Bizarre metals may help unlock mysteries of how Earth’s magnetic field forms

Weird materials called Weyl metals might reveal the secrets of how Earth gets its magnetic field. The substances could generate a dynamo effect, the process by which a swirling, electrically conductive material creates a magnetic field, a team of scientists reports in the Oct. 26 Physical Review Letters. Dynamos are common in the universe, producing ... Read more

50 years ago, atomic testing created otter refugees

Sea otters restocked in old home When the [Atomic Energy Commission] first cast its eye on the island of Amchitka as a possible site for the testing of underground nuclear explosions, howls of anguish went up; the island is part of the Aleutians National Wildlife Refuge, created to preserve the colonies of nesting birds and ... Read more

Skull damage suggests Neandertals led no more violent lives than humans

Neandertals are shaking off their reputation as head bangers. Our close evolutionary cousins experienced plenty of head injuries, but no more so than late Stone Age humans did, a study suggests. Rates of fractures and other bone damage in a large sample of Neandertal and ancient Homo sapiens skulls roughly match rates previously reported for ... Read more

50 years ago, researchers discovered a leak in Earth’s oceans

Oceans may be shrinking — Science News, March 10, 1973 The oceans of the world may be gradually shrinking, leaking slowly away into the Earth’s mantle…. Although the oceans are constantly being slowly augmented by water carried up from Earth’s interior by volcanic activity … some process such as sea-floor spreading seems to be letting ... Read more

Martian soil may have all the nutrients rice needs

THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS — Martian dirt may have all the necessary nutrients for growing rice, one of humankind’s most important foods, planetary scientist Abhilash Ramachandran reported March 13 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. However, the plant may need a bit of help to survive amid perchlorate, a chemical that can be toxic to ... Read more

This huge plant eater thrived in the age of dinosaurs — but wasn’t one of them

A new species of hulking ancient herbivore would have overshadowed its relatives. Fossils found in Poland belong to a new species that roamed during the Late Triassic, a period some 237 million to 201 million years ago, researchers report November 22 in Science. But unlike most of the enormous animals who lived during that time ... Read more

A new way to turn saltwater fresh can kill germs and avoid gunk buildup

A new design for sun-powered desalination technology may lead to longer-lasting devices that produce cleaner water. The trick boils down to preventing a device’s components from touching the saltwater. Instead, a lid of light-absorbing material rests above a partially filled basin of water, absorbing sunlight and radiating that energy to the liquid below. That evaporates ... Read more

Biologists are one step closer to creating snake venom in the lab

SAN DIEGO — Labs growing replicas of snakes’ venom glands may one day replace snake farms. Researchers in the Netherlands have succeeded in growing mimics of venom-producing glands from multiple species of snakes. Stem cell biologist Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands, reported the creation of these organoids on December 10 ... Read more

Here’s what was surprising about Kilauea’s 3-month-long eruption

WASHINGTON — After a stunningly explosive summer, Kilauea, the world’s longest continuously erupting volcano, finally seems to have taken a break. But the scientists studying it haven’t. Reams of new data collected during an unprecedented opportunity to monitor an ongoing, accessible eruption are changing what’s known about how some volcanoes behave. “It was hugely significant,” ... Read more

DNA tests of Lassa virus mid-outbreak helped Nigeria target its response

When an outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever hit Nigeria in 2018, scientists were ready: They were already in the country testing new disease-tracking technology, and within weeks managed to steer health workers toward the most appropriate response. Lassa fever, which is transmitted from rodents to humans, pops up every year in West Africa. But ... Read more