How antibody tests work and could help fight the coronavirus

The United Kingdom has ordered 3.5 million antibody tests, which would show whether someone has been exposed to COVID-19. Such tests, which just take a drop of blood, could help reveal people who have been exposed to the virus and are now likely immune, meaning they could go back to work and resume their normal…

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Face mask shortages have sparked creative solutions. Will they work?

As COVID-19 sweeps across the United States, hospitals are running out of masks, gowns and eye protection. New supplies aren’t being made fast enough to keep up with demand, and stockpiles seem insufficient. “There is no bailout,” says David Witt, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in California. “There…

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If Pluto has a subsurface ocean, it may be old and deep

A suspected subsurface ocean on Pluto might be old and deep. New analyses of images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft suggest that the dwarf planet has had an underground ocean since shortly after Pluto formed 4.5 billion years ago, and that the ocean may surround and interact with the rocky core. If so, oceans could…

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There’s no evidence the coronavirus jumped from pangolins to people

Pangolins can harbor coronaviruses related to the new coronavirus, a study finds. Scientists studied viruses in pangolins (Manis javanica) captured in anti-smuggling activities in southern China. The identified coronaviruses, however, are different enough from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to hint that pangolins were not directly responsible for transmitting the virus to people, which…

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Neandertals’ extensive seafood menu rivals that of ancient humans

Surf’s up, Neandertals. Our close evolutionary cousins obtained shellfish, crabs, fish and other marine munchies along Europe’s Atlantic coast with all the savvy and gusto of ancient humans who foraged along southern Africa’s shoreline, say archaeologist João Zilhão of the University of Barcelona and his colleagues. Neandertals consumed a diverse menu of sea and land…

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Readers weigh in on coronavirus, cats and more

Coronavirus questions Lessons from outbreaks of coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS may help scientists get a handle on the ongoing outbreak of a novel coronavirus, Tina Hesman Saey reported in “How the new coronavirus stacks up against SARS and MERS” (SN: 2/15/20, p. 6). Reader Inge Revuelta wondered about scientists’ calculations of how infectious…

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When coronavirus is both work and worry

When the news first surfaced in December of a flulike outbreak in China, a lot of us here at Science News felt our spidey senses tingle. China has sparked earlier outbreaks of diseases that travel from animals to people, notably SARS, which emerged from a live-animal market in 2002 and killed 774 people worldwide. I…

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Fossils of a new dromaeosaur date to the end of the Age of Dinosaurs

A wolf-sized warrior, kin to the fierce, feathered Velociraptor, prowled what is now New Mexico about 68 million years ago. Dineobellator notohesperus was a dromaeosaur, a group of swift, agile predators that is distantly related to the much larger Tyrannosaurus rex. The discovery of this new species suggests that dromaeosaurs were still diversifying, and even…

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Squid edit their genetic material in a uniquely weird place

Squid can edit their genetic information in a place scientists didn’t expect. Longfin inshore squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) are the first known animals that can tweak strings of RNA outside of a nerve cell’s nucleus. These genetic couriers, called messenger RNA, or mRNA, carry a cell’s blueprints for building proteins. All creatures make edits to RNA…

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You can help fight the coronavirus. All you need is a computer

Staying home isn’t the only way to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have added their home computers to a vast network that forms a virtual supercomputer called Folding@home. The Folding@home project, which uses crowdsourced computing power to run simulations of proteins for researchers studying diseases, announced in February that it…

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When will the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing end?

As the gears of the modern world grind to a near halt, one question is likely on the mind of many: When will the coronavirus pandemic — and social distancing — end?  No one knows for sure, but it’s probably not any time soon. Here’s what we do know about when it may be safe…

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Here’s where bacteria live on your tongue cells

Myriad microbes dwell on human tongues — and scientists have now gotten a glimpse at the neighborhoods that bacteria build for themselves. Bacteria grow in thick films, with different types of microbes clustered in patches around individual cells on the tongue’s surface, researchers report online March 24 in Cell Reports. This pattern suggests individual bacterial…

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Particles called axions could reveal how matter conquered the universe

Chalk up a potential third win for hypothetical particles called axions. If the subatomic particles exist, they could solve two pressing puzzles of particle physics: the source of the dark matter that fills galaxies with invisible mass, and the reason why interactions between quarks — the particles that make up protons and neutrons — adhere…

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Astronomers have found the edge of the Milky Way at last

