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  • What Sort Of Weapon Shot Down Flight MH-17?

    Which Weapon Shot Down Flight MH-17?

    Earlier today, Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people on board. Following Ukraine's ouster ... More >
  • The US Air Force Is Working On A New Bomber

    The US Air Force Is Working On A New Bomber

    The U.S. Air Force is quietly ramping up spending on a future bomber, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service published earlier this month. The Air Force also sent ... More >
  • Five Questions About The Smallpox Vials Found In Maryland

    Should We Worry About That Smallpox?

    Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced something surprising: Federal researchers discovered six 60-year-old vials with smallpox virus in them. The vials ... More >
  • Meet The Scientist Who Might End The Climate Culture Wars

    Can This Scientist End The Climate Culture Wars?

    Texas Tech professor Katharine Hayhoe is among the American Geophysical Union's 2014 award-winners for science communication, announced on July 3. "She's someone who has been tireless in having ... More >
  • First Exoskeleton Gets FDA Approval For US Sales

    First Exosekelton Approved for Sale

    A motorized exoskeleton, designed to help paralyzed people walk again, just earned U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. It is the first such device to do so. The device, called ReWalk, ... More >
Daniel Engber
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Illustrations by Jason Schneider
Science // 

Turns out, a few oral sunscreens already exist, based on the theory that antioxidants offer sun protection. Laboratory studies provide some evidence in support of this idea. When scientists feed vitamin E to hairless mice, the animals show less skin damage upon exposure to ultraviolet light. Dermatologist Salvador González Rodríguez has studied an extract made from a fern called Polypodium leucotomos. The substance, which is high in antioxidants, may decrease sun-related DNA damage in humans, he says. But as a consultant for a Spanish company that makes an oral sunscreen, Rodríguez has skin in the game, so to speak. And he admits that oral sunscreens don’t work that well when measured in the standard ways: “If we evaluate protection in terms of how conventional sunscreens are evaluated, then antioxidant-based oral sunscreens provide very low SPF.”

Flora Lichtman
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Photograph by Travis Rathbone
Nature // 

When it comes to thunderheads, lightning is the great equalizer. Essentially a giant spark, lightning relieves the charge differentials that build up in storm systems. But it’s also one of the greatest mysteries in atmospheric science. Recently, scientists have started to explore lightning’s lesser-known siblings, which appear in ash plumes, labs, and even on other planets.

Douglas Main
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the most advanced prosthetics--such as this crazy mind-controlled robotic arm--electronic hardware interfaces directly with nerves and muscles in the human body. But getting living tissue to play nice with a circuit board is anything but easy, for a number of reasons. One fundamental obstacle you may not have considered: electronics send signals via negatively charged electrons, whereas many of the communications carried out in living tissues take place through the movement of positively-charged particles, such as calcium and potassium ions. 

Francie Diep
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
From Kate Malachowski et al., "Self-Folding Single Cell Grippers," Nano Letters 2014

Gotcha! These little pyramids are actually microscopic traps designed to gently enclose single cells without killing them. The idea is that in the future, such traps could be a part of a system for capturing and analyzing individual cells, perhaps as a part of cancer monitoring.

Daniel Engber
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Illustrations by Jason Schneider
Science // 

If humans can indeed smell fear they wouldn’t be unusual in the animal kingdom. Sea anemones, earthworms, minnows, fruit flies, rats, mice, and deer, among others, have all been shown to signal unease through odor. Some responses are even more overt. For example, the offspring of one bird species vomits up a pungent, orange liquid when frightened by a predator; if a parent catches a whiff, it becomes warier in the nest. 

Dave Mosher
at 08:02 AM Jul 22 2014
Photograph by Ray Lego
Make // 

Fran Blanche’s workshop is more than a place to unwind. It’s home. “I put a bed in my office,” she says. Her fashion business is downstairs; upstairs is a music studio and a laboratory with 30 years’ worth of tools. A private collector recently asked Blanche to study part of his Apollo-era Launch Vehicle Digital Computer (LVDC), which NASA designed to fly a Saturn V rocket. “All modern boards would come to emulate it,” Blanche says. “Trouble is, there’s no information about how it was constructed.” 

