Ebola’s end: History’s lessons

Ebola’s end: History’s lessons
As Ebola ravages West Africa, we seek answers in past epidemics. How did cholera, plague, smallpox end? Lacking drugs or a vaccine, how can deadly Ebola be controlled? 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 »

Flying south for the winter?

Flying south for the winter?
Comparing genetic relationships to migration patterns gives a new view of the origin of bird migration. Surprise! It did not originate in the tropics, home of intense bird diversity. Rather, it originated in northern, temperate climates. 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 »

Chronic pain: Understanding the roots, finding the cures

Chronic pain: Understanding the roots, finding the cures

Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, even chronic lower back pain are all “centralized pain states” that can result when the brain is abnormally sensitive to pain. Recognizing the brain’s role changes everything about the treatment of syndromes affecting millions of people. 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Winter woes? No problem! say plants

Winter woes? No problem! say plants
Plants have evolved numerous ways to endure cold, wind and ice formation. How do they do it? How is climate change affecting plants and plant communities? More »

As snow goes, where go the animals?

As snow goes, where go the animals?
Animals like the wolverine evolved to live in the snow, and they excel in conditions that defeat most animals. How will they fare if (when?) snow continues to decline in their homes? And whassup with the balmy but hidden ecosystem under the snow? More »

First neutrinos from outer space

First neutrinos from outer space
Neutrinos are almost invisible, but a 1-kilometer cube of ice has found 28 from beyond the solar system. Some are from other galaxies. Neutrinos seldom interact with anything, so they are pristine messengers from deepest space. Next job: Reading that message. 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 »

Dangerous viruses: New weapons against new foes

Dangerous viruses: New weapons against new foes
What would better protection against new viruses look like? Old-style outbreak investigations can take years. Mammals may carry 320,000 viruses. Some can start an epidemic if they “jump” to people. Can ecological knowledge support new prevention strategies to block the “jumpers”? More »

Stopping the slaughter of the bats

Stopping the slaughter of the bats
In 7 years, white-nose syndrome has spread to 24 states and 5 provinces. Why is the fungus so deadly? Why don’t bats die in Europe? And where are the chinks in its armor? More »