Halloween horror aside, vampires are really pretty spineless.
Most have no backbone at all. By one count, some 14,000 kinds of arthropods, including ticks and mosquitoes, are blood feeders. Yet very few vertebrates are clear-cut, all-blood specialists: just some fishes and three bats. Why hasn’t evolution produced more vertebrate vampires?
The question intrigues herpetologist Harry...
Letters to the Editor
Suck it up08/09/2017 - 11:31 Animals, Neuroscience, Physics
Tubelip wrasses’ slimy lips help the fish suck up dinner from coral reefs, Helen Thompson reported in “The better to eat you with, my dear” (SN: 7/8/17 & 7/22/17, p. 44).
“How do wrasses ‘suck’ if they have no lungs?” asked reader John Coventry.
Suction-feeding fish let their mouths do all the work, says marine biologist David Bellwood. “In just the same way that we...
Reviews & Previews
CannibalismBill SchuttAlgonquin Books, $26.95
Until recently, researchers thought cannibalism took place only among a few species in the animal kingdom and only under extraordinary circumstances. But as zoologist Bill Schutt chronicles in Cannibalism, plenty of creatures inhabit their own version of a dog-eat-dog world.
Over the last few decades, scientists have observed...
Science & the Public
If you spent Thanksgiving trying in vain to convince relatives that the Pope didn’t really endorse Donald Trump or that Hillary Clinton didn’t sell weapons to ISIS, fake news has already weaseled its way into your brain.
Those “stories” and other falsified news outperformed much of the real news on Facebook before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And on Twitter, an analysis by...
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.
View the video
In a pasture outside Edmonton, Canada, you’ll find a few dozen cows doing what cows do: mostly eating. The average animal spends eight-plus hours a day filling its belly, or as is the case with cows, bellies. Along with that enormous appetite, cows are born with the ability to digest almost any plant they can chew, thanks to a multichambered stomach and a helpful army of...
It seemed like a small thing when Paul Westerhoff’s 8-year-old son appeared, with his tongue and lips coated bright white. The boy had just polished off a giant Gobstopper, a confectionery made of sugary, melt-in-the-mouth layers. Curious about the white coating, Westerhoff, an environmental engineer, pored over the jawbreaker’s contents and discovered just how incredibly small the matter was...
Acid rain is a popular term referring to the deposition of wet poo and cats.
No, not really. But that's what people looking at Wikipedia's article on acid rain could have read on December 1, 2011.
An anonymous editor had tinkered with the text. Over the next few minutes, the silly sentence winked in and out of the article as editors wrangled over the wording.
The incident is...
“I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How.”
That’s the headline on a May 27 article by science journalist John Bohannon that revealed the backstory of a sting operation he conducted earlier this year. Bohannon and a German television reporter teamed up to “demonstrate just how easy it is to turn bad science into the big headlines behind diet fads.” So they...
In the near vacuum of outer space, each rare morsel of matter tells a story. A speedy proton may have been propelled by the shock wave of an exploding star. A stray electron may have teetered on the precipice of a black hole, only to be flung away in a powerful jet of searing gas.
Since 2011, the International Space Station has housed an experiment that aims to decipher those origin...