meals lost about 25 percent of their taste buds over eight weeks. Buds went missing because mature...
The Science Life
Ask a classroom of children to draw a scientist, and you’ll see plenty of Crayola-colored lab coats, goggles and bubbling beakers. That image hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. But the person wearing the lab coat is shifting.
A new analysis finds that more female scientists have appeared in kids’ drawings in recent decades — going from nearly nonexistent in the 1960s to about a third...
The first known pedestrian fatality involving a fully autonomous self-driving car will most likely raise questions about the vehicles’ safety.
But “until we know what happened, we can’t really know what this incident means” for the future of self-driving vehicles, says Philip Koopman, a robotics safety expert at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Only when we know more about the...
There’s so much water on some of TRAPPIST-1’s seven Earth-sized planets that any life lurking there might be difficult to detect.
New estimates of the makeup of these potentially habitable worlds suggests that two of them are more than half water, by mass, researchers report March 19 in Nature Astronomy. Earth, by comparison, is less than 0.1 percent water.
TRAPPIST-1’s planets are...
A new analysis is shedding light on drought in Mongolia, both past and future.
By studying the rings of semifossilized trees, researchers constructed a climate history for the semiarid Asian nation spanning the last 2,060 years — going 1,000 years further back than previous studies.
It was suspected that a harsh drought from about 2000 to 2010 that killed tens of thousands of...
View the trailer
“The strangest place in the whole universe might just be right here.” So says actor Will Smith, narrating the opening moments of a new documentary series about the wonderful unlikeliness of our own planet, Earth.
One Strange Rock, premiering March 26 on the National Geographic Channel, is itself a peculiar and unlikely creation. Executive produced by Academy Award–...
Tattoos may have staying power because of a hand off between generations of immune cells known as macrophages, say a group of French researchers.
If true, this would overturn notions that tattoo ink persists in connective tissue or in long-lasting macrophages.
Immunologist Sandrine Henri of the Immunology Center of Marseille-Luminy, in France, and colleagues tattooed mice tails...
Science & the Public
It certainly feels like the northeastern United States is getting snowier.
In the first two weeks of March, three winter storms slammed into the northeast corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Over the last decade, a flurry of extreme winter storms has struck the region, giving birth to clever portmanteau names such as Snowpocalypse (2009), Snowmageddon (2010) and Snowzilla (2016...
The existence of supermassive black holes in the early universe has never made much sense to astronomers. Sightings since 2006 have shown that gargantuan monsters with masses of at least a billion suns were already in place when the universe was less than a billion years old – far too early for them to have formed by conventional means.
One or two of these old massive objects could be...