Category: Science

‘Ghost tracks’ suggest people came to the Americas earlier than once thought

Footprints left behind by prehistoric people may be some of the strongest evidence yet that humans arrived in the Americas earlier than previously thought.   Over 60 “ghost tracks” — so-called because they pop up and disappear across the landscape — show that people romped through what’s now New Mexico 23,000 to 21,000 years ago,…

DNA offers a new look at how Polynesia was settled

Polynesian voyagers settled islands across a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean within about 500 years, leaving a genetic trail of the routes that the travelers took, scientists say. Comparisons of present-day Polynesians’ DNA indicate that sea journeys launched from Samoa in western Polynesia headed south and then east, reaching Rarotonga in the Cook Islands…

Luis Miramontes helped enable the sexual revolution. Why isn’t he better known?

When Mexican scientist Luis Miramontes signed his lab notebook on October 15, 1951, he didn’t know he was documenting history. That day, he made a new molecule — norethindrone. Derived from the wild Mexican yam that locals call barbasco, norethindrone became one of the first active ingredients in birth control pills. “The pill” gave women…

The Top 10 scientific surprises of Science News’ first 100 years

From the day Archimedes cut his bath short to shout “Eureka,” science has been a constant source of surprises. Even after the abundant accumulation of knowledge in the intervening two millennia, science still retains the capacity to astonish, and the century since Science News began reporting has produced its share of shocking discoveries. Some such…

Fossil tracks may reveal an ancient elephant nursery

Fossilized footprints found on a beach in southern Spain betray what may have been a nursery for an extinct species of elephant. The track-rich coastal site, which scientists have dubbed the Matalascañas Trampled Surface, is typically covered by 1½ meters of sand, says Clive Finlayson, an evolutionary biologist at the Gibraltar National Museum. But storm…

Australian fires in 2019–2020 had even more global reach than previously thought

The severe, devastating wildfires that raged across southeastern Australia in late 2019 and early 2020 packed a powerful punch that extended far beyond the country, two new studies find. The blazes injected at least twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as was previously thought, one team’s satellite-derived estimates revealed. The fires also sent…

Potty-trained cattle could help reduce pollution

You can lead a cow to a water closet, but can you make it pee there? It turns out that yes, you can. Researchers in Germany successfully trained cows to use a small, fenced-in area with artificial turf flooring as a bathroom stall. This could allow farms to easily capture and treat cow urine, which…

A supernova’s delayed reappearance could pin down how fast the universe expands

A meandering trek taken by light from a remote supernova in the constellation Cetus may help researchers pin down how fast the universe expands — in another couple of decades. About 10 billion years ago, a star exploded in a far-off galaxy named MRG-M0138. Some of the light from that explosion later encountered a gravitational…

NASA’s Perseverance rover snagged its first Martian rock samples

The Perseverance rover has captured its first two slices of Mars. NASA’s latest Mars rover drilled into a flat rock nicknamed Rochette on September 1 and filled a roughly finger-sized tube with stone. The sample is the first ever destined to be sent back to Earth for further study. On September 7, the rover snagged…

Infants may laugh like some apes in their first months of life

Babies may laugh like some apes a few months after birth before transitioning to chuckling more like human adults, a new study finds. Laughter links humans to great apes, our evolutionary kin (SN: 6/4/09). Human adults tend to laugh while exhaling (SN: 6/10/15), but chimpanzees and bonobos mainly laugh in two ways. One is like…

How metal-infused jaws give some ants an exceptionally sharp bite

If you’ve ever felt the wrath of a biting or stinging insect, it may seem incredible that something so small can so easily slice or puncture human skin.  Scientists already knew that some small animals’ piercing and slashing body parts are infused with metals such as zinc and manganese, making the parts tough and durable.…

A pinch of saturated fat could make tempering chocolate a breeze

Glossy, velvety chocolate that snaps in the fingers and melts in the mouth is the chocolatier’s dream. But crafting cocoa confections with this optimal texture is no easy feat. The endeavor, known as tempering, demands carefully warming and cooling liquid chocolate until it crystallizes into its most delectable form. Now, scientists may have found a…

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