Add beer to the list of foods threatened by climate change

Beer lovers could be left with a sour taste, thanks to the latest in a series of studies mapping the effects of climate change on crops. Malted barley — a key ingredient in beer including IPAs, stouts and pilsners — is particularly sensitive to warmer temperatures and drought, both of which are likely to increase ... Read more

310-million-year-old fossil blobs might not be jellyfish after all

What do you get when you flip a fossilized “jellyfish” upside down? The answer, it turns out, might be an anemone. Fossil blobs once thought to be ancient jellyfish were actually a type of burrowing sea anemone, scientists propose March 8 in Papers in Palaeontology. From a certain angle, the fossils’ features include what appears ... Read more

The mystery of Christiaan Huygens’ flawed telescopes may have been solved

17th century scientist Christiaan Huygens set his sights on faraway Saturn, but he may have been nearsighted. Huygens is known, in part, for discovering Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and deducing the shape of the planet’s rings. But by some accounts, the Dutch scientist’s telescopes produced fuzzier views than others of the time despite having well-crafted ... Read more

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