Latest Blog Posts

Vintage Space

Apollo's Life-Saving Q-Ball

By Amy Shira Teitel | September 15, 2017 5:15 pm

At the very top of the Saturn V stack, at the top of the Launch Escape Tower, was a small ball bored with eight holes. These holes led to the Q-ball, an unassuming instrument that played a huge role in making Saturn V launches safe for astronauts.Â
The Q-ball was similar to an airplane’s pitot tubes. As air flows into the pitot tubes on a plane, data on airspeed and pressure is sent to the computer’s onboard autopilot system and onto displays for the pilot. They’re common and just look li …

MORE ABOUT: Apollo, History, NASA, Saturn V, Space


Even With Police Body-Cam Footage, Witnesses Can Be Misled

By Charles Choi | September 15, 2017 3:17 pm

Body-worn cameras on police are increasingly called for in the hope they might help ease heightened tensions between officers and communities. However, scientists now find that falsified police reports and personal biases may change a person’s memory of such footage to see things that were not there or never happened.

Cell phone videos of clashes between police and citizens, such as that involving the death of Eric Garner in 2014, have helped drive the call for body-worn cameras on police …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: memory & learning


Scientists Find 21 New Bird Species by Asking the Birds

By Elizabeth Preston | September 15, 2017 1:59 pm

Same-or-different is the concept behind the most basic toddler games. We encourage kids to put the square block in the square hole, find two cards that match, place the cow in the cow-shaped puzzle slot. But in nature, the cow-shaped slots are harder to see. Deciding whether two animals are the same or different species frequently causes debates among scientists. In Central and South America, researchers tried to find the differences between many pairs of closely related birds by simply as …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: birds, evolution, language, singing, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution

The Crux

Cassini's Bittersweet Symphony

By Shannon Stirone | September 15, 2017 12:27 pm

The Cassini team members filled the chairs of mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. As a long-time astronomy journalist, I was invited to witness the end of an era.

At 4:55 a.m. PST, Cassini’s 13-year mission came to a bittersweet end when we lost signal from the spacecraft as it pierced through the cloud tops at Saturn. We’ve gathered in a lecture hall lined with spacecraft models, Voyager, Juno and of course, Cassini.

Few people were witho …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Dead Things

Breaking: 5.7 Million-Year-Old "Hominin Footprints" In Jeopardy

By Gemma Tarlach | September 15, 2017 10:44 am

12:02 p.m.: “In the context of the field, it’s the equivalent of blowing up the Sphinx in Egypt. It’s a big deal,” says Bournemouth University’s Matthew Bennett, confirming that several of the footprints he and colleagues described in a paper published in August as belonging to an early hominin have been destroyed or stolen. But Bennett adds: “At the same time, no scientific data has been lost.”

That’s because the detailed, sophisticated analysis carried out on the 5.7-million-year-ol …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


Scientist Shocks Himself With an Electric Eel...Because Science

By Lauren Sigfusson | September 15, 2017 10:00 am

Electric eels are fascinating creatures. They emit high voltage electricity to track and control prey, but did you know they also jump out of water to attack threats? They’ve even been documented leaping at horses and humans.

Kenneth C. Catania, a biologist and neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University who’s studied eels in the past, put himself in harm’s way in order to learn just how shocking eels are. In a study titled “Power Transfer to a Human During an Electric Eel’s Shocking Le …

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

Seriously, Science?

Flashback Friday: Horrifying study shows how far bed bugs can spread in apartment buildings.

By Seriously Science | September 15, 2017 6:00 am

If bed bugs are living in your home, they are probably hiding out and waiting to sense the carbon dioxide from your breath to home in on their next blood meal. But how did they get there in the first place? If you haven’t recently picked up a mattress off the street (always a good plan), it’s often assumed that they could have migrated from your neighbor’s place. But how frequent these wanderings are, or if they actually happen, hasn’t been demonstrated… until now! Here, scientists …


Quantifying the Burden of Global Disease

By Joanne Silberner | September 14, 2017 5:30 pm

Later this month, global health luminaries will gather in Seattle to celebrate the anniversary of a relationship that had a rocky start back in 1986, when a brash young Rhodes scholar marched into the World Health Organization office of an epidemiologist who had published research papers on mortality in Africa.

“Are you Alan Lopez?” the visitor asked. “Yes,” Lopez remembers answering. “Well, I’m Chris Murray, and everything you’ve written about Africa is wrong.”

Lopez,  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: personal health


Getting a Tattoo Might Also Stain Your Lymph Nodes

By Leah Froats | September 14, 2017 2:42 pm

It’s not news that tattoos are hitting the mainstream, but a new study reported in the journal Scientific Reports reveals that tattoo inks’ nanoparticles are adding color to other parts of your body.

As the tattooed population knows all too well, the process of tattooing consists of placing insoluble deposits of pigmented ink just below the epidermis, or outermost layer of skin. As they also know, your body does pretty much anything it can to get that ink out — which is why new tatt …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: personal health


A Little Synthesized Sugar Yields Cotton That Glows

By Carl Engelking | September 14, 2017 1:00 pm

Everything is getting “smarter” these days: automobiles, refrigerators, garage door openers…trashcans?

Even the shirt on your back is wising up and feasting on the data you generate with every step. The emerging e-textiles market promises threads that communicate, conduct energy, control body temperature and shapeshift. There are smart yoga pants, for example, that feature built in haptic vibrations to guide you into the perfect downward dog. The Supa sports bra links to an app and …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: biology, plants

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar