Sadly, bits and pieces of plastic are turning up all over, including in the snow on Mount Everest! Researchers found plastic in snow scooped from a spot 8,440 meters (27,690 feet) high, near Everest's summit.

Members of the US House of Representatives voted (232-197) to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time in four years. Trump was charged with "incitement of insurrection" against the United States government on January 6, 2021. Read about the reason and what might happen next.

It sounds unbelievable, but scientists from Harvard University believe our entire universe may have been created in a lab by an advanced civilization with an immense knowledge of physics and how to control it.

On December 14, the first Americans got a vaccine designed to protect them from COVID-19. Health-care workers were put at the head of the line to get these shots. So were older adults living in care facilities. What about kids under age 16? They won't be getting the shots. At least not yet. However, plenty of doctors are anxious to see that change.

On January 20th, 2021, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. became America's 46th President just moments after Kamala D. Harris took her oath of office and became the first woman vice president.

This is a kit that lets you interface electronics with real roaches. Don't watch if you are easily grossed out. Gross to watch, but kind of cool at the same time. I don't like how they are treating the bugs.

Joe Biden has won the 2020 election and will become the next US President, replacing Donald Trump.
On January 13, 2021, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach former president Donald Trump for the second time. However, the verdict did not result in Mr. Trump'sconviction or removal from office. It will also not prevent the former US leaderfrom runningfor publicoffice again.Those measures canonly be takenif theUS Senate, which began its trial onFebruary 9, 2021,also votes in favor of the impeachment.Here is how we got here and what to expectnext.
New technology is being used in a building in Mexico City that transforms pollutants into harmless chemicals. These buildings eat smog!
Father's Day, which will be celebrated on June 20, 2021, promises to be extra special this year. The Earth will join in the festivities with the June solstice,kicking off the Northern Hemisphere'sfirst day of summer.Conversely, Southern Hemisphere residents will celebrate the astronomical start of winter, or winter solstice, with the shortest day of 2021.

A dose of antibiotics seems to help some corals recover from a mysterious tissue-eating disease. And yes, theyre the same antibiotics used in people.

Divers discovered the coral disease in 2014. It was afflicting reefs near Miami, Fla. Nicknamed skittle-D, it appears as white lesions that rapidly eat away at coral tissue. The disease has no cure. It currently plagues nearly all of the Great Florida Reef, which spans some 580 kilometers (360 miles). In recent years, skittle-D has spread to reefs in the Caribbean.

Now, a type of coral with skittle-D just off the Florida coast has improved several months after being treated with amoxicillin. Researchers reported the findings April 21 in Scientific Reports. The deadly disease came back on some treated coral over time. But the results provide a spot of good news.

Antibiotic treatments give the corals a break, says Erin Shilling. She works as a coral researcher at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Pierce. Its very good at halting the lesions its applied to.

Treatment with an antibiotic paste (white bands, left) stopped a tissue-eating lesion from spreading over a great star coral colony up to 11 months later (right).E.N. Shilling, I.R. Combs and J.D. Voss/Scientific Reports 2021

Testing treatments

What causes skittle-D remains unknown. So scientists are left to treat the lesions it causes through trial and error. Two treatments show promise. In one, divers apply a material known as a chlorinated epoxy. In another, divers use an amoxicillin paste. 

Lets learn about coral reefs

Shilling and her colleagues wanted to see if either worked as well as some people have been saying. In April 2019, her team found 95 lesions on 32 colonies of great star corals. The scientists dug trenches to surround the lesions. Trenches separate diseased coral tissue from healthy tissue. The team then filled the moats and covered the lesions with the paste or epoxy. Scientists monitored the corals for 11 months.

Within about three months, some 95 percent of lesions treated with amoxicillin had healed. Meanwhile, only about 20 percent of the epoxy-treated lesions had healed in that time. That rate was no better than in untreated lesions. 

