Impurities are important

Impurities are important

Despite being merely microns thick, these impurity crystals jut like skyscrapers from the surface of NF 616 cast stainless steel, a specialized engineering material. All engineering materials contain small amounts of impurities, which play an important role in the mechanical… More »

Stem Cell Magic

Stem Cell Magic

This muscle cell was derived from human embryonic stem cells propagated on a synthetic hydrogel scaffold. The cell’s alpha smooth muscle actin is stained red and the nucleus blue. Hydrogels are networks of hydrophilic, or water soluble, polymer chains that… More »

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

Reminiscent of children’s sand art, the Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon tell the story of climates past. Fifty million years ago the region was lush and tropical. It is now a sublimely rugged landscape in a semi-arid climate. The red… More »

Cotton pollination

Cotton pollination

This image shows a very small portion of a cotton flower magnified more than 500 times. The spike-covered orbs are cotton pollen grains stuck to the papillar surface of the stigma, a sticky surface with finger-like projections. The stigma is… More »

Tastes like chicken

Tastes like chicken

When walking in the woods, if you stumble upon a large yellow or orange shelved mushroom growing on a tree, it is quite possible you have found a species of Laetiporus, colloquially known as chicken of the woods, among other… More »

From salt pond to salt marsh

From salt pond to salt marsh

Just west of tiny Alviso, Calif., lies the remnant salt pond named A8, which is soon to return to its glory days as a thriving wetland, hopefully. If all goes as planned, this future salt marsh will be part of… More »

In the ocean (electric) blue

In the ocean (electric) blue

The world’s most abundant form of life—plankton—makes the electric blue swirls in this image of the North Atlantic Ocean off Ireland. This massive bloom is an annual springtime phenomenon. Also known as the “grass of the sea,” plankton are microscopic… More »

Snot Otter

Snot Otter

The snot otter, more officially known as the hellbender salamander or Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, is North America’s most super-sized salamander, growing up to 30 inches long. It inhabits streams and rivers from Arkansas to New York, and has evolved very little… More »

Drying Rivers, Dying Fish

Drying Rivers, Dying Fish

The dry Colorado River delta in the Baja/Sonoran desert may leave a fascinating mark on the earth, but ecologists and fish are alarmed. Human use and climate change are draining rivers around the world, endangering fish and entire ecosystems in… More »

Milky Way Origins

Milky Way Origins

Five billion years ago small, short-lived galaxies played games of galactic bumper cars with each other, leaving debris in their aftermath. As the Milky Way began to form, it gathered some of the wayward fragments, which are now the ancient… More »

Hole-punch clouds

Hole-punch clouds

Mysterious holes in clouds, such as this one, have long fascinated the public and, until recently, baffled scientists. New research shows that turboprop or jet aircraft punch these holes, causing narrow bands of rain or snowfall. Clouds often contain supercooled… More »

Origami bird

Origami bird

This elaborate is a masterly crafted peace of artwork, yet it represents much more. This creation is the size of a penny, and folded from a printed sheet of titanium hydride ink. It was created at the University of Illinois,… More »

Cloudina carinata

Cloudina carinata

Paleontologists have recently discovered the fossilized remains of new species in the Cloudina genus, which are among the first animals to have developed an exoskeleton approximately 550 million years ago. The Cloudina carinata, discovered at the site El Membrillar (Badajoz)… More »

Competing bacteria

Competing bacteria

Rivalries in nature regularly produce clashing outcomes, and a recent study proved that this can also be the case for some bacteria. Colonies of the bacterium Paenibacillus dendritiformis have been shown to produce a lethal chemical to keep their competition… More »

Autonomous Benthic Explorer, our buddy ABE

Autonomous Benthic Explorer, our buddy ABE
One of the most important robotic explorers of the world’s oceans has retired, lost at sea after a launch off of southern Chile in early March. The Autonomous Benthic Explorer, or ABE as it is commonly known, had made over… More »