History lessons from a volcano
Volcanic eruptions are constantly changing the face of our planet, as well as other rocky planets scattered across the universe. Underneath the solid earth, hot magma, or liquid rock, stirs about, sometimes rising to the surface or blasting out of a volcano. The expelled lava then covers the ground and eventually cools to form new rocks and crystals -- a brand new solid surface on top of the old one.
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What do we need forests for?
This week, Science takes a closer look at the world's forests and how they influence the environment around us.
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How mountains grow
Our planet's core is surrounded first by a layer of Earth known as the mantle, and then by the outermost layer, called the crust. The Earth's mantle and crust are constantly shifting around beneath our feet, and over long periods of time those underground movements can actually shape the landscape around us, forming things like mountains and rivers and islands.
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Infant supernova reveals details of its birth
About 300 years ago, a nearby star in our galaxy became a supernova and exploded in a bright flash of light. The light from that explosion is still traveling through space, and it's helping researchers answer many questions about the details of the actual supernova.
Megafloods carved land in Idaho -- and on Mars?
A new study of Idaho's Box Canyon, which is similar to canyons on Mars, may shake up our view of how water sculpted the landscape on the Red Planet. For a long time, geologists have assumed that Box Canyon was formed through gradual erosion, as groundwater seeped through the canyon walls and wore the rock away. They also figured this was true for other canyons that are made of volcanic rock and shaped like Box Canyon – which includes many of the canyons on Mars.
Birds defy gravity to eat
Have you ever wondered how some birds with long beaks eat and drink? Well, researchers have discovered a new way that some shorebirds get their food, and it's more complicated than you might have thought!
Seaweed a staple for early Americans
You are an archaeologist excavating a site that was inhabited by some of the earliest people to live in the Americas, about 14,000 years ago. You find ancient fragments of preserved seaweed scattered across the floors and stuck to an ancient cutting tool.
Tiny metal pine trees with a twist
Some things -- like iPods and laptop computers -- just keep getting smaller and smaller. And scientists are trying to shrink these kinds of gadgets even further, using parts that can be as tiny as the width of a human hair. But as researchers are finding out, it can be tricky to create building blocks that stack into neat patterns at this small size.
Family history of Mastodon and T. rex
Mastodon and Tyrannosaurus rex now have a place on the vertebrate family tree, thanks to a new study.
Don't eat the spiders!
Mercury in polluted rivers doesn't just affect aquatic life. Scientists have discovered that spiders, moths and grasshoppers living near the water can deliver mercury to the food chain on land when they become tasty treats for birds.
Seizing an opportunity in Madagascar
Approximately 50 percent of plant and over 70 percent of vertebrate species are crammed into biodiversity "hotspots" that make up only 2.3 percent of Earth's land surface. Madagascar is one of these hotspots, and its government is planning to triple the amount of the protected land where the plants and animals can live without interference from humans.
Bats eat as many bugs as birds do
Insects are fast food for birds flying through tropical forests, which munch on them all day long. But things aren't much safer for the bugs at night, two groups of scientists found out recently. It turns out that bats eat lots of insects when the sun goes down in the forests. In fact, they may eat as many insects as the birds do during the day.
Mystery of the squid beak solved
A squid's mouth has a sharp beak that it uses to slice through the spinal cord of fish and tear them into pieces for an easy-to-eat meal. The squid beak is made out of some of the hardest material found in nature.
Colossal blasts from ancient volcanoes
When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, in June of 1991, it blasted enough gas and dust into the air to block some of the sunlight in the atmosphere, causing the Earth's global climate to cool for a few years.
The story of the earliest Americans
Before 30,000 years ago, there wasn't anyone living anywhere in North or South America. These continents were some of the last places on Earth to be filled with people. But, the story of who those people were, how they got there and what they did when they came is becoming less of a mystery.
Sea-cucumber skin inspires new material
Scientists have long been amazed by the skin of a sea cucumber, which can switch from stiff to floppy, or vice versa, in mere seconds in order to help the animal defend itself against predators.
Flying bats take cue from bugs
Bats use the same aerodynamic trick as flying insects do to stay aloft, scientists have discovered. When the bat wing flaps downward, the motion produces a tiny cyclone of air above the wing, called a "leading edge vortex," that pulls the animal upward. Researchers have known that insects create these vortices while flying, but they’ve wondered whether same thing works for larger, heavier animals like bats.
Bird poop -- the best disguise ever
Swallowtail caterpillars are masters of deception. In their early stages of life they look just like the black and white goo of bird droppings, and just before becoming butterflies they resemble the green leaves they live on. Scientists have now identified the hormone responsible for this change in appearance. They report their discovery in the Feb. 22 issue of the journal Science.
Jupiter and Saturn's siblings
Researchers have discovered two new planets outside our solar system, each with a mass less than that of Jupiter. The planets are orbiting a star about half the size of our sun.
Harnessing 'people power'
Researchers have created a device that looks like a knee brace, which converts the energy from a walking person’s moving leg into electricity.
What's seeping in the Lost City?
How do you turn a tree trunk into gas for your car? For the most part, our fuel comes from plants and animals that were buried deep in the Earth.
Guess who? Helping machines recognize faces
Unless you're decked out in a really elaborate disguise, say as a Lord Voldemort or a Star Wars creature, you can generally recognize yourself in the mirror. It doesn't matter what angle you're facing or how the lighting is -- you still know you're you. But, it's not nearly so easy for computers.
More nutritious corn for kids around the world
New research may help plant breeders develop corn (known as maize in many parts of the world), with higher levels of an important nutrient. The body uses this nutrient to make vitamin A, which is very important for staying healthy. Vitamin A deficiency causes eye disease in 40 million children each year and places 140 to 250 million at risk for a variety of health disorders, according to study author Carlos Harjes of Cornell University and his colleagues.
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Elephants, giraffes and the ants in their plants
Nobody wants to see the elephants, giraffes and other grazing animals disappear from the eastern African savanna, but it's not just people who would miss them. Researchers have discovered that many of the ants and trees that share the mammals' turf would suffer, too.
Butterfly larvae fool ants into mothering them
Danish researchers have found that in some areas in their country, beautiful blue Alcon butterflies fool ants into raising the butterfly larvae instead of their own, a report explains. The reason? The butterflies have developed an outer coating that mimics that of the ants.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.