Signs of the color blue have been found in a fossil for the first time

 Modern blue-colored birds and an ancient bird both have similar color-creating microstructures STUDY IN BLUE  This fossil of Eocoracias brachyptera, a bird that lived 48 million years ago, contains preserved melanosomes. The shape and size of those tiny pigment-containing structures, and the bird’s family tree, suggest that it had blue plumage.Sven Traenkner/Senckenberg Research Institute…

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These fungi drug cicadas with psilocybin or amphetamine to make them mate nonstop

 The insects keep at it even if chunks of their abdomens fall off FREAKY FUNGUS  The cicada-infecting Massospora cicadina fungus makes an amphetamine called cathinone, which spurs cicadas to mate and spread fungal spores. Other species of the fungus produce psilocybin, more often found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.SAN FRANCISCO — A cicada-infecting fungus produces drugs…

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A new algorithm finds nearby stars that could host hidden worlds

 The computer program identified more than 350 objects for follow-up LOOK TO THE STARS  This giant planet orbiting the star 51 Pegasi (illustrated) was the first confirmed exoplanet around a sunlike star. A new algorithm hopes to find hundreds of similar worlds by looking at stars’ chemical elements.A new planet-hunting algorithm suggests that at…

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Dried Earth microbes could grow on Mars with just a little humidity

 In experiments, salt-loving bacteria revived and doubled their numbers after absorbing damp air MICROBE FIT FOR MARS Salt-loving bacteria from Washington state’s Hot Lake — so named because it doesn’t freeze — may be able to survive on Mars, new research suggests. SAN FRANCISCO — Salt-loving microbes can dry out and come back to life…

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3-D mammograms are popular, but are they better than 2-D?

In recent years, women getting a mammogram have had a new decision to make: 2-D or 3-D?Some breast-care centers have touted the newer 3-D mammography technology as more accurate. But while initial research suggests that it may be a more sensitive diagnostic test, evidence that the technology actually reduces the number of deaths from breast…

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Gut microbes might help elite athletes boost their physical performance

 Mice dosed with Veillonella bacteria from an athlete’s stool ran for longer on a treadmill BUFF BACTERIA  Bacteria that bloom in the guts of runners after a marathon might have beneficial effects for their hosts, including enhancing performance, a study in mice suggests.One difference between elite athletes and the rest of us might be…

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Capuchin monkeys’ stone-tool use has evolved over 3,000 years

 A Brazilian site shows the animals’ long history of selecting various types of pounding devices GRIPPING PAST  A Brazilian excavation indicates that capuchin monkeys have used stones as pounding tools for 3,000 years, with variations along the way in tool size and weight.Excavations in Brazil have pounded out new insights into the handiness of…

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The highest-energy photons ever seen hail from the Crab Nebula

 Some of the supernova remnant’s gamma rays have more than 100 trillion electron volts of energy CRAB FISHING  Scientists hunting for high-energy photons raining down on Earth from space have found the most energetic light yet detected. It’s from the Crab Nebula, a remnant of an exploded star (shown in an image combining light…

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New approaches may help solve the Lyme disease diagnosis dilemma

In 2005, Rachel Straub was a college student returning home from a three-week medical service mission in Central America. Soon after, she suffered a brutal case of the flu. Or so she thought. “We were staying in orphanages,” she says of her trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. “There were bugs everywhere. I remember going to…

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Female rats face sex bias too

When researchers release a new finding about the brain, it’s often mice or rats who have run the mazes and taken the tests for science. People might wonder: Are rodents good substitutes for humans? Maybe for men, but what about women?That’s less likely, because most neuroscience experiments don’t use female rodents — a fact one…

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Hyenas roamed the Arctic during the last ice age

 Newly identified fossils confirm how the carnivores migrated to North America, researchers say ARCTIC HYENAS  New fossil evidence shows that hyenas lived in the Arctic during the last ice age, as depicted in this illustration.Modern hyenas stalk the savannas of Asia and Africa, but the animals’ ancient relatives may have had snowier stomping grounds:…

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Norovirus close-ups might help fight stomach flu

 Detailed views of strains of the virus could aid vaccine and disinfectant development ALL SIZES  Different strains of norovirus may come in different sizes, a cryo-electron microscopy study suggests. A strain called GII.4 (right), which is responsible for most norovirus outbreaks, is bigger than expected.  Knowing your enemy is an important principle of competition,…

