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  • News

    Power from heat

    The thermoelectric effect can produce small amounts of electricity from almost any source of heat, but its low efficiency has so far limited its uses. A team has now found a simple way to make one thermoelectric alloy more efficient.

    When two ends of a stick of a thermoelectric material are exposed to different temperatures, a voltage appears. The electrons in the stick act like the...

    03/26/2008 - 11:25 Technology
  • News

    Floral Shocker: Blooms shake roots of flowering-plant family

    Imagine discovering a mammal without mammary glands or an insect with eight legs. Aquatic herbs in the genus Hydatella pose a similar paradox—they lack a defining developmental feature of flowering plants, raising questions about their evolution and rampant speciation during the past 135 million years.

    Evolutionary biologists group together organisms that share unique traits,...

    03/19/2008 - 13:25 Plants
  • Science & the Public

    The Costs of Meat and Fish

    “Can Meat and Fish Consumption Be Sustainable?” That’s the provocative title of a press release just sent to us by the Worldwatch Institute, a small but by now venerable think tank that focuses on natural resource issues.

    It’s also the theme of a chapter in Worldwatch’s 2008 State of the World report, its 25th annual book-length analysis of resource...

    03/13/2008 - 12:21 Earth & Environment, Nutrition, Humans & Society
  • Feature

    Nurturing Our Microbes

    Each of us is a metropolis. Bustling about in everyone's body are tens of trillions of microbes. Some are descended from starter populations provided by mom during birth. Additional bacteria, yeasts, and other life forms hitchhike in with foods. By age 3, everyone's gut hosts a fairly stable, yet diverse, ecosystem.

    Most of the tiny stowaways hide out in the...

    02/26/2008 - 12:45 Biomedicine
  • News

    Wish List: FY '09 budget proposal ups physical sciences

    On Feb. 4, President Bush announced his proposed research and development (R&D) spending blueprint for 2009. It echoed his embattled plan from last year.

    Federal support for R&D, totaling $146.9 billion, would pump up funds for physical sciences but not for biomedical research. Last year, Congress overrode those priorities, and analysts predict a similar fight this year...

    02/06/2008 - 13:09 Humans & Society
  • News

    Fabulon: Looking less fabulous

    Researchers have tentatively linked polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in people—and their dwellings—with Fabulon, a product used throughout the late 1950s and 1960s as a durable top coat for hardwood floors.

    During a survey of 120 homes on Cape Cod, Mass., researchers found two houses with unusually high PCB concentrations in air and house dust. Residents in both homes remembered a...

    01/30/2008 - 10:27 Earth & Environment
  • News

    Energy forest

    Thickets of microscopic silicon wires can dramatically boost the storage capacity of batteries, at least in the lab.

    Lithium-ion batteries power most modern portable gadgets. During use, lithium ions detach from carbon sheets in an anode and migrate to a cathode. During recharge, the lithium ions make the opposite trip.

    A carbon anode can accommodate about one lithium ion for...

    01/08/2008 - 14:56 Technology
  • News

    Tiptoe acrobats get it just right

    If walking on water takes grace, jumping on it requires exquisite care.

    Water striders spend most of their lives on a water surface, typically that of a pond. Microscopic hairs, coated with a waxy substance, make the striders' long legs extremely water-repellent, enabling the bugs to rest on water as if the surface were a rubber membrane.

    As the name implies, water striders are...

    12/26/2007 - 14:36 Physics
  • Food for Thought

    It's Spud Time

    As 2007 winds down, thoughts naturally turn towards what might lie ahead. Meals rich in high-carb tubers, perhaps? That's what the United Nations would like everyone to contemplate throughout 2008, which it is designating the International Year of the Potato.

    Farmers now harvest more than 300 million tons of potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) worldwide. That makes it the fourth biggest food...

    12/18/2007 - 18:43 Nutrition
  • Feature

    Lettuce Liability

    Little more than a year ago, supermarkets from coast to coast stripped fresh spinach from produce aisles as a food-poisoning outbreak swept the nation. From mid-August through September 2006, virulent bacterial infections sickened at least 204 spinach consumers. Five died and 30 others suffered acute kidney failure.

    Among more than 3,500 genetically unique...

    12/03/2007 - 19:41 Agriculture