Vol. 200 No. 2
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More Stories from the July 31, 2021 issue

  1. Ecosystems

    As ‘phantom rivers’ roar, birds and bats change their hunting habits

    A massive experiment in the Idaho wilderness shows it’s not just human-made noises that impact ecosystems. Natural noises can too.

  2. Chemistry

    50 years ago, scientists developed self-destructing plastic

    In the 1970s, scientists developed plastic that could quickly break down when exposed to light. But that didn’t solve the world’s pollution problems.

  3. Animals

    Focusing on Asian giant hornets distorts the view of invasive species

    2021’s first “murder hornet” is yet another arrival. This is the not-so-new normal.

  4. Physics

    Gravitational waves reveal the first known mergers of a black hole and neutron star

    For the first time, LIGO and Virgo have detected long-anticipated gravitational waves from a black hole merging with a neutron star.

  5. Paleontology

    For some dinosaurs, the Arctic may have been a great place to raise a family

    Fossils of baby dinosaur remains found in northern Alaska challenge the idea that some dinosaurs spent only summers in the Arctic.

  6. Animals

    A proposed ‘quantum compass’ for songbirds just got more plausible

    Quantum physics could be behind birds’ magnetic sense of direction, new measurements indicate.

  7. Plants

    A widely studied lab plant has revealed a previously unknown organ

    A cantilever-like plant part long evaded researchers’ notice in widely studied Arabidopsis thaliana, grown in hundreds of labs worldwide.

  8. Animals

    These beetles walk on water, upside down, underneath the surface

    Many insects can skate atop the water’s surface thanks to water tension, but one beetle can apparently tread along the underside of this boundary.

  9. Earth

    Invisible bursts of electricity from volcanoes signal explosive eruptions

    Mysterious “vent discharges” could help warn of impending explosions, a study of Japan’s Sakurajima volcano shows.

  10. Agriculture

    A tweaked yeast can make ethanol from cornstalks and a harvest’s other leftovers

    By genetically modifying baker’s yeast, scientists figured out how to get almost as much ethanol from cornstalks as kernels.

  11. Astronomy

    A shadowy birthplace may explain Jupiter’s strange chemistry

    Dust that blocked sunlight caused the giant planet to form in a deep freeze, a new study suggests.

  12. Astronomy

    Any aliens orbiting these 2,000 stars could spot Earth crossing the sun

    Alien astronomers in those star systems could discover Earth the way we find exoplanets: by watching for a dip in starlight.

  13. Plants

    How Romanesco cauliflower forms its spiraling fractals

    By tweaking just three genes in a common lab plant, scientists have discovered the mechanism responsible for one of nature’s most impressive fractals.

  14. Astronomy

    Scientists spotted an electron-capture supernova for the first time

    A flare that appeared in the sky in 2018 was an electron-capture supernova, a blast that can occur in stars too small to go off the usual way.

  15. Health & Medicine

    How your DNA may affect whether you get COVID-19 or become gravely ill

    A study of 45,000 people links 13 genetic variants to higher COVID-19 risks, including a link between blood type and infection and a newfound tie between FOXP4 and severe disease.

  16. Physics

    An atomic clock that could revolutionize space travel just passed its first test

    The most precise clock ever sent to space successfully operated in Earth’s orbit for over a year.

  17. Earth

    A new book reveals stories of ancient life written in North America’s rocks

    In ‘How the Mountains Grew,’ John Dvorak probes the interlinked geology and biology buried within the rocks of North America.