Seeds of dilemma: Who owns the genes that fill the stomach?

Seeds of dilemma: Who owns the genes that fill the stomach?
Some seed corn is covered by 30 patents. Three firms dominate corn and soybean seed producers, and patents are moving faster into smaller crops. Can the open-source software movement guide us toward an alternative way to breed and sell seed? More »

You don’t miss your water — till it turns toxic

You don’t miss your water -- till it turns toxic
Excess phosphorus fuels growth of dangerous cyanobacteria that make a range of toxins. Control efforts have focused on sewage treatment plants, but the growing impact of agriculture cannot be ignored much longer. More »

Planet discoveries boost LifeSearch 2.0

Planet discoveries boost LifeSearch 2.0
Almost 1,900 planet detections force the question: How to find life? Radio signals have produced nothing. Primitive life could exist deep inside Mars or around a distant star. How can we tell? What does ancient Earth tell us about life in space? More »

Amphibian decline: Frogs fight back!

Amphibian decline: Frogs fight back!
Lab tests show an immune response to the fungus and suggest several strategies to fight the biggest single cause of amphibian extinction. Frogs even learned to avoid the fungus on their second exposure! More »

Hurricanes, typhoons moving away from equator

Hurricanes, typhoons moving away from equator
As the globe warms, a sophisticated analysis of satellite records shows that tropical cyclones are moving away from the equator, as much as 39 miles per decade. The shift will raise the danger in some places and lower it in others. More »

Tornadoes strike again. How do they work?

Tornadoes strike again. How do they work?
How do tornadoes derive so much power from the air? What good are tornado watches? Will predictions improve? Can you build a safe room to withstand 2x4s flying at 100 miles per hour? More »

Lies and liars: Can you catch them?

Lies and liars: Can you catch them?
Was Pistorius lying? Liars challenge our law, economy and society. If you want to catch a liar, you might as well flip a coin. Why are liars so hard to catch? Is there anything on the horizon to make lying more difficult? More »

Menace to monarchs

Menace to monarchs
20 years ago, up to 1 billion monarch butterflies wintered in Mexico’s mountains. This January, a few tens of millions are roosting there after their long migration across North America. What menaces the marvelous monarch migration? More »

Brewing biofuel

Brewing biofuel
The struggle to make fuel from wastes from farm, factory and forest continues. What’s keeping cellulosic biofuel out of the market? Will biofuel from algae beat cellulose to the gas pump? More »

Cholera strikes Haiti, spreads

Cholera strikes Haiti, spreads
As Haiti copes with thousands of deaths, scientists try to understand how weather affects cholera, and how to battle a feces-borne disease in a country lacking good sanitation and clean water. More »

Typhoon flogs Philippines

Typhoon flogs Philippines
As scientists try to understand the biggest storms in a warming earth, we try to make sense of what’s known, and what’s not. Does adding energy to the Earth system cause more titanic storms – or does it blow them apart before the real destruction begins? 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 »

Weather: [More data + more computers = better forecasts]

Weather: [More data + more computers = better forecasts]

Weather forecasts improve, but who’s ever satisfied? Check some around-the-corner technologies that will paint a better picture of tomorrow — especially in hot, stormy summer days. What is the promise of GPS, better radar and “hyperspectral” instruments? More »

Poverty on the mind: Bad decisions ahead?

Poverty on the mind: Bad decisions ahead?
Whether in a U.S. shopping mall or Indian farm country, cognitive load — the burden of thinking about getting enough money to pay the bills — reduces the ability to concentrate, focus and make decisions. More »

Sweet and sour!

Sweet and sour!
Study finds added sugar — equal to 3 cans of soda a day — doubles death rate among female mice, and impairs male reproduction. Even if mice aren’t people, yikes! More »