Science news


Captain James Cook is the Christopher Columbus of Australasia. His voyages of discovery in the 18th Century opened the way for the colonization of the South Seas by Europeans.

And now Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, may have been found — but not where we might have expected. Marine archaeologists in Rhode Island say there’s an 80 to 100 percent chance they’ve located the wreck, on the ocean floor at the entrance to Newport Harbor.   

But how did the ship that discovered Botany Bay end up at the bottom of Narragansett Bay?

BTC Keychain 

Ever few months, it seems another news organization claims to have figured out the real identity of the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto.

Nakamoto is the name of the anonymous creator of the crypto-currency Bitcoin. Bitcoin was conceived in 2008 when a white paper was published under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto. The paper laid the foundation for what would become Bitcoin a crypto-currency.

In this memoir, a science lab portrayed as 'homey' and respectful

May 2, 2016
Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Much of the language used to teach scientific principles or describe exciting scientific discoveries is anything but exciting. Scientific language, as a rule, is precise, but it can also be boring, elitist, and all but impenetrable to the average listener or reader.

Geobiologist Hope Jahren wants to change all that.  

How much do we really know about the Zika virus?

Apr 30, 2016

In April, the CDC announced that there’s finally enough evidence to draw a definitive connection between Zika virus and microcephaly, the condition where infants are born with unusually small heads and brain damage. But many questions remain, such as how the virus passes from mother to child.

Nose To Nose With A Rattlesnake In Persistence Cave

Apr 29, 2016
Marc Ohms / National Park Service

The buzz of a rattlesnake will give just about anyone the heebie-jeebies.  Now imagine encountering rattlesnake while belly crawling into cave.   
That’s what two National Park cave explorers did by accident. They managed to snap a photo of the snake before a careful retreat.  
You can hear the full story by clicking play below.

What's behind 'vinegar-gate' in Bristol, UK?

Apr 28, 2016
Ian Smith/Reuters

For Harriet Williams, the moment came one day when she was at a park playing with her 18-month-old son.

"And a guy turns up with a backpack and starts spraying the weeds at the base of the railings," she recalls, "with no warning, very close to where we were sitting."

As soon as Williams got home, she began researching. She found out that the chemical in the spray was likely something called glyphosate — a widely used herbicide. It kills weeds and other unwanted plants.

'Space archaeologists' and activists are using satellites to unearth history

Apr 26, 2016
DigitalGlobe/US Department of State

Satellites are integral for modern communication, navigation and weather forecasting. But advances in satellite technology, however, are allowing for new political and archaeological applications. 

“It's amazing ... the questions that you can answer that you didn’t even know you could answer once you start digging in and exploring what the options are," says Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the Geospatial Technologies Project at AAAS. 

Is bilingual better?

Apr 25, 2016
Michael Gumtau via Flickr

In this week's World in Words podcast, we consider the so-called bilingual advantage.

Did climate change cause these ancient civilizations to collapse?

Apr 24, 2016
Courtesy of&nbsp;<a href="" style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 20.0063px;">Nate Crabtree</a>

Scientists have documented the environmental impacts of climate change — including melting ice sheets — and predicted rising sea levels. But can climate change also disrupt culture?

Reporting in Science Advances, researchers say that climate change may have been a factor in the boom-and-bust cycles of ancient Southwest civilizations in the United States.

Dr. Ranjit Koodali, USD Chemistry Professor discusses the latest in chemistry research around the country. Dr. K is the Public Relations Chair of the Sioux Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. He provides regular collection of science articles and joins Innovation once a month to talk about what’s happening around the country. The focues is on Graphene - a type of carbon.

Groundwater underpins much of the breadbasket in the middle of the United States. 

The Oglala Aquifer begins in South Central South Dakota and extends underground all the way into the state of Texas.    The aquifer is a key source for irrigation… it was tapped only after the dust bowl ravaged this part of the country – but today, parts of the Oglala are under risk of going dry,  other parts could become contaminated.

Larry Downing/Reuters

It’s been eight years since DJ Patil — then the data and analytics lead at LinkedIn — helped coin the term “data scientist,” and the profession has already become one of the most popular in the country.

Scientific study? Or spoof? You tell us.

Apr 20, 2016
Vasily Fedosenko

How good are you at spotting authentic scientific research? Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research has compiled three scientific studies, at least one of which is a spoof.

Read on to see if you can tell the real studies from the fake.

#1: Cetaceans, Sex and Sea Serpents

Theories for a sea serpent sighting was likely to have been whales “either without flukes, or possibly, a male in a state of arousal.”

Orchid mantises — particularly juveniles — seem aptly named.

They’re predominantly white with pink or yellow accents, similar to some orchids and other flowers, and their four hind legs are lobed, like petals. But if you search for an exact floral counterpart, as behavioral ecologist James O’Hanlon did, you probably won’t find one. “I spent forever looking for a flower that they look just like,” he says. No luck.

Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

The terrorist attack during the 2013 Boston Marathon shook the city, and three years later, security measures are still high: Drone and on-ground surveillance monitored this year's run. But security expert Juliette Kayyem says large events can't ever be 100 percent secured.

"What we do know how to do well is during events, high-profile events," she says, "we do know how to secure places that might be vulnerable, in particular the finish line for the Boston Marathon."

Check out this video of Death Valley’s amazing spring 'super bloom'

Apr 17, 2016
Science Friday

Your local garden center is probably showing off its spring flower display, but nature is putting on a massive show of its own in Death Valley, where plants have broken out in a rare and gorgeous "super bloom."