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Diamond detectors could aid the search for dark matter

 The particles could be spotted when they slam into electrons or atomic nuclei in the crystals SHINE ON  Diamond could be used in particle detectors to spot lightweight types of dark matter particles, if they exist.A new idea for detecting dark matter really sparkles.Diamonds could be used to search for the mysterious substance, a…

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Is a long-dormant Russian volcano waking up? It’s complicated

 Scientists debate how to interpret quakes near Bolshaya Udina on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula SLEEPING GIANT  Bolshaya Udina, a volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, has long been inactive. Some scientists suggest the volcano is waking up, based on nearby seismic activity. But others say those rumblings may be linked to active volcanoes in the…

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Parasites ruin some finches’ songs by chewing through the birds’ beaks

 Gaping gaps may create discord for male birds wooing a mate OUT OF TUNE  Parasitic fly larvae chew through the beaks of some tree finches (Camarhynchus parvulus shown) in the Galápagos Islands, changing the birds’ songs and possibly their chances at landing a mate.Invasive parasites in the Galápagos Islands may leave some Darwin’s tree…

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How seafood shells could help solve the plastic waste problem

Lobster bisque and shrimp cocktail make for scrumptious meals, but at a price. The food industry generates 6 million to 8 million metric tons of crab, shrimp and lobster shell waste every year. Depending on the country, those claws and legs largely get dumped back into the ocean or into landfills.In many of those same…

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A computer model explains how to make perfectly smooth crepes

 It’s all in the way you roll your wrist while holding the pan SUPER SMOOTH  Strategically rotating the frying pan is the key to making flat crepes, a new computer simulation finds.Africa Studio/shutterstockPerfect crepe-making is all in the wrist, according to physics.Using a computer simulation, two fluid dynamics researchers have devised a step-by-step guide…

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‘Sneezing’ plants may spread pathogens to their neighbors

 Jumping dewdrops might help transmit disease among certain plants such as wheat BANE OF GRAIN  Disease could spread when sick wheat plants send dewdrops flying, an effect related to the release of merging drops’ surface tension.andrewburgess/iStock/Getty Images PlusNext time you pass a wheat field on a dewy morning, you might want to say “gesundheit.”That’s…

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Rotavirus vaccines may lower kids’ chances of getting type 1 diabetes

 The association revealed in U.S. insurance data held true only for those fully vaccinated BONUS EFFECT  Children fully vaccinated against rotavirus appear to be less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than unvaccinated children, according to a large study of U.S. insurance records.Sherry Yates Young/shutterstockThe rotavirus vaccine may have an unexpected benefit: a reduced…

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The cosmic ‘Cow’ may be a strange supernova

The cosmic oddity known as the Cow may have been a dying star that shed its skin like a snake before it exploded.Newly released observations support the idea that the burst occurred in a dense environment with strong magnetic fields, astronomer Kuiyun Huang and colleagues report in The Astrophysical Journal Letters June 12.These new measurements…

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How NASA’s portable atomic clock could revolutionize space travel

Traveling the solar system could one day be as easy as taking a bus to work. Scientists envision self-driving spaceships ferrying astronauts through deep space, and GPS-like systems guiding visitors across the terrains of other planets and moons. But for those futuristic navigation schemes, spacecraft and satellites would need to be equipped with clocks that…

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50 years ago, bulletproof armor was getting light enough to wear

 Excerpt from the June 21, 1969 issue of Science News Bulletproof armor has become much lighter and offers better protection than it did 50 years ago. Lighter bulletproof vest —A new, lighter bulletproof armor … composed of boron carbide fibers … [is] capable of stopping a .30-caliber bullet…. The armor weighs about six pounds…

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This body-on-a-chip mimics how organs and cancer cells react to drugs

 Five chambers house different tissues, connected by channels that help simulate blood flow BIOLOGICAL MICROCOSM  A new body-on-a-chip device can hold several different types of human cells and could help scientists quickly and accurately test the intended and unintended effects of drugs.A new body-on-a-chip system could provide a more holistic view of drug effects than…

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Lost wallets are more likely to be returned if they hold cash

 The global study also finds that the rate of return increases as the amount of money goes up LOST WALLET  People around the world are more likely to return lost wallets that have some money inside than wallets that don’t.Andrey_Popov/ShutterstockIf you’re prone to losing your wallet, keep it filled with cash.That’s a tip from…

