Have you ever felt weighed down by your material possessions? The boundless variety of stuff that humans manufacture — tractors, buildings, ballpoint pens, Hello Kitty backpacks — has serious heft: 30 trillion metric tons, a new study estimates. That’s about 50 kilograms for every square meter of Earth’s surface.
The human-made “technosphere,” all the manufactured goods around today,...
News in Brief
An asteroid bombardment that some say triggered an explosion of marine animal diversity around 471 million years ago actually had nothing to do with it.
Precisely dating meteorites from the salvo, researchers found that the space rock barrage began at least 2 million years after the start of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event. So the two phenomena are unrelated, the...
Most nights I read a book in bed to wind down. But when I run out of my library supply, I read articles on my phone instead. I suspect that this digital substitution messes with my sleep. That’s not good for me — but it’s probably worse for the many children who have screens in their rooms at night.A team of researchers recently combed through the literature looking for associations between...
Dinosaurs might live on today as birds, but they hatched like reptiles. Developing dinos stayed in their eggs three to six months before emerging, far longer than previously suspected, researchers report online January 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
With few clues to dinosaurs’ embryonic lives, scientists assumed that young dinosaurs shared modern birds’ swift...
Gold’s glimmer is not the only reason the element is so captivating. For decades, scientists have puzzled over why theoretical predictions of gold’s properties don’t match up with experiments. Now, highly detailed calculations have erased the discrepancy, according to a paper published in the Jan. 13 Physical Review Letters.
At issue was the energy required to remove an electron from a...
Reviews & Previews
The Lost City of the Monkey GodDouglas PrestonGrand Central Publishing, $28
Legend has it that hundreds of years ago, a rich, powerful city stood in the jungle of what is now eastern Honduras. Then, suddenly, all of the residents vanished, and the abandoned city became a cursed place — anyone who entered risked death.
In a captivating real-life adventure tale, journalist and...
Immune cells in a malaria-transmitting mosquito sense the invading parasites and deploy an army of tiny messengers in response. These couriers help turn on a mosquito’s defenses, killing off the parasites, a new study suggests.
This more detailed understanding of the mosquito immune system, published January 20 in Science Immunology, might help scientists design new ways to combat...
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...
News in Brief
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...
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...