It’s a wonder we have chocolate at all. Talk about persnickety, difficult flowers.
Arguably some of the most important seeds on the planet — they give us candy bars and hot cocoa, after all — come from pods created by dime-sized flowers on cacao trees. Yet those flowers make pollination just barely possible.
Growers of commercial fruit crops expect 50 to 60 percent of flowers to...
Everybody’s a critic. Even back in second century Egypt.
While digging in Tebtunis in northern Egypt in the winter of 1899–1900, British archaeologists stumbled upon portraits of affluent Greco-Egyptians placed over the faces of mummies. One grave contained an ink and chalk sketch, a bit larger than a standard sheet of printer paper, of a woman from around the years A.D. 140 to 160. The...
There’s a planet just next door that could explain the origins of life in the universe. It was probably once covered in oceans (SN Online: 8/1/17). It may have been habitable for billions of years (SN Online: 8/26/16). Astronomers are desperate to land spacecraft there.
No, not Mars. That tantalizing planet is Venus. But despite all its appeal, Venus is one of the hardest places in the...
No anniversary list is ever complete. Just last month, for instance, my Top 10 scientific anniversaries of 2018 omitted the publication two centuries ago of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It should have at least received honorable mention.
Perhaps more egregious, though, was overlooking the 125th anniversary of the physics journal Physical Review. Since 1893, the Physical Review has...
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Campus life typically challenges students with new opportunities for learning, discovery — and intimacy with germs. Lots of germs.
That makes dormitories and their residents an ideal natural experiment to trace the germs’ paths. “You pack a bunch of college kids into a very small environment … we’re not known as being the cleanliest of people,” says sophomore Parker...
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Toad versus bombardier beetle is almost a fair fight. Toads are hugely bigger, can tongue-strike in an eyeblink and swallow all kinds of nasty stuff. But bombardier beetles can shoot hot steam and noxious chemicals from their back ends.
In a lab face-off, 43 percent of Pheropsophus jessoensis bombardiers escaped alive after being swallowed by toads, a pair of...
What looks like a spider, but with a segmented rear plus a long spike of a tail, has turned up in amber that’s about 100 million years old.
Roughly the size of a peppercorn (not including the tail, which stretches several times the body length), this newly described extinct species lived in forests in what is now Myanmar during the dinosaur-rich Cretaceous Period.
Spiders as their...
Young children travel to fantasy worlds every day, packing just imaginations and a toy or two.
Some preschoolers scurry across ocean floors carrying toy versions of cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. Other kids trek to distant universes with miniature replicas of Star Wars robots R2-D2 and C-3PO. Throngs of youngsters fly on broomsticks and cast magic spells with Harry Potter and...
Youngsters have probably been playing their way into cultural competence for at least tens of thousands of years. So why are signs of children largely absent from the archaeological record?
A cartoon that Biblical scholar Kristine Garroway taped up in her college dorm helps to explain kids’ invisibility at ancient sites: Two men in business suits stare intently at an unidentifiable round...
Reviews & Previews
Death: A Graveside CompanionJoanna Ebenstein (ed.)Thames & Hudson, $40
Death: A Graveside Companion makes for an unusual coffee-table book, with its coppery etched Grim Reaper on the cover. Yet you may be surprised by how much fun it is to pore through the book’s lavish artwork of skulls, cadavers and fanciful imaginings of the afterlife.
There is, after all, a reason for...