Science

Astronomers discover solar system’s most distant object, nicknamed “FarFarOut”

Astronomers discover solar system’s most distant object, nicknamed “FarFarOut”

Science
The solar system’s most distant object is 140 times farther from the sun than Earth. NASA/JPL-Caltech Astronomers discover solar system’s most distant object, nicknamed “FarFarOut” By Paul VoosenFeb. 21, 2019 , 10:16 PM For most people, snow days aren’t very productive. Some people, though, use the time to discover the most distant object in the solar system.That’s what Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., did this week when a snow squall shut down the city. A glitzy public talk he was due to deliver was delayed, so he hunkered down and did what he does best: sifted through telescopic views of the solar system’s fringes t
Did volcanic eruptions help kill off the dinosaurs?

Did volcanic eruptions help kill off the dinosaurs?

Science
The hardened lava flows of the Deccan Traps, in western India, may have played a role in the demise of the dinosaurs. Gerta Keller Did volcanic eruptions help kill off the dinosaurs? By Paul VoosenFeb. 21, 2019 , 2:00 PM What killed off the dinosaurs? The answer has seemed relatively simple since the discovery a few decades ago of a large impact crater in the Gulf of Mexico. It pointed to a massive asteroid strike 66 million years ago that unleashed towering tsunamis and blotted out the sun with ash, causing a plunge in global temperatures. But the asteroid wasn’t the only catastrophe to wallop the planet around this time. Across what is India today, countless volcanic seams
The world’s largest bee vanished decades ago. Now, scientists have spotted it again

The world’s largest bee vanished decades ago. Now, scientists have spotted it again

Science
© Clay Bolt The world’s largest bee vanished decades ago. Now, scientists have spotted it again By Erik StokstadFeb. 21, 2019 , 2:10 PM In 1981, the world’s biggest bee went missing—again. Wallace’s giant bee (above, right), which lives in the rainforests of Indonesia, is four times larger than a typical honey bee, with giant jaws and a wingspan of 6 centimeters—nearly as long as the short side of a dollar bill. (Those are the females; males are roughly half that size.) Now, the bee, which has been presumed extinct more than once, has been found again in the wild, a conservation group announced today. As part of a project to rediscover lost species around the globe, four entomologists and photographer
Spotting slavery from space, and using iPads for communication disorders

Spotting slavery from space, and using iPads for communication disorders

Science
ILO in Asia and the Pacific/Flickr In our first segment from the annual meeting of AAAS (Science’s publisher) in Washington, D.C., host Sarah Crespi talks with Cathy Binger of University of New Mexico in Albuquerque about her session on the role of modern technology, such as iPads and apps, in helping people with communication disorders. It turns out that there’s no killer app, but some devices do help normalize assistive technology for kids. Also this week, freelance journalist Sarah Scoles joins Sarah Crespi to talk about bringing together satellite imaging, machine learning, and nonprofits to put a stop to modern-day slavery. In our monthly books segment, books editor Valerie Thompson talks w
Who sniffs the sniffers? Electronic nose takes a whiff of dogs to spot deadly disease

Who sniffs the sniffers? Electronic nose takes a whiff of dogs to spot deadly disease

Science
Monica Staniek Who sniffs the sniffers? Electronic nose takes a whiff of dogs to spot deadly disease By Elizabeth PennisiFeb. 21, 2019 , 2:35 PM Dogs are champs at smelling, a quality that has been harnessed to sniff out mines and may one day be used to diagnose cancer. But now it’s an electronic nose’s turn to sniff the pooches. The reason: “visceral leishmaniasis,” a disease spread by the sand fly parasite that can cause weight loss, enlarged organs, and fever in people and weight loss, diarrhea, and skin problems in dogs. The number of human cases has doubled in Brazil since 1990, causing several thousand deaths a year. Now, public health officials use a time-consuming, two-part test to identify in
Deal reveals what scientists in Germany are paying for open access

