Stars may not be massive or metallic
Before stars existed in space, the only elements present in the universe were hydrogen, helium and lithium. The birth of the first stars fundamentally transformed the early universe by emitting the first light and producing the first metals. Astronomers are still trying to unlock some of the secrets of early star formation. Two new studies in the journal Science show that these early stars weren't as big or metallic as previously thought.
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Bird brains primed for cooperation
Best friends sometimes finish each others' sentences, but the plain-tailed wrens of the Andes take things even further. Male and female wrens sing intimate duets in which they alternate syllables so quickly it sounds like a single bird is singing.
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The big hearts of pythons
Pythons can go a full year without food, and once they do score a meal, their heart nearly doubles in size. Since the snake's heart-ballooning after a meal is similar to the heart growth seen in people who exercise a lot, like Olympic athletes, studying snake hearts could help scientists figure out how to make human hearts healthier.
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Evidence from a prehistoric mastodon hunt
A controversial mastodon rib, found with the tip of a bone point lodged inside, is 13,800 years old, researchers report in a new study.
The world's first art studio?
One of the earliest forms of paint is known as ochre -- and it really wasn't much more than colorful dirt. But, researchers believe that early humans may have used this colorful ochre to decorate their bodies or to make simple pieces of artwork.
If you love something, close it up? The weird world of caves
How would you feel if someone told you they'd discovered someplace amazing, but if they let other people come visit, it would be ruined? Would you wonder, what's the point of protecting it, if nobody can enjoy it? Or, could you appreciate the place without having to actually see it in person?
Superfast muscles found in bats
As bats swoop in on their prey, their sonar-based calls -- used to locate and track their meals -- increase to an incredible speed of about 160 calls per second. This kind of super-fast sonar call is known as the "terminal buzz," and it is often the last thing an insect ever hears.
Cattle versus wildlife: The battle for food has benefits
In Africa, the widespread belief among small subsistence farmers and commercial ranchers alike is that nearby wildlife compete with livestock for food. The solution for most farmers is to kill off wildlife. These eradication efforts are troublesome to scientists and others concerned about biodiversity conservation.
Are you ready for this jelly?
There are places in the ocean where giant jellyfish rule. They look like dinner plate-sized water balloons, hundreds and sometimes thousands of them floating together. When people catch too many regular fish like sardines or anchovies, they leave behind an empty ocean neighborhood that the jellyfish move into in a big way.
Virus gene leads moths to tree top doom
A gene found in a virus turns gypsy moth caterpillars into tree-climbing zombies, reports a new study in the journal Science on Sept. 9, 2011. These moth caterpillars infected by a virus known as a baculovirus, are hypnotized into climbing to the top of trees to die, liquefy and rain viral particles on the foliage below to infect new hosts.
An evolutionary 'cradle' for ice-age giants
The frosty highlands of the Tibetan Plateau may have been an evolutionary "cradle" for the woolly rhinos and other shaggy, cold-hardy creatures that roamed North America and Eurasia during the last ice age, a new study suggests.
Earth-bound meteorites come from stony asteroids
Thanks to the Hayabusa space mission, researchers have gotten their first up-close look at dust from the surface of an asteroid. The unmanned Japanese spacecraft was launched in 2003 and sent to the stony, or S-type, asteroid known as 25143 Itokawa. In 2005, it landed on the surface of that asteroid and scooped up some loose dust. Hayabusa returned to Earth in 2010 and researchers from all over the world have been analyzing the asteroid dust ever since.
Good teachers need more than facts
What makes a good teacher? When adults answer this question, they often talk about how well the teacher understands his or her subject and can explain it to students. But, if you're a student reading this, you might be thinking, well, OK, but there's more to it than that...
By sticking with the group, wasps help themselves
What makes animals and insects like Polistes dominulus, commonly known as the European paper wasp, work together and help each other out? What benefits do these wasps receive from building their nests with strangers and serving the queen wasp? Until now, researchers have believed that the wasps are somehow benefiting their relatives by helping out around the nest.
Female frogs limit the length of male mating calls
Male tungara frogs are known for their long mating calls, which they use in hopes of attracting a female. But, a new study shows that a long-winded frog song doesn't necessarily guarantee the males a mate. Instead, it seems that the female tungara frog's perception -- or what she hears from her environment -- is just as important as what the males are singing to her.
Hear my nectar: How dish-shaped leaves attract pollinating bats
Bats use high pitched sounds to locate food and navigate. Humans generally can't hear these high pitched sounds. When these sounds bounce off of objects, bats are capable of listening to the returning echoes, which gives bats a sense about the distance, movement and size of all objects in their path -- this is called "echolocation."
A gene to help the butterfly's disguise
Heliconius butterflies include more than 40 different species of butterfly, and they are famous for their strikingly unique and colorful wing patterns. They have evolved their current wing colors by mimicking, or copying, the warning signals of other species of butterfly.
Being the boss baboon is stressful
Boss baboons, the alpha males at the very top of wild baboon society, have higher stress hormone levels than second high ranking males, a new study in the journal Science reports. The findings hint that being the boss isn't always fun, and can sometimes be tiring and hard.
A new player in spinal cord injuries?
Scars are made of connective tissue that replaces normal skin after a wound -- and even though most people don't like the way they look, they play a valuable role in the healing process.
Planes punch holes in the clouds, making it snow
Many clouds in the sky contain water that is "supercooled," or able to stay in liquid form at temperatures below zero degrees Celsius. In fact, supercooled water can remain as a liquid all the way down to -40 degrees Celsius. However, when planes fly through clouds that hold supercooled water, they often punch holes right through them. And researchers now say that this phenomenon can lead to increased rain and snowfall on the ground below.
Static electricity revamped: A new take on bad hair days
Everyone is familiar with pulling off a wool hat or rubbing a balloon on your head, only to find your hair sticking up like a porcupine. But the age-old explanation for this bad hair day phenomenon, caused by static electricity (which is generated by what scientists call "contact electrification"), turns out be inaccurate, a new study in the June 23 issue of Science Express shows.
Hartley 2, a tiny, hyperactive comet
A little comet called Hartley 2 has an unusually small, active center that is spewing out water vapor and ice chunks, researchers report.
A water source in the western US running dry?
The layers of snow, or the snowpack, covering the northern Rocky Mountains has been growing and shrinking, depending on the climate, for centuries. And when that snowpack melts, the runoff feeds into the Colorado, Columbia and Missouri Rivers -- the primary water sources for more than 70 million people.
Where do dark spots on the sun come from?
Dark spots on the sun are created by the movement of gases, a new study in the journal Science reports. Sunspots are dark regions of the sun that appear black because they are cooler than the rest of the sun's visible surface.
Gross, explosive and beautiful -- videos show the fun side of chemistry
What happens when a cheeseburger is dunked in hydrochloric acid? Or when cotton is doused with liquid oxygen and set on fire? How do you make a fire with pink and purple flames? You can find the answers in a set of short, chemistry-themed videos produced by University of Nottingham professor Martyn Poliakoff, journalist Brady Haran, and the rest of their merry cast of characters.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.