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  • News

    The newest AlphaGo mastered the game with no human input

    AlphaGo just leveled up.

    The latest version of the computer program, dubbed AlphaGo Zero, is the first to master Go, a notoriously complex Chinese board game, without human guidance. Its predecessor — dubbed AlphaGo Lee when it became the first computer program with artificial intelligence, or AI, to defeat a human world champion Go player (SN Online: 3/15/16) — had to study millions of...

    10/18/2017 - 13:00 Artificial Intelligence, Computing, Technology
  • Reviews & Previews

    New physics books don’t censor the math behind reality

    Many books about science are meant to be pleasure reading. Such books attempt to convey the wonder and fascination and excitement of science, and ideally some of the substance as well. After all, good popular science writing is not only engaging and entertaining, but also informative. But even very informative popular books are not designed to be fully educational about the science in...

    10/16/2017 - 15:00 Physics, Numbers
  • Context

    An American astronomical evangelist coined the phrase ‘island universe’

    No other science engages human curiosity like astronomy. From antiquity onward, attempts to comprehend the architecture of the cosmos have commanded a substantial fraction of humankind’s mental budget for intellectual endeavor. Only in the last century, though, have astronomers grasped the structure of the cosmos accurately. Just a hundred years ago, a great debate raged about the fuzzy...

    10/13/2017 - 07:00 History of Science
  • News

    Superbugs may meet their match in these nanoparticles

    Antibiotics may have a new teammate in the fight against drug-resistant infections.

    Researchers have engineered nanoparticles to produce chemicals that render bacteria more vulnerable to antibiotics. These quantum dots, described online October 4 in Science Advances, could help combat pathogens that have developed resistance to antibiotics (SN: 10/15/16, p. 11).

    “Various superbugs...

    10/09/2017 - 07:00 Technology, Biophysics
  • Feature

    Lena Pernas sees parasitic infection as a kind of Hunger Games

    Lena Pernas, 30ParasitologistUniversity of Padova

    Lena Pernas’ love of parasites began in childhood, when she was plagued with many virtual infections. One of her favorite pastimes as a 9-year-old was playing The Amazon Trail, an educational computer game set near the South American river. One of the dangers players could encounter was malaria, “and I got malaria a lot,” Pernas says. This...

    10/04/2017 - 13:47 Microbiology, Microbes
  • Feature

    Christina Warinner uncovers ancient tales in dental plaque

    Christina Warinner, 37Molecular anthropologistUniversity of OklahomaMax Planck Institute for theScience of Human History

    In a pitch-black rainforest with fluttering moths and crawling centipedes, Christina Warinner dug up her first skeleton. Well, technically it was a full skeleton plus two headless ones, all seated and draped in ornate jewelry. To deter looters, she excavated through the...

    10/04/2017 - 13:45 Anthropology, Genetics, Archaeology
  • Editor's Note

    Success in science depends on luck, plus much more

    Like anything else in life, there is a lot of luck in scientific success. Astronomers searching for new worlds have to pick the right sections of sky. Biologists cross their fingers that their cell lines will survive long enough for an experiment. Two paleontologists are excavating at a field site in Montana — both skilled, both committed. One turns up a T. rex skeleton; the other,...
    10/04/2017 - 13:43 Science & Society, History of Science, Human Evolution
  • News

    Nitty-gritty of Homo naledi’s diet revealed in its teeth

    Give Homo naledi credit for originality. The fossils of this humanlike species previously revealed an unexpectedly peculiar body plan. Now its pockmarked teeth speak to an unusually hard-edged diet.

    H. naledi displays a much higher rate of chipped teeth than other members of the human evolutionary family that once occupied the same region of South Africa, say biological anthropologist...

    08/24/2017 - 14:00 Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • Feature

    Birth control research is moving beyond the pill

    Mention “the pill,” and only one kind of drug comes to mind. The claim that oral contraceptives have on that simple noun testifies to the pill’s singular effect in the United States. Introduced in 1960, the pill gave women reliable access to birth control for the first time. The opportunity to delay having children opened the door to higher education and professional careers for many women....

    08/22/2017 - 12:30 Health, Human Development
  • The Science Life

    To combat cholera in Yemen, one scientist goes back to basics

    Rowa Mohammed Assayaghi teaches people how to wash their hands. In Yemen, that’s life-saving work.

    The Middle Eastern country is facing the world’s largest cholera outbreak, with nearly 409,000 suspected cases and 1,885 deaths from late April to late July, the World Health Organization reports. That tally is higher than 2015’s worldwide reported cholera deaths. A bacterial infection...

    08/07/2017 - 13:00 Science & Society, Health