"It is awesome," says Science Friday’s collaborator Christian Baker, who traveled to Death Valley to witness the park’s rare mass-bloom of flowers.

Love Instagram? Then you should understand what's happening to your feed

Apr 16, 2016

Instagram has announced a proposed change to how its photo feeds will be filtered — algorithmically, instead of chronologically, meaning the latest images won't always appear at the top. The proposal set off an uproar from users fearing that the app would become part of a social media algorithmic apocalypse.

If you're on Instagram you've probably noticed your favorite posters calling on followers to turn on notifications. That's to make sure fans don't miss posts the algorithm may not show.

I'm guessing a lot of you remember this old PSA.

Any questions?

Apparently, yes. At least, for researchers at Imperial College London. They wanted to know more about what goes on inside the brain of someone on LSD.

And now we know.

Sofia Ruzo

Andrés Ruzo first heard about the Boiling River from his Peruvian grandfather, who shared a legend with him when he was a kid about the Lost City of Gold in Peru. “One of the details of the story was a ‘river that boils,’” Ruzo recalls.

A well-loved octopus named Inky escaped recently from the National Aquarium in New Zealand.

Aquarium manager Rob Yarrall says the lid to the octopus’ tank was left slightly ajar after maintenance one night.  

"He found this rather tempting, climbed out,” Yarrall says, “and he managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean, and off he went, and didn't even leave us a message, just off and went!"

The escape happened earlier this year, and hit the New Zealand national press Tuesday.

The 'Damsels of Design,' women who changed automotive history

Apr 12, 2016
General Motors Design Archive &amp; Special Collections/Courtesy

For all of the horror that emerged from the WWII, there were some bright spots: With the men out fighting, women were brought into the workplace.

In the mid 1950s, a visionary executive believed women could have a lasting impact on the automobile industry. Harley J. Earl, then the vice president of design at General Motors, introduced “The Damsels of Design,” a group of industrial designers.

The tree of life is a key way scientists classify and think about the diversity of life on Earth, a kind of visual taxonomy for how organisms are related to each other and evolve over time, branching in new directions from a common root.

How many genes are necessary to create a living cell? These scientists say 473.

Apr 11, 2016
Tom Deerinck and Mark Ellisman/National Center for Imaging and Microscopy Research

Biologist Craig Venter and his team just announced that, after years of failure, they have finally figured out the minimum number of genes necessary to create a living, stripped-down version of a cell. 

Venter, who is founder of both the J. Craig Venter Institute and Synthetic Genomics Inc., has been working to create a version of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides with only the bare minimum of genetic instructions required for life. As it turns out, he says, at least 473 genes are essential to sustain life in a lab. 

Minnesota, other states too lax about gym class

Apr 8, 2016

Minnesota and most other states are taking a lackluster approach to physical education in schools, according to a new report.

The study finds that only Oregon and the District of Columbia meet national guidelines from the American Heart Association and the Society of Health and Physical Educators for time spent in physical education at the elementary and middle school levels.

Courtesy of &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">That Dragon, Cancer</a>&rdquo; and Numinous Games

Confession: I am not a gamer.

The sum total of my gaming experience is an intense, elementary school obsession with Oregon Trail. You won’t find Candy Crush on my phone, and my thumbs fumble around the simplest game controllers.

Navid Khonsari recalls the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran very clearly. He was 10 when protesters filled the streets and called for the end of the Shah's rule.

"My grandfather actually took me out to the streets in Tehran to be able to view [the revolution] first-hand," he says.

It was exciting for the teenage Khonsari to see helicopters and tanks in the streets, but he says as he grew older, he realized that 1979 was a traumatic experience for many Iranians.

Henry Vandyke Carter/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

What is it exactly that helps us be creative? What fuels us when we get into an especially productive work flow? What makes the hours disappear when our brains focus on a task?

What, in other words, is happening in our brains when we’re being creative?

These researchers have figured out a new way to kill cancer cells

Apr 3, 2016
National Cancer Institute

How do you get a cancer cell to gobble up a ball of anticancer drugs and for a direct kill? Cancer researcher Mauro Ferrari says he and his team have finally figured out how to elude a tumor cell’s defenses.

And he says the method works well on hard-to-target metastatic tumors, too.

“The vast majority of deaths due to cancer are because of metastasis — that is when the cancer spreads from the primary organ to the lungs and the liver, primarily,” Ferrari says. “That is the thing that ... nobody’s been able to cure yet despite great advances in the last 20 to 25 years.”

A Viking village in Canada, spotted from space

Apr 1, 2016
Freddie Claire/ BBC&nbsp;

Newly discovered ruins offer tantalizing, if preliminary, evidence that Vikings may have ventured farther south into North America than previously thought.

Evidence at an archaeological site in southern Newfoundland suggests it may once have been inhabited by a group of the seafaring Scandinavians. If borne out by further research, this would be only the second Viking site in North America, and the first uncovered in more than 50 years.

A close encounter of the underwater kind

Apr 1, 2016

Marine scientists have spotted a pod of more than 80 North Atlantic right whales off the coast of Cape Cod. It’s pretty extraordinary when you realize there are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales in all of the world’s oceans.

Researchers at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown spotted the whales from the air.

But seeing a whale underwater is a completely different thing.