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  • Say What?

    Super-Earths, meet superpuffs, a lighter weight class of planet

    Superpuff\SOO-per-puf\ n.

    A gassy planet, close to its star, with a puzzlingly small mass.

    Not to be confused with a generic breakfast cereal, superpuffs are fluffy planets snuggled up to their suns. A superpuff develops its inflated persona by forming far from its star and then wandering inward, astronomers Eve Lee and Eugene Chiang of the University of California, Berkeley suggest...

    11/30/2015 - 14:17 Astronomy, Exoplanets
  • Feature

    Slow, cold reptiles may breathe like energetic birds

    Colleen Farmer was alone one night dissecting an alligator. Her focus was on blood flow in the heart, when suddenly, a hypothesis unfolded about animal lungs. In one sweep, she realized that what physiologists have assumed for decades about the evolution of airflow in alligators, other living reptiles, birds and maybe even dinosaurs might just be startlingly wrong.

    Lungs sound simple:...

    10/19/2015 - 13:11 Animals, Biophysics
  • Feature

    The arrow of time

    In T.H. White’s fantasy novel The Once and Future King, Merlyn the magician suffers from a rare and incurable condition: He experiences time in reverse. He knows what will happen, he laments, but not what has happened. “I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind,” he explains to a justifiably confused companion.

    While Merlyn is...

    07/10/2015 - 14:23 Physics, Cosmology
  • News

    One bold, misinformed spider slows a colony’s ability to learn

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The wrong-headed notions of an influential individual can make a group sluggish in learning from its mistakes, even among spiders.

    Velvet spiders (Stegodyphus dumicola) with bold behavior but incorrect information were bad influences on their colonies, researchers reported June 11 at the annual conference of the Animal Behavior Society. Spider growth faltered in these...

    06/17/2015 - 11:54 Animals
  • News in Brief

    Scientists confirm amassing CO2 heats Earth’s surface

    For the first time, scientists have witnessed a direct connection between rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an increase in the amount of thermal radiation striking Earth’s surface. The work affirms a cornerstone of the theory that humans have contributed to worldwide warming in recent decades, the researchers report online February 25 in Nature.

    Carbon dioxide, like other...

    02/25/2015 - 13:00 Climate
  • News

    Merging magma can set off supervolcanoes in less than 10,000 years

    Massive supervolcanic eruptions can be triggered much more quickly than previously thought, scientists report July 21 in Geology.

    The researchers made the discovery while reconstructing the history of a massive eruption 4.5 million years ago in a field of volcanoes called Heise, in what's now eastern Idaho. The Heise supervolcano spewed enough ash and molten rock to fill Lake Ontario. In...

    07/29/2014 - 14:38 Earth
  • News

    Drab female birds had more colorful evolution

    Color evolution among grackles and their kin is not about males showing off their fine feathers. It’s more about females switching their looks, a new analysis indicates.

    Among 37 species of grackles, blackbirds and other icterid relatives, males clearly do flash more diverse feather colors than females do, says Jordan Price of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  Bright epaulets on glossy...

    05/23/2014 - 15:25 Evolution
  • Feature

    The name of the fungus

    To a visitor walking down, down, down the white cinder block stairwell and through metal doors into the basement, Building 010A takes on the hushed, mile-long-beige-corridor feel of some secret government installation in a blockbuster movie.

    It’s not open to sightseers, but it’s far from secret. No jut-jawed military escort leads the way; biologist Shannon Dominick wears a striped...

    04/18/2014 - 13:55 Fungi
  • News in Brief

    Etched glass stops cracks in their tracks

    Carving squiggly lines into glass can actually toughen it up. The new engraving technique could keep wine glasses, windowpanes and medical implants from shattering. It might even beef up bulletproof glass.

    Ordinary bulletproof glass relies on a sandwich of glass, plastic and a rubbery glue called polyurethane to absorb the impact of speeding projectiles. Francois Barthelat and colleagues...

    01/28/2014 - 11:05 Materials
  • Feature

    Old drug, new tricks

    Like an aging actor rediscovered after being typecast for years, the long-standing diabetes drug metformin is poised to reinvent itself. A wealth of studies suggests the drug has cancer-fighting properties, and clinical trials are now under way to prove it.

    Metformin’s impact could be huge. “We believe that if this drug works, it will save between 100,000 and 150,000 lives a year...

    11/15/2013 - 15:00 Cancer, Biomedicine