On Sunday, a NASA satellite caught a hypnotic image of wildfire smoke threading its way up from the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. The sight of wildfires raging throughout the Southeast is news for some, but for the region it's confirmation of what locals have been going through for weeks. Since October, more than 150,000 acres have burned throughout Appalachia. But why?
"Lucy" has fascinated scientists ever since her 3.2-million-year-old skeleton was found in Ethiopia over 40 years ago. The exquisite Australopithecus afarensis specimen, one of the oldest and most complete human relatives ever found, gave researchers a glimpse back into a time when diminutive hominids, no larger than modern kindergarteners, took the first upright steps toward modernity.
Japan was rattled yesterday by a large earthquake off the Pacific coast. It shook the nation and triggered a tsunami warning that sent people hurrying towards higher ground, waiting anxiously for the all-clear. The earthquake was large, but not monstrous. It attracted so much attention because it occurred just off the coast of Fukushima prefecture, where the largest recorded earthquake in Japan's history struck just five years ago.
There's just around 170 milligrams – somewhere between the mass of a one-carat diamond and the amount of caffeine in a Monster Energy Drink. That's how much batrachotoxin (BTX) is left in the world, according to the most recently available figures. Found in the skin of the golden poison dart frog Phyllobates, this toxin is so potent that one milligram of it would be enough to kill between 10 and 20 humans. Its unique attack strategy makes it a promising subject of drug research, but the frog's endangered status makes wild collection difficult. (Plus, since the frogs only produce BTX as a result of eating their natural diet in the wild, captive-bred frogs are useless for research, though they do retain their cuteness.)