College admission conundrum?

College admission conundrum?
Critics carp about college entrance exams and point to data showing that high-school grades better predict success. How do the “non-submitters” actually do at colleges that have quit requiring the tests? More »

Bats on the wing

Bats on the wing
Bat wings are built like a mammal’s arm—and so their flight is fiendishly complex. Scientists have decoded the fluid dynamics of the flight of a fruit bat—and this airborne mammal has some nifty tricks for staying aloft! More »

The benefits of watching

The benefits of watching
A fascinating study taps “mirror neurons” to improve hand strength and dexterity. If I watch a movie of somebody cutting with scissors, and then use scissors myself, my brain will change — and my hand will be stronger. No kidding! More »

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Halloween is supposed to be fun, but there’s a disturbing undercurrent of real belief in unreal stuff. Wish The Why Files luck as we struggle to explain why so many people believe in spirits, zombies or communication with the dead! More »

Roads: helpful here, harmful there

Roads: helpful here, harmful there

Roads are the first insult to pristine natural areas — and a key to agricultural productivity in places where farming makes sense. Here’s a proposal to decide where roads make sense, and where they make mayhem. More »

Wolf mystery solved at last!

Wolf mystery solved at last!

And how did it traverse 460 kilometers of ocean? Apparently by crossing a narrow band of ice during the last Ice Age. A new study echoes evolutionary giants Darwin and Wallace and highlights the role of sea level in animal migration. More »

Lying liars lie!

Lying liars lie!

We lie for many reasons: Glory. Money. Both. Something else. Is there a science of detecting lies? Does the digital realm make lying harder? Easier? Both? More »

After the flood, the menace of mold

After the flood, the menace of mold

After Sandy’s soaking: How dangerous are molds and bacteria that grow in a soggy house? What is the best way to salvage a water-damaged home? Do you need expert help? More »

Fixing filthy beaches

Fixing filthy beaches

Most water pollution originates in polluted runoff. After a near-record number of beach closures, could green infrastructure convert stormwater from liability to asset? Rain gardens, rain barrels, infiltration ponds, green roofs, buffer strips all trap sediments and nutrients while reducing the load on sewer systems. Is green infrastructure oversold? More »

Boasting about the boson

Boasting about the boson

Award follows last year’s sighting of elusive boson at world’s largest atom smasher. At last, matter can have mass, and physics can understand why! More »

Patent wars!

Patent wars!

How do patents work? What is “new, non-obvious and useful”? What will happen after the biggest change in patent law in 60 years? More »

Should “wastewater” be wasted?

effluent pumps

Population growth, climate change and development are all focusing attention on water shortages. Theoretically, water can be recycled forever, but can we possibly clean sewage to make it drinkable? Yes, and a number of projects around the country are doing exactly that. Bottoms up! More »

Calendars: A fix needed?

Calendars: A fix needed?

A “permanent” calendar could finally answer the annual, “Uh, what day is New Year’s eve this year?” question. This calendar would place each date on a specific day every year, and simplify life for schedulers. But would a permanent calendar be accepted? More »

Reading magma, predicting giant eruptions

Reading magma, predicting giant eruptions

Volcanic eruptions are unpredictable, but here’s a new view of the historic eruption of a Mediterranean monster. About 3,500 years ago, Santorini’s eruption left a giant caldera and 60-meter layers of pumice. A new study of tiny crystals tracks movement of molten magma before the cataclysm. More »

Short of meds…

Short of meds…

Contaminated injection blamed for mini-epidemic. Why are hospitals running out of generic drugs, anesthetics and antibiotics? More »