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U.S honeybees had the worst winter die-off in more than a decade

 Varroa mites and diseases did the most damage, but weather disasters didn’t help WINTER WOES The worst winter losses of U.S. honeybee colonies in more than a decade raise worries about how much punishment these crop pollinators can take.U.S. honeybees just weathered an unusually bad winter.About 38 percent of beekeepers’ colonies died between October…

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The world’s fisheries are incredibly intertwined, thanks to baby fish

 A new study underlines the need for global cooperation in managing stocks, researchers say COASTAL CONNECTIONS  Thanks to eggs and larvae surfing ocean currents around the world, many fisheries depend on other nations’ spawning grounds to supply their fish stock, a study shows. Rudmer Zwerver/ShutterstockMarine fisheries are typically managed by individual nations. But the fish…

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Mice and bats’ brains sync up as they interact with their own kind

 Studies of the two mammals show coordinated neural activity SAME WAVELENGTH  When two bats are together, their brain activity falls into lockstep, a synchrony that may help coordinate some social behaviors, a study finds. Andrew Mackay/Alamy Stock PhotoWhen animals are together, their brain activity aligns. These simpatico signals, described in bats and mice, bring scientists…

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DNA confirms a weird Greenland whale was a narwhal-beluga hybrid

 Genetic analysis of the animal’s skull shows it had a narwhal mom and beluga dad TELLTALE TEETH  The skull of an unusual whale (center) killed decades ago resembles a cross between a beluga whale (right) and a narwhal (left). A genetic study confirms that the animal is a beluga-narwhal hybrid.  Mikkel Høegh Post/Natural History Museum…

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Table salt may be hiding in Europa’s underground sea

 The ocean of Jupiter’s icy moon may be more similar to Earth’s than expected CHAOS TERRAIN  Rough patches on Europa’s surface, seen in these NASA Galileo images, may partly owe their yellowish hue to sodium chloride.Univ. of Arizona, JPL-NASAWhat flavors our food may also season the sea of Jupiter’s moon Europa.Sulfate salts were thought…

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Many of the world’s rivers are flush with dangerous levels of antibiotics

 Polluted waterways help fuel drug resistance in bacteria DRUGGED UP  A global survey found antibiotics in about two-thirds of 711 river sites tested, including in the Odaw River running through Ghana’s capital of Accra (shown).In a massive survey of rivers across 72 countries, researchers found antibiotics at 66 percent of 711 sites sampled. Many…

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Massive superflares have been seen erupting from stars like the sun

 The finding suggests the outburst of stellar energy are more common than scientists thought HOT MESS  Scientists have found superflares erupting from older, sunlike stars, not just from young stars (one illustrated with an exoplanet).NASA, ESA and D. Player/STScIST. LOUIS — It isn’t only young stars that spit high-energy superflares. Older stars, such as…

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When fighting lice, focus on kids’ heads, not hats or toys

I recently attempted a technically demanding “around the world” braid on my kindergartner. On my sloppy and meandering approach to the South Pole, I discovered a loathsome sight that scuttled my circumnavigation — a smattering of small, brownish casings stuck onto hairs.I tried to convince myself that I was looking at sand. She’s always covered…

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Some Canadian lakes still store DDT in their mud

 Sediment samples show the dangerous pesticide and its by-products have a long life PERSISTENT POLLUTION  The insecticide DDT, sprayed across North American forests 50 years ago, still lingers in the sediments of some lakes, such as Sinclair Lake in New Brunswick, Canada (pictured). Five decades after DDT was last sprayed across Canadian forests, this harmful…

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The National Weather Service has launched its new U.S. forecasting model

The National Weather Service has launched a powerful new weather forecasting model, just in time for the U.S. Atlantic hurricane season. But some meteorologists worry that, even after years of testing, the model is still not ready for prime time.Over the last year, the weather service has been testing the upgraded tool, using it to…

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People may have smoked marijuana in rituals 2,500 years ago in western China

Mourners gathered at a cemetery in what’s now western China around 2,500 years ago to inhale fumes of burning cannabis plants that wafted from small wooden containers. High levels of the psychoactive compound THC in those ignited plants, also known as marijuana, would have induced altered states of consciousness. Evidence of this practice comes from Jirzankal…

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Bats beat out dogs as the main cause of rabies deaths in the U.S.