Deal reveals what scientists in Germany are paying for open access

Science
Deal reveals what scientists in Germany are paying for open access By Kai KupferschmidtFeb. 21, 2019 , 5:30 PM Project Deal, a consortium of libraries, universities, and research institutes in Germany, has unveiled an unprecedented deal with a major journal publisher—Wiley—that is drawing close scrutiny from advocates of open access to scientific papers. The pact, signed last month but made public this week, has been hailed as the first such country-wide agreement within a leading research nation. (Only institutions in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom publish more papers.) It gives researchers working at more than 700 Project Deal institutions access to the more than 1500 journals published by Wiley, based in Hoboken, New Jersey, as well as the publisher
This goat-size T. rex cousin could reveal how the famed dino got so big

This goat-size T. rex cousin could reveal how the famed dino got so big

Science
Jorge Gonzalez This goat-size T. rex cousin could reveal how the famed dino got so big By Gretchen VogelFeb. 21, 2019 , 9:00 AM Tyrannosaurus rex and its relatives ruled supreme in North America at the end of the age of dinosaurs—dominating the landscape as gigantic top predators. But exactly how they took over is unclear, because of a gap in the tyrannosaur fossil record: North American specimens that lived between about 150 million and 80 million years ago. A newly discovered T. rex cousin helps fill that gap. Today in Nature Communications, paleontologists describe a tooth and a hind limb unearthed in Utah, which they say belong to a new species of tyrannosaur that they call Moros intrepidus (Greek
HIV drug could improve recovery after stroke

HIV drug could improve recovery after stroke

Science
Blocking CCR5 boosted neural projections from the brain's motor region (left). MARY TEENA JOY HIV drug could improve recovery after stroke By Kelly ServickFeb. 21, 2019 , 11:00 AM Stroke treatment has been a race against time. In the hours after a stroke, the clot-busting treatment tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can limit damage to the brain. But once that damage is done, no drugs are known to promote recovery. New research suggests such a therapy could come from an unlikely target: a cellular protein called CCR5 that allows HIV to infect cells. Scientists found that in mice, disabling CCR5 helps surviving neurons make new connections, and that people who carry a CC...
Retired physicist leading new Trump effort to question climate threat to security

Retired physicist leading new Trump effort to question climate threat to security

Science
Retired physicist leading new Trump effort to question climate threat to security By Scott Waldman, E&E NewsFeb. 21, 2019 , 12:15 PM Originally published by E&E News President Donald Trump’s administration found a way to formally question climate science after almost 2 years of false starts. William Happer, a prominent opponent of climate science in the Trump administration, is heading a new White House effort to downplay the national security risks posed by climate change. It resembles the "red team" approach promoted by scandal-plagued former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Named the Presidential Committee on Climate Security, the group is scheduled to meet tomorrow in the Situation Room at the White H
Zebra stripes confuse biting flies, causing them to abort their landings

Zebra stripes confuse biting flies, causing them to abort their landings

Science
Tim Caro Zebra stripes confuse biting flies, causing them to abort their landings By Virginia MorellFeb. 20, 2019 , 2:00 PM Scientists have proposed more than a dozen ideas to explain why zebras evolved stripes. Some say the bold patterns confuse their predators, or that they keep the animals cool. But all of these ideas have been disproved or lack strong evidence. In 2014, researchers showed the ranges of the horsefly and tsetse fly species and the three most distinctively striped equid species (Equus burchelli, E. zebra, and E. grevyi) overlap to a remarkable degree. The scientists argued that zebras evolved the stripes to avoid these insects, which often carry fatal diseases. Now, they’re back with
Scientists say every animal needs sleep. These fruit flies didn’t get the memo

Scientists say every animal needs sleep. These fruit flies didn’t get the memo

Science
Solvin Zankl/Minden Pictures Scientists say every animal needs sleep. These fruit flies didn’t get the memo By Michael PriceFeb. 20, 2019 , 2:00 PM Ask parents of newborns whether they think sleep is overrated and you’re liable to catch a death stare. Yet some fruit flies almost never nod off, according to a new study, suggesting that at least in some animals, sleep may not be all that necessary. Sleep is potentially costly to many animals, making them vulnerable to predators and stealing time from resource-gathering or mating opportunities. For that reason, scientists have long assumed it evolved to give animals some vital, evolutionary advantage—perhaps as a means of conserving energy or of giving t
From Science Careers: After a baby, 28% of new parents leave full-time STEM work