Our galaxy is a whole lot bigger than it looks. New work finds that the Milky Way stretches nearly 2 million light-years across, more than 15 times wider than its luminous spiral disk. The number could lead to a better estimate of how massive the galaxy is and how many other galaxies orbit it. Astronomers…

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Why some heart patients may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19

As researchers examine deaths from COVID-19, heart patients appear especially vulnerable. In Italy, where the number of deaths has now surpassed those in China, public health officials reported on March 17 that among 355 people who died, a whopping 76 percent had hypertension and 33 percent had heart disease. And among more than 44,000 confirmed…

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Young adults can face severe cases of COVID-19, too

A new analysis of COVID-19 cases in the United States reveals that while older people are at high risk of becoming seriously ill, the disease can hit younger adults hard, too.    Early data from China examining the country’s first 44,000 cases had suggested that most severe COVID-19 cases and deaths happen in adults aged…

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HIV drugs didn’t work as a coronavirus treatment in a clinical trial

Doctors, researchers and health officials scrambling to find treatments for coronavirus-infected patients may have had one hope dashed. Researchers had hoped that antiviral drugs used to treat HIV might also work against the coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2 (SN: 3/10/20). Both HIV and the coronavirus need an enzyme called a protease to make infectious virus. The…

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How parents and kids can stay safe and sane during the coronavirus pandemic

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, society is becoming much less social. Public areas are emptying, businesses are shutting down, and schools and day cares are closing. Parents are struggling to navigate this new way of isolated family life, often with imperfect information. Here’s what we do know: The virus behind the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2,…

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50 years ago, scientists were trying to get a grip on Lassa fever

Studying a killer, Science News, March 21, 1970 –  In January 1969 an unknown virus was isolated for the first time from the sera of two nurses, who died.… The infection, being called Lassa fever, involved almost all the body’s organs.… Doctors so far suspect that the disease was transmitted by an animal, but what…

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Legos may take hundreds of years to break down in the ocean

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of stepping on a Lego, you know the plastic building blocks have absolutely no give. Now, scientists have discovered another unpleasant consequence of the toys’ indestructibility: A single Lego could take hundreds of years to break down in the ocean.   Earth’s oceans are littered with plastic of all kinds…

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‘Wonderchicken’ is the earliest known modern bird at nearly 67 million years old

Behold the Wonderchicken, the earliest modern bird ever found. Asteriornis maastrichtensis lived 66.7 million years ago, less than a million years before the asteroid impact that doomed all nonavian dinosaurs. The winged and beaked descendants of this quail-sized bird, however, survived that mass extinction event, forming a long lineage that includes modern chickens and ducks.…

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People who didn’t know they had COVID-19 drove its spread in China

Mild cases of COVID-19 that go unrecognized are fueling the coronavirus pandemic, a new study of the early days of the outbreak in China suggests. It’s this stealth transmission from undetected cases that U.S. officials are now scrambling to limit with a slew of recently announced social distancing measures (SN: 3/13/20). On March 16, the…

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How slime mold helped scientists map out the cosmic web

Creeping tendrils of slime seem to mirror the structure of the universe’s enormous filaments. That superficial similarity, in an organism called a slime mold, helped scientists map out the cosmic web, the vast threads of matter that connect galaxies. Made up of gas and the unidentified substance called dark matter, the cosmic web began forming…

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This is one of the largest Ice Age structures made of mammoth bones

Ancient people took on a mammoth project, in more ways than one. Excavations at Russia’s Kostenki 11 site have uncovered one of the oldest and largest Ice Age structures made of mammoth bones. Hunter-gatherers assembled bones from at least 60 mammoths into an imposing ring around 25,000 years ago, say archaeologist Alexander Pryor of the…

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The asteroid Ryugu has a texture like freeze-dried coffee

The asteroid Ryugu is light and fluffy. Images taken by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft suggest the whole asteroid is highly porous, scientists report in Nature on March 16. “It is something like freeze-dry coffee,” says planetary scientist Tatsuaki Okada of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. If early protoplanets had similar structures, that could mean planets formed…

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An AI that mimics how mammals smell recognizes scents better than other AI

When it comes to identifying scents, a “neuromorphic” artificial intelligence beats other AI by more than a nose. The new AI learns to recognize smells more efficiently and reliably than other algorithms. And unlike other AI, this system can keep learning new aromas without forgetting others, researchers report online March 16 in Nature Machine Intelligence.…

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A trick from cancer cells helps rats accept transplanted limbs

