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  • News

    Volcanic activity convicted in Permian extinction

    The biggest catastrophe in the history of life on Earth resulted from one of the most titanic volcanic outpourings on record, new research concludes.

    At the close of the Permian period around 252 million years ago, more than 90 percent of all marine species and roughly 75 percent of all land species vanished. New high-precision analysis of ancient lavas determines this extinction...

    08/28/2015 - 14:00 Earth, Paleontology
  • News

    Twin pandas look forward to growth spurts

    Update: On August 26, the National Zoo reported that the smaller of the twin panda cubs born to Mei Xiang had died. Zookeepers, who had been caring for the giant panda cub by hand for two days, had been concerned about its fluctuating weight and noted that the days just after birth are a high-risk period....

    08/26/2015 - 12:43 Animals
  • News

    Sudden heat spikes did in Ice Age’s mammoth mammals

    Rapid climate change put mega-sized Ice Age mammals on the ropes before ancient humans delivered the final blow, new research indicates.

    During Earth’s last glacial period, around 12,000 to 110,000 years ago, woolly mammoths, sedan-sized armadillos and other massive mammals walked the land. Over time, these megafauna mostly died out. The instigator of these extinctions has become a topic...

    07/23/2015 - 14:27 Paleontology, Climate
  • News

    Museum fossil links snakes to lizards

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    The worldwide hunt for a fossil link between snakes and lizards has succeeded — in a museum.

    The fossil, of a four-legged snake, hints that the ancestors of modern-day snakes may have evolved on land rather than at sea, researchers report in the July 24 Science. It’s the first four-legged snake fossil ever discovered, bridging the...

    07/23/2015 - 14:00 Paleontology, Animals, Evolution
  • Editor's Note

    Putting time's mysteries in order

    A tick, a tock, a swiftly shifting digit. We have many ways of keeping track of time. We parse it into years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds. We mark its movement obsessively, plan our days around it, use its form to bring meaning to stories with a...

    07/15/2015 - 11:05 Neuroscience, Cosmology, Physiology
  • Feature

    A brief history of timekeeping

    For millennia, humans have harnessed the power of clocks to schedule prayers, guide ocean voyages and, lately, to chart the universe. Whatever their use, all clocks need two basic components: a constant repetitive action (like a pendulum’s swing or an atom’s vibrations) and a way to mark time’s progression.

    ...

    07/15/2015 - 09:47 History of Science
  • Feature

    Pluto: A timeline of 85 years of discovery

    Clyde Tombaugh began searching for a ninth planet in 1929 and stumbled upon Pluto the following year. In the decades since, our view of Pluto hasn’t changed much. All of that changes on July 14 when the New Horizons spacecraft, nearly 5 billion kilometers from home, slipped past Pluto and gave humankind its only look at this icy world (see "...

    07/11/2015 - 14:03 Planetary Science
  • Feature

    The arrow of time

    In T.H. White’s fantasy novel The Once and Future King, Merlyn the magician suffers from a rare and incurable condition: He experiences time in reverse. He knows what will happen, he laments, but not what has happened. “I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind,” he explains to a justifiably confused companion.

    While...

    07/10/2015 - 14:23 Physics, Cosmology
  • Feature

    Rendezvous with Pluto

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    Tiny, far-flung Pluto is about to have a visitor — at least for a few hours.

    On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will reach the dwarf planet and try to learn all it can about Pluto and its five known moons. Then the probe will leave Pluto behind, vanishing into the frigid darkness beyond the planets.

    In its wake, New Horizons will...

    06/12/2015 - 11:55 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Ancient DNA pushes back timing of the origin of dogs

    Some friendships go way back. New genetic evidence suggests that the relationship between humans and dogs may have been forged as long as 40,000 years ago.

    DNA analysis of an ancient wolf calibrates the split between dogs and wolves to 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. Researchers had previously calculated that the divergence happened about 11,000 to 16,000 years ago....

    05/21/2015 - 12:03 Genetics, Animals