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E.g., 12/15/2017
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  • Editor's Note

    Great praise for categories, and seeing beyond them

    Classification is inevitable. It’s a widespread human tendency and a bedrock of scientific study. From rocks to stars to the stinkbug buzzing against my window, from parts of speech to diseases to the fundamental forces of nature, if an object or phenomenon can be described, it will be grouped with others like it and distinguished from those that differ.

    One of the best-known scientific...

    11/01/2017 - 12:13 Animals, Evolution, Science & Society
  • Essay

    Defining ‘species’ is a fuzzy art

    The funniest thing I’ve ever said to any botanist was, “What is a species?” Well, it certainly got the most spontaneous laugh. I don’t think Barbara Ertter, who doesn’t remember the long-ago moment, was being mean. Her laugh was more of a “where do I even start” response to an almost impossible question.

    At first glance, “species” is a basic vocabulary word schoolchildren can ace on a...

    11/01/2017 - 09:00 Evolution, Conservation
  • Feature

    Hybrids reveal the barriers to successful mating between species

    It’s a tale as old as wine. Two organisms meet over a barrel of alcohol and decide to mate.

    Geneticist Maitreya Dunham didn’t see it happen. But she has molecular evidence that two yeast species produced a hybrid in an old warehouse turned microbrewery. The two species had grown apart, evolutionarily speaking, about 10 million to 20 million years ago, Dunham, of the University of...

    10/31/2017 - 10:00 Evolution, Molecular Evolution, Animals
  • News

    How bird feeders may be changing great tits’ beaks

    Some great tits in the United Kingdom are getting long in the beak — and it may have something to do with a British fondness for bird feeders.

    Parus major songbirds are thought to be relatively similar throughout Europe. But comparing DNA data from great tits in the United Kingdom with those in the Netherlands revealed key genetic differences between the two populations. The analysis,...

    10/23/2017 - 07:00 Evolution, Animals, Ecosystems
  • Reviews & Previews

    New book offers a peek into the mind of Oliver Sacks

    The River of ConsciousnessOliver SacksKnopf, $27

    The experience of reading the essays that make up The River of Consciousness is very much like peering into an ever-changing stream. Pebbles shift as the water courses by, revealing unexpected facets below.

    The essays, by neurologist Oliver Sacks and arranged into an anthology two weeks before his death in 2015, meander through such...

    10/06/2017 - 09:00 Neuroscience, History of Science, Human Evolution
  • Science & the Public

    How hurricanes and other devastating disasters spur scientific research

    Every day, it seems like there’s a new natural disaster in the headlines. Hurricane Harvey inundates Texas. Hurricane Irma plows through the Caribbean and the U.S. south, and Jose is hot on its heels. A deadly 8.1-magnitude earthquake rocks Mexico. Wildfires blanket the western United States in choking smoke.

    While gripping tales of loss and heroism rightly fill the news, another story...

    09/12/2017 - 17:15 Earth, Oceans, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    How science has fed stereotypes about women

    InferiorAngela SainiBeacon Press, $25.95

    Early in Inferior, science writer Angela Saini recalls a man cornering her after a signing for her book Geek Nation, on science in India. “Where are all the women scientists?” he asked, then answered his own question. “Women just aren’t as good at science as men are. They’ve been shown to be less intelligent.”

    Saini fought back with a few...

    08/29/2017 - 11:00 History of Science, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Darwin’s Backyard’ chronicles naturalist’s homespun experiments

    Darwin’s Backyard James T. CostaW.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

    The story of how Charles Darwin’s trip around the world on the HMS Beagle inspired his ideas about evolution is well-known. Less familiar, however, may be the decades of detailed research that he conducted after that 1830s voyage. As biologist James Costa chronicles in Darwin’s Backyard, many of those studies took place at...

    08/24/2017 - 10:00 Evolution, History of Science
  • Reviews & Previews

    Shocking stories tell tale of London Zoo’s founding

    The ZooIsobel CharmanPegasus$27.95

    When Tommy the chimpanzee first came to London’s zoo in the fall of 1835, he was dressed in an old white shirt.

    Keepers gave him a new frock and a sailor hat and set him up in a cozy spot in the kitchen to weather the winter. Visitors flocked to get a look at the little ape roaming around the keepers’ lodge, curled up in the cook’s lap or tugging...

    03/20/2017 - 07:00 Animals, History of Science
  • Editor's Note

    Science’s questions rarely have clear, easy answers

    There are few simple answers in science. Even seemingly straightforward questions, when probed by people in search of proof, lead to more questions. Those questions lead to nuances, layers of complexity and, more often than we might expect, conclusions that contradict initial intuition.

    In the 1990s, researchers asking “How do we fight oxygen-hungry cancer cells?” offered an obvious...

    02/22/2017 - 12:47 Science & Society