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.

Joe Biden has won the 2020 election and will become the next US President, replacing Donald Trump.

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.

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.

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.

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.
New technology is being used in a building in Mexico City that transforms pollutants into harmless chemicals. These buildings eat smog!

Northern elephant seals are the true masters of the power nap.

These marine mammals swim at sea for months between brief breaks on shore. During those sea voyages, the seals snooze less than 20 minutes at a time. On average, they get a total of just two hours of shut-eye per day.

This extreme sleep schedule rivals African elephants for the least sleep seen among mammals.

Researchers shared the discovery in the April 21 Science.

Its important to map these extremes of [sleep behavior] across the animal kingdom, says Jessica Kendall-Bar. She studies marine mammals at the University of California, San Diego. Learning how much or how little sleep different animals get could help reveal why animals, including people, sleep at all.

Knowing how seals catch their zzzs also could guide efforts to protect places where they sleep.

Tracking seal sleep

Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) spend most of the year in the Pacific Ocean. At sea, those animals hunt around the clock for fish, squid and other food.

The elephant seals, in turn, are hunted by sharks and killer whales. The seals are most vulnerable to such predators at the sea surface. So they come up for air only a couple minutes at a time between 10- to 30-minute dives.

People had known that these seals dive almost all the time when theyre out in the ocean. But it wasnt known if and how they sleep, notes Niels Rattenborg. He wasnt involved in the new study, but he has studied animal sleep. He works in Seewiesen, Germany, at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence.

Explainer: How to read brain activity

Kendall-Bars team wanted to find out if northern elephant seals really do sleep while diving. To do this, the researchers outfitted two northern elephant seals with special caps. Those caps recorded the animals brain waves, revealing when they were asleep. Motion sensors were also strapped onto the seals.

By looking at both brain-wave readings and motion data, the researchers could see how seals moved while asleep.

Kendall-Bars team took their two seals from Ao Nuevo State Park. Thats on the coast of California, north of Santa Cruz. The researchers then released the seals at another beach, one about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Ao Nuevo. To swim home, the seals had to cross the deep Monterey Canyon. The waters here are similar to those in the deep Pacific, where the seals swim during their months-long trips at sea.

Matching the seals brain-wave readings to their diving motions on this journey showed how northern elephant seals get their sleep on long voyages.

Deep-sea snoozes

The data revealed that when a northern elephant seal wants to sleep at sea, it first dives 60 to 100 meters (200 to 360 feet) below the surface. Then, it relaxes into a glide. As the seal nods off, it keeps holding itself upright for several minutes.

But then, the seal slips into a stage of rest known as REM sleep. During this sleep stage, the animals body becomes paralyzed. A slumbering seal now flips upside-down and drifts in a gentle spiral toward the seafloor.

A northern elephant seal can descend hundreds of meters (yards) deep during one of these naps. Thats far below the waters where sharks and killer whales normally prowl. When a seal wakes after a five- to 10-minute nap, it swims back to the surface. The whole routine takes about 20 minutes.

Explainer: Tagging through history

Now that Kendall-Bars team knew how seals moved during sleep, they could pick out naps in motion data from other seals who hadnt been outfitted with the special caps.

The researchers looked for naptime dive motions in tracking data on 334 other northern elephant seals. Those seals had been outfitted with tracking tags from 2004 to 2019. The seals movements revealed that while at sea these creatures conk out, on average, only around two hours per day.

But northern elephant seals arent short on sleep all the time. They snooze nearly 11 hours per day when they come on land to mate and molt. On the beach, they can catch up on sleep without worrying about getting eaten.

What the seals are doing [at the beach] might be something like what we do when we sleep in on the weekend, Rattenborg says.

Northern elephant seal naps are no joke. While on land, these animals can conk out for a solid 11 hours per day. But at sea, the seals catch only brief bits of sleep.Photo by Jessica Kendall-Bar, NMFS 23188

Extreme animal sleep

Northern elephant seals arent the only animals that sleep very little, at times, and then a whole lot. Rattenborgs group has found a similar sleep pattern in great frigate birds. They fly over the ocean. They can sleep while theyre flying, Rattenborg says. So on those trips, they sleep less than an hour a day for up to a week at a time, he says. Once back on land, they sleep over 12 hours a day.