 Overseas contact with rabid canines comes in second place RABID BITE  Over the last 80 years, wild animals such as bats have replaced dogs as a major cause of rabies-related deaths in Americans. In the United States, the landscape of rabies transmission has shifted over the last 80 years. Rabies deaths linked to dog bites and…

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A tiny crater on viruses behind the common cold may be their Achilles’ heel

 The indentation could be a target for new drugs effective against the pathogens IN THE POCKET  A chemical compound (illustrated at center) binds to a never-before-seen pocket on the protein shell (blue, white and magenta) of an enterovirus, preventing replication.A newly discovered indentation on the surface of viruses that cause many illnesses, including the…

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These knotted cords may hide the first evidence that the Incas collected taxes

While excavating an Inca outpost on Peru’s southern coast, archaeologist Alejandro Chu and his colleagues uncovered some twisted surprises.In 2013, the scientists were digging in one of four rooms lining the entrance to what had been a massive storage structure, and they started finding sets of colored and knotted strings poking through the ground. Known…

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Genealogy companies could struggle to keep clients’ data from police

After police used DNA sleuthing techniques to arrest a teenage suspect in Utah accused of assault, a public genealogy website shut off most police access in May, following public outcry. That move by GEDMatch to protect the privacy of its users could backfire, some experts warn, creating more privacy issues, not fewer. Forensic genetic genealogy —…

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Some fungi trade phosphorus with plants like savvy stockbrokers

 New details show a fungus shifting its nutrient wares toward more favorable markets NETWORKING SKILLS  Underground networks of some fungi (shown magnified and colorized) have canny trade moves when it comes to swapping phosphorus for carbon.Victor Caldas, M.D. Whiteside et al/Current Biology 2019Some stringy fungi are tough negotiators, trading nutrients shrewdly with plants.An advance…

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The U.S. is still using many pesticides that are banned in other countries

 Most phased-out chemicals in the nation are discontinued by industry, not the EPA PERSISTANT PESTICIDES  The United States is lagging behind other agricultural nations in banning potentially harmful pesticides, such as chloropicrin, a study suggests.Marmaduke St. John/Alamy Stock PhotoCompared with other global agricultural powerhouses, the United States has lax restrictions on potentially harmful pesticides,…

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Carbon plays a starring role in the new book ‘Symphony in C’

 A geophysicist looks at the science, history and culture of the versatile element ALL ABOUT CARBON  Diamond, graphite and calcite (crystals shown) are just three of the hundreds of carbon-bearing minerals found on Earth.Rob Lavinsky and Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Symphony in CRobert M. HazenW.W. Norton & Co., $26.95Carbon is by no means…

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Medicaid-expanding states had fewer cardiovascular deaths than other states

 Cardiovascular disease is more likely to impact low-income people and the uninsured HEART HEALTH  Expanding eligibility for Medicaid was associated with fewer cardiovascular deaths, researchers report.States that expanded eligibility for Medicaid insurance coverage saw fewer deaths related to cardiovascular disease than if they hadn’t broadened the program’s reach, a new study shows. It’s another…

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DNA reveals ancient Siberians who set the stage for the first Americans

 A previously unknown population of Ice Age travelers across Beringia was discovered in Russia SIBERIAN ROOTS  Human teeth unearthed at this Russian site have yielded DNA from what researchers say was an unrecognized population of people who migrated to northeastern Siberia around 38,000 years ago.Northeastern Siberia hosted migrations of three consecutive ancient populations that…

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50 years ago, scientists wanted to build solar panels on the moon

 Excerpt from the June 14, 1969 issue of Science News STELLAR POWER  The SPS-Alpha solar satellite, shown in this illustration, was presented to NASA as a possible design for space-based solar power. The cone of solar cells collects the energy. The cells then convert the energy to microwaves and beam it down to Earth…

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Physicists have finally figured out how pentaquarks are built

 Scientists pinpoint the structure of the five-quark particles KEEP CALM AND BARYON  Pentaquarks are made from two sets of smaller particles, a baryon (red), which has three quarks, and a meson (gray), which has one quark and one antiquark.To make a quark quintet, combine a trio and a duo.Exotic subatomic particles called pentaquarks contain…

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In a first, magnetic fields have been spotted between two galaxy clusters

