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  • News

    Most football players who donated their brains to science had traumatic injury

    A majority of football players whose brains were donated for research suffered a degenerative brain disease during their lives, according to the largest sample of players ever studied. The finding provides more evidence that the repetitive injuries to the brain sustained while playing American football are associated with the disease, researchers say.

    Of 202 deceased former football...

    07/25/2017 - 16:28 Mental Health, Neuroscience
  • News

    Add penis bacteria to the list of HIV risk factors

    Out-of-whack microbes in the vagina can raise HIV risk — and now there’s evidence that the makeup of the penis microbiome matters, too. The greater the number of anaerobic bacteria tucked under the foreskin, the more likely an uncircumcised man is to become infected with the virus, researchers report July 25 in mBio.

    “This mirrors what’s been seen in women, but it’s the first study of...

    07/25/2017 - 12:33 Health
  • Feature

    How earthquake scientists eavesdrop on North Korea’s nuclear blasts

    On September 9 of last year, in the middle of the morning, seismometers began lighting up around East Asia. From South Korea to Russia to Japan, geophysical instruments recorded squiggles as seismic waves passed through and shook the ground. It looked as if an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 had just happened. But the ground shaking had originated at North Korea’s nuclear weapons test site...

    07/25/2017 - 12:00 Earth
  • Context

    There’s a long way to go in understanding the brain

    Scientists pour a lot of brainpower into understanding how their experimental equipment works.

    You don’t want to be fooled into thinking you’ve made a great discovery because of some quirk in the apparatus you didn’t know about. Just the other day, a new paper published online suggested that the instruments used to detect gravitational waves exhibited such a quirk, tricking scientists...

    07/25/2017 - 07:00 Neuroscience
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Making Contact’ chronicles an astronomer’s struggle to find E.T.

    Making ContactSarah ScolesPegasus Books, $27.95

    In Carl Sagan’s 1985 sci-fi novel Contact, a radio astronomer battles naysayers and funding setbacks to persist in her audacious plan — scanning the skies for signals from aliens. Sagan had real-life inspiration for his book (and the 1997 movie of the same name): astronomer Jill Tarter, who spearheaded the search for extraterrestrial...

    07/24/2017 - 16:33 Astronomy, History of Science, Science & Society
  • News

    Fewer big rogue planets roam the galaxy, recount shows

    Big, rogue planets — ones without parent stars — are rare.

    A new census of free-floating Jupiter-mass planets determined that these worlds are a tenth as common as previous estimates suggested. The results appear online July 24 in Nature.

    Planets can go rogue in two ways: They can get kicked out of their parent planetary systems or form when a ball of gas and dust collapses (SN: 4/...

    07/24/2017 - 11:00 Exoplanets, Planetary Science
  • News

    Radioactive substances leave electron ‘fingerprints’ behind

    Walls can’t talk, but scientists can now read stories written in their subatomic particles. And that could make it harder to store radioactive material in secret.

    Nuclear radiation rearranges the electrons in insulators such as brick, glass and porcelain. So comparing the positions of electrons in atoms at different spots on walls, windows and floors could provide a rough snapshot of...

    07/24/2017 - 07:00 Chemistry, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    This history book offers excellent images but skimps on modern science

    The Oxford Illustrated History of ScienceIwan Rhys Morus, ed.Oxford Univ., $39.95

    Books about the history of science, like many other histories, must contend with the realization that others have come before. Their tales have already been told. So such a book is worth reading, or buying, only if it offers something more than the same old stories.

    In this case, The Oxford...

    07/23/2017 - 08:00 History of Science
  • Wild Things

    Fire ants build towers with three simple rules

    View video

    When faced with rushing floodwaters, fire ants are known to build two types of structures. A quickly formed raft lets the insects float to safety. And once they find a branch or tree to hold on to, the ants might form a tower up to 30 ants high, with eggs, brood and queen tucked safely inside. Neither structure requires a set of plans or a foreman ant leading the construction...

    07/21/2017 - 14:54 Animals
  • Say What?

    Earth might once have resembled a hot, steamy doughnut

    Synestia\sin-es-ti-ə \ n.

    A large spinning hunk of hot, vaporized rock that forms when rocky, planet-sized objects collide

    Earth may have taken on a jelly doughnut shape early in its history. The rocky planet was spinning through space about 4.5 billion years ago when it smacked into a Mars-sized hunk of rotating rock called Theia, according to one theory (SN: 4/15/17, p. 18). That hit...

    07/21/2017 - 09:00 Planetary Science