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  • News

    Plants engineered to always be on alert don’t grow well

    A tiny weed that slithers up through sidewalk cracks is helping scientists understand the sacrifices that plants make to protect themselves from pests.

    Most plants combat insects and other herbivores by sending out bitter chemicals through their leaves. Now by studying thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a commonly found member of the mustard family, researchers found that energy spent...

    10/22/2018 - 16:09 Agriculture, Plants, Molecular Evolution
  • 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
  • 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
  • News

    In cadaver caves, baby beetles grow better with parental goo

    Growing up inside a dead mouse could really stink, but not for some burying beetles. Their parents’ gut microbes keep the cadaver fresh, creating a nursery where the larvae can thrive.

    What burying beetle parents can do with a small dead animal is remarkable, says coauthor Shantanu Shukla of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany.  “It looks different. It smells...

    10/15/2018 - 18:27 Animals, Microbes
  • News in Brief

    Add beer to the list of foods threatened by climate change

    Beer lovers could be left with a sour taste, thanks to the latest in a series of studies mapping the effects of climate change on crops.

    Malted barley — a key ingredient in beer including IPAs, stouts and pilsners — is particularly sensitive to warmer temperatures and drought, both of which are likely to increase due to climate change. As a result, average global barley crop yields could...

    10/15/2018 - 13:43 Agriculture, Climate
  • Science & the Public

    We’re probably undervaluing healthy lakes and rivers

    For sale: Pristine lake. Price negotiable.

    Most U.S. government attempts to quantify the costs and benefits of protecting the country’s bodies of water are likely undervaluing healthy lakes and rivers, researchers argue in a new study. That’s because some clean water benefits get left out of the analyses, sometimes because these benefits are difficult to pin numbers on. As a result, the...

    10/14/2018 - 08:00 Pollution, Science & Society
  • News

    Hundreds of dietary supplements are tainted with potentially harmful drugs

    From 2007 to 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration flagged nearly 800 over-the-counter dietary supplements as tainted with potentially harmful pharmaceutical drugs, a study shows. Fewer than half of those products were recalled by their makers, scientists found. 

    Researchers analyzed the FDA’s public database of tainted supplements, identifying both the type of contaminating...

    10/12/2018 - 14:29 Health
  • News

    Speeding up evolution to create useful proteins wins the chemistry Nobel

    Techniques that put natural evolution on fast-forward to build new proteins in the lab have earned three scientists this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry.

    Frances Arnold of Caltech won for her method of creating customized enzymes for biofuels, environmentally friendly detergents and other products. She becomes the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry since it was first awarded...

    10/03/2018 - 18:46 Chemistry, Microbiology
  • News

    Lemur study suggests why some fruits smell so fruity

    It’s a lovely notion, but tricky to prove. Still, lemurs sniffing around wild fruits in Madagascar are bolstering the idea that animal noses contributed to the evolution of aromas of fruity ripeness.

    The idea sounds simple, says evolutionary ecologist Omer Nevo of the University of Ulm in Germany. Plants can use mouth-watering scents to lure animals to eat fruits, and thus spread around...

    10/03/2018 - 14:12 Evolution, Plants, Animals