How neutrinos saved your teeth from cavities
Every second, trillions of neutrinos born at the center of the sun shoot through your body. They don’t hurt you, because these ghostly elementary particles almost never interact with matter. But astronomers report that nonetheless neutrinos forged much of the universe’s fluorine, an element added to toothpaste and water to fight cavities and whose cosmic origin has long been mysterious.
Extreme storms may threaten unexpected parts of the world
A new method of risk assessment finds even areas that haven’t been historical hurricane hotspots may have cause for concern. The technique—a model that takes into account the physics of a storm as well as the shape of a region’s sea floor and coastline—offers city managers a better way to anticipate, and prepare for, disaster, the authors say.
Why big societies need big gods
The gods of today’s major religions are also moralizing gods, who encourage virtue and punish selfish and cruel people after death. But for most of human history, moralizing gods have been the exception. If today’s hunter-gatherers are any guide, for thousands of years our ancestors conceived of deities as utterly indifferent to the human realm, and to whether we behaved well or badly.
To crack the mystery of why and how people around the world came to believe in moralizing gods, researchers are using a novel tool in religious studies: the scientific method.
New electric storage material could put more zip in your Tesla
The next electric car you buy might have a little extra zip. That’s because researchers have developed a new electric storage material that’s among the best at holding large amounts of charge as well as charging and discharging in just seconds. Moreover, because the starting materials for making it are commercially available and relatively cheap, it may prove more useful than higher performance—yet more exotic—materials currently under development. That could eventually allow automakers to build faster charging electric cars with a longer driving range than any on the road today.
World food supply at growing risk from severe weather
Weather-related crop disasters will become more likely with climate change, warns a detailed report released today by the Global Food Security (GFS) program, a network of public research funding agencies in the United Kingdom.
All languages have evolved to have this in common
Have you ever wondered why you say “The boy is playing Frisbee with his dog” instead of “The boy dog his is Frisbee playing with”? You may be trying to give your brain a break, according to a new study. An analysis of 37 widely varying tongues finds that, despite the apparent great differences among them, they share what might be a universal feature of human language: All of them have evolved to make communication as efficient as possible.
Wasps force zombie spiders to weave ‘cocoon’ webs
For some unlucky spiders, the zombie apocalypse is now. Some parasitic wasp larvae can take over their minds, forcing them to weave special webs the wasps use to support and protect their cocoons. A new study shows that the webs these particular zombie spiders weave are reinforced versions of the ones they normally use while molting, suggesting the wasps may be hijacking this pathway in the spiders’ brains.
Exploding star solves cosmic mystery
Astronomers have seen for the first time an exploding star—a nova—that seems to churn out lithium, solving a nagging cosmic mystery.
‘It’s like going to Pluto and seeing McDonald’s’
If you want to find some weird, undiscovered organisms, the sediments more than 2 kilometers below the ocean floor should be a good place to look. The heat and pressure are intense, and food is in short supply. But researchers have now obtained the first samples of microorganisms from these depths, and they turn out to be surprisingly ordinary. The cells are similar to microbes that live in a less demanding habitat on land: the soils in forests.