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  • News

    These ancient mounds may not be the earliest fossils on Earth after all

    Tiny mounds touted as the earliest fossilized evidence of life on Earth may just be twisted rock.

    Found in 3.7-billion-year-old rocks in Greenland, the mounds strongly resemble cone-shaped microbial mats called stromatolites, researchers reported in 2016. But a new analysis of the shape, internal layers and chemistry of the structures suggests that the mounds weren’t shaped by microbes...

    10/17/2018 - 13:00 Earth, Paleontology, Microbes
  • Teaser

    Self-driving cars see better with cameras that mimic mantis shrimp vision

    To help self-driving cars drive safely, scientists are looking to an unlikely place: the sea.

    A new type of camera inspired by the eyes of mantis shrimps could help autonomous vehicles better gauge their surroundings, researchers report October 11 in Optica. The camera — which detects polarized light, or light waves vibrating on a single plane —  has roughly half a million sensors that...

    10/12/2018 - 07:00 Robotics, Animals
  • News

    Laser mapping shows the surprising complexity of the Maya civilization

    A laser-shooting eye in the sky has revealed the previously unappreciated size and complexity of ancient Maya civilization, both before and during its presumed heyday, scientists say.

    Maya people in what’s now northern Guatemala built surprisingly extensive defensive structures and roads as part of political systems featuring interconnected cities, starting at least several hundred years...

    09/27/2018 - 14:22 Archaeology, Technology
  • Feature

    The SN 10: These scientists defy limits to tackle big problems

    Scientific disciplines, as we know them, are a fairly recent invention. As late as the 18th century, both amateur and professional scientists let their intellect range unfettered. The great Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci explored architecture, engineering, geology, botany and more. He is credited with inventing the helicopter, a diving suit and painting the Mona Lisa.

    Only later...

    09/26/2018 - 08:36 Science & Society
  • Feature

    Shahzeen Attari explores the psychology of saving the planet

    Shahzeen Attari, 37Environmental decision makingIndiana University Bloomington

    When Shahzeen Attari was growing up in Dubai, her father ran a machine shop. Her mother, a gregarious people person, worked at a bank.

    “My curiosity about how things work came from my father,” Attari says. “I learned to love getting to know people from my mother.”

    That yin-yang background may help...

    09/26/2018 - 08:35 Psychology, Climate
  • Feature

    Emily Balskus uses chemical logic to study the microbiome

    Emily Balskus, 38Chemistry and microbiologyHarvard University

    Chemist Emily Balskus of Harvard University is out to expose the crimes and misdemeanors of microbes living in the human gut. She’s shown, for example, how a common gut bacterium interferes with a heart failure treatment: The microbe breaks down the medication before the drug can do its job.

    Balskus, 38, originally...

    09/26/2018 - 08:34 Microbiology, Chemistry, Health
  • Feature

    Ibrahim Cissé unlocks cells’ secrets using physics

    Ibrahim Cissé, 35Physics and biophysicsMIT

    Ibrahim Cissé expected to join his father’s law firm one day. “There were no scientists where I grew up in Niger,” says the MIT biophysicist. “I certainly didn’t know [science] was a profession one could do.”  

    But Cissé’s parents had a telling clue about their young son’s eventual career path: a door sign he made that read “Laboratoire de...

    09/26/2018 - 08:33 Genetics, Physics, Cells
  • Feature

    Christopher Hamilton explores the architecture of other worlds

    Christopher Hamilton, 39Planetary scienceUniversity of Arizona

    Christopher Hamilton wanted to be an architect.

    Yet the planetary scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson is exploring a very different kind of built environment: the strange structures created by volcanoes on worlds across the solar system, from Earth to Mars to the moon.

    And he’s using an unusually...

    09/26/2018 - 08:32 Earth, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Paula Jofré makes stellar connections

    Paula Jofré, 36Galactic and stellar astrophysicsUniversidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile

    Paula Jofré wants to map the galactic lineage of every star in the Milky Way. It’s like tracing your family tree, if your grandparents were supernovas.

    Jofré, 36, is an astrophysicist at Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, where she studies the inner lives and histories of stars....

    09/26/2018 - 08:31 Astronomy
  • Feature

    Lisa Manning describes the physics of how cells move

    Lisa Manning, 38Physics and biologySyracuse University

    Think of tissues as mosh pits of cells. The cells may not be able to crowd surf, but they can jam.

    Specifically, cells can undergo a jamming transition, a physical role change that was previously known to occur only among foams, sand and other nonliving materials. It’s one of the ways that physicist Lisa Manning has shown how...

    09/26/2018 - 08:30 Biomedicine, Cells, Development, Physics