Latest Blog Posts


Tiny Star Flares 10 Times Brighter Than the Sun

By Korey Haynes | April 18, 2019 1:00 pm

On August 13, 2017, the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) telescope spotted an intense solar flare from a tiny star barely bigger than Jupiter. But despite this sun’s diminutive size, the flare gave off as much energy as 80 billion megatons of TNT. That’s 10 times as powerful as the strongest flare ever observed on our own sun. It’s also the coolest star ever observed to give off such a hot flare, and the spectacular outburst is teaching astronomers the power of small stars.
Light it  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

The Crux

The Quest For the Roots of Autism — and What It Says About Us All

By Emily Willingham | April 18, 2019 9:33 am

As alarm grew over autism prevalence at the turn of this century, there was much public talk of a growing “epidemic.” That language has since softened, and it is now clear that many autistic people were there all along, their condition unrecognized until relatively recently.

But what is the cause? The emerging narrative today is that there is no single cause — rather, multiple factors, roughly sorted into the categories of genetics and environment, work together in complex ways. …


Aphid Suicide Squads Save Colonies With Body Ooze

By Anna Groves | April 18, 2019 9:30 am

Don’t you just hate it when a moth larva busts in through the wall of your house like some squirmy lepidopteran Kool-Aid man? If you’re a colony of aphids living in a gall, this is a real threat. But luckily there’s a team of heroes ready to spring to action, even sacrifice themselves, to repair that wall and save the rest of the clan.

A team of Japanese researchers has been studying this phenomenon for over 15 years. Their latest work, out this week in PNAS, breaks down the interes …

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

Dead Things

Simbakubwa: Mega Carnivore Hiding In A Museum Drawer

By Gemma Tarlach | April 18, 2019 7:00 am

Take a polar bear. Take a lion. Mash them together and chuck them in a time machine, sending them back 22 million years to what’s now Kenya and you’ve got the massive carnivore Simbakubwa kutokaafrika. The enormous bitey mammal was identified only after researchers rediscovered partial fossils of it, forgotten in the backroom of a museum.

To be clear, Simbakubwa is neither a bear nor a member of the extended feline family, even though its name is Swahili for “big lion.” Instead, the mas …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


Turducken Space Rock: Antarctic Meteorite Hid Comet Inside Asteroid Remains

By Korey Haynes | April 17, 2019 3:30 pm

Our solar system is a whopping 4.5 billion years old. And those earliest days were some of the most interesting for astronomers. That’s when the planets formed, building from dust grains into the whole worlds that now populate our space neighborhood. But most of this material has been drastically changed since its early days – incorporated into planets, or baked by the sun and weathered by time. However, if we could find material that hasn’t been changed in some way it would help …

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


Researchers Resuscitate Pig Brains Hours After Death

By Roni Dengler | April 17, 2019 3:00 pm

Researchers say they’ve rebooted pigs’ brains four hours after the animals died. The scientists managed to restore some blood flow and brain cell activity to the dead animals’ brains by pumping a protective solution through the tissue using a proprietary technology they call BrainEx. The brain was never alert and researchers did not restore consciousness, but the work could lead to new ways to aid recovery after trauma like heart attacks and strokes, the researchers say.

“BrainEx …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Technology, top posts

Dead Things

Gobihadros: New Member of Duck-billed Dinosaur Dynasty

By Gemma Tarlach | April 17, 2019 1:00 pm

Toothy tyrannosaurs and enormous titanosaurs may be the most dramatic dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous, but plant-eating hadrosaurs had the numbers. These widely-distributed animals, often called duck-billed dinosaurs, are among the most commonly found fossils from the period that stretched 66 million-100 million years ago. Yet the hadrosaur origin story remains a bit of a mystery. Today, a magnificent new find from Mongolia fills in some of the gaps.

Paleontologists unearthed multip …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


Understanding the Sacrificial Puppies Found in Shang Dynasty Graves

By Joshua Rapp Learn | April 17, 2019 1:00 pm

During the last centuries of China’s Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1600 B.C. to 1050 B.C., ritual sacrifice was a well-oiled cultural phenomenon, rich and varied in its manifestations. Rulers and elites sacrificed animals and humans to appease spirits or the ancestors. Just as humans met their ends, dogs were often right beside them.

Now a study in Archaeological Research in Asia, published in March, shows that people from the Shang dynasty relied heavily on sacrificial puppies to ac …

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


Astronomers Find Oldest Type of Molecule in Space

By Bill Andrews | April 17, 2019 12:00 pm

Everything has a beginning. That’s true for stories, for people, for the universe and even for chemistry. The Big Bang itself produced just a handful of elements (variations of hydrogen, helium and lithium nuclei), so researchers have a pretty good sense of what the first atoms and molecules might have been. But the very first molecular bond to form, linking together atoms of different elements in a single molecule, has long been missing in action.

Known as a helium hydride ion (HeH+),  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: cosmology, physics
The 2015 eruption of Calbuco in Chile, with the city of Puerto Montt in the foreground. Wikimedia Commons.

Rocky Planet

What Is the Most Dangerous Volcanic Hazard?

By Erik Klemetti | April 17, 2019 11:15 am

Volcanoes can be pretty dangerous. Thankfully, we’ve gotten better over the last half century at getting people out of the way of volcanic hazards. However, many hundreds of millions of people still live close enough to volcanoes to feel the impact of an eruption — especially when the volcano decides to have a spectacular eruption.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what the most dangerous aspects of a volcanic eruption might be. I think many people picture lava flows casc …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

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