 The finding suggests large structures in the cosmic web are magnetized MAGNETIC CONNECTION Two distant galaxy clusters, Abell 0399 (left) and Abell 0401 (right), are connected by magnetic fields containing high-energy electrons. X-rays from the cluster cores are shown in purple, and radio emission from the magnetic bridge forms the blue-toned smear in between. DSS,…

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Almost all healthy people harbor patches of mutated cells

 Tissues exposed to the environment such as skin have more mutations, a study finds SUNNY SABOTAGE  Exposure to sun, smoke, pollution and other environmental factors leads to more patches of mutated cells in healthy people’s skin, esophagus and lungs, a new study finds.Jaromir Chalabala/ShutterstockNormal isn’t always normal. A new study finds that large groups of…

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Worms lure two new species of hopping rats out of obscurity

 The rodents exemplify the rich biodiversity at risk of being lost in the Philippines NEW FACES Two new species of shrew-rat (Rhynchomys migan illustrated at left, R. labo at right) were found high up on mountain slopes in the Philippines.Velizar Simeonovski/Field MuseumTwo newfound species of shrew-rat have joined a lengthy list of endemic mammals…

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Tiny plastic debris is accumulating far beneath the ocean surface

 Floating trash patches scratch only the surface of the microplastic pollution problem MARINE MICROPLASTICS  Tiny fragments of trash called microplastics (pictured) are common from the ocean surface to near the seafloor, a study suggests.Vast swathes of litter floating on the ocean, like the great Pacific garbage patch, may just be the tip of the…

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Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C could prevent thousands of deaths in the U.S.

 A study projecting heat-related mortality in 15 cities illustrates urban risk from warming STAYING COOL  A woman hydrates on a hot June day in Phoenix, when temperatures soared past normal. A study of 15 U.S. cities, including Arizona’s capital, analyzes different global warming scenarios and avoided heat-related deaths.Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock PhotoHaving the…

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Soil eroded by glaciers may have kick-started plate tectonics

 Scientists have long wondered how Earth’s global surface recycling system got its start LOST TIME  Intense erosion, due to widespread glaciation about 750 million years ago, erased about 175 million years of the rock record in the Grand Canyon. A study proposes that such a huge influx of eroded sediments to the oceans could…

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Tiny structures in dragonfish teeth turn them into invisible daggers

 The translucent chompers probably help surprise prey FREAKY TEETH  The spearlike teeth of deep-sea dragonfish are translucent, thanks to nanostructures that allow more light to pass through.In the deep sea, dragonfish lure smaller fish near their gaping jaws with beardlike attachments capped with a light. But the teeth of the pencil-sized predators don’t gleam…

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Chemicals in biodegradable food containers can leach into compost

 Long-lasting PFAS compounds could end up in plants that are later eaten by people PERSISTANT PFAS  A worrisome class of chemicals called PFAS are found in some compostable food containers and many other consumer items like nonstick cookware. The compounds can leach out of the containers and build up in compost.Igoriss/iStock/Getty Images PlusComposting biodegradable…

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The Smithsonian’s ‘Deep Time’ exhibit gives dinosaurs new life

After five years, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is finally reopening its dinosaur hall on June 8. Visitors may come for fan favorites like Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus — and these fossils are gorgeously presented. But the new, permanent exhibition, the “David H. Koch Hall of Fossils — Deep Time,”…

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How one fern hoards toxic arsenic in its fronds and doesn’t die

 Key proteins keep the heavy metal from wreaking havoc on the way to its cellular jail cell HEAVY METAL HOARDER  Pteris vittata ferns can sop up and store high levels of arsenic and survive. A set of newly identified genes helps explain how.The Chinese brake fern looks unassuming. But Pteris vittata has a superpower:…

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A new experiment didn’t find signs of dreaming in brain waves

 By analyzing the neural flickers of dreams, researchers hope to shed light on consciousness DREAM WORLD  Researchers are studying the dreaming brain for insights about how the mind creates consciousness.In a nighttime experiment called the Dream Catcher, people’s dreams slipped right through the net. Looking at only the brain wave activity of sleeping people,…

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Hominids may have been cutting-edge tool makers 2.6 million years ago

 Contested finds point to a sharp shift in toolmaking by early members of the Homo genus TOOL TIME  Researchers study sediments in Ethiopia where sharp-edged stone tools dating to around 2.6 million years ago were found. Rocks placed over excavated areas protected fragile sediment.Discoveries in East Africa of what may be the oldest expertly…

