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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Organizing the beetle files
When biologists set out to organize the family tree for the huge family of beetles, they ended up identifying previously unknown relationships for many of the beetle groups -- somewhat like finding new cousins -- and re-defining the major families, new research shows.
Habitat split leads to biodiversity decline
Amphibians such as frogs are at risk, especially those that have to travel from their homes in forest habitats to aquatic areas to breed and back; and with this added risk, the diversity, or variety, of species declines, according to a new report. Traveling to the water to breed, then returning to the forest is called habitat split, and researchers say that it is usually caused by human activity.
Hinode mission delves into the Sun's mysteries
New results from the Hinode space mission should help explain some long-standing mysteries of the Sun. ("Hinode" is Japanese for "sunrise.")
In early human ancestor, growing up came late for males
If Paranthropus robustus -- a human ancestor that lived about 2 million years ago -- had gone to school dances, it would have been pretty awkward. New research shows that the males of this species matured much later in life than females.
A supercontinent that stayed put
For about 100 million years of Earth's history, from the Permian through the Jurassic periods, all of Earth's continents were actually joined as a single supercontinent, called Pangea ("pan-JEE-uh"). It began breaking up during the Jurassic, forming the continents Gondwanaland and Laurasia.
'Roach-bots' guide cockroach swarms
When a handful of cockroach-like robots joined a group of real roaches, the roach-bots coaxed the whole group to behave in unusual ways, researchers report in a new study.
Spadefoot toads break the rules in dry weather
Desert-dwelling animals have all kinds of clever tricks for surviving in their dry environments. This includes the spadefoot toad, which is named for the hard, pointy "spade" on its hind feet, which is used for digging.
Funding provided by the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation at AAAS.