Biologist Leo Smith held an unusual job while an undergraduate student in San Diego. Twice a year, he tagged along on a chartered boat with elderly passengers. The group needed him to identify two particular species of rockfish, the chilipepper rockfish and the California shortspine thornyhead. Once he’d found the red-orange creatures, the passengers would stab themselves in the arms with the...
Nuclear physicist Evangeline Downie hadn’t planned to study one of the thorniest puzzles of the proton.
But when opportunity knocked, Downie couldn’t say no. “It’s the proton,” she exclaims. The mysteries that still swirl around this jewel of the subatomic realm were too tantalizing to resist. The plentiful particles make up much of the visible matter in the universe. “We’re made of them...
First of two parts
Sometimes it seems like every year offers an occasion to celebrate some sort of Einstein anniversary.
In 2015, everybody lauded the 100th anniversary of his general theory of relativity. Last year, scientists celebrated the centennial of his prediction of gravitational waves — by reporting the discovery of gravitational waves. And this year marks the centennial...
The heavy-duty material used to build bridges and sculpt skyscrapers could learn a few tricks from humble bones.
Steel’s weakness is its tendency to develop microscopic cracks that eventually make the material fracture. Repeated cycles of stress — daily rush hour traffic passing over a bridge, for example — nurture these cracks, which often aren’t apparent until the steel collapses....
Behind their ferocious façade, tyrannosaurs were probably a bit touchy-feely. A new species of tyrannosaur may have had highly sensitive organs in its face that could detect touch and temperature, researchers report March 30 in Scientific Reports.
Several skulls of the newly identified species, Daspletosaurus horneri, which lived about 75 million years ago and grew about 9 meters long,...
In a feat of quantum one-upmanship, two teams of scientists have staked new claims of linking whopping numbers of atoms at the quantum level.
Researchers from Geneva demonstrated quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms, smashing the previous record of about 3,000 entangled atoms (SN Online: 3/25/2015). Meanwhile, scientists from Canada and the United States used a similar technique to...
What happens when you shoot lasers at a dinosaur fossil? Some chemicals preserved in the fossil glow, providing a nuanced portrait of the ancient creature’s bones, feathers and soft tissue such as skin.
Soft tissue is rarely preserved in fossils, and when it is, it can be easily obscured. A technique called laser-stimulated fluorescence “excites the few skin atoms left in the matrix,...
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Where the River FlowsSean W. FlemingPrinceton Univ.$26.95
Spend an hour wandering along a river and you may wonder why the water rushing by chose this particular path over any other. While many nature writers might offer philosophical musings on the subject, Where the River Flows author Sean Fleming has physics on his side.
Physics isn’t the lens through which most people think...
Not too long ago, the internet was stationary. Most often, we’d browse the Web from a desktop computer in our living room or office. If we were feeling really adventurous, maybe we’d cart our laptop to a coffee shop. Looking back, those days seem quaint.
Today, the internet moves through our lives with us. We hunt Pokémon as we shuffle down the sidewalk. We text at red lights. We tweet...
Large, detachable scales make a newly discovered species of gecko a tough catch. When a predator grabs hold, Madagascar’s Geckolepis megalepis strips down and slips away, looking more like slimy pink Silly Putty than a rugged lizard.
All species of Geckolepis geckos have tear-off scales that regrow within a few weeks, but G. megalepis boasts the largest. Some of its scales reach nearly 6...