To help rats adopt transplanted limbs as their own, researchers have harnessed a ruse that cancer cells use to hide from the immune system — effectively reprograming the animals’ defenses to ignore foreign tissue. Rats injected with engineered microparticles tolerated a hind limb transplant from another rat for more than 200 days, even in the…

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An ancient ball court sheds light on a game made famous by the Aztecs

A roughly 3,400-year-old ball court in the mountains of southern Mexico has scored surprising insights into a game that later played a big role in Maya and Aztec societies. Excavations at a site called Etlatongo revealed the ancient ball court — the second oldest found to date. The discovery shows that, at a time when…

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‘Human Nature’ offers CRISPR novices a basic introduction

Humans have been tinkering with the genes of plants and animals through selective breeding for millennia. But the ability to change our own DNA is something very new. The gene-editing tool CRISPR offers the promise of correcting genetic typos that cause a range of diseases. The documentary Human Nature — which opened in select U.S.…

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Social distancing, not travel bans, is crucial to limiting coronavirus’ spread

Aggressive actions to prevent — or at least to slow — the spread of COVID-19 are being taken across the world. Universities are cancelling in-person classes, while academic conferences and political rallies are postponed. Shops are shuttering. Sports leagues are suspending seasons or competing in empty stadiums. Such “social distancing” measures, as they are called…

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Coronavirus and technical issues delay a Mars mission’s launch

A joint European and Russian mission to Mars is being postponed from July until sometime in 2022, as the coronavirus pandemic is preventing scientists from resolving a few technical difficulties, the European Space Agency said March 12. “We cannot fly in 2020,” ESA director general Jan Wörner says. “This is a disappointment for me personally,…

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How the U.S. census has measured race over 230 years

On the first Monday in August 1790, just over a year after the inauguration of President George Washington, America’s first census marshals began knocking on doors. The new country’s constitution decreed that each state would be represented in Congress “according to their respective numbers.” A national enumeration was in order. And so, marshals took to…

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The star Betelgeuse might just be dusty, not about to explode

Betelgeuse, one of the brightest stars in the sky, suddenly faded in late 2019, startling astronomers and prompting speculation that the star was about to explode. But by the end of February, Betelgeuse had started to brighten again, quashing rumors of its demise. Now a study suggests that the dimming was due to dust recently…

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New fleets of private satellites are clogging the night sky

Astronomer Cliff Johnson was peering into deep space before dawn when something close to Earth interrupted his view. He and colleagues were searching for dwarf galaxies snuggled up to the Milky Way using the Victor M. Blanco 4-m Telescope in Chile. The team was remotely operating the scope from a room at Fermilab in Batavia,…

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What WHO calling the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic means

Given its spread and rapidly growing impact, the coronavirus outbreak is now considered a pandemic, the World Health Organization announced March 11 in a news conference. So far, the virus has reached at least 114 countries, killed over 4,000 people and infected at least 120,000. The situation is likely to get worse before it improves.…

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This ancient dinosaur was no bigger than a hummingbird

A tiny, toothed bird that lived 99 million years ago appears to be the smallest known Mesozoic dinosaur, an era from about 252 million to 66 million years ago. The creature’s 12-millimeter-long skull was found encased in a chunk of amber originally discovered in northern Myanmar, researchers report March 11 in Nature.  Of modern birds…

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Heavy metal may rain from the skies of planet WASP 76b

On one distant world, “heavy metal” could be a weather forecast. Telescope observations indicate that an exoplanet nearly 400 light-years away has iron rain. The planet, dubbed WASP 76b, is an extreme kind of exoplanet known as an ultrahot gas giant (SN: 7/30/19). These worlds “are complete oddballs,” says astronomer David Ehrenreich of the University…

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New electrodes can better capture brain waves of people with natural hair

Snugged up against the scalp, electrodes can eavesdrop on the brain’s electrical activity. But the signals can weaken when electrodes can’t get close enough to the scalps of people with coarse, curly hair.  This design flaw could end up excluding people with this type of hair, including people of African descent, from studies, says engineer…

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This is the first deep-sea fish known to be a mouthbreeder

Most fish are broadcast spawners, casting their eggs and sperm in clouds and leaving their young to develop alone. But a tiny minority — about 2 percent — are “mouthbreeders,” keeping their fertilized eggs (and sometimes hatchlings) protected in their mouths. Now, a study reveals the first fish known from the deep sea to mouthbrood,…

