Ancient tectonic plate blocks magma plume at Yellowstone, simulation shows
Scientists need new explanation for what fueled the North American supervolcano
Einstein’s genius changed science’s perception of gravity
General relativity has grown more important than it was in Einstein’s day
Cosmic threads may hide some of universe’s missing matter
Astronomers seek lost atoms in hard-to-see filaments between galaxy clusters
The tree of life gets a makeover
The tree of life might seem like a stable design, appropriate for indelible ink. Plenty of people think so. An Internet search for “phylogenetic tattoos” turns up some showy skin art.
But the branches are shifting. Since a radial diagram based on 1990s genetics inspired a rush for tree-of-life tattoos, technical diagrams of life’s ancestral connections have been redrawn. And the simplified version of the tree of life memorized by schoolchildren for decades lags far behind what researchers depict today.
Tropical forests may not combat climate change
Tropical forests may not save us from global warming. Scientists have long believed that as atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the greenhouse gas could boost photosynthesis, enabling tropical and other forests to take up more carbon and store it as wood. Some data suggest this “carbon fertilization” effect is already happening, and many climate models assume it will help slow the rise in CO2. But a new analysis of tree ring samples collected in Bolivia, Cameroon, and Thailand finds no sign of increasing growth over the past 150 years.
Cows with human chromosomes enlisted to fight hantavirus
A team led by researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Maryland, has used genetically engineered cows to produce large amounts of human antibodies against hantavirus, an often deadly disease mainly transmitted from rodents to people
Warming world could make it harder for planes to take off
Air travel is about to become even more frustrating. Warmer global temperatures will make it tougher for planes to take off, tightening restrictions on just how much luggage or how many people can come aboard, a new study suggests.
Body’s bacteria may keep our brains healthy
The microbes that live in your body outnumber your cells 10 to one. Recent studies suggest these tiny organisms help us digest food and maintain our immune system. Now, researchers have discovered yet another way microbes keep us healthy: They are needed for closing the blood-brain barrier, a molecular fence that shuts out pathogens and molecules that could harm the brain.
Study of gay brothers may confirm X chromosome link to homosexuality
Dean Hamer finally feels vindicated. More than 20 years ago, in a study that triggered both scientific and cultural controversy, the molecular biologist offered the first direct evidence of a “gay gene,” by identifying a stretch on the X chromosome likely associated with homosexuality. But several subsequent studies called his finding into question. Now the largest independent replication effort so far, looking at 409 pairs of gay brothers, fingers the same region on the X.
Where is global warming’s missing heat?
Call it the climate change conundrum: Even though humans are pumping more greenhouse gases than ever into the atmosphere, the world’s average air temperature isn’t rising as quickly as it once did. Some scientists have proposed that the missing heat is actually being trapped deep underwater by the Pacific Ocean. But a new modeling study concludes that the Pacific isn’t acting alone. Instead, it finds, several of the world’s oceans are playing a role in the warming slowdown by absorbing their share of the “missing” heat.