Science & Technology

Science news

The Ant Man

Jun 14, 2016
photo of Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith

The trail of ants across the kitchen counter may be a nuisance to some, but to biologist Adrian Smith, it is a fascinating phenomenon full of mystery. Smith studies the evolution of different ants and their social patterns. He also films the insects to document their intriguing characteristics.

How we react to vocal fry in music depends on the gender of the singer

Jun 13, 2016
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Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters

Vocal fry, a speech pattern that is characterized by a throaty, low register, has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation. That creaky sound can be heard in pop music from artists like Britney Spears and Enrique Iglesias. Unsure of how to create vocal fry? 

“You just have to try talking like a Kardashian and see what comes out of that,” says vocalogy researcher at the University of Texas San Antonio Mackenzie Parrott. 

Still not sure what it sounds like? 

Could brain infection set the stage for Alzheimer’s?

Jun 13, 2016
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Doctor Jana/Creative Commons

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of the protein amyloid-beta in the brain. Several years ago neurobiologist Rob Moir began wondering about the function of amyloid-beta. Surely it couldn’t just be junk, gumming up the brain? His studies on this protein may be overturning some 30 years of assumptions about what causes Alzheimer’s. 

Moir first began wondering about amyloid-beta over Friday night drinks at a bar. 

How your phone could help scientists detect and measure an earthquake

Jun 12, 2016
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David Moir/Reuters

Developers are creating apps that can tap into the sensors in your smart device to measure different aspects of your environment, such as your number of footsteps or your heartbeat. And now there’s an app to measure your surrounding seismic activity.

Seismologist Richard Allen, who worked to develop MyShake, says the app uses the sensing abilities already built into smartphones. 

What science says about e-cigarettes

Jun 12, 2016
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JohnWilliams/Flickr/CC BY-NC 3.0 US

Battery-powered e-cigarettes have become wildly popular over the last decade, especially among teenagers and young adults. At least some of this popularity stems from their marketing as safe alternatives to conventional, combustible cigarettes, as well as their many, often fruity flavors.

But how much do we understand about the safety of e-cigarettes, or the more than 7,000 e-liquids on the market?

The Hyperloop: From Pipe Dream to Possible

Jun 10, 2016

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Courtesy of Beyond Meat

When California-based food company Beyond Meat soft-launched its new plant-based burger at a Whole Foods in Colorado in May, it sold out in one hour. The startup says the Beyond Burger is completely vegan, has no soy or gluten, and will cook like a real beef burger.

Research Finds Wildlife Unfazed By Hunters And Hikers

Jun 8, 2016
Courtesy of eMammal

A new study from North Carolina State University finds most wildlife species are not disturbed by hiking and hunting in protected forests.

You’ve heard of seed banks — precious vaults that keep plant genetic material frozen for posterity’s sake. But what about coral banks?

For more than a decade, marine biologist Mary Hagedorn has been cultivating the art of carefully freezing coral sperm through a process known as cryopreservation. Her goal is to bank as many species as possible for use in future research and restoration, and to train other scientists to follow her lead.

Watch this video of tiny flying RoboBees in action

Jun 6, 2016

A group of Harvard scientists have a vision: to build a tiny robot that can fly, work together in groups, and even pollinate flowers like a honeybee. Meet RoboBee, whose latest feat was published in Science. The 80-milligram robot can fly to a surface, perch on it using electrostatic forces, and gently take off from that surface — saving valuable energy in the process.

Did you know GPS used to be controversial? Here’s how it survived.

Jun 5, 2016

In the early 1970s, the idea for a satellite-based modern navigation system was controversial within the United States Air Force. Many in leadership didn’t want anything to do with the project that would become our now-ubiquitous GPS — they thought the money was better spent on putting more planes in the air.

How much of your personal data do you give up when you use your smartphone?

Jun 4, 2016

Each call, post, or search from your smartphone leaves a trail of hidden digital data that you might not see, but that can be collected by organizations interested in your info.

In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked documents that showed the NSA was collecting phone metadata. After these leaks, the NSA changed its guidelines. But where do we stand now? Have these NSA changes increased our privacy? What exactly has changed?

Inside the Minds of Zoo Animals

Jun 3, 2016

Confirmed: More planets are capable of hosting life than have ever been previously substantiated

May 29, 2016
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NASA Ames

The NASA Kepler mission scientists have confirmed a record haul of exoplanets: 1,284. The objects were all spotted in the patch of sky between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, and the announcement more than doubles the number of exoplanets, or a planet that orbits a star other than the sun, known to science.

Bernd Heinrich, a birdwatching expert and professor emeritus of biology at the University of Vermont, has been known to go to extremes in his bird-watching pursuits. There is, for example, the time he drilled a hole in the wall of his home in order to get a better view of a bird building its nest. 

Want to try mushroom hunting? Here are a few tips from a pro.

May 29, 2016

It’s spring and morel mushroom season is in full swing. If you’ve never dared to eat wild mushrooms before, you’re missing out on all these delicious flavors.

Mycologist and author Gary Lincoff has a few tips for finding some easy-to-identify edible mushrooms this spring and summer, wherever you may live.

1. Join a mushroom club

This octopus may evoke the spirit of life, but it never swam the ocean depths. It’s made of glass.

The specimen is one of thousands of meticulously detailed marine invertebrate models fashioned between 1863 and 1890 by a father-son glassworking duo, for the primary purpose of research and education. Collectively, their work depicts more than 700 different species — including various anemones, squids and sea stars — found in waters around the globe.

What Science Says About E-Cigarettes

May 27, 2016

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