From Science Careers: After a baby, 28% of new parents leave full-time STEM work

Science
Brittany Simuangco/Unsplash After a baby, 28% of new parents leave full-time STEM work By Rachel BernsteinFeb. 18, 2019 , 3:00 PM Just ask any new parent: Adding a baby to a household can also add stress to a career. Now, a new study backs that up with some startling numbers: After science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals become parents, 43% of women and 23% of men switch fields, transition to part-time work, or leave the workforce entirely. Many researchers—and parents—already knew that STEM can be unwelcoming to parents, particularly mothers. But “the sheer magnitude of the departure was startling,” says Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at the University
A new law was supposed to protect South Africans' privacy. It may block important research instead

A new law was supposed to protect South Africans' privacy. It may block important research instead

Science
Blood from a finger prick can be analyzed for viruses like HIV, but a new privacy rule may restrict research on such data in South Africa. Mary Teena Joy A new law was supposed to protect South Africans' privacy. It may block important research instead By Linda NordlingFeb. 20, 2019 , 11:10 AM To probe causes of cardiovascular disease, Michèle Ramsay of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg takes volunteers’ personal history, blood, and urine and looks for genes or stressors that might help predict hypertension or stroke. She also asks volunteers for permission to share their data with other scientists and to make them available for future studies, in what
Ultraviolet light could provide a powerful new source of green fuel

Ultraviolet light could provide a powerful new source of green fuel

Science
A forest of gallium nitride nanowires harnesses energy in light to convert methanol to ethanol. Sheng Chu/McGill University Ultraviolet light could provide a powerful new source of green fuel By Robert F. ServiceFeb. 19, 2019 , 1:00 PM Methanol—a colorless liquid that can be made from agricultural waste—has long been touted as a green alternative to fossil fuels. But it’s toxic and only has half the energy as the same volume of gasoline. Now, researchers report they’ve created a potentially cheap way to use sunlight to convert methanol to ethanol, a more popular alternative fuel that’s less harmful and carries more energy. The new report is “great work” says Zhongmin Liu, a
Researchers spy signs of slavery from space

Researchers spy signs of slavery from space

Science
Satellites reveal the telltale shapes of brick kilns in India. ©2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company Researchers spy signs of slavery from space By Sarah ScolesFeb. 19, 2019 , 3:45 PM Doreen Boyd remembers the first time she saw a hint of slavery from space. A satellite image from 2017 of Rajasthan state in India showed a brown oval that looked like a dusty high school track. But it was nothing so innocuous: She knew it was a brick kiln, one of tens of thousands across South Asia that are often run on forced labor. Boyd, director of the data program at the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, realized such imagery could help her tally the kilns, en
A lobster’s underbelly is so tough, you could use it instead of car tires

A lobster’s underbelly is so tough, you could use it instead of car tires

Science
ClassicStock/Alamy Stock Photo A lobster’s underbelly is so tough, you could use it instead of car tires By Sid PerkinsFeb. 19, 2019 , 4:40 PM A lobster’s shell is pretty tough. But the transparent material on the underside of its tail may be even more amazing: Lab tests show the thin, stretchy substance is as sturdy as the rubber used to make tires. Like the shell surrounding a lobster’s body, the flexible material on the underside of the crustacean’s tail contains chitin, a fibrous material found in the exoskeletons of many insects and crustaceans. But the team’s tests revealed the substance is about 90% water, which lends the material elasticity. It also has a plywoodlike arrangement of microscopic
Ancient humans hunted monkeys for tens of thousands of years

Ancient humans hunted monkeys for tens of thousands of years

Science
Early Sri Lankans turned the bones of the monkeys and squirrels they hunted into these projectile points. N. Amano Ancient humans hunted monkeys for tens of thousands of years By Virginia MorellFeb. 19, 2019 , 12:05 PM If you picture early humans dining, you likely imagine them sitting down to a barbecue of mammoth, aurochs, and giant elk meat. But in the rainforests of Sri Lanka, where our ancestors ventured about 45,000 years ago, people hunted more modest fare, primarily monkeys and tree squirrels. Then they turned the bones of these animals into projectiles to hunt more of them. The practice continued for tens of thousands of years, making this the longest known record ...
Why sparks fly when you microwave grapes