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Repurposed drugs may help scientists fight the new coronavirus

As the new coronavirus makes its way around the world, doctors and researchers are searching for drugs to treat the ill and stop the spread of the disease, which has already killed more than 3,800 people since its introduction in Wuhan, China, in December. The culprit virus is in the same family as the coronaviruses…

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An ancient social safety net in Africa was built on beads

Hunter-gatherers strung a social safety net across much of southern Africa starting at least 33,000 years ago, a new study suggests. And it was held together with ostrich eggshell beads. Some of these carefully crafted beads — excavated at two high-altitude rock-shelters in the African nation of Lesotho — were found to have originated more…

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Even a weird hypernucleus confirms a fundamental symmetry of nature

An exotic version of an atomic nucleus is doing double duty. A study of the hypertriton simultaneously confirms a basic symmetry of nature and potentially reveals new insights into what lurks inside ultradense neutron stars.  The hypertriton is a twin of the antihypertriton — the antimatter version of the nucleus. Both hypernuclei have the same…

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Sea turtles may confuse the smell of ocean plastic with food

To a sea turtle, plastic debris might smell like dinner. As the plastic detritus of modern human life washes into oceans, marine creatures of all kinds interact with and sometimes eat it (SN: 11/13/19). Recent research suggests that this is no accident. Plastic that’s been stewing in the ocean emits a chemical that, to some…

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What you need to know about coronavirus testing in the U.S.

U.S. government officials say a million promised tests for diagnosing coronavirus infections will soon be in the mail. But that still leaves many state and local laboratories without the ability to test for the virus, crucial for curbing its spread around the country. Some states have developed their own tests. Clinical testing companies are now…

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Travel bans have barely slowed the coronavirus’s spread

Travel restrictions imposed as the new coronavirus took China by storm slowed the spread of COVID-19 by only a few days within China and a few weeks internationally, according to a new study. On January 23, Chinese officials shut down travel in and out of Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 outbreak began, including closing…

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Physicists have narrowed the mass range for hypothetical dark matter axions

Bit by bit, physicists are winnowing down the potential masses for hypothetical particles called axions. If they exist, the subatomic particles could make up dark matter, a mysterious source of mass that pervades the universe. Axions are expected to be extremely lightweight — billionths or trillionths the mass of an electron. But there were no…

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Some ‘superpuff’ exoplanets may actually be ringed worlds like Saturn

Some puzzling planets called superpuffs could be Saturns in disguise. These exoplanets appear very large given their masses, suggesting that they have densities like cotton candy. Astronomers have struggled to explain how these planets could have turned out so fluffy (SN: 11/30/15). “People had been thinking of complicated ways to explain these mysterious planets,” such…

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A dog in Hong Kong has a low-level infection of the new coronavirus

A pet dog in Hong Kong has a low-level infection with the new coronavirus that the animal may have gotten from its owner, raising concerns that the virus currently spreading around the world can infect pets (SN: 3/4/20). But experts say it’s only a single case so far, and there is currently no evidence that…

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Meet Perseverance, NASA’s newest Mars rover

Meet Perseverance, NASA’s next ambassador to the Red Planet. The Mars rover’s new name was announced March 5, after a six-month “Name the Rover” competition that drew more than 28,000 entries from students in kindergarten through high school. Students were asked to make their name suggestions in essays. The winning entry came from 7th grader…

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Immune cells in the gut may play a big role in peanut allergies

Severe peanut allergies may stem from the stomach and gut. A surprisingly large pool of cells involved in allergic reactions to peanuts resides in the stomachs and small intestines of allergic adults, scientists report March 5 in Science Immunology.   Identifying the gastrointestinal tract as a prime location for allergy molecules is “a huge step…

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A more convenient, monthly treatment for HIV cleared a key hurdle

People living with HIV are one step closer to having a once-a-month treatment alternative to downing two or more pills a day. There is no cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But combination antiretroviral therapy, or ART, can effectively halt the replication of the virus, nearly eliminating it from the bloodstream and prolonging…

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Thirdhand smoke wafting off moviegoers hurts air quality in theaters

“Nonsmoking” doesn’t necessarily mean smoke-free. A new experiment monitoring airborne contaminants inside a nonsmoking theater indicates that hazardous cigarette fumes wafting off moviegoers can degrade air quality. Those pollutants include the carcinogen benzene (SN: 4/26/13) and toxic aldehydes, such as acrolein, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde (SN: 7/27/16). Such thirdhand smoke, released from tobacco residue on people’s…

