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  • News

    Like a balloon, peculiar magnet grows and shrinks

    An unusual magnet expands and contracts when exposed to a magnetic field. While scientists have long known that fields can subtly change magnets’ shape, the alloy described in the May 21 Nature is a rare specimen that experiences significant changes in volume. This material or similar ones could be used to produce actuators that push...

    05/20/2015 - 15:32 Materials
  • Letters to the Editor

    Suds versus nanoparticles and more reader feedback

    The bipedal Butcher

     In “Fearsome croc dominated northern Pangaea” (SN: 4/18/15, p. 16), Ashley Yeager...

    05/20/2015 - 08:49 Paleontology, Materials
  • News

    Spiders spin stronger threads with nanotubes

    Sorry, Kevlar. Spider silk loaded with carbon nanotubes may be the burliest fiber around.

    When spritzed with the tiny tubes, spiders spin superstrong, supertough strands of silk. These hardy threads are the toughest fibers ever created, researchers report online April 25 at

    Such fibers could one day replace the heavy steel...

    05/18/2015 - 14:00 Materials
  • News

    Mysterious form of phosphorus explained

    Facing famine, some crafty marine microbes may set up an exclusive black market for their rations of phosphorus.

    By converting the essential element of life into an unconventional chemical state, certain marine microbes could create a thriving exchange for phosphorus just among themselves, researchers report in...

    05/14/2015 - 14:00 Oceans, Ecosystems, Chemistry
  • News

    Electron pairs can take the heat

    Electrons zipping through a thin layer of strontium titanate interact and form pairs at higher temperatures than expected, researchers report in the May 14 Nature. The study is the first definitive evidence of coupled electrons in a solid material too warm for superconductivity, a state in which paired electrons move...

    05/13/2015 - 13:00 Condensed Matter, Materials
  • News

    Quantum experiment dissects wave-particle mash-up

    A new experiment captures a single parcel of light morphing between wave and particle.

    Published in the April Physical Review A, the experiment dissects a light pulse associated with a single photon to expose wavelike and particle-like components. The results add to recent evidence suggesting that just as Schrödinger’s...

    05/10/2015 - 09:00 Quantum Physics
  • News in Brief

    Fingerprints give away more than identity

    The one-of-a-kind pattern of ridges and valleys in a fingerprint may not only betray who was present at a crime scene. It may also tattle about what outlawed drugs a suspect handled.

    With advanced spectroscopy, researchers can detect and measure tiny flecks of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin — in some cases as little as trillionths of a gram — on a lone fingerprint. The study, led by...

    05/08/2015 - 13:45 Chemistry
  • News

    Bacteria staining method has long been misexplained

    With delicate hues of purple and pink, a lab technique called gram staining has reliably characterized bacteria for more than a century. Yet many scientists are mistaken about why the vivid method works, new research finds.

    Contrary to standard scientific texts, the purple dye called crystal violet, a main ingredient in gram staining, does not actually enter bacterial cells,...

    05/06/2015 - 15:20 Chemistry, Microbes
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Black Hole’ traces 100 years of a transformative idea

    Black Hole
    Marcia Bartusiak...

    05/06/2015 - 15:00 Astronomy, Physics, History of Science
  • News in Brief

    Scientists take first picture of thunder

    View the video

    MONTREAL — For the first time, scientists have precisely captured a map of the boisterous bang radiating from a lightning strike. The work could reveal the energies involved in powering some of nature’s flashiest light shows.

    As electric current rapidly flows from a negatively charged cloud to the ground below, the lightning rapidly heats and...

    05/05/2015 - 17:32 Physics, Climate