Muon scanning hints at mysteries within an ancient Chinese wall
Science News Magazine
by James R. Riordon
4h ago
For nearly 650 years, the fortress walls in the Chinese city of Xi’an have served as a formidable barrier around the central city. At 12 meters high and up to 18 meters thick, they are impervious to almost everything — except subatomic particles called muons. Now, thanks to their penetrating abilities, muons may be key to ensuring that the walls that once protected the treasures of the first Ming Dynasty — and are now a national architectural treasure in their own right — stand for centuries more. A refined detection method has provided the highest-resolution muon scans yet produced of any arc ..read more
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A new metric of extinction risk considers how cultures care for species
Science News Magazine
by Jude Coleman
7h ago
In shallow coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, a seagrass-scrounging cousin of the manatee is in trouble. Environmental strains like pollution and habitat loss pose a major threat to dugong (Dugong dugon) survival, so much so that in December, the International Union for Conservation of Nature upgraded the species’ extinction risk status to vulnerable. Some populations are now classified as endangered or critically endangered. If that weren’t bad enough, the sea cows are at risk of losing the protection of a group who has long looked after them: the Torres Strait Islanders. These ..read more
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Prairie voles can find partners just fine without the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin
Science News Magazine
by Darren Incorvaia
3d ago
Prairie voles have long been heralded as models of monogamy. Now, a study suggests that the “love hormone” once thought essential for their bonding — oxytocin — might not be so necessary after all. Interest in the romantic lives of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) was first sparked more than 40 years ago, says Devanand Manoli, a biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Biologists trying to capture voles to study would frequently catch two at a time, because “what they were finding were these male-female pairs,” he says. Unlike many other rodents with their myriad partners ..read more
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Mysterious marks on Ice Age cave art may have been a form of record keeping
Science News Magazine
by Anna Gibbs
3d ago
As far back as roughly 25,000 years ago, Ice Age hunter-gatherers may have jotted down markings to communicate information about the behavior of their prey, a new study finds. These markings include dots, lines and the symbol “Y,” and often accompany images of animals. Over the last 150 years, the mysterious depictions, some dating back nearly 40,000 years, have been found in hundreds of caves across Europe. Some archaeologists have speculated that the markings might relate to keeping track of time, but the specific purpose has remained elusive (SN: 7/9/19). Now, a statistical analysis, publis ..read more
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Readers discuss jazz music, the next generation of astronauts and more
Science News Magazine
by Science News Staff
3d ago
In full swing The swaying feeling in jazz music that compels feet to tap may arise from near-imperceptible delays in musicians’ timing, Nikk Ogasa reported in “Jazz gets its swing from small, subtle delays” (SN: 11/19/22, p. 5). Reader Oda Lisa, a self-described intermediate saxophonist, has noticed these subtle delays while playing.“I recorded my ‘jazzy’ version of a beloved Christmas carol, which I sent to a friend of mine,” Lisa wrote. “She praised my effort overall, but she suggested that I get a metronome because the timing wasn’t consistent. My response was that I’m a slave to the rhyth ..read more
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It’s possible to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Here’s how
Science News Magazine
by Alexandra Witze
3d ago
Patricia Hidalgo-Gonzalez saw the future of energy on a broiling-hot day last September. An email alert hit her inbox from the San Diego Gas & Electric Company. “Extreme heat straining the grid,” read the message, which was also pinged as a text to 27 million people. “Save energy to help avoid power interruptions.” It worked. People cut their energy use. Demand plunged, blackouts were avoided and California successfully weathered a crisis exacerbated by climate change. “It was very exciting to see,” says Hidalgo-Gonzalez, an electrical engineer at the University of California, San Die ..read more
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Birds that dive may be at greater risk of extinction
Science News Magazine
by Jake Buehler
4d ago
Birds that dive underwater — such as penguins, loons and grebes — may be more likely to go extinct than their nondiving kin, a new study finds. Many water birds have evolved highly specialized bodies and behaviors that facilitate diving. Now, an analysis of the evolutionary history of more than 700 water bird species shows that once a bird group gains the ability to dive, the change is irreversible. That inflexibility could help explain why diving birds have an elevated extinction rate compared with nondiving birds, researchers report in the Dec. 21 Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “There a ..read more
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Fossils suggest early primates lived in a once-swampy Arctic
Science News Magazine
by Freda Kreier
5d ago
The Arctic today is a hostile place for most primates. But a series of fossils found since the 1970s suggest that wasn’t always the case. Dozens of fossilized teeth and jaw bones unearthed in northern Canada belonged to two species of early primates — or at least close relatives of primates — that lived in the Arctic around 52 million years ago, researchers report January 25 in PLOS ONE. These remains are the first primate-like fossils ever discovered in the Arctic and tell of a groundhog-sized animal that may have skittered across trees in a swamp that once existed above the Arctic Circle. &n ..read more
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These shape-shifting devices melt and re-form thanks to magnetic fields
Science News Magazine
by McKenzie Prillaman
5d ago
Shape-shifting liquid metal robots might not be limited to science fiction anymore. Miniature machines can switch from solid to liquid and back again to squeeze into tight spaces and perform tasks like soldering a circuit board, researchers report January 25 in Matter. This phase-shifting property, which can be controlled remotely with a magnetic field, is thanks to the metal gallium. Researchers embedded the metal with magnetic particles to direct the metal’s movements with magnets. This new material could help scientists develop soft, flexible robots that can shimmy through narrow passages a ..read more
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Procrastination may harm your health. Here’s what you can do
Science News Magazine
by Meghan Rosen
5d ago
The worst procrastinators probably won’t be able to read this story. It’ll remind them of what they’re trying to avoid, psychologist Piers Steel says. Maybe they’re dragging their feet going to the gym. Maybe they haven’t gotten around to their New Year’s resolutions. Maybe they’re waiting just one more day to study for that test. Procrastination is “putting off to later what you know you should be doing now,” even if you’ll be worse off, says Steel, of the University of Calgary in Canada. But all those tasks pushed to tomorrow seem to wedge themselves into the mind — and it may be harming peo ..read more
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