Science & Technology

Science news

Should artificial intelligence be used in science publishing?

Feb 28, 2017
blickpixel/CC0. Image cropped. 

Advances in automation technology mean that robots and artificial intelligence programs are capable of performing an ever-greater share of our work, including collecting and analyzing data. For many people, automated colleagues are still just office chatter, not reality, but the technology is already disrupting industries once thought to be just for humans. Case in point: science publishing.

In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan changed the source of its water from the city of Detroit to the Flint River. But in the transition to river water, officials didn’t implement proper anti-corrosion measures. Lead leached from old pipes into the water supply, and in some homes, lead levels measured 10 times higher than the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last month, lead levels in Flint's city water finally tested below federal-action level. But residents are still being cautioned to use filters on their faucets, or to drink bottled water.

Harvard researchers say they’ve created metallic hydrogen

Feb 25, 2017

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe — and we know it mainly as a gas, not a metal. But in 1935, the physicists Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington theorized that under high enough pressures, hydrogen could actually become metallic.

Since then, scientists have tried all sorts of techniques to create metallic hydrogen. Now, reporting in the journal Science, researchers at Harvard University say they’ve squeezed hydrogen between two diamonds — and made metal happen.

How Can We Discover Better Antibiotics?

Feb 25, 2017

Can This Treatment Combat Hearing Loss?

Feb 25, 2017

Science lovers around the world will march on April 22. Here’s why.

Feb 21, 2017
<a href="">YoTuT</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

April 22 holds special significance for environmentalists: It’s Earth Day. And this year, there’s another reason to save the date. Scientists and science lovers will take to the streets of Washington, DC, and other cities worldwide in a “March for Science,” inspired by the Jan. 21 Women’s March. 

Some of the oxygen on the moon used to be on planet Earth

Feb 18, 2017
NASA/Reid Wiseman

Scientists say that every month, we here on Earth send some oxygen to the moon — and we’ve probably been doing it for billions of years.

The moon may be airless, but we know it has oxygen — Apollo mission samples confirmed its presence in the moon’s soil. The easiest explanation for its source is the solar wind, which bombards the moon’s surface with particles streaming off of the sun. But new research shows that the moon may be getting some of its oxygen from a more familiar place: Earth.

A Mood Ring for Your Wrist

Feb 18, 2017

There's 'alien soil' growing deep underground

Feb 15, 2017
Zena Cardman

Almost one-third of a mile underground, in the dark, damp vaults of the vast Frasassi cave system in central Italy, curious patterns appear on the walls. Stretching for miles, the designs are slimy to the touch, similar to the consistency of wet clay.

“The most simple phrase I can think of [to describe them] would be alien soil,” says Jennifer Macalady, an associate professor of geosciences at Penn State University.

These geeky valentines will warm your heart

Feb 13, 2017

Our friends over at Science Friday couldn't resist creating these fun, geeky Valentines. 

Here’s how they work:

markusspiske/CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)

There’s an old, insidious stereotype that men are brainier than women — that somehow they’re more dazzling, more genius. And that notion can have wide-ranging effects on women’s career decisions: One study recently found that there are fewer women than men in academic fields that place a premium on “innate brilliance” — like physics, philosophy and computer science.

<a href="">Official White House photo by Pete Souza</a>

For years, fighting the spread of child pornography online was like playing a dark game of whack-a-mole: Scrub an image of abuse from one location, and it would just rear its head again later, in another corner of the web.

That is, until 2008, when Dartmouth College computer scientist Hany Farid teamed up with Microsoft. Together, they built a tool that could compare an image’s digital signature, or “hash,” against a database of known child pornography, cataloged by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Can we develop immunity against fake news?

Feb 11, 2017
<a href="">Kaboompics/Karolina</a>/CC by 2.0 (image cropped)

In the run-up to last fall’s US presidential election, fake news swept social media sites like a virus, unleashing alternative facts that many people thought were real. One reason we may have been so susceptible to false facts? A consensus is powerful, experts say — especially when our brains are handling a lot of information quickly.

Why So (Heat) Sensitive?

Feb 11, 2017

The casual observer — or beachgoer — probably doesn't give too much thought to the reproductive lives of seahorses.

After all, it’s a classic storyline, right? Boy seahorse meets girl seahorse, seahorse gets pregnant, and a few weeks later, a bouncing brood of baby seahorses are born.

But that would be skimming over the coolest part about seahorse reproduction: “They're the only vertebrates — seahorses and pipefish, a group of about 300 species — where the males become truly pregnant,” says Luke Groskin.

Wearable, implantable ‘soft robots’ could someday make our bodies stronger

Feb 7, 2017

Heart failure — when the heart is too weak to pump enough blood through the body — affects nearly 6 million American adults. But recent innovations in muscle-like “soft robots” may someday provide a respite for heart failure patients, and patients suffering from a host of other muscular ailments.

Soft robots “are very different from conventional robots with rigid parts, but they're robotic in the sense that you can program them to achieve a predefined motion,” says Ellen Roche, a postdoctoral researcher at the National University of Ireland.

“Overall, discovering the world is a complicated business,” says the theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. “And it goes slowly. It has always gone slowly. And it's still going slowly now, I believe.”

What would you do with data from more than 2 billion trips taken with the ride-booking service Uber?

Soon, you'll be able to explore the possibilities. The company recently debuted a new online tool called Movement, which provides data like ride durations between two points, based on GPS information. The tool is a dream for city planners and local governments, who can use it to learn more about commute patterns, and target infrastructure projects. And in the coming months, Uber wants to make Movement accessible to everyone.