Latest Blog Posts


Poop on a Stick Tests Penguins' Sense of Smell

By Elizabeth Preston | October 2, 2015 11:35 am

Who doesn’t enjoy waking to a pleasant smell wafting past? Unfortunately for them, the penguins in a recent study woke up not to pancakes frying nearby, but to less appetizing aromas—for example, feces on a stick. But scientists promise the experiment taught them valuable lessons about a penguin’s capabilities. Besides, they let the birds go right back to sleep.

“Research into the sense of smell in birds has a bit of a dubious history,” says Gregory Cunningham, a biologist at St. Jo …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: birds, navigation, poo, smell, sound, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Senses

Seriously, Science?

Flashback Friday: Want to be happier? Skip the small talk.

By Seriously Science | October 2, 2015 6:00 am

We all know those people. Maybe you’re one of them. The person who manages, despite all the stress and work it takes to get through a normal day, to always be happy. How do they do it? What is their secret? Although it’s likely that genetics play a major role in determining one’s happiness, it’s also thought that behavior can help (or hinder) you on your path to bliss. These scientists asked whether the content of peoples’ conversation is related to their overall happiness. They re …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings


Although Joaquin Is Increasingly Likely to Stay at Sea, It Is Still Expected to Produce a "Truly Historic" Wind Event

By Tom Yulsman | October 1, 2015 8:29 pm

With 130 mile per hour winds, Hurricane Joaquin has now spun up into a dangerous Category 4 storm — and some additional strengthening is possible, according to this evening’s forecast discussion page of the National Hurricane Center.

But despite that unsettling news, the weather models have increasingly nudged Joaquin’s forecast track to the east. Although it is still too soon to say with certainty that the storm will stay at sea, that is looking increasingly likely.

Even if J …


Latest Update: Strong El Niño Persists, And It's Likely to Continue Into Spring. Here's Why.

By Tom Yulsman | October 1, 2015 11:23 am

Even as El Niño has strengthened over the past few months, it has always been possible that it would stall. But the latest report, released on September 29 by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, shows that it is still going strong:
The tropical Pacific ocean and atmosphere are reinforcing each other, maintaining a strong El Niño that is likely to persist into early 2016. Tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures are more than 2 °C above average, exceeding El Niño thresholds by well …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Climate, ENSO, Ocean, select, Top Posts, Weather

The Extremo Files

Could Modified Proteins Build the Microfactories of the Future?

By Jeffrey Marlow | October 1, 2015 9:09 am

The central production line of active biomolecules – from DNA to RNA to proteins – is an exquisitely fine-tuned process with a rich evolutionary heritage. From the four-base nucleotide alphabet, three-letter sets, or codons, specify one of 20 amino acids to build the enzymes that make metabolism happen.

There is, however, some room to maneuver, and biologists have found an important loophole to hack the system and introduce novel functions or sensing capabilities into different proteins.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: living world, top posts

Seriously, Science?

Sorry, science says cats simply can't love you the way dogs can.

By Seriously Science | October 1, 2015 6:00 am

We’re pretty sure this post is going to be hated by all the feline fanciers out there, but this study is just too good not to share. Here, researchers applied a test developed for use with children to investigate the relationships between cats and their humans. The SST can determine whether children, and apparently animals, view their caregivers as a source of safety in a threatening environment. It turns out that using this metric, dogs are “securely attached” to their owners, but cats ar …


Dramatic Evolution of Hurricane Joaquin Captured By a Rapid-Scanning Satellite

By Tom Yulsman | October 1, 2015 1:21 am

Drawing energy from record-warm waters at the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Joaquin has grown into a dangerous Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.

You can watch it’s evolution during Wednesday in the animation above, from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. The animation consists of images from the GOES-13 weather satellite.

Ordinarily, the satellite acquires an image about every 15 minutes. But for the animation abo …

Out There

The Earth-Twin Planet That Nobody Talks About

By Corey S. Powell | September 30, 2015 10:59 pm

NASA scientists were conferring today about a nearby planet that is shockingly similar to Earth. It is just 5% smaller in radius and 15% smaller in mass. It is almost the exact same age as our planet, and gets its warmth from an identical star. The only thing that’s a bit off is that it orbits a bit closer to its star than Earth does, so it receives nearly twice as much radiation. On the other, it also reflects away a lot of that radiation. Its theoretical (equilibrium) temperature is just b …

MORE ABOUT: Discovery, Mars, Venus


Newborns' Gut Microbes Signal Asthma Risk Later in Life

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | September 30, 2015 2:31 pm

In the last 30 years, the number of people with asthma has risen sharply in Western countries like the U.S. and Canada. Today, it’s the most common pediatric disease in the developed world, affecting over 300 million people worldwide – and now researchers say it may be influenced by four bacteria that live in our intestines.

Asthma is an immune-mediated illness, which means that it happens because something is wrong with the body’s normal immune response, but doctors aren’t entire …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Citizen Science Salon

Citizen Science at the White House

By Caren Cooper | September 29, 2015 11:25 pm

This past Wednesday, Pope Francis visited the White House. This Wednesday, it’s my turn.

Although I won’t be welcomed by throngs of people, the under-tapped capabilities of throngs of people is the reason I’ll be there, along with two others from SciStarter: Darlene Cavalier and Hined Rafeh. In a gathering lower key than the pontiff’s, we will be joining government officials for a closer look into what citizen science can do for our country.

The event is a citizen science forum hos …


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