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Gut bacteria may change the way many drugs work in the body

 New research could help doctors choose medications for patients based on their microbiota GUT REACTION  Bacteria in people’s guts (illustrated) have the potential to interfere with many oral medications.Dr_Microbe/iStock/Getty Images PlusPrescribing the best medication may require going with a patient’s gut — or at least, the bacteria that live there.Anecdotal reports have revealed that…

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The Southern Ocean may be less of a carbon sink than we thought

The vast stretch of icy water that separates Antarctica from other continents is a dark mystery to most people. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, one of the few who have been to the Southern Ocean, regarded its storm-wracked seas with fear and awe. After ice floes trapped and crushed the three-masted Endurance in 1915, Shackleton made…

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Thousands of birds perished in the Bering Sea. Arctic warming may be to blame

 Emaciated puffins and other birds washed ashore on an Alaskan island in unusually high numbers COLORFUL DIVER  The tufted puffin is one of several seabird species that live on Alaska’s Pribilof Islands. The birds’ fishing grounds are the Bering Sea, but climate change is rapidly altering the region’s food web, leading to several seabird…

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Cave debris may be the oldest known example of people eating starch

 Charred material found in South Africa suggests humans digested starch long before farming STARCHY SITE  Ashy discoveries in South Africa’s Klasies River Cave suggest that humans cooked and ate starchy plants such tubers and roots as early as 120,000 years ago.Small fire pits in a South African cave have yielded what researchers regard as…

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Fossils reveal saber-toothed cats may have pierced rivals’ skulls

 The curved canine of one ancient cat fits precisely into a hole left in the skull of another BIG BITE The juxtaposition of these two fossil skulls shows how a large, curving canine tooth from one saber-toothed cat (Smilodon populator) neatly fits in the fossil skull of another member of the same species. Saber-toothed cats…

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Watch the oldest surviving film of a total solar eclipse

 The video was captured nearly 120 years ago by British magician-turned-filmmaker Nevil Maskelyne SHINE AND SHADOW  This is a still frame from the oldest known video of a total solar eclipse, taken in 1900.Royal Astronomical Society, BFIThis is the oldest surviving video of a total solar eclipse.The grainy marvel was taken nearly 120 years…

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A fungus weaponized with a spider toxin can kill malaria mosquitoes

A fungus engineered to produce a spider toxin could help take down insecticide-resistant mosquitoes that can spread malaria.In a netted, outdoor experiment in Burkina Faso, the genetically engineered fungus wiped out mosquito populations within two generations, researchers report in the May 31 Science. If the result holds up in a real-world situation, the modified fungus…

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Africa’s first herders spread pastoralism by mating with foragers

 Crossbreeding, not just cultural influences, led hunter-gatherers to adopt livestock practices INHERITING HERDING  Ancient DNA indicates that early African herders started mating with hunter-gatherers more than 5,000 years ago. Here, modern herders in Tanzania watch over their goats.Ancient sheep, goat and cattle herders made Africa their home by hooking up with the continent’s native…

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Vaping the sweetener sucralose may produce toxic chemicals

 The synthetic sweetener’s breakdown produces harmful organochlorines and increases amounts of toxic aldehydes NOT SO SWEET When added to e-liquids, sucralose can increase the amount of toxic aldehydes and create harmful chlorinated chemicals.Jonathan Weiss/Alamy Stock PhotoLacing e-cigarette liquid with sucralose is probably not a sweet idea. Vaping the synthetic sweetener may generate harmful chemicals,…

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Icy volcanoes on Pluto may have spewed organic-rich water

Red ice found on Pluto suggests the dwarf planet recently spewed fountains of water into space. And it hints at complex — and possibly organic — chemistry in Pluto’s salty subsurface sea, researchers report May 29 in Science Advances.“This was a huge surprise to all of us about Pluto,” says planetary scientist Dale Cruikshank of…

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Himalayan glacier melting threatens water security for millions of people

 Large bodies of ice are losing mass faster than they are accumulating it MOUNTAIN MELT  Melting glacier water feeds the Indus River, shown in this photo at its confluence with the Zanskar River in the Himalayan region of Ladakh.Koonyongyut/istock/Getty Images PlusMeltwater from glaciers in Asia’s high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, meets the basic…

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In a first, scientists took the temperature of a sonic black hole