But a one-and-done treatment doesnt stop new lesions from popping up, the team found. Some key questions also still need answers, the scientists note. For instance, how long does the treatment work and in which coral species. Scientists are also trying to figure out what side effects antibiotics might pose to the corals.

Cause for hope

Erins work is fabulous, says Karen Neely. She is a marine biologist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Neely and her team see similar results in their two-year experiment at the Florida National Marine Sanctuary. Her group used the same paste and epoxy treatments on more than 2,300 lesions. Those lesions affected some 1,600 coral colonies.The antibiotic was more than 95 percent effective across all eight species tested, Neely says. New lesions popped up after the initial treatment. But covering those new patches with paste appeared to stop skittle-D from coming back over time. Her teams findings are undergoing peer-review in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.Overall, putting these corals in this treatment program saves them, Neely says. We dont get happy endings very often, so thats a nice one.
Fastest guitarist In The World , Vahid Iran Shahi. If I did not see him playing, I would never have believed it! just WOW!

The Perseverance rover has created a breath of fresh air on Mars. An experimental device on the NASA rover split carbon dioxide molecules into their component parts. This created enough breathable oxygen to sustain a person for about 10 minutes. It was also enough oxygen to make tiny amounts of rocket fuel.

The toaster-size instrument that did this is called MOXIE. The acronym stands for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is the primary gas in the atmosphere on Mars. MOXIEs job is to break the chemical bonds in CO2, releasing oxygen.

The device works like an electrical tree, says Michael Hecht. By that he means it breathes in CO2 and breathes out oxygen. Hecht is MOXIEs principal investigator. He works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge.

When we burn anything, gas in the car or a log in the fireplace, most of what were burning is oxygen, Hecht says. On Earth, we take all that oxygen for granted. We dont think about it. But on Mars, oxygen is largely bound up in CO2.

Lets learn about Mars

MOXIE arrived on Mars along with Perseverance this past February 18. Two months later, MOXIE warmed to about 800 Celsius (1,472 Fahrenheit). It then ran long enough to produce five grams of oxygen. Thats not enough to breathe for very long. But the main reason to make oxygen on Mars isnt for breathing, Hecht points out. Its to make fuel for the return journey to Earth.

Future astronauts will have to either bring oxygen with them or make it on Mars. A rocket powerful enough to lift a few astronauts off the Red Planets surface would need about 25 metric tons (27.5 U.S. tons) of oxygen. Thats too much to pack along.

MOXIE is a prototype for the system astronauts could one day use to make rocket fuel. When running at full power, MOXIE can make about 10 grams of oxygen per hour. Powered by Perseverance, it will run for about one Martian day at a time. Hecht notes that a scaled-up version, however, could run nonstop for the 26 months before astronauts arrive.

This diagram shows parts that go into MOXIE, an instrument designed to convert CO2 in Mars atmosphere into breathable air for future astronauts. The instrument was ferried to the Red Planet in 2020. O2 stands for oxygen, CO for carbon monoxide, CO2 for carbon dioxide and SOXE for Solid OXide Electrolyzer.NASA/JPL-Caltech

MOXIE cant run full time now because it would use too much of Perseverances power. The rover has other instruments to run as it goes about its science mission, which is to search for signs of past life on Mars. MOXIE will get a chance to run at least nine more times over the next Martian year (about two Earth years).

