February 7, 2015 | Science News

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February 7, 2015

Editor's Note

Editor in Chief, Eva Emerson, contemplates the pros and cons of small drones flocking to our skies and the science behind them, discussed in this issue's feature on animal flight research.
By Eva Emerson | January 28, 2015
Magazine issue: Vol. 187 No. 3 , February 7, 2015 , p. 2

Features

Illustration of a researcher panning for data

Feature

As science moves into big data research — analyzing billions of bits of DNA or other data from thousands of research subjects — concern grows that much of what is discovered is fool’s gold.
Robot bird illustration

Feature

Scientists have turned to Mother Nature’s most adept aerial acrobats — birds, bees, bats and other animals — to inspire their designs for self-directed drones.
Doug Warrick with drone

Feature

In the fields of Oregon, scientists learn flight tricks from swallows.

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Editor's Note

Editor in Chief, Eva Emerson, contemplates the pros and cons of small drones flocking to our skies and the science behind them, discussed in this issue's feature on animal flight research.

Features

Robot bird illustration
Scientists have turned to Mother Nature’s most adept aerial acrobats — birds, bees, bats and other animals — to inspire their designs for self-directed drones.
Doug Warrick with drone
In the fields of Oregon, scientists learn flight tricks from swallows.
Illustration of a researcher panning for data
As science moves into big data research — analyzing billions of bits of DNA or other data from thousands of research subjects — concern grows that much of what is discovered is fool’s gold.

News

airplane takeoff
More frequent hot days coming with climate change will require airlines to reduce aircraft takeoff weight.
computer simulation of rhinovirus outer coat
Antiviral responses aren’t as effective against common cold viruses in cooler temperatures.
Flying goose
Bar-headed geese rise and fall to match terrain below them when migrating over the Himalayas.
Red dwarf planet
Small, rocky planets that sit close to cool stars might be able to keep spinning, creating conditions hospitable to life.
A long-term sleep study strengthens the link between the two breathing disorders asthma and sleep apnea.
lung cancer risk drops at higher elevations, image

Breathing at sea level may be hazardous to your health, a new study hints.

graphene lattice, illustration
Single-atom-thick sheets of carbon called graphene can be magnetized with the help of an insulating magnet.
black holes are on a collision course
A pair of supermassive black holes in a distant galaxy will likely collide in the next million years.
pine pollen
Google search queries could help researchers track pollen seasons in areas without pollen-monitoring stations.
Texas Hold’em hand
An algorithm optimized to play heads-up limit Texas Hold’em poker will never lose in the long run against any opponent.
Puzzling disco clam light show might warn predators not to bite.
stats on obesity surgery
Obese middle-aged and older people fare better if they have had bariatric surgery, a long-term study of veterans finds.
exoplanets with potential for life
Extra year of Kepler telescope data adds 554 possible planets and eight confirmed ones that might be able to host life.
dried reservoir in California
Strong Pacific Ocean winds blamed for the global warming hiatus also boosted the odds of severe drought in the southwestern United States.
A 2011 study on tearing apart ring-shaped molecules is set to be retracted following a misconduct investigation.
O'Neal Bridge, Alabama
In the lab, blacktail shiners had trouble hearing courtship growls over Alabama bridge traffic recordings.
Chameleon
A South African chameleon species can shoot its tongue with up to 41,000 watts of power per kilogram of muscle involved, a new study finds.
Bone hand ax
People may have dug up roots with the 170,000-year-old bone tool, the first found in East Asia.
Fracking well in Pennsylvania
High levels of ammonium and iodide found in wastewater from oil and gas exploration can harm aquatic life and form dangerous byproducts in tap water.
Deep oceans on rocky planets, illustration
Rocky planets a few times as massive as Earth may build deeper oceans – and sustain them for longer – than smaller worlds.
antibiotic candidate
Tests in lab dishes and mice suggest an experimental compound called teixobactin can kill staph, TB microbes and other bacteria.

Notebook

clouds
Floating in a cloud and noshing sweets while wrapped in a cozy bubble sounds like a pleasant dream. For some lucky bacteria, it may be a reality.
Shrimpfish
A tails-up swimmer makes rare moves.
Messenger maps
In 1965, engineers proposed sending a spacecraft to Mercury with help from another planet’s gravity – a technique now used in many interplanetary missions.
Researchers use a ‘gustometer’ to control wine portions in experiments comparing the brains of sommeliers and novices.

Reviews & Previews

picture of Maasai herding cattle
PBS nature series ‘Earth: A New Wild’ shows humans living with, and not off, their environments
The 18th century eruption of Iceland’s Laki volcano spewed sulfurous gases that briefly cooled the globe and probably contributed to the early deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Letters to the Editor

Readers discuss a journal's publishing practices, ask about the human sense of smell and weigh in on their favorite picks from our Top 25 stories of the year.

Science Visualized

U.S. map of 2014 average temperatures by state
According to data from NASA and NOAA, 2014 was one of the hottest years on record — in some states.