Curiously, the sleep habits of northern elephant seals seem quite different from those of other marine mammals. When studied in the lab, many marine mammals sleep with just half their brain at a time. That half-awake state allows dolphins, fur seals and sea lions to constantly watch for predators. They literally sleep with one eye open.

Its pretty cool that elephant seals get by without one-sided sleep, Kendall-Bar says. Theyre shutting off both halves of their brain completely and leaving themselves vulnerable. Diving far below predators is what allows the seals to rest easy.

It seems the key to their enjoying such deep sleep is sleeping deep in the sea.

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.

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.

In 2022, an underwater volcano in the South Pacific island nation of Tonga made history. It spewed a plume of ash and water high enough to touch space. It also launched a tsunami as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Now, scientists find that it triggered lightning at the highest altitudes ever seen.

The eruption plume sparked lightning flashes that began 20 to 30 kilometers (about 12 to 19 miles) above sea level. Thats all the way up in the stratosphere even higher than most airplanes fly.

Researchers shared these findings on June 28. The work appeared in Geophysical Research Letters.

Lets learn about lightning

Lightning is most often born inside storm clouds. But lightning can also form inside a volcanos eruption plume. That plume is made of tiny bits of ash, gas and dust. When these tiny bits bump into each other, they make static electricity. Once enough static electricity builds up, lightning zips through the plume.

Alexa Van Eaton led a team that looked at how high the Tonga eruptions lightning was. Shes a volcano scientist at the U.S. Geological Surveys Cascades Volcano Observatory. Thats in Vancouver, Wash.

To estimate the lightnings height, Van Eatons team looked at a few different types of data. One was radio waves created by the lightning. They also examined satellite images of the eruption plume and infrared light from the flashes.

These data revealed the lightning started more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) above sea level. Lightning doesnt typically start that high. Air pressure at that height is usually too low to form lightning leaders. These are the channels of hot plasma that make up the lightning in thunderstorms.

Explainer: The volcano basics

The rising eruption plume may have increased the air pressure over the volcano, says Van Eaton. That might have been enough to create lightning leaders at strangely high altitudes.

In those eruption data, were seeing stuff that weve never seen before, says Jeff Lapierre. Hes a coauthor on the study. Hes also the principal lightning scientist at the Advanced Environmental Monitoring. Its a company based in Germantown, Md.

This eruption has completely changed the way we think of how natural events can change the atmosphere, Lapierre says. Its also changed the environment where we thought lightning could exist.

Ghostly particles from space are giving us a new view of our galaxy.

Known as neutrinos, these subatomic particles have little mass and no electric charge. Theyre sometimes called ghost particles. Thats because they easily pass without a trace through gas, dust and even stars. High-energy neutrinos zip everywhere throughout the cosmos, carrying information about distant places. But where the particles come from has typically been a mystery.

Lets learn about ghost particles

Now, researchers found the first signs of high-energy neutrinos coming from within our Milky Way. They mapped the particles to create a new image of our galaxy. Its the first made with something other than light.

The map also hints at possible sources for these high-energy neutrinos. They could be the remains of past supernovas star explosions. Or they might come from the cores of collapsed supergiant stars or other unidentified objects. More research is needed to figure out the sources for all these neutrinos.

The new map of our galaxy was unveiled June 30 in Science.

Previously, only a few high-energy neutrinos have been traced back to their potential birth. They all came from outside the Milky Way. Two appeared to come from black holes shredding their companion stars. Others came from a type of galaxy called a blazar.

Explainer: Stars and their families

Its clear now that researchers are spotting neutrinos from both inside and outside our galaxy, says Kate Scholberg. Shes a physicist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., who did not take part in the new mapping project. Theres so much more to learn, she says. It can be tremendous fun to figure out how to see the universe with neutrino eyes.

Those neutrino eyes might one day allow us to see distant objects in a way that no other telescopes can match.

Some telescopes rely on visible light. Others pick up X-rays, gamma rays or the charged particles that make up cosmic rays. All of those types of light can be deflected or absorbed as they travel through space. Neutrinos, though, can cross huge expanses without being deflected. This allows the particles to tell us about very distant objects.

