Homotherium latidens
On October 19th, 2017 we learned about

New evidence necessitates the reevaluation of species that survived past their supposed extinctions

It seems like it’d be hard to miss an animal the size of a lion named for its serrated, sword-like teeth. An animal like Homotherium latidens, or the European scimitar cat, was once one of Europe’s most formidable predators, at least until 300,000 years ago, when it seemed to have gone extinct. However, a jawbone … Continue reading New evidence necessitates the reevaluation of species that survived past their supposed extinctions

On October 19th, 2017 we learned about

Frozen pee may be a practical reference point in our future search for life on Enceladus

In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft captured images of plumes of icy water erupting from Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Subsequent flybys and sampling have suggested that this moon may be habitable by some form of life in its sub-surface ocean, thanks to geological heating. However, this is all inconclusive at this point, because Cassini wasn’t designed to … Continue reading Frozen pee may be a practical reference point in our future search for life on Enceladus

Mosquito flying away with a belly full of blood
On October 18th, 2017 we learned about

Tactile stealth makes mosquitoes more successful at sucking your blood

In addition to keeping your guts in, germs out and providing a convenient canvas for tattoos and scars, your skin is your body’s largest sensory organ. It’s loaded with different types of nerve cells to pick up tiny changes in pressure that might spell trouble for your body, from a cactus needle to a parasitic … Continue reading Tactile stealth makes mosquitoes more successful at sucking your blood

On October 18th, 2017 we learned about

STEM students can, and probably should, do a bit of dancing

When my wife was a graduate student, she helped run a dance troupe, took ballet classes, and performed and help produce a campus-wide dance show. The program ran over an hour, featuring everything from hula to ballroom, lyrical to… something approximating hip-hop. These performers probably weren’t going to give up their day jobs, but they … Continue reading STEM students can, and probably should, do a bit of dancing

Horned Larks in sooty and clean air
On October 17th, 2017 we learned about

A history of air pollution recorded on preserved bird bellies

History is usually studied in written records, man-made objects, rocks and bones. It’s no surprise that we generally rely on durable materials like this, but more studies of more recent history aren’t so limited. Thanks to careful preservation of biological samples from around 200 years ago, we can use softer, more delicate bits of biology … Continue reading A history of air pollution recorded on preserved bird bellies

On October 17th, 2017 we learned about

Optimistic findings about preventing fires by reducing the amount of flammable fuel in forests

With yet another wildfire filling our skies with smoke, it’s starting to feel like California will never stop burning. The state experienced an unusually rainy winter that thankfully helped fend off a multi-year drought, spurring new plant growth at the same time. Unfortunately, all that vegetation was dried out in record-setting summer heat. From that … Continue reading Optimistic findings about preventing fires by reducing the amount of flammable fuel in forests

On October 16th, 2017 we learned about

Gravitational waves help scientists spot the collision of two neutron stars

My daughter loves hearing about astronomy, as the movement of the planets, the unfathomable scale of the universe, and unanswerable questions like “is the universe contained in something?” really excite her imagination. So with today’s announcement that astronomers had finally observed the collision of two neutron stars, it seemed like the perfect story to share … Continue reading Gravitational waves help scientists spot the collision of two neutron stars

Chimpanzee admiring her stick
On October 15th, 2017 we learned about

Chimpanzees’ use of sticks to stab and scoop shows two sides of tool invention and innovation

While humans love our tools so much that we strap them to our faces, we’re certainly not the only animal to use objects to improve our lives. Crows use sticks to access food, monkeys use rocks to open nuts, and dolphins use sea sponges to find hidden prey. In many of these cases, there seems … Continue reading Chimpanzees’ use of sticks to stab and scoop shows two sides of tool invention and innovation

On October 15th, 2017 we learned about

The plants that deter their demise by becoming more toxic and doubling their DNA

While people often become vegetarians or vegans to avoid causing harm to animals, there’s plenty of evidence that plants aren’t much happier about being eaten than any animal. Sure, fruit can be tasty and enticing so that a plant’s seeds will be distributed, but the leaves and stems themselves are more likely to be bitter … Continue reading The plants that deter their demise by becoming more toxic and doubling their DNA