Sarah Fecht
at 21:31 PM Jul 19 2014
David Goehring via Flickr CC 2.0

Eight years ago, doctors took nasal tissue samples and grafted them onto the spines of 20 quadriplegics. The idea was that stem cells within the nasal tissue might turn into neurons that could help repair the damaged spinal cord, and the experiment actually worked a few of the patients, who regained a little bit of sensation. But it didn’t go well for one woman in particular, who not only didn’t experience any abatement in her paralysis, but recently started feeling pain at the site of the implant. When doctors took a closer look, they realized she was growing the beginnings of a nose on her spine, New Scientist reports.

Kelsey D. Atherton
at 21:31 PM Jul 19 2014
Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons
Drones // 

Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news, designed to capture the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft.

Francie Diep
at 21:31 PM Jul 19 2014
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan
Science // 

250,000,000 miles: how far away the Rosetta spacecraft is from Earth. However, Rosetta is just 8,000 miles from its target, a comet that is called 67P and is surprisingly shaped like a rubber ducky.

Sarah Fecht
at 06:50 AM Jul 19 2014
ESA, image by AOES Medialab
Space // 

Or at least, rubber-duck shaped. Sesame St's Ernie would be most excited.

Douglas Main
at 06:50 AM Jul 19 2014
USGS
Nature // 

Will there be an earthquake near you in the near future? Well, I won't claim to be able to tell the future, but the U.S. Geological Survey has just released a new map using the the most up-to-date hazard assessments for a temblor in your region, which incorporates "more than 100 years of global earthquake observations, widely accepted seismology-based principles, and a long history of scientific analyses in the science and engineering communities," the USGS noted.

Emily Gertz
at 06:50 AM Jul 19 2014
Nature // 

The cover image of "State of the Climate in 2013," makes the impact of the report, which was released today, clear. Taken in late November on the island of Leyte, Philippines during the aftermath of Super Typhoon Hainan, it shows a wrecked mini-bus sits askew in a debris-scattered field, its front hood curved like a sneering lip, beneath a sky half-full of bruise-colored clouds. Just beyond, a shirt flutters on a clothesline tangled in the jagged remains of a collapsed building.

Douglas Main
at 06:48 AM Jul 19 2014
Philippe Put via Flickr

When young Bertrand Might was born, his parents at first thought nothing was amiss. But then they began to worry, as his body appeared to be constantly moving, a state they called "jiggly." Then, he seemed to be constantly distressed, and the efforts of his father Matt to calm Bertrand "enraged" him. Matt and his wife Cristina had a series of tests done on Bertrand, which first indicated brain damage. Then that theory was ruled out, and more tests suggested Bertrand had a fatal "error in metabolism". But that hypothesis got nixed too. The whole saga is told by Seth Mnookin in The New Yorker, and you should read it. 

Francie Diep
at 06:48 AM Jul 19 2014
Wikimedia Commons

You've seen what a nuclear winter looks like, as imagined by filmmakers and novelists. Now you can take a look at what scientists have to say. In a new study, a team of four U.S. atmospheric and environmental scientists modeled what would happen after a "limited, regional nuclear war." To inexpert ears, the consequences sound pretty subtle—two or three degrees of global cooling, a nine percent reduction in yearly rainfall. Still, such changes could be enough to trigger crop failures and famines. After all, these would be cooler temperatures than the Earth has seen in 1,000 years.

Douglas Main
at 06:48 AM Jul 19 2014
Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA
Nature // 

California businessman Russ George made headlines in 2012 when he, in cooperation with a group from a Native Canadian community, dumped more than 100 tons of iron sulfate into the Pacific, some 200 miles off shore. The iron then triggered a bloom of plankton. He apparently didn't ask anybody's permission, violated two United Nations conventions, and was widely condemned for taking on such a large project, a type of geoengineering, to alter the environment as he saw fit.

 
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