Three ways to map the Milky Way

Here are views of the Milky Way in visible light (top), gamma rays (middle) and high-energy neutrinos (bottom). Dust obscures portions of the visible-light map, and a variety of sources can generate gamma rays. Neutrinos have the potential to pinpoint remnants of supernovas, cores of collapsed stellar giants and other cosmic features.

IceCube Collaboration/Science 2023IceCube Collaboration/Science 2023

New look at old data

The ability of neutrinos to pass through things so easily also makes them extremely hard to detect. Scientists found the Milky Way particles using a neutrino detector in Antarctica. Called IceCube, this detector is embedded deep in the ice. To better detect ghostly neutrinos, its enormous. Its 5,160 sensors are arranged in a cube one kilometer (3,281 feet) on each side.

Even so, the experiment sees only a tiny share of the neutrinos that zip through space. IceCube scientists observe 100,000 or so neutrinos a year. Some of these neutrinos leave tracks in the detector. The scientists can sometimes trace these tracks back to the neutrinos source. Most of the neutrino signals that IceCube picks up, though, are a type called a cascade event. These leave bursts of light in the detector, but do not reveal a neutrinos origins as well as tracks can.

Astronomers used to throw away data on cascade events, says Naoko Kurahashi Neilson. Shes a physicist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. Those data can hold useful information about where the neutrinos come from. Its just hard to pick out which of those tens of thousands of cascade events are most important.

Kurahashi Neilson and her team took up the challenge. They dug through a decade of IceCube cascade-event data. They enlisted the help of an artificial-intelligence system known as a neural network. You can train the neural nets to identify which events are worth keeping, Kurahashi Neilson explains.

She pioneered this approach in 2017. Over the years, Kurahashi Neilson has steadily improved it. She and her colleagues have now used it to identify the neutrinos used to make the new map.

Its an impressive analysis, Scholberg says. And the technique may have the potential to be developed even more. Clearly a lot more work needs to be done, she says. But its very exciting to see the basic expectation [of Milky Way neutrinos] verified.

Predator and Prey, (nouns, PREH-duh-tor and PRAY)

The words predator and prey describe the roles in a relationship between two species. In this relationship, one species eats the other. The predator is the species that does the eating. The prey is the one that gets eaten. Predator/prey relationships are important links in food webs. These links move energy and nutrients through an ecosystem.

A bear fishing salmon from a river is one example of a predator/prey relationship. The bear is the predator. The salmon is the prey. But salmon must eat too. They snack on plankton, insects and other small critters. So in those cases, the salmon plays the role of predator.

Animals arent the only predators and prey. A rabbit chomping on grass is a predator, while the grass is its prey. But plants can also play the role of the predator. For example, a Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) snares flies in its leafy jaws and digests them.

Predators and prey drive each others evolution. Over time, predators adapt to better catch prey. For example, the cheetahs powerful body can out-race its impala prey. But prey have evolved ways to avoid being eaten. The nimble impala can make a hard swerve that leaves behind the cheetah. Many plants have toxins, spines or other defenses that make eating them unpleasant. And millions of years ago, the need to escape marine predators likely helped drive some species from water to land.

In a sentence

Thanks to its predator/prey relationship with ants, the Australian ant-slayer spider (Euryopis umbilicata) evolved a cool somersault technique for capturing prey.

Check out the full list of Scientists Say.

Massive Otodus megalodon sharks the oceans largest meat-eaters ever ran hot. It now appears that their rise (and fall) may have been tied to their warm-bloodedness.

Chemical measurements on fossil O. megalodon teeth suggest the sharks had higher body temperatures than surrounding waters. Analyses of carbon and oxygen in the teeth revealed that the giant sharks body temperature was about 7 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than seawater temperatures at the time.

Lets learn about sharks

That warm-bloodedness may have been a double-edged sword. The trait may have helped megalodons become swift, fearsome apex predators. Those are hunters at the top of the food chain. O. megalodon grew up to 20 meters (66 feet) long. That makes it one of Earths biggest carnivores ever. But the sharks voracious appetite also may have spelled the species doom.

