Reviews & Previews
The Oxford Illustrated History of ScienceIwan Rhys Morus, ed.Oxford Univ., $39.95
Books about the history of science, like many other histories, must contend with the realization that others have come before. Their tales have already been told. So such a book is worth reading, or buying, only if it offers something more than the same old stories.
In this case, The Oxford...
Synestia\sin-es-ti-ə \ n.07/21/2017 - 09:00 Planetary Science
A large spinning hunk of hot, vaporized rock that forms when rocky, planet-sized objects collide
Earth may have taken on a jelly doughnut shape early in its history. The rocky planet was spinning through space about 4.5 billion years ago when it smacked into a Mars-sized hunk of rotating rock called Theia, according to one theory (SN: 4/15/17, p. 18). That hit...
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Ravens have passed what may be their toughest tests yet of powers that, at least on a good day, let people and other apes plan ahead.
Lab-dwelling common ravens (Corvus corax) in Sweden at least matched the performance of nonhuman apes and young children in peculiar tests of advanced planning ability. The birds faced such challenges as selecting a rock useless at the...
Readers often praise Science News for its brevity. It’s undoubtedly one of our defining features, and one of our core values. To deliver the latest news from a wide breadth of scientific subfields, our writing must be clear and concise. Our news gets to the point, with all the fascinating detail but none of the flab. Packing content in has long been the tradition at Science News — no surprise...
Letters to the Editor
Martian mysteries07/06/2017 - 12:30 Planetary Science, Genetics, Particle Physics
Mars may have formed out where the asteroid belt is now, far from its planetary neighbors, Thomas Sumner reported in “New proposal reimagines Mars’ origin” (SN: 5/27/17, p. 14).
Readers online were fascinated by Mars’ origin story. “There seemed to be evidence of actual seas on early Mars,” stargene wrote. “How can this be finessed into the idea of Mars living out in...
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...
Long before humans domesticated other animals, we may have domesticated ourselves.
Over many generations, some scientists propose, humans selected among themselves for tameness. This process resulted in genetic changes, several recent studies suggest, that have shaped people in ways similar to other domesticated species.
Tameness, says evolutionary biologist and primatologist...
John Archibald Wheeler was fond of clever phrases.
He made the term “black hole” famous in the 1960s. He also coined the now-familiar “wormhole” and “quantum foam.” While further pondering the mystery of quantum physics at the University of Texas at Austin during the 1980s, Wheeler repeatedly uttered his favorite interrogative slogan: “How come the quantum?” And from those ponderings...
50 Years Ago
Lowest temperature yet
A common pin dropped on a table from a height of one-eighth of an inch generates about 10 ergs of energy, obviously a minuscule amount. That 10 ergs raises temperature, and even that tiny amount is “much too much” to be allowed in the experiment during which Dr. Arthur Spohr of the Naval Research Laboratory reached the lowest temperature yet achieved — within less...
An adult insect wing is basically dead.
So what in the world were tiny respiratory channels doing in a wing membrane of a morpho dragonfly?
Rhainer Guillermo Ferreira was so jolted by a scanning electron microscope image showing what looked like skinny, branching tracheal tubes in a morpho wing that he called in another entomologist for a second opinion. Guillermo Ferreira, then at...