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  • Science Ticker

    Shipping noise can disturb porpoises and disrupt their mealtime

    Harbor porpoises are frequently exposed to sounds from shipping vessels that register at around 100 decibels, about as loud as a lawnmower, scientists report February 14 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sounds this loud can cause porpoises to stop echolocation, which they use to catch food.

    While high-frequency submarine sonar has been found to harm whales (SN: 4/23/11, p. 16), low...

    02/13/2018 - 19:05 Conservation, Animals, Pollution
  • News

    Elongated heads were a mark of elite status in an ancient Peruvian society

    Bigwigs in a more than 600-year-old South American population were easy to spot. Their artificially elongated, teardrop-shaped heads screamed prestige, a new study finds.

    During the 300 years before the Incas’ arrival in 1450, intentional head shaping among prominent members of the Collagua ethnic community in Peru increasingly centered on a stretched-out look, says bioarchaeologist...

    02/13/2018 - 09:00 Anthropology
  • News in Brief

    Ancient ozone holes may have sterilized forests 252 million years ago

    Volcano-fueled holes in Earth’s ozone layer 252 million years ago may have repeatedly sterilized large swaths of forest, setting the stage for the world’s largest mass extinction event. Such holes would have allowed ultraviolet-B radiation to blast the planet. Even radiation levels below those predicted for the end of the Permian period damage trees’ abilities to make seeds, researchers report...

    02/12/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Earth, Ecosystems
  • Feature

    When it’s playtime, many kids prefer reality over fantasy

    Young children travel to fantasy worlds every day, packing just imaginations and a toy or two.

    Some preschoolers scurry across ocean floors carrying toy versions of cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. Other kids trek to distant universes with miniature replicas of Star Wars robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. Throngs of youngsters fly on broomsticks and cast magic spells with Harry Potter and...

    02/06/2018 - 11:45 Psychology, Anthropology, Archaeology
  • News

    A peek into polar bears’ lives reveals revved-up metabolisms

    View the video

    Female polar bears prowling springtime sea ice have extreme weight swings, some losing more than 10 percent of their body mass in just over a week. And the beginnings of bear video blogging help explain why.

    An ambitious study of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Alaska has found that their overall metabolic rate is 1.6 times greater than thought, says wildlife...

    02/01/2018 - 15:24 Animals, Physiology, Climate
  • News

    Gassy farm soils are a shockingly large source of these air pollutants

    California’s crops are creating some noxious air.

    The Golden State is at the vanguard in the United States in reducing auto emissions of nitrogen oxide gases, which help produce toxic smog and acid rain. But the NOx pollution problem isn’t limited to auto exhaust. California’s vast agricultural lands — particularly soils heavily treated with nitrogen fertilizers — are now responsible for...

    01/31/2018 - 14:13 Earth, Pollution, Agriculture
  • Feature

    Somewhere in the brain is a storage device for memories

    People tend to think of memories as deeply personal, ephemeral possessions — snippets of emotions, words, colors and smells stitched into our unique neural tapestries as life goes on. But a strange series of experiments conducted decades ago offered a different, more tangible perspective. The mind-bending results have gained unexpected support from recent studies.

    In 1959, James Vernon...

    01/24/2018 - 07:00 Neuroscience
  • News

    The mystery of vanishing honeybees is still not definitively solved

    It was one of the flashiest mysteries in the news about a decade ago — honeybee workers were vanishing fast for no clear reason. To this day, that puzzle has never been entirely solved, researchers acknowledge.

    And maybe it never will be. Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, as the sudden mass honeybee losses were called, has faded in recent years as mysteriously as it began. It’s possible...

    01/17/2018 - 13:42 Animals, Agriculture, Science & Society
  • News

    Evidence grows that normal childbirth takes longer than we thought

    A long-standing “rule” for women in labor has been challenged again.

    During labor, the cervix – the narrow, lower part of the uterus – dilates, or opens, to allow for a baby’s birth. For decades, the guidance has been that the cervix should dilate by at least 1 centimeter per hour. But a study in two African countries found a slower rate of dilation for many women who went on to have...

    01/16/2018 - 14:49 Health
  • News

    Rising CO2 in lakes could keep water fleas from raising their spiky defenses

    Rising carbon dioxide levels could leave some tiny lake dwellers defenseless. Like the oceans, some lakes are experiencing increasing levels of the greenhouse gas, a new study shows. And too much CO2 in the water may leave water fleas, an important part of many lake food webs, too sleepy to fend off predators.

    Detailed observations of lake chemistry over long periods of time are rare....

    01/11/2018 - 16:29 Climate, Ecology