The success of this system could set the stage for a permanent research station on Mars, something Hecht would like to see. Thats not something I expect to see in my lifetime, he admits. Still, he says, MOXIE brings it closer by a decade.
Thalia Levee sat in a crimson armchair looking down at her round-faced grandchildren. She pressed her lips together, considering the request that had just left her grandsons mouth. Please Grandmother! The small boy begged from his spot on the hardwood floor. Thalia sighed. Just one last story. Then we will go to bed, I promise! The boy exclaimed. His younger sister nodded eagerly from beside him. Fine. One last story. Thats it. Thalia gave in. She knew in the shining eyes of her grandchildren she was just an old woman, a grumpy one at that. But when Thalia looked at herself in the...
Image credit Pixabay/CC We are very excited to announce the winners of Youngzine's Writing Contest! Since this is the moment the finalists have been waiting for, we will share our winners first! FIRST PLACE : Julianna Williams, 13, for her entry titled "Thirteen" SECOND PLACE : Danica Arrington, 13, for her entry titled "Time" and Leia Lin, 11, for her entry titled "Lessons From Behind The Mask" THIRD PLACE : Elizabeth Liu, 12, for her entry titled "Beautiful Life" and Karuna Lohmann, 13, for her entry titled "Father's Day In The Year Of The Pandemic" CONGRATULATIONS to all the WINNERS!! We...

If youre thinking of the Mesozoic Era the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods you probably think DINOSAURS! Youre not wrong. That era, 252 million to 66 million years ago, was when dinosaurs evolved, reigned and died. But youd also be missing out on a lot of other amazing creatures, especially other reptiles.

Dinosaurs are only one group of Mesozoic reptiles. Other land-dwellers included ancestors of modern-day crocodiles, called Batrachopus. Meanwhile, the air was ruled by pterosaurs.

Though pterosaurs often come in sets of play dinosaurs, they were only dinosaur relatives. Well-adapted for flying, they had hollow, air-filled bones, similar to modern birds. Their wings, though, were usually covered with thin membranes rather than feathers. (Some pterosaurs, though, may have been covered in fuzzy protofeathers.) Pterosaurs ranged in size. Some were as small as eagles. The largest known, Quetzalcoatlus, had a wingspan of some 10 meters (33 feet).

See all the entries from our Lets Learn About series

The Mesozoic seas were dominated by other non-dinosaur reptiles. These included the ichthyosaurs, or fish-lizards. Scientists have discovered fossils of more than 100 species of these animals. Among them are the remains of one unlucky reptile who likely died from trying to eat a meal as big as itself. Plesiosaurs had long necks with dozens of bones. Their giant flippers let them swim through the water like a penguin. Although big, plesiosaurs still had plenty of worries. These included giant mosasaurs that preyed on plesiosaurs. You might recognize those giant sea monsters from the aquatic show in Jurassic World.

While the Mesozoic Era is often called the Age of Reptiles, reptiles werent the only animals around, of course. Fish still swam the seas. Insects and other invertebrates were numerous. And mammals our ancestors were just getting their start.

Want to know more? Weve got some stories to get you started:

Thats no dino! Not all ancient reptiles were dinosaurs. Some soared, many swam the seas and still others looked like dinos but actually werent. (6/12/2015) Readability: 6.6

The real sea monsters No known dinosaurs lived in the oceans. But there were lots of big aquatic reptiles that were every bit as ferocious and awesome. (6/19/2015) Readability: 7.3

Early dino-era start for modern mammals Fossils of an extinct group of rodent-sized mammals suggest they were related to modern mammals. These ancient remains push back the origin of mammals by many millions of years. (10/1/2014) Readability: 7.3

Dinosaurs may get most of our attention, but there were plenty of other reptiles that roamed Earth during the Mesozoic the Age of Reptiles.

Explore more

Scientists Say: Jurassic

Explainer: How a fossil forms

Explainer: Understanding geologic time

Fossil hunting can start as childs play

These crocodile ancestors lived a two-legged life

These fuzz-covered flying reptiles had catlike whiskers

This ancient reptiles last meal may have truly been a killer


Word Find

Download and print Pterosaurs: A Card Game from the American Museum of Natural History. The game, based on the museums collections and exhibits, challenges players to gain points by building their own food chains and breaking their opponents.
Image credit Pixabay/CC THIRTEEN By Julianna Williams When I turned eleven I was older but the world was the same As far as I knew it my own life wouldnt change I could still gather with friends And not be aware I could live in a crowd And not even care I could travel to places Breathe unmasked air I didnt fret for my loved ones Didnt worry what would come of this world And how it would affect me I could make my dreams come true no matter what As an eleven year old in this world I was excited for twelve To mature and grow old But my twelfth birthday was confined to my home My plans as a...

