Latest Blog Posts


Why Scientists Shouldn't Replicate Their Own Work

By Neuroskeptic | February 25, 2017 3:15 pm

Last week, I wrote about a social psychology paper which was retracted after the data turned out to be fraudulent. The sole author on that paper, William Hart, blamed an unnamed graduate student for the misconduct.

Now, more details have emerged about the case. On Tuesday, psychologist Rolf Zwaan blogged about how he was the one who first discovered a problem with Hart’s data, in relation to a different paper. Back in 2015, Zwaan had co-authored a paper reporting a failure to replicate a 2011 …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts

The Crux

VX Nerve Agent: The Deadly Weapon Engineered in Secret

By Carl Engelking | February 24, 2017 4:30 pm

In January 1958, two medical officers at Porton Down, Britain’s military science facility, exposed their forearms to 50-microgram droplets of a substance called VX, which was a new, fast-acting nerve agent that could kill by seeping through the skin.

VX, short for “venomous agent X,” is tasteless, odorless and causes uncontrollable muscle contractions that eventually stop a person’s breathing within minutes. That experiment in 1958, according to University of Kent historian Ulf S …


Neural Cells Don't Always Express Mom and Dad's Genes Equally

By Charles Choi | February 24, 2017 1:24 pm

We’re all the product of genes from both parents. But in the brain, neurons may favor genes from mom or dad far more than previously thought, which is an effect that could impact one’s risk for mental disorders.

Everybody generally receives two versions, or alleles, of each gene, one from each parent. The fact that each person has a spare copy of a gene in case the other is defective is one reason why scientists think sex evolved in the first place, says study senior author Christopher  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

Seriously, Science?

Flashback Friday: Is it physically possible for a man to sire over 800 children?

By Seriously Science | February 24, 2017 6:00 am

Photo: wikipedia

It’s clear that men can have more children than women, but can they have hundreds of children? Here, scientists created a computer simulation to determine how many times a day the 17th-century Moroccan Emperor Moulay Ismael would have had to have sex to have his reported brood of 888 kids. Accounting for factors ranging from sperm aging and ovulation to Moulay falling in love and having favorites, they found that the Emperor needed to get frisky 1-2 times a day and hav …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is babby formed?


Where are the CubeSats for astronomy?

By Liz Kruesi | February 23, 2017 1:14 pm

Last week, the Indian Space Research Organisation launched 104 satellites into space via one rocket. Out of those 104, 101 are CubeSats, small satellites that have the potential of doing big things for astronomy, and yet for various reasons the astronomy community isn’t utilizing them. Most of the 613 CubeSats that have launched (as of this writing) are used for communication relays, education, various Earth observations, and to test space technology. Astrophysics research is sorely missin …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Uncategorized


Gooooal! Bumblebees Learn to Play Soccer

By Carl Engelking | February 23, 2017 1:00 pm

If scoring a goal is the only way to earn a sugary treat, a bumblebee will summon its inner Messi.

Indeed, rolling a ball into a goal—soccer, sort of—is the latest puzzle solved by Bombus terrestris after training with scientists/bee trainers at Queen Mary University of London. In October, scientists from the same lab—the Chittka Lab—taught bees to tug strings for treats. There are no plans to start a traveling carnival; instead, scientists are pushing bees’ to their cognitive  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, intelligence

Dead Things

Tuataras and The Question of Living Fossils

By Gemma Tarlach | February 22, 2017 3:35 pm

New Zealand’s tuataras prove the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” like few other animals on the planet (coelacanth, I’m looking at you). While paleontologists have long differed over the animal’s “living fossil” status, new research suggests the tuatara lineage got its groove some 240 million years ago and never lost it.

Sphenodon punctatus, commonly known as the tuatara, has been puzzling science as long as science has been aware of it: Back in 1831, the animal was initial …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


4 Thumbnail-Sized Frog Species Discovered in India

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 22, 2017 1:25 pm

Four frogs tinier than an average adult thumbnail are among seven new species identified in India’s Western Ghat mountain range.

The new frog species all belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. As the name suggests, they usually come out after dark and prefer to hide out under damp vegetation on the forest floor. Unlike their stream-dwelling cousins, they don’t have webbed feet. All of the species found appear to be fairly common in the region, but the frogs’  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts


7 Earth-Sized Planets Found Orbiting a Tiny Star

By John Wenz | February 22, 2017 12:01 pm

TRAPPIST-1 has a solar system like no other. The tiny, tiny red dwarf is just barely big enough to be considered a star, and is, radius-wise, a hair bigger than Jupiter. When it was announced last May, there was some excitement: the system had three Earth-sized planets, and they might all be habitable.

We’re going to have to revise that, though. It has seven planets. The results of an intensive study were published today in Nature.

TRAPPIST-1 is so small that it resembles Jupiter a …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Seriously, Science?

Ants on treadmills...for science!

By Seriously Science | February 22, 2017 6:00 am

Few things are as entertaining as watching animals on treadmills. Although Penguins might be the cutest, these ants are pretty fun, too. Here, researchers set up a hollow styrofoam ball floating on a stream of air as a treadmill for desert ants. To keep the ants from wandering (or simply falling) off the treadmill, the scientists glued the thorax to a small pin. They then were able to precisely track the animals’ movements and behavior as they navigated to their nests. Check out the video (bel …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

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