 Lab experiments characterize a phenomenon predicted by cosmologist Stephen Hawking NOT BLACK  Stephen Hawking first proposed that black holes (illustrated) aren’t fully black, but emit a faint haze of particles that came to be known as Hawking radiation. Now scientists have measured the radiation’s temperature in a lab analog of a black hole.NASA’s Goddard…

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100 years ago, an eclipse proved Einstein right. Today, black holes do too — for now

A century ago, British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington and his colleagues photographed a solar eclipse, and changed the way humankind thought about the heavens.Those photographs, taken on May 29, 1919, from Sobral, Brazil and Príncipe Island off Africa’s west coast, affirmed for the first time a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity:…

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A 50-million-year-old fossil captures a swimming school of fish

 This snapshot in time reveals that fish may have coordinated their motion long ago PREHISTORIC SCHOOL  A shoal of extinct Erismatopterus levatus captured in a fossil that dates to the Eocene Epoch suggests that schooling behavior in fish may have evolved tens of millions of years ago.N. Mizumoto, S. Miyata and S.C. Pratt/Proceedings of…

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One number can help explain why measles is so contagious

 A disease’s R0 is the average number of people a person can infect in an unvaccinated population GOING VIRAL  Measles is extremely contagious. And one number, or rather a family of numbers, sums up the risk of its spread.solidcolours/iStock/Getty Images PlusTwo ongoing outbreaks have dominated headlines in the past few months. Since the beginning…

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A new optical atomic clock’s heart is as small as a coffee bean

 The timepiece uses light that ‘beats’ trillions of times per second PETITE TIMEPIECE  The heart of a new miniature atomic clock (shown next to a coffee bean for scale) is a vapor cell (square window on the chip) containing rubidium atoms that “tick” about 385 trillion times per second.Portable atomic clocks are on their…

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This iconic Humboldt map may need crucial updates

 Errors in an 1807 diagram cast doubt on studies of the Andes’ long-term ecological changes MOUNTAIN MAPPER  Alexander von Humboldt’s 1807 Tableau Physique pioneered a new kind of scientific visualization, combining vegetation and elevation data into one diagram. But later revisions have been overlooked by some modern researchers.Zentralbibliothek Zürich/Wikimedia commonsAn influential diagram of plants…

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Murray Gell-Mann gave structure to the subatomic world

In Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Iris (played in the movie version by Glenn Close) tells Roy Hobbs that we all have two lives, “the life we learn with and the life we live with after that.”Murray Gell-Mann, the Nobel laureate physicist who died Friday, May 24, at age 89, also lived two lives. But both…

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Shy fish no bigger than a pinkie provide much of the food in coral reefs

 More than half the fish flesh eaten in these ecosystems is from hard-to-spot species SHY BUT CRUCIAL  Tiny fishes such as the Great Barrier Reef blenny (Ecsenius stictus) spend so much time fleeing and hiding that people catch only glimpses. Yet these shy species turn out to have an outsize importance to coral reefs.Nervous…

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Mathematicians report possible progress on proving the Riemann hypothesis

 A new study of Jensen polynomials revives an old approach STILL ELUSIVE  Researchers may have edged closer to a proof of the Riemann hypothesis — a statement about the Riemann zeta function, plotted here — which could help mathematicians understand the quirks of prime numbers.Jan Homann/Wikimedia CommonsResearchers have made what might be new headway…

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Being bilingual is great. But it may not boost some brain functions

 Knowing a second language didn’t come with better attention control, a study of U.S. kids finds SWITCHING  In a large study of 4,524 U.S. kids, bilingualism didn’t come with obvious benefits to certain thinking skills.Advantages of speaking a second language are obvious: easier logistics when traveling, wider access to great literature and, of course,…

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Big black holes can settle in the outskirts of small galaxies

 The first surveys of massive black holes in dwarf galaxies turn up surprises ON THE HUNT  Astronomers are using the Very Large Array of radio telescopes in New Mexico (shown) to look for big black holes in small galaxies.NRAO, AUI, NSF, Jeff HellermanCAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Big galaxies like the Milky Way have correspondingly big…

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Spherical flames in space could solve the mystery of soot-free fires

 Scientists can’t yet explain why certain blazes burn clean BALL OF FIRE  In space, flames are spherical (shown), rather than elongated. That property could help scientists study how certain fires burn without soot.Solving this burning question requires starting fires in space.Ongoing experiments on the International Space Station could help resolve a scientific debate about…

