Latest Blog Posts


Mountains on Saturn's Moon Iapetus Fell From the Sky

By Carl Engelking | April 18, 2014 12:05 pm

It may sound like something out of “Chicken Little,” but at some point in the history of Saturn’s moon Iapetus, the sky was actually falling: Scientists reported this week that an entire 800-mile-long mountain range along the moon’s equator formed after it fell from space.

Iapetus doesn’t feature the telltale signs of volcanism and geologic activity that typically build mountains, which had made the existence of the bulging equatorial ridge a bit of a mystery. In a new study, rese …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: solar system


California Snowpack Melts With Breathtaking Speed as Drought Continues in Most of the Western United States

By Tom Yulsman | April 18, 2014 11:58 am

Severe drought continues in a large portion of the West, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, issued yesterday.

In California, already particularly hard hit by drought, the situation is worsening. Temperatures there were 9 to 12 degrees above normal, which caused breathtakingly rapid melt of the California snowpack. Some areas of the Sierra Nevada lost half of the water locked up in snow in just one week. Yet, there was little change in inflows into the state’s starved res …

Citizen Science Salon

Train to be an energy pioneer with NOVA Energy Lab

By Emily Lewis | April 18, 2014 9:39 am

In Discover Magazine’s June print edition, the article “Light Makes Flight” chronicles the story of two pilots who developed brand new solar cells to circumnavigate the globe via a fossil fuel-free plane. NOVA’s Energy Lab is a citizen science project you can do now to learn about and contribute to the future of sustainability.

It might seem strange that one of the world’s most well known adventurers is also an energy innovator, but Bertrand Piccard is a visionary in both of these pursuit …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: energy, sustainability


Faking Sick for a Living

By Elizabeth Preston | April 18, 2014 8:31 am

(This post was first published in January 2014.)

Lying to your doctor is encouraged in one situation: when your doctor is a student and you’re an actor asked to portray a certain condition. My friend Amy Savage does this for work. In between fake symptom bouts, I asked her to write a guest post sharing what she’s learned from being poked for practice. 

Have you ever been asked to “please dislocate your left breast,” or if you “have noticed any hairs growing in places you norma …

MORE ABOUT: Personal health


Fish Raise Their Voices to Shout Over Noise

By April Reese | April 18, 2014 8:30 am

Every day, thousands of cars and trucks rumble across bridges all over the U.S. Their drivers probably don’t give much thought to the fish swimming in the rivers, lakes or bays below. But the fish notice them: They can hear those noisy engines passing overhead, and according to a new study, they are having to shout to communicate over the din.

The effects of sonar and other human-made sounds on the communication of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins is well documented. But fish  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

Seriously, Science?

Flashback Friday: The strange case of the "vampire" burial in Venice.

By Seriously Science | April 18, 2014 6:00 am

In 2006 in Venice, Italy, archaeologists excavating a plague cemetery found something quite unusual: a skeleton with a brick in its mouth. They determined that the brick was likely placed there after death, and  they later developed a hypothesis about how the brick got there (spoiler alert: it involves vampires). Be sure to read the excerpt from the full text below for all the gory details.

Forensic approach to an archaeological casework of “vampire” skeletal remains in Venice: odontolog …



Epigenetics Helps Explain Early Humans' Appearances

By Gemma Tarlach | April 17, 2014 1:18 pm

Scientists have increasingly realized that DNA is only part of what makes us us — perhaps equally important is how our genes’ activity is modified by a process called epigenetics. Recently this cutting-edge field has turned its attention to some very old DNA: Researchers today announced they have reconstructed methylation maps for our extinct relatives. The findings might explain certain differences in appearances between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and us, as well as the prevalence of disea …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


Possibly Habitable Earth-Sized Planet Discovered

By Bill Andrews | April 17, 2014 1:00 pm

Exoplanets are fun and all, but those hot Jupiters and super Neptunes and such are kind of beside the point. Everyone knows the real search is for a planet like ours: rocky, smallish, and capable of hosting liquid water. And now scientists have found one, named Kepler-186f — an Earth-sized planet in its star’s habitable zone, the area where conditions aren’t too hot or too cold, but just right, for liquid water to be possible.

Planet Profile
The planet orbits a star about 500 ligh …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: exoplanets


In Brazilian Cave Insects, Females Have the Penis

By Carl Engelking | April 17, 2014 11:59 am

In the dark caves of Brazil, certain insects take sexual role-play to a whole new level. Female insects of the newly discovered genus Neotrogla have highly elaborate, spiky penises, which they insert into males’ vagina-like organ to reproduce.

Reversed sex roles have been identified in several other species, including male seahorses that undergo pregnancy. However, after studying the mating habits of Neotrogla, which represents four distinct species, researchers have determined that thi …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


California Drought, Midwest Chill Tied to Climate Change?

By Tom Yulsman | April 17, 2014 11:08 am

Here we are in mid-April and the Midwest is experiencing yet another unusual wintry blast. No wonder there’s still quite a lot of ice in the Great Lakes, as you can see in the remarkable image above, captured under a full moon at night by the Suomi NPP satellite.

Click on it to enlarge it. The ice is particularly evident in Lake Superior at upper left.

Meanwhile, warm and dry conditions continue in California.

New NASA-funded research led by Simon Wang at Utah State University, sugg …


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