Low power. Your device will power down unless plugged into a power outlet.

How many of us have gotten such a warning from one of our digital devices? Looks like its time to plug it in and recharge the batteries with electricity.

But what is electricity?

Electricity is the term we use to describe the energy of charged particles. Electricity might be stored, like in a battery. When you connect a battery to a light bulb, electricity flows. This happens because electrical charges (electrons) are free to carry energy from the battery through the bulb. Sometimes electricity is described as the flow of electrons between neighboring atoms.

Several terms help us describe electricity and its potential to do work.

Current refers to the flow of electric charges. That is, how much charge is moving per second. When people talk about electricity, theyre usually referring to electric current.

Currents are measured in units known as amperes, or amps, for short. A single ampere of current is about 6 quintillion electrons per second. (Thats the number 6 followed by 18 zeroes.) For many devices, its common to see currents that are only thousandths of an amp, or milliamps.

Voltage offers a gauge of how much electrical energy is available to power devices. Voltage could be stored in a battery or capacitor. You may have seen a 1.5-volt label on AA and AAA batteries. In the United States, every regular electrical outlet supplies 120 volts. Large appliances like refrigerators and some air conditioners are powered by a special outlet. That outlet supplies 220 volts.

Current and voltage are related. To understand how, imagine water flowing downhill in a river. Voltage is like the height of the hill. Current is like the moving water. A tall hill could cause more water to flow. In the same way, a bigger voltage can yield a bigger electrical current.

But the height of a hill isnt the only thing that affects how the water flows. A wide riverbank would allow lots of water to flow. But if the river is narrow, the path is restricted. Not as much water can get through. And if the river gets clogged with fallen trees, the water might even stop flowing. Just like many factors affect the waters ability to flow, there are several ways that the flow of electric current can be helped or resisted.

Resistance describes how easily current can flow. A bigger voltage can lead to a bigger current, but more resistance lowers that current. Resistance varies from material to material. It also depends on the condition of a material. For instance, dry skin has a high resistance. Electricity does not easily pass across it. Getting skin wet, however, drops the resistance to almost zero.

Its important to realize that any amount of resistance may be overwhelmed by too much current trying to pass through it. As an example, electricity will not flow through wood if you simply hold the electrode of a small battery against the trunk of a tree. But a powerful bolt of lightning packs enough energy to split the tree in half.

In this simple circuit, you can see how the circuit is a loop. When the orange copper switch is open (as shown), the loop is not complete and electricity will not flow. When it is closed, electricity can flow from the battery through the circuit to turn on the light bulb.haryigit/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Circuits describe the paths that electrical currents take. Think of a circuit as a loop. In order for electricity to flow, this loop must remain closed. That means it has no gaps. When you connect a light bulb to a battery, the electricity flows from one end of the battery, through a wire, to the light bulb. Then it flows back to the battery through another wire. The circuit will continue to light the bulb as long as the loop is closed. Cut the wire and theres no longer a circuit because the path is broken.

Conductors and insulators are types of materials that respond differently to electricity. Conductors have very low resistance, so they can easily transmit a current. Most metals are very good conductors. So is saltwater. (This is why its dangerous to go swimming during a lightning storm! The chemicals in a swimming pool and the salts on our bodies make the water an especially good conductor of electricity.)

Insulators, in contrast, strongly resist the flow of electricity through them. Most plastics are insulators. Thats why electrical cords are jacketed in a layer of plastic. Electricity will flow through the copper (metal) wire inside a power cord, but the plastic coating outside makes the cord safe for us to handle.