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Sweaty, vinegary and sweet odors mingle to make dark chocolate’s smell

 Researchers reconstructed the aroma in the lab NOSE GOES  Researchers concocted the smell of two dark chocolate bars from their odor-producing compounds.Scientists have sniffed out the chemicals that give some dark chocolates their smell.The compounds that mingle to make the candy’s aroma include pleasant-smelling ones such as vanillin, which gives vanilla its smell, and…

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Faulty cellular antennae may cause a heart valve disorder

 The discovery could help researchers understand how mitral valve prolapse develops HEART MURMUR  Mitral valve prolapse — a leaky valve between two chambers of the heart — can produce a “click” sound that is detectable with a stethoscope.Rocketclips, Inc/ShutterstockCells with faulty antennae that can’t get their signals straight may be behind a common heart…

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Emissions of a banned ozone-destroying chemical have been traced to China

China has continued producing an ozone-destroying chemical called CFC-11 in violation of an international agreement, an analysis of atmospheric gas finds.Air samples collected in South Korea and Japan suggest that eastern China emitted around 7,000 metric tons more trichlorofluoromethane a year from 2014 to 2017 than it did from 2008 to 2012. This boost in…

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A cognitive neuroscientist warns that the U.S. justice system harms teen brains

 Skills like resisting peer pressure and avoiding risk may not develop until a person’s 20s LOCKED UP Adolescents caught in the U.S. justice system can be subject to conditions that interfere with their healthy brain development.zodebala/iStock/Getty Images PlusA teenager’s brain does not magically mature into its reasoned, adult form the night before his or…

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Some plants use hairy roots and acid to access nutrients in rock

 Fine hairs and chemicals that dissolve rocky substrates are crucial in regions with little soil DIG IT  Collecting a sample of Barbacenia macrantha (shown) is tough work, requiring chisels and hammers to unearth the plant and the rock it grows in. The plant’s specialized roots help it live in environments deficient in phosphorus and…

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Tiger sharks feast on migratory birds that fall out of the skies

It all started when a small tiger shark barfed up a bunch of feathers.Marcus Drymon, a fisheries ecologist at Mississippi State University in Biloxi, had been catching sharks as part of a long-term shark monitoring program in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Typically, a shark spent only about 90 seconds out of the water, enough…

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Finding common ground may reduce parents’ hesitation about vaccines

About six years ago, Emily Adams, a mother of two in Lakewood, Colo., briefly counted herself among the vaccine hesitant. Her family had changed insurance plans, and while her older daughter was up-to-date on shots, her infant son fell behind.“We were no longer on schedule, just because of life,” she says. Adams remembers mentioning her…

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Measles erases the immune system’s memory

The most iconic thing about measles is the rash — red, livid splotches that make infection painfully visible.But that rash, and even the fever, coughing and watery, sore eyes, are all distractions from the virus’s real harm — an all-out attack on the immune system.Measles silently wipes clean the immune system’s memory of past infections.…

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The way the conflict against measles varies around the planet

The World Health Organization’s goal was lofty but achievable: eliminate measles from five of the world’s six regions by 2020. But recent outbreaks — even in places where elimination had been achieved — are making that goal a distant dream.In the first four months of 2019, 179 countries reported 168,193 cases of measles. That’s almost…

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Signs of Reddish pigment were Seen at a fossil for the first time

 The 3-million-year-old mouse was reddish-brown on its back and sides LIVING COLOR  A 3-million-year-old fossil of a field mouse (left) had patches of reddish-brown fur on its back and sides. X-ray spectroscopy revealed patches of reddish pigment (yellow regions, at right) in the ancient rodent.P.L. Manning et al/Nature Communications 2019The 3-million-year-old mouse wore red.For…

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Bad moods can be contagious among ravens

Here’s a downer: Pessimism seems contagious among ravens. But positivity? Not so much.When ravens saw fellow birds’ responses to a disliked food, but not the food itself, their interest in their own food options waned, researchers report May 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study suggests that the birds pick…

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The kilogram acquired a revamp. A component of time May Be next

 The unit of mass is now defined by a fundamental constant of nature, not a hunk of metal HAS-BEEN  For 130 years, this metal cylinder was the definition of a kilogram. Now, it’s just another hunk of metal, as scientists have instituted a new definition based on a quantity known as the Planck constant.The…

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