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New fossils and artifacts show Homo erectus crafted a diverse toolkit

Hardly one-tool wonders, ancient hominids called Homo erectus relied on a toolkit that included relatively simple and more complex cutting devices, new discoveries suggest. Excavations at two Ethiopian sites located about 5.7 kilometers apart uncovered partial H. erectus braincases alongside two types of stone tools, paleoanthropologist Sileshi Semaw of the National Research Center on Human…

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Australia’s wildfires have now been linked to climate change

Human-caused climate change made southeastern Australia’s devastating wildfires during 2019–2020 at least 30 percent more likely to occur, researchers report in a new study published online March 4. A prolonged heat wave that baked the country in 2019-2020 was the primary factor raising the fire risk, said climate scientist Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, with the…

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As the coronavirus outbreak evolves, we answer some key questions

As a new coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands around the world continues to spread, scientists and public health officials are racing to understand the virus and stop the growing public health crisis. In this rapidly evolving situation, many unknowns remain. Here’s what we know so far about the new virus — called severe…

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6 key coronavirus numbers you should know

Just days after news that the new coronavirus was spreading in the United States, cases have now been reported in 10 states and the death toll is rising. As of March 2, six people — all in Washington state — have died from COVID-19, public health officials confirmed. Globally, more and more countries are reporting…

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Brain waves common during sleep also show up in awake sheep

Here’s something neat about sleeping sheep: Their brains have fast zags of neural activity, similar to those found in sleeping people. Here’s something even neater: These bursts zip inside awake sheep’s brains, too. These spindles haven’t been spotted in healthy, awake people’s brains. But the sheep findings, published March 2 in eNeuro, raise that possibility.…

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Bright yellow spots help some orb weaver spiders lure their next meal

Many orb weaver spiders sport yellowish stripes or spots on their undersides, and for a good reason. That color yellow tempts bees and flies into a spider’s web, a new study suggests. Orb weaver spiders get their name because they spin and sit on circular webs (SN: 8/8/17). But these spiders and their bright colors…

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Evaporating mixtures of two liquids create hypnotic designs

When liquids containing small particles evaporate, those fluids often leave behind fingerprints like coffee rings or whiskey webs (SN: 10/31/19). But liquids mixed with other liquids leave their own distinct residue patterns. An evaporating droplet that contains two fluids can sprout fingerlike protrusions or a chain of smaller droplets around its edge, depending on the…

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Modern-day oracles with a supercomputer

Humans have always sought to see the future and have called on many aids, from the movements of the stars to the fuzzy midsection of a woolly bear caterpillar (a wider brown band supposedly meant a milder winter). Sometimes the divination is all in fun; remember those paper “cootie catcher” fortune-tellers from childhood? But at…

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Readers respond to Notre Dame’s uncertain future

Resurrecting sound Following the April 2019 fire that badly damaged Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral, acoustics researcher Brian Katzand colleagues hope to help restore the cathedral’s iconic sound, Emily Conover reported in “How to restore the legendary acoustics of Notre Dame“ (SN: 1/18/20, p. 18). Reader Pamela Dellal found the story moving and comforting. “I am…

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What the new phase of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. means for you

As U.S. public health officials are working to figure out how two California women contracted a novel coronavirus that’s spreading widely around the world, experts say the cases mark a troubling new phase of the outbreak in the United States. A 50-year-old woman from Solano County tested positive for the virus on February 26. Her…

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Listening to soap bubbles pop reveals the physics behind the bursts

A soap bubble’s swan song is a quiet “pfttt.” Put your ear next to a soap bubble, and you might hear a high-pitched sound as it bursts. Now, scientists have characterized that sound using an array of microphones and analyzed the physics behind the sound of popping bubbles, scientists report in the Feb. 28 Physical…

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A black hole eruption marks the most powerful explosion ever spotted

Say hello to the Krakatoa of black hole eruptions. Hundreds of millions of years ago, a supermassive black hole in a far-off galaxy blew out gas into intergalactic space. The flare-up was about five times as powerful as the previous record holder, researchers report in the March 1 Astrophysical Journal. The energy from this one…

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Glowing frogs and salamanders may be surprisingly common

Many animals — from marine species like fish to corals and land creatures like penguins and parrots — have a hidden skill: gleaming blue, green or red under certain kinds of light (SN: 11/17/17). But when it comes to amphibians, experts knew of only one salamander and three frogs that fluoresced — until now.           Jennifer…

