The Science Life
Locust: The Opera finds a novel way to doom a soprano: species extinction.
The libretto, written by entomologist Jeff Lockwood of the University of Wyoming in Laramie, features a scientist, a rancher and a dead insect. The scientist tenor agonizes over why the Rocky Mountain locust went extinct at the dawn of the 20th century. He comes up with hypotheses, three of which unravel to music...
News in Brief
Devices that eavesdrop on neural activity can help paralyzed people command computer tablets to stream music, text friends, check the weather or surf the internet.
Three people with paralysis below the neck were able to navigate off-the-shelf computer tablets using an electrode array system called BrainGate2. The results, published November 21 in PLOS One, are the latest to show that...
News in Brief
Physicists have created an oddity known as a quantum fractal, a structure that could reveal new and strange types of electron behaviors.
Fractals are patterns that repeat themselves on different length scales: Zoom in and the structure looks the same as it does from afar. They’re common in the natural world. For instance, a cauliflower stalk looks like a miniature version of the full...
First Man is not a movie about the moon landing.
The Neil Armstrong biopic, opening October 12, follows about eight years of the life of the first man on the moon, and spends about eight minutes depicting the lunar surface. Instead of the triumphant ticker tape parades that characterize many movies about the space race, First Man focuses on the terror, grief and heartache that led to...
For Daily Use
Identifying faulty drugs or diagnosing kidney problems could one day be as simple as playing an instrument and analyzing the sound.
An inexpensive, handheld tool inspired by an ancient African instrument called an mbira, or thumb piano, can distinguish between liquids of different densities, researchers report online September 12 in ACS Omega. That could help pharmacists and consumers...
A distant galaxy appears filled with dark matter.
The outermost stars in the Cosmic Seagull, a galaxy 11.3 billion light-years away, race too fast to be propelled by the gravity of the galaxy’s gas and stars alone. Instead, they move as if urged on by an invisible force, indicating the hidden presence of dark matter, astrophysicist Verónica Motta of the University of Valparaíso in Chile...
Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano has a deep and distinct voice. Between late 2015 and early 2016, Cotopaxi repeated an unusual pattern of low-frequency sounds that researchers now say is linked to the unique geometry of the interior of its crater. Identifying the distinct “voiceprint” of various volcanoes could help scientists better anticipate changes within the craters, including those that...
In the pitch-black waters beneath the Arctic ice, bowhead whales get funky. A small population of endangered bowheads belt an unusually varied repertoire of songs, which grows more diverse during mating season.
Hunted to near extinction in the 1600s, these fire truck–sized mammals now number in the 300s in the frigid waters around the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Underwater audio...
Reviews & Previews
Weird MathDavid Darling and Agnijo BanerjeeBasic Books, $27
Weird Math sets out to “reveal the strange connections between math and everyday life.” The book fulfills that laudable goal, in part. At times, teenage math prodigy Agnijo Banerjee and his tutor, science writer David Darling, find ways to make complex math relatable, like linking chaos theory to weather forecasting and...