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.
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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.
Sniff sniff: Smelling led to smarter mammals, researchers say
Paleontologists have now discovered that an improved sense of smell jumpstarted brain evolution in the ancestral cousins of present-day mammals. The findings may help explain why mammals evolved such large and complex brains, which in some cases ballooned 10 times larger than relative body size.
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The last of the Neandertals?
Among the Ural Mountains in Russia, researchers have discovered hundreds of ancient tools that were made by primitive humans who once lived in the region. The funny thing about these tools, however, is that they appear to be just 33,000 years old -- yet they resemble tools made by much earlier cultures, such as Neandertals.
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Spikemoss genome hints at ancient plant transitions
Spikemoss, club moss and quillworts -- this may sound like vocabulary list from a Herbology class at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But, it's actually an important group of plants whose genomic information is shedding light on plant evolution.
Ocean eddies' roots churn up deep sea
Swirling currents called eddies can reach deep below the ocean's surface, where they stir up heat, larvae and chemicals from deep fissures in the sea floor and spread them across hundreds of kilometers, new findings suggest.
From the mouths of manatees
The Eocene epoch is the period of time in Earth's history that lasted from about 56 million years ago to 34 million years ago -- and researchers say that our planet was a much wetter place then, especially in the tropics.
Some dinosaurs loved the nightlife
Some dinosaurs and other reptiles from the Mesozoic era (about 250 to 65 million years ago) could see in dim light and were likely active at night, according to a study of these animals' eye shapes.
The Kepler spacecraft's stellar photo shoot
In 2009, NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft to look for Earth-like planets orbiting around distant stars that resemble our sun. Cameras on board Kepler analyze the vibrations -- or oscillations -- of stars, and transmit data back to astronomers on Earth. By analyzing how a star oscillates, researchers can learn a lot about the mass and radius of that star.
Declining bat populations could spell trouble for agriculture
Insect-eating bats are worth billions of dollars to the agricultural industry in North America. But, numbers are falling due to the mysterious "white-nose disease," which has already killed more than one million bats, and wind turbines that are being built to harvest energy.
My, what new teeth you have!
Chewing an apple -- or if you're unlucky, a Brussels sprout -- is trickier than it looks. To crunch up a tough fruit or vegetable like that, your top teeth and your bottom teeth need to fit together when you bite down. Scientists have now discovered a 260 million-year-old fossil that may have been one of the first of its kind to have this type of special bite.
In evolution, the tortoise beats the hare
A new study of E. coli bacteria shows that, even during evolution, a slow and steady pace can win the race. Robert Woods and colleagues performed an experiment in which a sub-population of slowly mutating bacteria eventually took over an entire colony of more rapidly mutating bacteria -- the same way the tortoise beat the hare in Aesop's fable.
The Gulf oil spill's effects on the atmosphere
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a plume of air pollution accumulated over the spill as the oil evaporated off the sea surface, scientists have discovered.
The evolution of North American horses
Fossil horses are often referred to as classic examples of evolution. Over millions of years, they increased in body size, reduced the number of toes on their hooves and even grew bigger teeth. Now, researchers have collected vast amounts of data on that last detail -- horses' teeth -- from all over North America for the past 55.5 million years, when horses first appeared on the planet.
How fire ants conquered the world
Fire ants get their name from how bad their sting feels -- like someone's lit a match against your skin. And their sting isn't the only thing about them that hurts. In the United States, people spend more than $6 billion every year trying to control the ants.
During hibernation, bear metabolism hits a new low
Several American black bears, who were captured in Alaska after wandering a bit too close to human communities, have given researchers the opportunity to study hibernation in these large mammals like never before.
Tiny foot bone tells a walking tale
A foot bone from the early human relative Australopithecus afarensis suggests that these hominids had stiff, arched feet, like we do, scientists have discovered.
Without birds, a New Zealand shrub suffers
Species of birds around the world have slowly been disappearing, and some researchers are worried that many plant species could disappear as well -- if pollinating birds are no longer around to spread their seeds. Until now, though, researchers have had no proof that such a breakdown between plants and animals is happening.
To babies, might makes right
A new scientific study reports something that probably makes sense to anyone with an older brother or sister: even babies understand that being brawny comes in handy during a conflict.
Birds let their nests speak for them
Researchers studying black kites -- medium-sized birds of prey -- have discovered that the ways in which the birds decorate their nests can speak volumes to other birds in the area. Apparently, the black kites that decorate their nests with the largest amounts of white plastic are also the best fighters. Plus, they produce the most offspring and live in the best territories.
Meet Eodromaeus, small predator from the dawn of the dinos
Researchers have discovered a new dinosaur, Eodramaeus, which lived during the dawn of the dinosaur era, about 230 million years ago.
The Crab nebula's strange behavior
In the year 1054, Chinese astronomers witnessed a supernova, or a brightly exploding star in the sky. Today, the remains of that supernova are still very well-studied by astronomers from all over the world.
Improving CITES could save more species
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna -- known as CITES -- is an important global agreement that encourages countries around the world to monitor the trade of plants and animals. Unfortunately, the business of buying and selling wildlife across countries' borders often takes the form of illegal poaching. Furthermore, this illegal trade of wildlife can spread infectious diseases across borders and introduce destructive, invading species to ecosystems that can't handle them.
Introducing the new field of 'culturomics'
Imagine how much you could learn from reading every book that was ever published. It would, of course, be impossible for any human being to do.
Imaginary food can make you full
Thinking of a candy bar for a moment is probably enough to make your mouth water or your stomach growl. But, according to a new study, if you just imagine eating an entire candy bar -- visualizing every bite, chew, and swallow in your head -- then you'd probably eat less of an actual candy bar if you were to get your hands on one.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.