Electricity flows through the copper wires bundled inside a power cord. The plastic coating jackets the wires so that we can safely touch the cord.Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Moment/Getty Images Plus

Semiconductors are materials that are in between conductors and insulators. In semiconductors, the flow of electricity can be precisely controlled. That makes these materials useful for directing electrical current, like tiny traffic guards, inside electronics. Computer chips depend on the ability of semiconductors to interact in complex circuits. The most common semiconductor material is the element silicon. (Not to be confused with the silicone found in flexible ice cube trays and baking tools!)

Transformers, as their name suggests, are devices that transform electrical voltage. They can be found in the box-shaped plugs at the end of device chargers. Most of these transformers convert a wall outlets 120 volts into a much, much lower level. Why? Household outlets are primed to run high-power appliances such as lamps, toasters, vacuum cleaners or space heaters. But that voltage is far more than smartphones and computers can handle. So the transformer in a charge cord steps down the electricity to a safe level that can run your device without frying it. Each device has its own specific needs for how much voltage it can handle. Thats why its important to use the right charging cable for each electronic device.

Electricity can safely power our homes and our devices when used properly. Keep in mind, however, that even common household electricity can cause severe injury or death. Always tell an adult about any broken plugs or cracked electrical wires. Dont overload circuits by plugging in too many devices at once. Never use electricity near water. And make sure that a devices power is turned off when changing its batteries. Finally, follow all of the safety warnings that come with electrical devices. Its better to be safe than to risk injury or fire.
The residents ofNew Orleans can't seem to catcha break from natural disasters. Just over a year after being battered by Hurricane Ida,the beautiful city has been hit by a powerful tornado. The twister, which boasted wind speeds of 160 mph,made landfallshortly before 8:00pm local time on March 22, 2022.

This guy can teach you a lot about overcoming fear and growing as a person.

Isaac Newton. Not sure we will ever have such a genius like this again. Makes me want to work harder as I hear how great this man was back in his day.

Here is a neat trick to memorize numbers that could be really helpful for phone numbers, scientific constants, and other things.

Athletes Peyton Manning and Serena Williams led their colleagues with endorsements of food and beverages that are unhealthful.
While scientists have managed torecover and examine thousands of meteorites,finding their origin or even whether they are from icy comets or rocky asteroidshasproved elusive.Now, for the first time, a team of internationalresearchershastraced the source ofa boulder-sized rockthat landed in Botswanato an asteroid named Vesta. Boasting adiameter of about326miles, it is one of the largest and brightest rocksin theasteroid beltthat circles the Sun between Jupiter and Mars.

Over the past six months, a massive campaign has revved up to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of people across the globe. Doctors initially rolled out the immunizations to older people and those with underlying health problems. Now, as teens roll up their sleeves and younger kids prepare to do so some have started asking a big question: Will we all need booster vaccines?

No one knows if booster shots will be needed, says Kirsten Lyke. Shes an expert in vaccine science. She works at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. But if boosters are needed, it shouldnt be too surprising. People need a new shot in the arm every year to fend off influenza.

Explainer: What is a vaccine?

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. As with the flu virus, the new coronavirus has been mutating. Newly emerging variants respond to the original vaccines. But theres concern those variants will eventually get around the immunity that our bodies developed to the first versions of the vaccine. And that may mean boosters are needed.

The good news: More than half of U.S. residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, U.S. cases and deaths have plunged to their lowest levels since March 2020.

Heres what we know so far about the possible need for booster shots. 

Immunity lasts at least six months

Whether and when people might need a booster shot rests largely on how long the bodys immune system protects against us becoming very ill. For COVID-19, this protection lasts at least six months, researchers say. It could possibly last much longer. Data on this have been emerging from people who were infected last year.

Once the virus gains a toehold, the body unleashes a wave of immune troops to fight it off. They include antibodies and so-called T cells. Antibodies typically attack the virus itself. T cells raise additional alarm bells or kill infected cells. Together, antibodies and T cells defeat the virus and then help the immune system form a memory of the virus, explains Ali Ellebedy. Hes an immunologist. He works at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

See all our coverage of the new coronavirus outbreak

That immune memory is crucial. It turns on the whole protection cycle again if and when someone gets exposed to the virus once more.

