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  • Science Ticker

    How desert ants navigate walking backward

    Some ants are so good at navigating they can do it backward.

    Researchers think that foraging ants memorize scenes in front of them to find their way back to the nest. But that only works when facing forward. Still, some species have been observed trekking in reverse to drag dinner home.

    To find out how the ants manage this feat, Antoine Wystrach of the University of Edinburgh and...

    01/19/2017 - 18:14 Animals, Ecology
  • News in Brief

    Earth’s last major warm period was as hot as today

    The last time Earth’s thermostat was cranked as high as it is today, sea levels were high enough to completely drown New Orleans (had it existed at the time), new research suggests.

    Ocean surface temperatures around 125,000 years ago were comparable to those today, researchers report in the Jan. 20 Science. Previous estimates suggested that this period, the height of the last warm phase...

    01/19/2017 - 14:00 Climate, Earth, Oceans
  • News

    In debate over origin of fairy circles, both sides might be right

    Ecologists still don’t believe in fairies. But it may take magic to resolve a long-running debate over what causes the oddly regular spots of bare soil called fairy circles. A new approach now suggests combining the two main hypotheses.

    Fairy circles, each among about six close neighbors, sprinkle arid grasslands in southern Africa and Australia “like a polka dot dress,” says ecologist...

    01/19/2017 - 07:00 Ecology, Plants, Animals
  • News

    Cancer studies get mixed grades on redo tests

    An effort to reproduce findings of five prominent cancer studies has produced a mixed bag of results.

    In a series of papers published January 19 in eLife, researchers from the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology report that none of five prominent cancer studies they sought to duplicate were completely reproducible. Replicators could not confirm any of the findings of one study. In...

    01/18/2017 - 16:42 Science & Society, Cancer
  • News in Brief

    Monsoon deluges turned ancient Sahara green

    Thousands of years ago, it didn’t just rain on the Sahara Desert. It poured.

    Grasslands, trees, lakes and rivers once covered North Africa’s now arid, unforgiving landscape. From about 11,000 to 5,000 years ago, much higher rainfall rates than previously estimated created that “Green Sahara,” say geologist Jessica Tierney of the University of Arizona in Tucson and her colleagues....

    01/18/2017 - 16:37 Climate, Human Evolution
  • News

    For three years in a row, Earth breaks heat record

    For the third year running, Earth’s thermostat broke a new record: 2016 was the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880.

    Spurred by climate change and heat from a monster El Niño, the global average surface temperature last year was 0.94 degrees Celsius (1.69 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 20th century average of 13.9° C (57° F). That slightly edges out the previous...

    01/18/2017 - 15:49 Climate, Oceans
  • News in Brief

    Heart-hugging robot does the twist (and squeeze)

    View the video

    A new squishy robot could keep hearts from skipping a beat.

    A silicone sleeve slipped over pigs’ hearts helped pump blood when the hearts failed, researchers report January 18 in Science Translational Medicine. If the sleeve works in humans, it could potentially keep weak hearts pumping, and buy time for patients waiting for a transplant.

    To make the device...

    01/18/2017 - 14:00 Technology, Robotics
  • Wild Things

    A message to rock climbers: Be kind to nature

    For the millions of people who have taken up the sport of rock climbing, a cliff face is a challenge, a vertical puzzle solved only with the proper placement of hands and feet. Look closely, though, and those crevices and cracks that provide hand- and footholds also provide homes for a variety of plants, invertebrates and other easily overlooked species.

    People who participate in outdoor...

    01/18/2017 - 07:00 Conservation, Plants
  • How Bizarre

    Weird wave found in Venus’ wind-whipped atmosphere

    With scorching temperatures and a mind-numbingly slow rotation (one Venus day lasts 243 Earth days), Venus was already a contender for weirdest planet in the solar system. Now add a giant arc-shaped structure to its list of oddities. The mysterious 10,000-kilometer-long structure was so big that it appeared to stretch between the planet’s poles. And it didn’t budge, even as winds in the planet...

    01/17/2017 - 18:11 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Coastal waters were an oxygen oasis 2.3 billion years ago

    Earth was momentarily ripe for the evolution of animals hundreds of millions of years before they first appeared, researchers propose.

    Chemical clues in ancient rocks suggest that 2.32 billion to 2.1 billion years ago, shallow coastal waters held enough oxygen to support oxygen-hungry life-forms including some animals, researchers report the week of January 16 in the Proceedings of the...

    01/17/2017 - 16:23 Earth, Evolution, Paleontology