Fungi don’t turn humans into zombies. But The Last of Us gets some science right

Like so many others, I’ve been watching the HBO series The Last of Us. It’s a classic zombie apocalypse drama following Joel (played by Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they make their way across the former United States (now run by a fascist government called Fedra). I’m a big fan of zombie and ... Read more

The Milky Way may be spawning many more stars than astronomers had thought

The Milky Way is churning out far more stars than previously thought, according to a new estimate of its star formation rate. Gamma rays from aluminum-26, a radioactive isotope that arises primarily from massive stars, reveal that the Milky Way converts four to eight solar masses of interstellar gas and dust into new stars each ... Read more

A gel cocktail uses the body’s sugars to ‘grow’ electrodes in living fish

For the first time, researchers have harnessed the body’s own chemistry to “grow” electrodes inside the tissues of living fish, blurring the boundary between biology and machines. The technique uses the body’s sugars to turn an injected gel into a flexible electrode without damaging tissues, experiments show. Zebrafish with these electrodes grown in their brains, ... Read more

Greta Thunberg’s new book urges the world to take climate action now

The best shot we have at minimizing the future impacts of climate change is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since the Industrial Revolution began, humankind has already raised the average global temperature by about 1.1 degrees. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the current rate, the world will probably surpass ... Read more

Psychedelics may improve mental health by getting inside nerve cells

Psychedelics go beneath the cell surface to unleash their potentially therapeutic effects. These drugs are showing promise in clinical trials as treatments for mental health disorders (SN: 12/3/21). Now, scientists might know why. These substances can get inside nerve cells in the cortex — the brain region important for consciousness — and tell the neurons ... Read more

Glassy eyes may help young crustaceans hide from predators in plain sight

Fledgling crustaceans have eyes like the sea, a peculiarity that could help them hide from predators. Young shrimp, crab or lobster larvae already rock nearly translucent bodies to stay out of view. But dark eye pigments essential for vision pose the risk of exposing the animals anyway. Some see-through ocean animals rely on mirrored irises ... Read more

In the wake of history’s deadliest mass extinction, ocean life may have flourished

Following the most severe known mass extinction in Earth’s history, vibrant marine ecosystems may have recovered within just a million years, researchers report in the Feb. 10 Science. That’s millions of years faster than previously thought. The evidence, which lies in a diverse trove of pristine fossils discovered near the city of Guiyang in South ... Read more

Hominids used stone tool kits to butcher animals earlier than once thought

Nearly 3 million years ago, hominids employed stone tool kits to butcher hippos and pound plants along what’s now the shores of Kenya’s Lake Victoria, researchers say. Evidence of those food preparation activities pushes back hominids’ use of these tool kits, known as Oldowan implements, by roughly 300,000 years, say paleoanthropologist Thomas Plummer of Queen’s ... Read more

This dinosaur might have used its feet to snag prey in midair like modern hawks

Modern birds evolved from dinosaurs, but it’s not clear how well birds’ ancient dino ancestors could fly (SN: 10/28/16). Now, a look at the fossilized feet of one nonavian dinosaur suggests that it may have hunted on the wing, like some hawks today. The crow-sized Microraptor had toe pads very similar to those of modern ... Read more