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  • News

    In a first, scientists spot what may be lungs in an ancient bird fossil

    ALBUQUERQUE — Fossilized lungs found preserved along with an ancient bird may breathe new life into studies of early avian respiration. If confirmed as lungs, the find marks the first time that researchers have spotted the respiratory organs in a bird fossil.

    Scientists have previously described four fossils of Archaeorhynchus spathula, an early beaked and feathered bird that lived about...

    10/19/2018 - 12:13 Paleontology
  • 50 years ago, the safety of artificial sweeteners was fiercely debated

    Safety challenged —

    Americans consume 8,000 tons of artificial sweeteners every year …confident that the chemical sweeteners are safe. Manufacturers insist that they are; the sugar industry … insists they are not.… [B]oth camps swamped FDA with detailed evidence pro and con. — Science News, October 26, 1968

    Update

    Let’s not sugarcoat it: The debate isn’t over. Fifty years ago,...

    10/19/2018 - 06:00 Nutrition, Health, Microbiology
  • News

    Artificial intelligence crowdsources data to speed up drug discovery

    A new cryptographic system could allow pharmaceutical companies and academic labs to work together to develop new medications more quickly — without revealing any confidential data to their competitors.

    The centerpiece of this computing system is an artificial intelligence program known as a neural network. The AI studies information about which drugs interact with various proteins in...

    10/18/2018 - 14:00 Artificial Intelligence, Biomedicine, Technology
  • News in Brief

    More tornadoes are popping up east of the Mississippi

    Twisters are twirling away from Tornado Alley.

    From 1979 to 2017, annual tornado frequency slightly decreased over the region, which stretches across the central and southern Great Plains of the United States, a study finds. Conversely, a higher number of storms touched down in areas east of the Mississippi River over the same period, researchers report October 17 in npj Climate and...

    10/18/2018 - 10:56 Climate
  • News

    The water system that helped Angkor rise may have also brought its fall

    At the medieval city of Angkor, flooding after decades of scant rainfall triggered a devastating breakdown of the largest water system in the preindustrial world, new evidence suggests.

    Intense monsoon rains bracketed by decades of drought in the 1400s set off a chain reaction of failures in Angkor’s interconnected water network, computer simulations indicate. The climate-induced...

    10/17/2018 - 14:00 Archaeology, Climate, Sustainability
  • News

    These ancient mounds may not be the earliest fossils on Earth after all

    Tiny mounds touted as the earliest fossilized evidence of life on Earth may just be twisted rock.

    Found in 3.7-billion-year-old rocks in Greenland, the mounds strongly resemble cone-shaped microbial mats called stromatolites, researchers reported in 2016. But a new analysis of the shape, internal layers and chemistry of the structures suggests that the mounds weren’t shaped by microbes...

    10/17/2018 - 13:00 Earth, Paleontology, Microbes
  • News

    What the electron’s near-perfect roundness means for new physics

    Electrons are still almost perfectly round, a new measurement shows. A more squished shape could hint at the presence of never-before-seen subatomic particles, so the result stymies the search for new physics.

    The electron gets its shape from the way that positive and negative charges are distributed inside the particle. The best theory for how particles behave, called the standard model...

    10/17/2018 - 13:00 Particle Physics
  • Science Visualized

    Dandelion seeds create a bizarre whirlpool in the air to fly

    When you’re essentially a little ball of floof, flying is hard.

    To ride the wind, dandelion seeds stir up a weird type of whirlpool in the air directly above them. The newly discovered way of moving through the air, described October 17 in Nature, resolves a long-standing question about how the seeds stay aloft.

    Dandelion seed flight is not unlike the flight of Mary Poppins:...

    10/17/2018 - 13:00 Biophysics, Plants
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers wonder about a hydrogen wall, pig lung transplants and more

    Wonderwall

    An ultraviolet glow spotted by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft may signal a hydrogen wall that separates the solar system from the rest of the Milky Way galaxy, Lisa Grossman reported in “New Horizons may have seen a glow at the solar system’s edge” (SN: 9/15/18, p. 10).

    Online reader RayRay wondered if researchers could see similar walls at the edges of other solar...

    10/17/2018 - 07:15 Astronomy, Biomedicine, Genetics
  • Editor's Note

    Waking up early to cover science’s biggest honor

    At 5:10 a.m. on October 1, news director Macon Morehouse walked into her kitchen, powered on her computer and hit “start” on the coffeemaker she had preloaded the night before. It was game day for the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, and she wanted to be ready when the announcement came from Stockholm, six time zones away.

    It’s a ritual we follow every year at Science News;...

    10/17/2018 - 07:00 Science & Society