Old and distant galaxy

Old and distant galaxy
A faint smudge — with the dark red insignia of super-old light — distinguishes the oldest galaxy ever seen. The old gal was active in a period when the universe was very different, but still looks a bit like a midget-size modern galaxy. More »

Poaching problem

Poaching problem
As elephant poaching soars, carbon dating, a mainstay of archeology, could be used to date ivory, based on heavy isotopes left over from the atom-bomb era. More »

Mining data

Mining data
As the government collects security data, science is dealing with massive amounts of data in genetics, astronomy, meteorology and social science. What are the drawbacks of a data glut? More »

Counting bugs in Panama

Counting bugs in Panama

Life is biology is species: But how many species live on Earth? About six million arthropods (insects, spiders and crustaceans), says a new study. More »

Mourning the dying weather satellites

Mourning the dying weather satellites

We love accurate weather forecasts, but the weather satellites they rely on are nearing the boneyard. Some replacements have crashed into the ocean, others are in financial limbo. Be very worried about our fragile planet: these satellites also track climate, ice, fire, and the health of forests and ocean! More »

Flying robots

small robotic, red and white plane on surface of water

Compared to regular airplanes, radio-controlled craft are safer, cheaper, and easier to use for observing wildlife and environmental conditions. Where are these robots being used? What are they finding? And as prices continue to fall, what stands in the way of much broader use? More »

Chasing neutrinos at the South Pole

Chasing neutrinos at the South Pole

Neutrinos are odd: Extremely difficult to see, they travel through mass with scarcely a trace. A 1-billion ton detector in South Pole ice is now counting neutrinos, intent on understanding their origin and role in the universe, and even spotting echoes of the Big Bang. More »

Dr. Darwin teaches robot!

Dr. Darwin teaches robot!

A crash course in “sink or swim” teaches computerized robots to adapt to changing circumstances. When taught by “directed evolution,” robots that started without legs learned to walk sooner than robots that started with legs! Can you explain? More »

New math mavens = pigeons?

New math mavens = pigeons?

Can pigeons learn an abstract mathematical rule? Apparently, according to a new study, which asked pigeons to place, five blue dots and eight green squares, in ascending order. Now we know birds and primates can both do this, but where and why did this ability originate? More »

Watching a continental split

detail of labelled, satellite view of Baja California and Sea of Cortez

Seismic study shows crust thinning as continent divides, giving another view of our restless planet, showing tectonic movement in action, and highlighting a major real-estate investment opportunity. More »

Ancient hole, black hole

Ancient hole, black hole

A new report on the ancient universe shows that most galaxies – even all of them – had a black hole at the center, much like modern galaxies. We can understand why a black hole would need to be surrounded by millions of stars, but why should galaxies require black holes? More »

Testing seafood in the Gulf

Testing seafood in the Gulf

Fish contamination was rare after the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, with levels of dangerous hydrocarbons well below “levels of concern.” But nobody looked systematically at heavy metals, the Gulf still has a lot of oil, and the many different hydrocarbons may have unpredictable impacts. More »

Stem cell battle resumes

Black and white image of woman in wheelchair seen from the back in a hospital hallway

A federal court has thrown the field of embryonic stem cell research into confusion. Last week, research that destroys embryos could not get federal bucks — even if those embryos were doomed or destroyed years ago. This week, it can. How is the legal yo-yo affecting researchers — and desperate patients? More »

Death of the mastodon

Death of the mastodon
It’s one of the biggest puzzles of paleontology: Why did North America’s large mammals go extinct shortly after the glaciers melted about 15k years ago? New study suggests that hunters get the credit — or blame. More »

North Korea’s nukes

North Korea’s nukes

Underground nuclear tests have been the biggest roadblock to a comprehensive test ban. How are these explosions detected, and how reliably? More »