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  • News in Brief

    Butchered bird bones put humans in Madagascar 10,500 years ago

    Humans made their mark on Madagascar around 6,000 years earlier than previously thought, scientists say. Those early migrants hunted massive, flightless birds once native to the island off southeast Africa, leaving butchery marks on the bird bones that enabled the new timeline.

    Cuts and fractures on three previously unearthed leg and foot bones from one of Madagascar’s extinct elephant...

    09/12/2018 - 14:00 Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • Feature

    How plant microbes could feed the world and save endangered species

    One fine Hawaiian day in 2015, Geoff Zahn and Anthony Amend set off on an eight-hour hike. They climbed a jungle mountain on the island of Oahu, swatting mosquitoes and skirting wallows of wild pigs. The two headed to the site where a patch of critically endangered Phyllostegia kaalaensis had been planted a few months earlier. What they found was dispiriting.

    “All the plants were gone,”...

    09/06/2018 - 11:00 Agriculture, Plants, Microbes
  • News

    Google Glass could help children with autism socialize with others

    Google Glass may have failed as a high-tech fashion trend, but it’s showing promise as a tool to help children with autism better navigate social situations.

    A new smartphone app that pairs with a Google Glass headset uses facial recognition software to give the wearer real-time updates on which emotions people are expressing. In a pilot trial, described online August 2 in npj Digital...

    08/02/2018 - 05:00 Mental Health, Technology
  • Feature

    Conflict reigns over the history and origins of money

    Wherever you go, money talks. And it has for a long time.

    Sadly, though, money has been mum about its origins. For such a central element of our lives, money’s ancient roots and the reasons for its invention are unclear.

    As cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin multiply into a flock of digital apparitions, researchers are still battling over how and where money came to be. And some draw...

    07/29/2018 - 08:00 Anthropology, Archaeology
  • News in Brief

    This amber nugget from Myanmar holds the first known baby snake fossil

    The first known fossil remains of a baby snake have turned up in a hunk of amber found in Myanmar. The critter, a new species named Xiaophis myanmarensis, met its untimely demise about 99 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, an international team of researchers reports July 18 in Science Advances.

    How do we know it’s a baby?

    First, it’s tiny. The skeleton, which is missing its...

    07/18/2018 - 14:00 Paleontology, Animals
  • Experiences

    What I actually learned about my family after trying 5 DNA ancestry tests

    Commercials abound for DNA testing services that will help you learn where your ancestors came from or connect you with relatives. I’ve been interested in my family history for a long time. I knew basically where our roots were: the British Isles, Germany and Hungary. But the ads tempted me to dive deeper.

    Previous experience taught me that different genetic testing companies can yield...

    06/13/2018 - 14:41 Ancestry, Genetics
  • Feature

    In her short life, mathematician Emmy Noether changed the face of physics

    On a warm summer evening, a visitor to 1920s Göttingen, Germany, might have heard the hubbub of a party from an apartment on Friedländer Way. A glimpse through the window would reveal a gathering of scholars. The wine would be flowing and the air buzzing with conversations centered on mathematical problems of the day. The eavesdropper might eventually pick up a woman’s laugh cutting through...

    06/12/2018 - 10:00 Physics
  • News

    Oldest known lizard fossil pushes group’s origins back 75 million years

    A little animal that washed out to sea 240 million years ago off the coast of what’s now Italy turns out to be the oldest known fossil of a lizard.

    The identification pushes back the fossil record of snakes and lizards by about 75 million years, says Tiago Simões of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. He and colleagues used observations of the fossil, called Megachirella...

    05/30/2018 - 16:24 Paleontology, Evolution, Animals
  • News

    The window for learning a language may stay open surprisingly long

    Language learning isn’t kid stuff anymore. In fact, it never was, a provocative new study concludes.

    A crucial period for learning the rules and structure of a language lasts up to around age 17 or 18, say psychologist Joshua Hartshorne of MIT and colleagues.

    Previous research had suggested that grammar-learning ability flourished in early childhood before hitting a dead end around...

    05/11/2018 - 11:02 Language, Psychology
  • News

    NASA gets ready to launch the first lander to investigate Mars’ insides

    Mars is about to get its first internal checkup. The InSight lander, set to launch at 7:05 a.m. EDT on May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will probe the Red Planet’s innards by tracking seismic waves and taking its temperature.

    Finding out what Mars’ interior is like could help scientists learn how the Red Planet formed 4.5 billion years ago, and how other rocky planets...

    05/03/2018 - 07:00 Planetary Science