So far, Ellebedy says, immune memory to SARS-CoV-2 has largely been following the rules at least for most people.

Nearly everybody has been developing an immune memory to the coronavirus, studies are finding. Some antibody-producing cells continue to work long after the virus has left the body. That should protect people who encounter SARS-CoV-2 again. Ellebedy found signs of these cells in people who had recovered from COVID-19. Those with even mild symptoms had antibody-producing immune cells in their bone marrow 11 months after infection. Ellebedy was part of a team that reported this May 24 in Nature.

Growing evidence now suggests that vaccines offer similar if not better protection. If true, boosters might not be needed for some time. Right now, things look pretty good, Lyke says. People who got the Moderna vaccine still had high levels of antibodies six months after getting their second dose. Researchers shared the finding in April. And a jab of Pfizers vaccine remained 91.3 percent effective against COVID-19 symptoms after six months. Pfizer shared this in an April 1 news release.  

Still, we dont know how any of these COVID-19 vaccines perform past the one-year mark, Lyke says. Scientists are keeping a close eye on them, though.

The role of coronavirus variants

Available vaccines still protect people from the worst of COVID-19. But that might not always be true. COVID-19 vaccines already show signs they can be less effective against some new variants.

If it werent for the variants, I dont think we would be talking about potentially boosting, says Ellebedy. What we are seeing so far is that the vaccine is really robust. So why would we even need a booster if the virus doesnt change?

Companies are already testing booster shots to fight some variants. Some tests have focused on the so-called beta variant. It first emerged in South Africa. Early results from Moderna, for instance, hint that people who receive its booster shot against a viral protein in the beta variant develop antibodies to that variant. The antibodies sparked by this booster were better at stopping the variant from infecting lab-grown cells than were ones from people who got a third dose of the original vaccine.  

For now, no one knows what the best variant booster might look like, says Jerome Kim. Hes a vaccine scientist and director-general of the International Vaccine Institute. Its headquarters is in Seoul, South Korea.

Gaining immunity to the new coronavirus may take more than one course of shots. It may require booster shots on some regular basis, too.SDI Productions/E+/Getty Images Plus

Mix and match for vaccines?

To prepare for a future where people might need COVID-19 boosters, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases launched a clinical trial on June 1. It will test the value of mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines.

The big question is whether this approach will strengthen the immune response, says Lyke. Shes a researcher leading the trial. These scientists want to know what will happen if someone is given an mRNA vaccine such as Modernas or Pfizers and then is given a different type as a booster (such as Johnson & Johnsons vaccine). Can we increase [the immune response]? Lyke asks.

Its not a crazy idea. Mixing different types of Ebola vaccines or HIV vaccines, for example, can trigger stronger immune responses than getting multiple doses of the same vaccine. The idea is that a second type of shot will activate some extra part of the immune system, Lyke explains. That way, she hopes, You get the best of both.

Early results from a similar trial being conducted in the United Kingdom hint that the answer for COVID-19 shots is yes.

Really gross stuff and hope they don't put this oil in exported products here!

Can you answer any of these questions? If so, a Noble prize may be waiting for you!
At the MIT Media Lab, the Tangible Media Group believes the future of computing is tactile. I can see so many neat applications from this one. Really liked being able to see a mathematical formula in true 3D and interacting with it to learn more.

Here is a great list of 25 places to get free public domain books! Really great resource to keep handy!

Earths geographic poles arent fixed. Instead, they wander in seasonal and near-annual cycles. The weather and ocean currents drive most of this slow drift. But a sudden zag in the direction of that drift started in the 1990s. That sharp change in direction appears due in large part to the melting of glaciers, a new study finds. And that melt? Climate change triggered it.