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An ancient magma ocean may have once driven Earth’s magnetic field

Billions of years ago, Earth’s magnetic field may have gotten a jump-start from a turbulent magma ocean swirling around the planet’s core. Our planet has generated its own magnetism for almost its entire history (SN: 1/28/19). But it’s never been clear how Earth created this magnetic field during the planet’s Archean Eon — an early…

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China’s moon rover revealed what lies beneath the lunar farside

The farside of the moon is a lunar layer cake. New data from China’s Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover reveal alternating layers of coarse rock and fine soil down to a depth of 40 meters, suggesting a history of violent impacts, scientists report February 26 in Science Advances. “We know much of the moon’s nearside”…

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Ordering from a local store can curb online shopping’s CO₂ emissions

Ordering items for delivery from the local store may help customers minimize their carbon footprints. Computer simulations of shopping trips and deliveries in the United Kingdom allowed researchers to estimate the carbon emissions associated with each item purchased through different means. On average, deliveries by a local shop resulted in less than half as much…

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Coronavirus’ spread in the U.S. may be a question of when, not if

Communities in the United States need to prepare for wider spread of the new coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned February 25.  “Cases of COVID-19 are appearing without a known source of exposure ” in countries outside of China, including Hong Kong, Italy, Iran and South Korea, Nancy Messonnier, director of…

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South Asian toolmaking withstood the biggest volcanic blast in 2 million years

Stone tools found in central India suggest that ancient South Asians stayed the course after a massive explosion of Indonesia’s Toba volcano around 74,000 years ago, researchers say. While the volcanic eruption was Earth’s largest in the last 2 million years, scientists have disagreed about how much it affected human populations as well as the…

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How scientists wrestle with grief over climate change

Arriving at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in October 2016, Tim Gordon thought he was living a dream. As a boy growing up in the southeast African country of Malawi, he’d covered his bedroom walls with Technicolor reef posters and vowed one day to explore those underwater worlds. The marine biologist was unprepared for what he…

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NASA icon Katherine Johnson has died at the age of 101

An inspirational “Hidden Figure” and a key player in sending the first humans to the moon, mathematician Katherine Johnson died February 24 at the age of 101. Born in West Virginia in 1918, her aptitude for math was evident at an early age. In 1953, she took a job at NASA’s predecessor NACA, the National…

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A distant cousin of jellyfish may survive without working mitochondria

In the pinkish muscle of some Pacific salmon lives a distant cousin of jellyfish that thrives without working mitochondria, the energy-producing part of cells thought to be a cornerstone of animal life, a study suggests. About 2 billion years ago, the ancestor of all eukaryotes — the large group of organisms with complex cells that includes…

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This fundamental constant of nature remains the same even near a black hole

Even on a black hole’s turf, an essential constant of nature holds steady. According to standard physics, the fine-structure constant, which governs interactions of electrically charged particles, is the same everywhere in the universe. Some alternative theories, however, suggest that the constant might be different in certain locales, such as the extreme gravitational environment around…

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U.S. drug deaths dipped in 2018, but cocaine and meth overdoses rose

The stories that Judith Feinberg hears from people with substance use disorder are riddled with loss: of jobs, opportunity, security, dignity. “People really are struggling to see that they have a viable future,” Feinberg says. “Then you take a drug … and you don’t care until you need the drug again.” For years, that drug…

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The earliest known hominid interbreeding occurred 700,000 years ago

Ancestors of Neandertals and Denisovans left Africa for Eurasia around 700,000 years ago and then interbred with a Homo population that had exited Africa long before, according to a new genetic study. The finding reveals the oldest known case of interbreeding among members of the genus that includes people today, Homo sapiens. Evidence of genetic…

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How African turquoise killifish press the pause button on aging

When the ponds where one African fish lives dry up, its offspring put their lives on pause. And now researchers have a sense for how the creatures do it.   African turquoise killifish embryos can halt their development during a state of suspended activity called diapause. Now a study shows that the embryos effectively don’t…

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Climate change is slowly drying up the Colorado River

Climate change is threatening to dry up the Colorado River — jeopardizing a water supply that serves some 40 million people from Denver to Phoenix to Las Vegas and irrigates farmlands across the U.S. Southwest. Computer simulations of the Colorado River Basin indicate that, on average, a regional temperature increase of 1.4 degrees Celsius over…

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