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  • Feature

    Skyrmions open a door to next-level data storage

    Like sailors and spelunkers, physicists know the power of a sturdy knot.

    Some physicists have tied their hopes for a new generation of data storage to minuscule knotlike structures called skyrmions, which can form in magnetic materials. Incredibly tiny and tough to undo, magnetic skyrmions could help feed humankind’s hunger for ever-smaller electronics.

    On traditional hard drives,...

    02/07/2018 - 15:03 Materials, Physics
  • Feature

    Your phone is like a spy in your pocket

    Consider everything your smartphone has done for you today. Counted your steps? Deposited a check? Transcribed notes? Navigated you somewhere new?

    Smartphones make for such versatile pocket assistants because they’re equipped with a suite of sensors, including some we may never think — or even know — about, sensing, for example, light, humidity, pressure and temperature.

    Because...

    01/23/2018 - 12:00 Computing, Technology
  • Feature

    Being a vampire can be brutal. Here’s how bloodsuckers get by.

    Jennifer Zaspel can’t explain why she stuck her thumb in the vial with the moth. Just an after-dark, out-in-the-woods zing of curiosity.

    She was catching moths on a July night in the Russian Far East and had just eased a Calyptra, with brownish forewings like a dried leaf, into a plastic collecting vial. Of the 17 or so largely tropical Calyptra species, eight were known vampires. Males...

    10/18/2017 - 12:00 Animals, Physiology
  • Feature

    Ticks are here to stay. But scientists are finding ways to outsmart them

    Thanks, Holly Gaff. Soon, anyone straining to tweeze off a mid-back tick can find answers to the obvious question: What if humankind just went after the little bloodsuckers with killer robots?

    Gaff, who calls herself a mathematical eco­epidemiologist, at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is one of the few people collecting real field data on the efficacy of tick-slaying robots....

    08/09/2017 - 11:00 Animals, Science & Society
  • Feature

    Yes, statins protect hearts. But critics question their expanding use

    Cholesterol is so important to life that practically every human cell makes it. Cells use the compound to keep their membranes porous and springy, and to produce hormones and other vital substances. The body can make all the cholesterol it needs, but Americans tend to have a surplus, thanks in large part to too little exercise and too much meat, cheese and grease. Fifty years ago, researchers...

    05/03/2017 - 07:00 Health, Biomedicine
  • News

    See where Clinton and Trump stand on science

    Hillary Clinton’s “I believe in science” declaration aside, science has not played a starring role in the 2016 presidential election. Far from it. For the most part, the candidates’ science policies have trickled out in dribs and drabs, and in varying degrees of detail — talking points on a website here, a passing comment in response to a spur-of-the-moment question there.

    Yet science...

    09/13/2016 - 12:25 Science & Society
  • Feature

    Science News of the Year 2007

    Tuning In to Science

    In its own way, science is a lot like '60s rock 'n' roll on AM radio. If you're old enough, you remember the slogan: "And the hits just keep on comin'."

    With science, the news just keeps on comin'. Somehow, year after year, science never runs out of hit discoveries. From land-based laboratories to the depths of the oceans to remote realms of the cosmos, intrepid...

    12/18/2007 - 21:49 Humans & Society
  • Feature

    Katrina's Fallout

    Hand over hand, the scuba diving researchers felt their way down the offshore oil rig, blinded by water black with ocean detritus and marsh debris. They tried not to think about the 7-foot alligator patrolling the rig at the water's surface, 15 miles from its swampy home. The scientists soon reached a place on the rig's leg where 18 months earlier they had attached instruments that relayed...

    11/14/2005 - 10:35 Humans & Society
  • Feature

    The Ultimate Crop Insurance

    In late summer 2002, looters threatened war-engulfed Afghanistan's agricultural heritage. Unknown pillagers dumped stocks of carefully labeled seeds as they ransacked buildings in Ghazni and Jalalabad, where the material had been hidden for safekeeping. All the looters wanted, apparently, were the plastic and glass jars in which the seeds were stored. The scattered seeds weren't the starter...

    09/07/2004 - 14:12 Agriculture
  • Feature

    King Midas' Modern Mourners

    "Pan scrapings!" announced G. Kenneth Sams. "When you come down to it, that is what has brought us all here tonight—pan scrapings."

    It was probably not the most appetizing introduction for a $150-per-plate museum fundraiser. Some 150 guests, many in black tie, had just sat down to enjoy their...

    04/26/2004 - 16:43 Chemistry