Science

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Consider this your semi-regular reminder that, well, space is pretty neat.

If you're in the southern hemisphere and you happen to look up Sunday morning — or, for everyone else, if you happen to have Internet access — you may have the chance to see an annular solar eclipse. Unlike a total solar eclipse, this one will leave just a sliver of sunlight shining at the rim of the moon's shadow as passes between Earth and the sun.

It was a balmy Sunday evening in early 1999, and Dr. Kaw Bing Chua hadn't had lunch or dinner.

There wasn't time to eat. Chua was chasing a killer. And he thought maybe he had finally tracked it down.

He slid the slide under the microscope lens, turned on the scope's light and looked inside. "A chill went down my spine," Chua says. "The slide lit up bright green, like bright green lanterns."

From humble origins as the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, raised in the Bronx in the depths of the Great Depression, Mildred Dresselhaus scaled to great heights in the scientific community and attained the status of royalty — even if only in nickname.

To Test Zika Vaccines, Scientists Need A New Outbreak

Feb 23, 2017

Researchers are eager to test promising vaccines against Zika, the virus that sparked a global health emergency last year.

But uncertainty over whether the Zika epidemic will continue affects researchers' ability to finish testing vaccines. They need locations with an active viral outbreak to conduct large-scale human trials and make sure the vaccine actually protects against disease.

Scientists around the United States are getting ready to do an unprecedented experiment: They plan to march en masse in Washington, D.C., and other cities on April 22, to take a stand for the importance of public policies based on science.

Some researchers predict that this March for Science will release much needed energy and enthusiasm at a time when science is under threat; others worry it will damage science's reputation as an unbiased seeker of truth.

An "atmospheric river" is a colorful term for a sinuous plume of moisture that travels up from the tropics — a single plume can carry more water than the Mississippi River at its mouth. But new research shows that atmospheric rivers are also among the most damaging weather systems around.

The atmospheric rivers that soaked California this winter did some good — they ended an epic drought in the state.

Creating some form of art is commonly believed to help older people stay mentally and physically healthy. Scientific research hasn't quite caught up with that belief.

But that hasn't deterred the dozen or so older adults in Janet Hoult's poetry workshop. She refers to them all as "my poets." They meet weekly at the Culver City Senior Center in Culver City, Calif. Hoult is 80. Her eldest pupil, Ruth Berman, is 91.

Ed Ronco / knkx

 

For the last 20 years, the National Audubon Society has encouraged people to go into their backyards or to their local parks and count the birds they see. It's called The Great Backyard Bird Count. It began in the U.S. and Canada. Now, 130 countries participate in the global data-gathering weekend. 

Scientists may have solved the mystery of nodding syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that has disabled thousands of children in East Africa.

On Wednesday morning, NASA rewarded five members of the public — two doctors, a dentist, an engineer and a product designer — for their creative ideas for how to poop in a spacesuit.

Yes, it sounds a little bit funny. But unmet toilet needs could have life or death consequences for an astronaut in an emergency situation.

That's why thousands of people spent tens of thousands of hours on the "Space Poop Challenge," brainstorming, modeling, prototyping and number-crunching to come up with a crowd-sourced solution to the problem of human waste in a spacesuit.

About 3,000 years ago, a potter near Jerusalem made a big jar. It was meant to hold olive oil or wine or something else valuable enough to send to the king as a tax payment. The jar's handles were stamped with a royal seal, and the pot went into the kiln.

Over the next 600 years, despite wars destructive enough to raze cities, potters in the area kept making ceramic tax jars, each one stamped with whatever seal represented the ruler du jour.

They didn't know it, but in the process, the ancient potters were not just upholding centuries of tax bureaucracy.

Each year, fish farms produce a massive amount of carp — so much that if you put all that fish on one side of a scale, and all the people living in the U.S. on the other side, they'd pretty much balance each other out by weight.

But for the past couple of decades, carp have been plagued by a type of herpes virus, known as Koi herpesvirus.

Will Algorithms Erode Our Decision-Making Skills?

Feb 8, 2017

Algorithms are embedded into our technological lives, helping accomplish a variety of tasks like making sure that email makes it to your aunt or that you're matched to someone on a dating website who likes the same bands as you.

This newly discovered gecko species from Madagascar is a master escape artist.