Why sparks fly when you microwave grapes

Science
Why sparks fly when you microwave grapes By Alex FoxFeb. 18, 2019 , 3:15 PM YouTubers have gone grape crazy. In a plethora of internet videos, kitchen scientists have cut a grape almost in half—leaving just a strip of skin connecting the two sides--and stuck it in the microwave. In seconds, sparks erupt. Now, physicists think they know why this happens. Here’s the common explanation: water-heavy grapes trap the wavelengths of energy microwave ovens emit because the waves are roughly the same size as the diameter of grapes. That energy starts charging up electrolytes inside the fruit, which then flow from one half of the grape to the other—using the strip of skin like an electrical wire and gaining energy as they go. The current quickly burns through the s
How secret, late-night experiments transformed two scientists into master cartoonists

How secret, late-night experiments transformed two scientists into master cartoonists

Science
Spanish neuroscientist and Nobel laureate Santiago Ramón y Cajal ponders the branching structure of neurons in Neurocomic, by Matteo Farinella. Matteo Farinella How secret, late-night experiments transformed two scientists into master cartoonists By Alex FoxFeb. 17, 2019 , 1:13 PM Washington, D.C.—Five years ago, two scientists in two labs separated by thousands of miles started staying late and working weekends to conduct secret experiments. They didn’t know one another, but neuroscientist Matteo Farinella and computational biologist Jason McDermott were leading the same double lives: scientist and science cartoonist. For Farinella, comics were always a guilty pleasure, som
New app reveals the hidden landscapes within Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings

New app reveals the hidden landscapes within Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings

Science
Oliver Cossairt/Northwestern University Computational Photography Lab New app reveals the hidden landscapes within Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings By Sid PerkinsFeb. 16, 2019 , 2:08 PM WASHINGTON, D.C.—Ever wonder if a lost masterpiece lies hidden under the surface of a newer work? Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a simple-to-use app, unveiled here today at the annual meeting of AAAS (which publishes Science) that can zoom in on the smallest details of a painting and depict them in 3D, transforming brushstrokes into canyons and cliffs. The resulting landscapes, which can easily be mistaken for satellite images of Earth’s rugged terrain, could help art conservationists and historians
Want to get a politician to listen to science? Here’s some advice

Want to get a politician to listen to science? Here’s some advice

Science
Want to get a politician to listen to science? Here’s some advice By Jessica ScarfutoFeb. 17, 2019 , 11:04 AM A packed house for Friday's session on evidence-based policymaking. Robb Cohen Photography & Video WAHSINGTON, D.C.--Present both sides. Disclose conflicts of interest. And make sure you catch them at just the right time. Those are some of the best tips to get members of Congress to listen to scientific advice, according to a session here Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes Science. Talking to a politician is a lot different than talking to an average member of the public, said panelis
New app reveals the hidden landscapes within Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings

New app reveals the hidden landscapes within Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings

Science
Oliver Cossairt/Northwestern University Computational Photography Lab New app reveals the hidden landscapes within Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings By Sid PerkinsFeb. 16, 2019 , 2:08 PM WASHINGTON, D.C.—Ever wonder if a lost masterpiece lies hidden under the surface of a newer work? Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a simple-to-use app, unveiled here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes Science) that can zoom in on the smallest details of a painting and depict them in 3D, transforming brushstrokes into canyons and cliffs. The resulting landscapes, which can easily be mistaken for satellite images of Earth’s rugged terrai
The winner of this year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ contest turned physics into art

The winner of this year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ contest turned physics into art

Science
Pramodh Senarath Yapa The winner of this year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ contest turned physics into art By John BohannonFeb. 15, 2019 , 12:00 PM Scientific research can be a lonely pursuit. And for Pramodh Senarath Yapa, a physicist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, even the subject of his research is lonely: singleton electrons wandering through superconducting material. “Superconductivity relies on lone electrons pairing up when cooled below a certain temperature,” Yapa says. “Once I began to think of electrons as unsociable people who suddenly become joyful once paired up, imagining them as dancers was a no-brainer!” Six weeks of choreographing and songwriting later, Yapa scooped the 201