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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.


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

    Jackpot of fossilized pterosaur eggs unearthed in China

    Hundreds of eggs belonging to a species of flying reptile that lived alongside dinosaurs are giving scientists a peek into the earliest development of the animals.

    The find includes at least 16 partial embryos, several still preserved in 3-D. Those embryos suggest that the animals were able to walk, but not fly, soon after hatching, researchers report in the Dec. 1 Science.

    Led by...

    11/30/2017 - 14:00 Animals, Paleontology
  • 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

    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
  • News

    Cosmic lens lets astronomers zoom in on a black hole’s burps

    Astronomers have caught their best look ever at blobs of hot gas fleeing a supermassive black hole, thanks to a new kind of cosmic magnifying glass.

    Anthony Readhead of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory at Caltech and colleagues caught two small, hot bursts traveling away from a bright galaxy called J1415+1320 at near the speed of light. Although the galaxy is billions of light-years...

    08/18/2017 - 17:01 Astronomy
  • 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
  • News

    Hermaphrodite wildflower has its own battle of the sexes

    PORTLAND, Ore. — Petals of wildflowers called starry campions may be a pretty little battleground for a sexual skirmish between the plant’s male and female parts.

    As is common in flowers, each Silene stellata bloom forms both male and female sex organs. After measuring petal variation between plants and tracking parenthood of seeds, Juannan Zhou suspected a sexual tug-of-war.


    07/07/2017 - 08:00 Plants, Evolution
  • News

    Bones make hormones that communicate with the brain and other organs

    Long typecast as the strong silent type, bones are speaking up.

    In addition to providing structural support, the skeleton is a versatile conversationalist. Bones make hormones that chat with other organs and tissues, including the brain, kidneys and pancreas, experiments in mice have shown.

    “The bone, which was considered a dead organ, has really become a gland almost,” says Beate...

    06/21/2017 - 15:00 Health, Biomedicine, Cells
  • News

    Orangutans take motherhood to extremes, nursing young for more than eight years

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    The supermoms of the mammal world are big, shy redheads. Studying growth layers in orangutan teeth shows that mothers can nurse their youngsters for eight-plus years, a record for wild mammals.  

    Teeth from a museum specimen of a young Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) don’t show signs of weaning until 8.1 years of age. And a Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii) was still...

    05/17/2017 - 14:46 Animals, Anthropology