It's extremely fast. Like other lizards, it can lose its tail and grow a new one. And it can shed its scales — the largest of any gecko — in order to flee a predator.

Researchers from the U.S., Germany and Colombia described the species Geckolepis megalepis in the journal PeerJ. But as lead author Mark D. Scherz tells The Two-Way, a skilled escape artist is an "absolute nightmare" to study.

A widely used blood test to measure blood-sugar trends can give imprecise results, depending on a person's race and other factors. This test means diabetes can sometimes be misdiagnosed or managed poorly.

Doctors have been cautioned before that results from the A1C test don't have pinpoint accuracy. A study published Tuesday underscores that shortcoming as it applies to people who carry the sickle cell trait.

One of the problems with bats, if you're a robotics expert, is that they have so many joints.

That's what robotics researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Caltech quickly learned when they set out to build a robot version of the flying mammal.

For years, the satellites of America's Global Positioning System have been carrying sensors that measure the weather in space.

The information has been kept by the military, which manages the satellites, because solar storms and other space weather can damage satellites.

Today, as the result of an executive order signed last October, the government released 16 years of that space weather data to the public for the first time.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET on Jan. 24

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released crisp, color images of Earth from its newest orbiting weather satellite.

A group of scientists is gathering this week in the U.K. to discuss a slab of ice that's cracking in Antarctica. The crack could soon split off a frozen chunk the size of Delaware.

One glacier scientist, Heidi Sevestre, spent six weeks last year living on that giant slab of ice off the Antarctic Peninsula.

When Samantha Deffler was young, her mother would often call her by her siblings' names — even the dog's name. "Rebecca, Jesse, Molly, Tucker, Samantha," she says.

For years, women have been told that regular mammograms can help reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by catching tumors at their earliest, most treatable stages.

But a Danish study is the latest research to challenge that assumption. Researchers followed thousands of women in Denmark over more than a decade and found that perhaps one-third of the abnormalities detected by mammograms may never cause health problems.

They Never Told Her That Girls Could Become Scientists

Jan 7, 2017

By many standards, Mireille Kamariza is at the top of the world.

She's a graduate student at one of the world's top universities, working on her Ph.D. with one of the world's top chemists. And she's tackling a tough problem — tuberculosis — that sickens nearly 10 million people a year.

A Canadian doctor who is opposed to a widely used drug for morning sickness has fired another volley.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, Dr. Navindra Persaud in the department of family and community medicine at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, notes that an unpublished study that supported use of the drug, conducted in the 1970s, is seriously flawed.

Scott A. Miller / AP Images for National Council on Aging and Sanofi Pasteur

The flu is making rounds, and health officials across Washington say that 2017 is shaping up to be a severe season. 

“It’s never too late to get the flu shot," said Edie Jeffers, spokeswoman for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Each year, the flu vaccine is reformulated to match the latest strain of influenza.

People think of black holes as nightmare vacuum cleaners, sucking in everything in reach, from light to stars to Matthew McConaughey in the movie Interstellar. But, in real life, black holes don't consume everything that they draw in.

The 24 juniors and seniors in the astronomy class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., sink into plush red theater seats. They're in a big half-circle around what looks like a giant telescope with a globe on the end. Their teacher, Lee Ann Hennig, stands at a wooden control panel that has enough buttons and dials to launch a rocket.

Terrorist attacks, hurricanes, a divisive U.S. election, Brexit — 2016 has not been easy. With the year coming to an end, we thought it was time to get some serious perspective — from the scale of the entire universe.

We're tackling big questions: what scientists know, and what they have yet to learn.

So before you ring in another year, take a moment to contemplate the billions of years that led to 2017 and the billions more yet to come.

On the top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they're looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Vera Rubin, the groundbreaking astrophysicist who discovered evidence of dark matter, died Sunday night at the age of 88, the Carnegie Institution confirms.

Rubin did much of her revelatory work at Carnegie. The organization's president calls her a "national treasure."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rubin was working with astronomer Kent Ford, studying the behavior of spiral galaxies, when they discovered something entirely unexpected — the stars at the outside of the galaxy were moving as fast as the ones in the middle, which didn't fit with Newtonian gravitational theory.

It's a time of year when we're often urged to be grateful; for friends, for family, for presents under the tree. But not everyone experiences gratitude as a positive force in their life.

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