The geographic poles are where the planets axis pierces Earths surface. Those poles move in relatively tight swirls just a few meters across. They also drift over time as the distribution of the planets weight shifts. That shift in mass alters the rotation of Earth about its axis.

Explainer: Ice sheets and glaciers

Before the mid-1990s, the North Pole had been drifting toward the western edge of Canadas Ellesmere Island. Its part of Canadas Nunavut territory, just off Greenlands northwest shoulder. But then the pole veered eastward by about 71 degrees. That sent it toward the northeastern tip of Greenland. It has continued to head that way, moving about 10 centimeters (4 inches) per year. Scientists arent quite sure why this shift occurred, says Suxia Liu. Shes a hydrologist at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research. Its in Beijing, China.

Lius team checked how well the trends in the changing polar drift match data from studies on melting across the globe. In particular, glacial melt sped up during the 1990s in Alaska, Greenland and the southern Andes. The timing of that accelerated melting helped link it to Earths changing climate. This, as well as the effects that the melt would have had on altering the distribution of Earths mass, suggests glacial melting helped trigger the change in polar drift. Liu and her colleagues described their findings April 16 in Geophysical Research Letters.

While melting glaciers can account for much of the change in polar drift, it doesnt explain all of it. This means other factors must also be at work. Farmers, for instance, have been pumping lots of groundwater from aquifers for irrigation. Once brought to the surface, that water can drain to rivers. Eventually, it can flow to an ocean far away. Like glacial melt, how water is managed cannot alone explain the North Poles drift, the team reports. It can, however, give Earths axis a substantial nudge.

The findings reveal how much human activity can have an impact on changes to the mass of water stored on land, says Vincent Humphrey. Hes a climate scientist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. The new data also show how large these shifts in our planets mass can be, he adds. Theyre so big that they can change the axis of the Earth.

Nuclear clocks could be the GOAT: Greatest of all timepieces. If physicists can build them, nuclear clocks would be a brand-new type. These clocks would keep time based on the physics of atoms hearts.

Some scientists believe the first of these could debut in a few years.

At the center of each atom is a nucleus. Thats where protons and neutrons are found. Clocks based on atomic nuclei could be 10 times as precise as todays most exact clocks.

Better clocks could improve technologies such as GPS navigation. But its not just about timekeeping, physicist Peter Thirolf said June 3. Nuclear clocks could allow new tests of fundamental ideas in physics. Thirolf works at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen in Germany. He spoke at an online meeting of the American Physical Society.

Currently, the most precise clocks are atomic clocks. They arent based on the nucleus. They tally time using the energy jumps of electrons. Electrons in atoms can carry only certain amounts of energy, in specific energy levels. To bump electrons in an atom from one energy level to another, the clocks atoms must be hit with a laser. And the lasers light must be just right.

Explainer: How lasers make optical molasses

Light is made up of electromagnetic waves. Frequency is the rate at which those waves pass by. Only light of a certain frequency will make the electrons jump. That frequency serves as a highly precise timekeeper. Imagine using the rate at which waves wash up on a beach to keep track of time. But in this case, theyre light waves.

Protons and neutrons within an atoms nucleus also occupy energy levels. Nuclear clocks would rely on jumps of those particles instead of electrons.

Adriana Plffy is a theoretical physicist. She works at Friedrich-Alexander-Universitt Erlangen-Nrnberg in Germany. An atoms nucleus isnt as affected by stray electric or magnetic fields as the atoms electrons are. She says that suggests nuclear clocks would be more stable and more accurate.

But theres a problem. Typical lasers cant access nuclear-energy levels. For most nuclei, that would require higher energy light than normal lasers can achieve.

How excited

Luckily, theres one lone exception. A freak-of-nature thing, Marianna Safronova said in a June 2 talk at the meeting. She is a theoretical physicist at the University of Delaware in Newark.

