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  • News

    New molecular knot is most complex yet

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    One hundred and ninety-two atoms have tied the knot.

    Chains of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, woven together in a triple braid, form the most complex molecular knot ever described, chemists from the University of Manchester in England report in the Jan. 13 Science.

    Learning how to tie such knots could one day help researchers weave molecular...

    01/12/2017 - 14:00 Chemistry, Materials
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers weigh in on dinos, dark matter and more

    Prehistoric tweet

    Researchers uncovered the fossilized voice box, called a syrinx, of an ancient bird that lived 68 million to 66 million years ago. The bird may have sounded like a honking duck, Meghan Rosen reported in “Ancient avian voice box unearthed” (SN: 11/12/16, p. 7).

    Online reader David Spector wondered if researchers could 3-D print the syrinx to replicate the ancient bird’s...

    01/11/2017 - 12:15 Paleontology, Particle Physics, Health
  • Feature

    Evidence falls into place for once and future supercontinents

    Look at any map of the Atlantic Ocean, and you might feel the urge to slide South America and Africa together. The two continents just beg to nestle next to each other, with Brazil’s bulge locking into West Africa’s dimple. That visible clue, along with several others, prompted Alfred Wegener to propose over a century ago that the continents had once been joined in a single enormous landmass....

    01/11/2017 - 08:38 Earth
  • News in Brief

    Dark matter still missing

    Chalk up one more loss for physicists searching for dark matter. Scientists with the XENON100 experiment have largely ruled out another experiment’s controversial claim of detecting dark matter.

    XENON100, located in Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory, aims to directly detect particles of dark matter — the unknown substance that scientists believe makes up the bulk of matter in the...

    01/10/2017 - 07:00 Particle Physics
  • Feature

    What’s ahead for science in 2017?

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    As science journalists look back on the top stories of the year, scientists push on, asking the next questions and chasing fresh data. What big discoveries might they deliver in 2017? Science News writers reveal what they are watching for — and hoping for — in the year ahead. 

    Bruce BowerBehavioral Sciences

    “I look forward to seeing where the reproducibility debate...

    12/20/2016 - 09:00 Science & Society
  • News

    New footprint finds suggest range of body sizes for Lucy’s species

    Famous footprints of nearly 3.7-million-year-old hominids, found in 1976 at Tanzania’s Laetoli site, now have sizable new neighbors.

    While excavating small pits in 2015 to evaluate the impact of a proposed field museum at Laetoli, researchers uncovered comparably ancient hominid footprints about 150 meters from the original discoveries. The new finds reveal a vast range of body sizes for...

    12/16/2016 - 13:04 Anthropology, Ancestry
  • Feature

    Year in review: Sea ice loss will shake up ecosystems

    In a better world, it would be the big news of the year just to report that Arctic sea ice shrank to 4.14 million square kilometers this summer, well below the 1981–2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers (SN Online: 9/19/16). But in this world of changing climate, extreme summer ice loss has become almost expected. More novel in 2016 were glimpses of the complex biological consequences...

    12/14/2016 - 07:37 Climate, Animals, Plants
  • Feature

    Year in review: ‘Minimal genome’ makes its debut

    One of biology’s biggest achievements of 2016 was intentionally as small as possible: building a bacterium with only 473 genes. That pint-size genetic blueprint, the smallest for any known free-living cell, is a milestone in a decades-long effort to create an organism containing just the bare essentials necessary to exist and reproduce. Such “minimal genome” cells might eventually serve as...

    12/14/2016 - 07:36 Microbiology, Genetics, Cells
  • Essay

    The fight against infectious diseases is still an uphill battle

    It was barely more than half a century ago that the Nobel Prize–winning virologist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet mused about the demise of contagions. “To write about infectious disease,” he wrote in 1962, “is almost to write of something that has passed into history.”

    If only. In the past several decades, over 300 infectious pathogens have either newly emerged or emerged in new places,...

    12/14/2016 - 05:30 Health, Microbiology, Science & Society
  • Essay

    Shadows of two failed searches loom over physics

    Scientists, like athletes, are obsessed with experiencing the thrill of victory. Just as they fear the agony of defeat. And in the wide world of science, thrills make news much more often than the agony. Winners get the publicity, losers can’t get published.

    But sometimes the defeats deserve to make news too, especially when highly publicized experiments fail in their quest. Data...

    12/13/2016 - 05:30 Physics, Astronomy