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  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers question hominid family tree

    Hominid hubbub

    In “Hominid roots may go back to Europe” (SN: 6/24/17, p. 9), Bruce Bower reported that the teeth of Graecopithecus, a chimp-sized primate that lived in southeastern Europe 7 million years ago, suggest it was a member of the human evolutionary family.

    “Is it appropriate to use the terms ‘hominid’ and ‘ape’ as if the two are mutually exclusive categories?” asked online...

    07/26/2017 - 13:04 Anthropology, Physics, Animals
  • Feature

    Perovskites power up the solar industry

    Tsutomu Miyasaka was on a mission to build a better solar cell. It was the early 2000s, and the Japanese scientist wanted to replace the delicate molecules that he was using to capture sunlight with a sturdier, more effective option.

    So when a student told him about an unfamiliar material with unusual properties, Miyasaka had to try it. The material was “very strange,” he says, but he...

    07/26/2017 - 12:00 Materials, Sustainability, Chemistry
  • News

    More hints of Martian hot springs may hold promise for Mars 2020 mission

    Ancient hot springs may have bubbled up at a spot just south of the Martian equator. Left-behind mineral deposits described in a new study are not the first evidence of such features on Mars. But if confirmed, the discovery could affect where NASA’s Mars 2020 mission rover lands to start its hunt for signs of life.

    The spot scrutinized in the new study is called Margaritifer Terra. This...

    07/26/2017 - 11:10 Planetary Science
  • Feature

    How earthquake scientists eavesdrop on North Korea’s nuclear blasts

    On September 9 of last year, in the middle of the morning, seismometers began lighting up around East Asia. From South Korea to Russia to Japan, geophysical instruments recorded squiggles as seismic waves passed through and shook the ground. It looked as if an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 had just happened. But the ground shaking had originated at North Korea’s nuclear weapons test site...

    07/25/2017 - 12:00 Earth
  • 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
  • Feature

    DNA evidence is rewriting domestication origin stories

    One lab full of rats looks pretty much the same as another. But visiting a lab in Siberia, geneticist Alex Cagan can distinguish rats bred to be tame from those bred to be aggressive as soon as he opens the lab door.

    “It’s a completely different response immediately,” he says. All of the tame rats “come to the front of the cage very inquisitively.” The aggressive rats scurry to the backs...

    07/06/2017 - 12:00 Genetics, Animals
  • Growth Curve

    Here’s how a child sees a Van Gogh painting

    One of the best things about having young children is that they give you a new way to see the world — a total cliché, yes, but true. Rainbows in water fountains are mesmerizing. Roly-poly bugs are worth stopping for. Bright blouses on strangers are remarked on, loudly. It’s occasionally embarrassing but always fun to see how this gorgeous world captivates children.  

    An inventive new...

    07/02/2017 - 08:00 Child Development
  • Feature

    Quantum computers are about to get real

    Although the term “quantum computer” might suggest a miniature, sleek device, the latest incarnations are a far cry from anything available in the Apple Store. In a laboratory just 60 kilometers north of New York City, scientists are running a fledgling quantum computer through its paces — and the whole package looks like something that might be found in a dark corner of a basement. The...

    06/29/2017 - 07:00 Quantum Physics, Computing
  • News in Brief

    Floral curve test shows what’s great for a moth is not so good for a flower

    PORTLAND, ORE. — A great flower shape for a moth trying to get a drink in the dark turns out to be awful from the plant’s point of view.

    Offering hawk moths (Manduca sexta) a range of 3-D printed flowers with different curvatures shows that a moderately curved trumpet shape lets moths sip most efficiently, Foen Peng reported June 24 at the Evolution 2017 meeting. That’s a win for a...

    06/27/2017 - 10:00 Plants, Evolution, Animals
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers question climate’s freshwater effects

    Water woes

    A recent survey of lakes around the globe found that from 1985 to 2009, most warmed while only several cooled, Alexandra Witze reported in “In hot water” (SN: 5/13/17, p. 18). Rising temperatures have consequences for every part of a lake’s food web, from algae to walleye to freshwater seals.

    “This article indicates that no pattern could be found to predict which lakes would...

    06/14/2017 - 10:47 Climate, Genetics