The exception is thorium. Thorium is a metallic chemical element. There is a variety of the element known as thorium-229. It has a pair of nuclear energy levels that are close together. The energy levels are so close, in fact, that a laser might be able to set off the jump.

Scientists recently pinpointed how much energy a thorium-229 nucleus needs to make the jump. This is a crucial step toward building a thorium nuclear clock.

Thirolf and his colleagues estimated the energy by measuring electrons that the nucleus emitted when it jumped between levels. The team described its findings in Nature two years ago.Another team took a different approach. It measured the energy of other jumps the thorium nucleus can make and subtracted them. Those researchers reported their findings in Physical Review Letters last year.

Both teams agree that thorium-229s nucleus takes about 8 electron volts to jump energy levels. This energy corresponds to the edge of lasers power. That suggests lasers might be able to prompt a jump.

Detectors (shown in this false-color image made by a scanning electron microscope) measured the light emitted when thorium-229 atoms jumped between energy levels. Those measurements allowed physicists to estimate the energy of the jump needed to make a nuclear clock.Matthus Krantz

Making the jump

Physicists now are aiming to trigger that jump with lasers.

Chuankun Zhang is a physicist at JILA, a research institute in Boulder, Colo. At the meeting, Zhang reported efforts to use a frequency comb. A frequency comb is a laser with an array of light frequencies. The comb will hopefully let Zhangs team spur the nucleus to jump. It also could let the team better measure the energy needed to make the jump. If its a success, Zhang said, we can directly build a nuclear-based optical clock from that.

Thirolfs team also is working with frequency combs. His team aims to create a working nuclear clock within the next five years.

Meanwhile, Plffy is looking into using whats called an electronic bridge. Rather than using a laser to hit an atoms nucleus directly, the laser would first excite the atoms electrons. Those excited electrons would then transfer energy to the nucleus. Plffy presented this idea at the meeting.

Test of time

Nuclear clocks could let researchers devise new tests of fundamental constants of nature. A fundamental constant is a number that never changes. At least we think it doesnt ever change. Tests with nuclear clocks would help scientists figure out if the numbers are in fact constant, or if they vary over time.

Nuclear clocks could also test a foundation of Einsteins gravity theory the equivalence principle. It states that two different objects in a vacuum should fall at the same rate.

This new type of clock might even aid in the search for dark matter. Dark matter is invisible. Its made of particles that scientists have yet to detect. Physicists think these particles account for most of the universes matter. If dark matter were to interact with a nuclear clock, the interaction could tweak the clocks ticking.

When you see a panda at the zoo, it stands out against the green bamboo that it eats all day. But that setting is misleading. In the wild, the pandas black-and-white patches help it to blend in with its background. That keeps the animal camouflaged against predators like tigers, leopards and dholes, a type of wild dog, a new study finds.

We have been fooled into thinking that [pandas] are much easier to see than they are in the wild. If we want to understand animal coloration, we need to look at species where they live, says Tim Caro. Hes a zoologist at the University of Bristol in England. He is a co-author on the new study, which was published October 28 in Scientific Reports.

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), a rare species of bear, lives in remote mountain forests in southwest China. Earlier research had shown that pandas white patches help them blend into snowy areas. And their dark legs and shoulders match well with shady bits of forest. Or at least they do to human eyes.

We tend to usually overestimate how well animals can see because our own color perception is so good, says Ossi Nokelainen. He is an ecologist at the University of Jyvskyl in Finland.

For their new study, Nokelainen, Caro and their colleagues obtained 15 images of pandas in the wild. They then corrected the photos to match how domestic dogs and cats would see the images. Dogs and cats arent dholes and tigers, but their vision should be similar. And the images showed that the pandas should be well-camouflaged from their predators, at least from a distance.

This makes sense, says Nokelainen, since pandas have to stay in one place, fairly still, for a long time to eat enough bamboo. They can just evade the predators in a way that they cant be detected easily by the predators.

JoAnna Wendel

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