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  • News in Brief

    These robots can follow how-to diagrams

    Robots imbued with a certain kind of common sense may soon be able to follow instructional diagrams to build things.

    When studying pictures for assembling IKEA furniture or LEGO villages, humans are naturally good at inferring how to get from A to B. Robots, on the other hand, normally have to be painstakingly programmed with exact instructions for how to move. “Even when you try to...

    01/16/2019 - 14:00 Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Technology
  • News

    A new 3-D printed ‘sponge’ sops up excess chemo drugs

    Bringing the filtering abilities of a fuel cell into the blood vessels of living organisms, a new device could cut down on toxic effects of cancer treatment.

    At the heart of this approach — recently tested in pigs — is a tiny, cylindrical “sponge” created by 3-D printing. Wedged inside a vein near a tumor being treated with chemotherapy, the sponge could absorb excess drug before it...

    01/15/2019 - 09:00 Cancer, Chemistry, Technology
  • News in Brief

    The first suspected exomoon may remain hidden for another decade

    SEATTLE — A good exomoon is hard to find. Proving that the first purported moon around an exoplanet actually exists could take up to a decade, its discoverers say.

    “We’re running into some difficult problems in terms of confirming the presence of this thing,” said astronomer Alex Teachey of Columbia University at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on January 10.

    Using...

    01/15/2019 - 07:00 Exoplanets
  • News

    Easing test anxiety boosts low-income students’ biology grades

    At a large Midwestern high school, almost 40 percent of low-income biology students were poised to fail the course. Instead, thanks to simple measures aimed at reducing test anxiety, that failure rate was halved. 

    Psychological interventions that improve grades could ultimately help keep more low-income students in the sciences, says Christopher Rozek, a psychologist at Stanford...

    01/14/2019 - 15:00 Psychology, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    Your phone could reveal your radiation exposure after a nuclear disaster

    In the event of a nuclear attack or accident, personal electronics could be repurposed as radiation detectors.

    A ceramic insulator found in many devices, such as cell phones and fitness trackers, gives off a glow under high heat that reveals its past nuclear radiation exposure, researchers report in the February Radiation Measurements. That insight may allow experts to gauge someone’s...

    01/14/2019 - 06:00 Chemistry, Science & Society
  • News

    Here’s how the record-breaking government shutdown is disrupting science

    As the partial federal government shutdown enters its fourth week — on January 12 becoming the longest in U.S. history — scientists are increasingly feeling the impact. Thousands of federal workers who handle food safety and public health are furloughed. Countless projects researching everything from climate change to pest control to hurricane prediction are on hold.

    Among government...

    01/12/2019 - 08:00 Science & Society
  • News

    Nerve cells from people with autism grow unusually big and fast

    Young nerve cells derived from people with autism are precocious, growing bigger and developing sooner than cells taken from people without autism, a new study shows.

    The results, described January 7 in Nature Neuroscience, hint that in some cases nerve cells veer off course early in brain development to ultimately cause the disorder.

    As a proxy of brain growth, researchers led by...

    01/11/2019 - 06:00 Neuroscience
  • News

    Poison toilet paper reveals how termites help rainforests resist drought

    It took hundreds of teabags and thousands of rolls of toilet paper for tropical ecologist Kate Parr and her colleagues to demonstrate that termites help tropical rainforests resist drought. Forests with more termites show more soil moisture, leaf litter decomposition and seedling survival during a drought than forests with fewer termites, the scientists report January 10 in Science.

    The...

    01/10/2019 - 14:00 Animals, Ecosystems
  • News in Brief

    Floating seabirds provide a novel way to trace ocean currents

    Seabirds are like feathered buoys. Gently rafting on the ocean’s surface, these birds go with the flow, making them excellent proxies for tracking changes in a current’s speed and direction.

    Oceanographers traditionally use radar, floating buoys or autonomous underwater vehicles to measure ocean current velocities, which can affect the climate, ecosystems and the movement of important...

    01/10/2019 - 09:00 Oceans, Ecology
  • 50 years ago, scientists studied orcas in the wild for the first time

    The astonishing capture [of seven orcas off British Columbia] has made possible the first scientific study of killer whales in their more or less natural environment…. There is little doubt that the animals have a sophisticated language with which they can communicate with each other, but practically nothing is known about the complexity of their speech. — Science News, January 18,...
    01/10/2019 - 08:00 Animals