Archives: Science

This bird might look like a holiday ornament, but it is actually a rare half-female, half-male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, pictured with female plumage on the left and male plumage on the right) spotted a few years ago in Rock Island, Illinois

If you compare a chimpanzee’s bones with those of a modern human, one difference will immediately jump out at you. Chimp bones are densely packed with microscopic structures known as spongy bone. Human bones aren’t. That relative lack of spongy bone makes our skeletons lighter and increases our risk of fractures and osteoporosis. But weaker skeletons and more broken bones don’t seem like great evolutionary strategies. So why the change?

There are places on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where cauliflowerlike textures appear in the dusty crust, like goose bumps under the skin. Scientists using theRosetta spacecraft—which arrived at 67P in August and became the first mission to orbit and land on a comet—now think they may have discovered the source of these patterns on cliff faces and in deep pits: layer upon layer of rounded nodules, 1 to 3 meters across. These spherules, dubbed dinosaur eggs, could be the fundamental building blocks that clumped together to form the comet 4.5 billion years ago.

Speak or write in English, and the world will hear you. Speak or write in Tamil or Portuguese, and you may have a harder time getting your message out. Now, a new method for mapping how information flows around the globe identifies the best languages to spread your ideas far and wide. One hint: If you’re considering a second language, try Spanish instead of Chinese.

In times of trouble, multiple studies have shown, more girls are born than boys. No one knows why, but men need not worry about being overrun by women. An analysis of old church records in Finland has revealed that the boys that are born in stressful times survive better than those born during less challenging periods. The work helps explain why women may have evolved a tendency to abort certain males and could lead to a better understanding of miscarriages.

The harlequin filefish is a master of disguise. The reef-dwelling fish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris) sports a brightly colored pattern that allows it to fade into the coral it calls home. Now, scientists have discovered that the filefish doesn’t just look like a branch of coral—it smells like one, too.

If cancer, heart disease, and emphysema weren’t bad enough, male smokers may have another thing to worry about: losing their Y chromosomes.

The mineral that makes up more than a third of our planet finally has a name, thanks to tiny samples found, ironically, in a meteorite that fell to Earth in Australia in 1879.

A virus that shuttles a therapeutic gene into cells has strengthened the muscles, improved the motor skills, and lengthened the lifespan of mice afflicted with two neuromuscular diseases. The approach could one day help people with a range of similar disorders, from muscular dystrophy to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.