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  • Reviews & Previews

    The quest for quasicrystals is a physics adventure tale

    The Second Kind of ImpossiblePaul J. SteinhardtSimon & Schuster, $27

    When Paul Steinhardt made a discovery that he had been working toward for more than 20 years, he did not cry “Eureka!” On that winter morning in the lab in 2009, he writes, he and a colleague “were dead silent, because no words were necessary.”

    Steinhardt had just found a natural quasicrystal, a solid...

    02/19/2019 - 08:00 Physics
  • News

    Tidal floods driven by climate change may hurt small businesses

    WASHINGTON — Sea level rise, driven by climate change, is causing increased flooding during high tides along much of the U.S. coastline. Though such floods are usually minor, a new study suggests that car traffic patterns could help reveal how floods harm an area’s business revenues.

    Tidal flooding events “are not one in a hundred years or one in a thousand years. They’re once a week,”...

    02/19/2019 - 06:00 Climate, Oceans, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    Brain cells combine place and taste to make food maps

    Sometimes a really good meal can make an evening unforgettable. A new study of rats, published online February 18 in the Journal of Neuroscience, may help explain why. A select group of nerve cells in rats’ brains holds information about both flavors and places, becoming active when the right taste hits the tongue when the rat is in a certain location. These double-duty cells could help...

    02/18/2019 - 13:00 Neuroscience
  • News in Brief

    Tooth plaque shows drinking milk goes back 3,000 years in Mongolia

    WASHINGTON — Ancient people living in what’s now Mongolia drank milk from cows, yaks and sheep — even though, as adults, they couldn’t digest lactose. That finding comes from the humblest of sources: ancient dental plaque.

    Modern Mongolians are big on dairy, milking seven different animal species, including cows, yaks and camels. But how far into the past that dairying tradition extends...

    02/17/2019 - 07:00 Archaeology
  • News

    STEM professors’ beliefs on intelligence may widen the racial achievement gap

    WASHINGTON — Beliefs among some university professors that intelligence is fixed, rather than capable of growth, contribute to a racial achievement gap in STEM courses, a new study suggests.

    Those professors may subtly communicate stereotypes about blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans allegedly being less intelligent than Asians and whites, say psychologist Elizabeth Canning of Indiana...

    02/15/2019 - 14:00 Psychology
  • News

    Muons reveal the whopping voltages inside a thunderstorm

    An invisible drizzle of subatomic particles has shown that thunderstorms may store up much higher electric voltages than we thought.

    Using muons, heavier relatives of electrons that constantly rain down on Earth’s surface, scientists probed the insides of a storm in southern India in December 2014. The cloud’s electric potential — the amount of work necessary to move an electron from one...

    02/15/2019 - 07:00 Earth, Particle Physics
  • News

    A new insulation material is practically weightless yet still durable

    A new, nearly weightless insulation material can withstand extreme heat that would destroy other materials.

    The porous aerogel is at least 99 percent open space, with the rest made up of an atomically thin ceramic called hexagonal boron nitride. The design proves extremely durable under high temperatures and rapid temperature shifts of over 1,000 degrees Celsius, researchers report in...

    02/14/2019 - 14:00 Materials, Technology
  • 50 years ago, DDT pushed peregrine falcons to the edge of extinction

    Fierce and swift, steel blue in color and called the world’s most perfect flying machine, the peregrine falcon is heading toward extinction in North America. The reason: DDT. Perilously high levels of the pesticide and related chemicals have been found in the eggs, fat and tissues of the birds…. [The falcons] are not picking up the DDT directly, but get it by eating other birds which...
    02/14/2019 - 07:00 Animals, Conservation, Toxicology
  • News in Brief

    A new 2-D material uses light to quickly and safely purify water

    Using light, a prototype “green” material can purify enough daily drinking water for four people in just one hour. In tests, it killed nearly 100 percent of bacteria in 10 liters of water, researchers report February 7 in Chem.

    This new material, a 2-D sheet of graphitic carbon nitride, is a photocatalyst: It releases electrons when illuminated to create destructive oxygen-based...

    02/12/2019 - 15:30 Technology, Sustainability
  • Feature

    Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?

    Pondering a tablet screen displaying a town scene, a pre-K student tilts her head to the side and taps her lip thoughtfully.

    “What are we trying to find?” asks the plush, red and blue robot called Tega that’s perched on the desk beside the girl. The bot resembles a teddy bear–sized Furby.

    “We are trying to find lavender-colored stuff,” the girl explains. Lavender is a new...

    02/12/2019 - 06:00 Robotics, Technology, Science & Society