News in Brief
SEATTLE — A good exomoon is hard to find. Proving that the first purported moon around an exoplanet actually exists could take up to a decade, its discoverers say.
“We’re running into some difficult problems in terms of confirming the presence of this thing,” said astronomer Alex Teachey of Columbia University at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on January 10.
Every field of science has its favorite anniversary.
For physics, it’s Newton’s Principia of 1687, the book that introduced the laws of motion and gravity. Biology celebrates Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) along with his birthday (1809). Astronomy fans commemorate 1543, when Copernicus placed the sun at the center of the solar system.
And for chemistry, no cause for...
Year in Review
Several new space probes got their starts in 2018, while some sang swan songs.Hello
1. TESS is on the lookout for planets
There’s a new planet hunter in town. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, launched April 18 to search the nearest, brightest stars in the sky for signs of orbiting planets.
TESS has already spotted at least two new worlds, one of which may...
Nearly one-third of American adults sleep less than six hours each night, a broad new survey shows.
Among nearly 400,000 respondents to the annual National Health Interview Survey, 32.9 percent reported this short sleep in 2017 — up from 28.6 percent in 2004 when researchers began noticing a slight drop in sleep time. That’s a 15 percent increase representing “more than 9 million people...
Year in Review
Science is catching up to Hollywood in coming to terms with its own #MeToo moment. In the last year or so, several high-profile scientists left their posts after investigations of sexual harassment allegations, including geneticist Francisco Ayala, cancer biologist Inder Verma and astrophysicist Christian Ott. But getting rid of the “bad actors” isn’t enough, according to a report...12/20/2018 - 12:14 Science & Society
It almost feels like people think every known disorder could be cured by tweaking the gut microbiome: The list of possibilities includes obesity, liver disease, diabetes, autism, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, depression and anxiety. The length of that list alone invites skepticism among those of us who cover science. But there’s enough evidence that gut microbes...12/05/2018 - 05:15 Science & Society, Health, Neuroscience
Disinfection of public drinking water is one of the great public health success stories of the 20th century. In 1900, outbreaks of cholera and typhoid, both caused by waterborne bacteria, were common in American cities. In 1908, Jersey City, N.J., became the first U.S. city to routinely disinfect community water. Other cities and towns quickly followed, and by 1920, the typhoid rate...11/21/2018 - 07:15 Science & Society, Health, History of Science
News in Brief
The next NASA Mars rover will hunt for signs of ancient life in what used to be a river delta, the agency announced on November 19.
The rover is expected to launch in July 2020 and to land on Mars around February 18, 2021. It will seek out signs of past life in the sediments and sands of Jezero crater, which was once home to a 250-meter-deep lake and a river delta that flowed into the...
Whether people prefer coffee or tea may boil down to a matter of taste genetics.
People with a version of a gene that increases sensitivity to the bitter flavor of caffeine tend to be coffee drinkers, researchers report online November 15 in Scientific Reports. Tea drinkers tended to be less sensitive to caffeine’s bitter taste, but have versions of genes that increase sensitivity to the...
Letters to the Editor
Hot stuff11/04/2018 - 06:00 Materials, Health, Physics
A new material that converts sunlight into heat could someday melt ice off airplane wings, wind turbines and rooftops, Maria Temming reported in “A new material harnesses light to deice surfaces” (SN: 9/29/18, p. 17).
“What happens when the object (such as an airplane wing) to which the material has been applied is subjected to the sun on a hot summer day?” asked online...