A creatures metabolism is the set of chemical reactions needed to sustain life. Gigantic bodies require a lot of food to power their metabolisms, notes Robert Eagle. A marine biogeochemist, he studies the chemistry of ocean ecosystems. Massive sharks may have been particularly vulnerable to extinction when food became scarce, he says. Eagle was part of a team that studied fossils of O. megalodon and its living and extinct kin to learn about the animals metabolisms.

Game over for megalodons

Mammals can boost their metabolisms and maintain their body heat, even in colder environments. This trait is called endothermy or warm-bloodedness. Some families of fish, both living and extinct, can do something similar. They can keep some body parts warmer than the surrounding water. This is known as regional warm-bloodedness. Many modern sharks belonging to the group that includes great white sharks have this ability.

Jacking up the temperatures of some body parts is one way some sharks evolved to be giant, says Jack Cooper. A paleobiologist, he studies ancient life at Swansea University in Wales. He did not take part in the new study. Filter feeding offers another path to getting large, Cooper points out. Gentler giants, such as whale sharks, use this strategy when they gulp lots of water and eat the tiny creatures within.

Scientists have long thought megalodon was regionally warm-blooded, Eagle says. Estimates of this beasts body shape, swimming speeds and energy needs point to some warm-bloodedness. The shark also was known to hunt in both colder and warmer waters. That suggests it had some control over its body temperature.

The question, Eagle says, isnt really whether O. megalodon was warm-blooded. Its how warm-blooded. His team wondered how the megasharks internal temps compared to one of its major competitors: the great white shark.

O. megalodon evolved around 23 million years ago. It went extinct sometime between 3.5 million and 2.6 million years ago. Great white sharks emerged late in megalodons reign, roughly 3.5 million years ago. They competed for food with their massive cousins.

Some scientists suspect this competition helped drive O. megalodon to extinction, especially when food became scarcer. The climate changed during the Pliocene Epoch, which spanned 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. That led to a sharp drop in the numbers of marine mammals. They were a primary food source for both sharks.

But the great whites stuck around when O. megalodon died out, Eagle says. Being the much smaller of the two, they likely needed less food to maintain their metabolism.

Ancient temperature check

To study the ancient sharks body temperatures, the team turned to the only fossils left by these sharks: their teeth.

Fossilized teeth can say a lot about the bodies they came from. A tooths enamel contains isotopes, heavier and lighter forms of a chemical element. Eagles team examined chemically bonded forms of heavier-than-usual carbon and oxygen. The technique acted as a kind of ancient thermometer. The abundance of bonds between these isotopes is only affected by body temperature, Eagle says.

Explainer: What are chemical bonds?

The team used this technique on teeth from great whites and megalodons. They also used it on other animals who lived at the same time. Mollusks are entirely cold-blooded; they cant control their body temperature. Analyzing ancient mollusks revealed the oceans water temperature.

Great whites and megalodons were at least somewhat warm-blooded, the team found. A megalodons body was warmer than the water around it. It also was warmer than the bodies of great white sharks. Neither shark, however, was as warm-blooded as marine mammals, such as whales.

The researchers shared their findings June 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It’s fantastic that we have more evidence for regional warm-bloodedness in megalodon, Cooper says. O. megalodons higher body temperature would have allowed it to swim further and faster, he says. That increased its chances of finding prey. But when the sharks prey dwindled some 3 million years ago, he says, megalodon may well have starved into extinction.

Eagles team is now exploring the chicken-or-egg question of which came first for megalodons: warm-bloodedness or apex-predator status. You need to be big to be a mega-predator. But its not clear whether carnivores need to be warm-blooded to become apex predators. Were hoping to fit it all together into an evolutionary story as to what drives what.

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.
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.

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.
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.
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...

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.
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...

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.
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...

Noah Shaw loves planets and has perfect pitch. This 13-year-old also wants to be a scientist, like his father. Bryan Shaw is a biochemist at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. But Noahs career path may not be as smooth as it was for his dad.

Doctors diagnosed Noah, as an infant, with retinoblastoma. The boy now has only one eye. He also has permanent blind spots in his vision. People with one eye, like Noah, and people who have blindness or limited vision, are underrepresented in science. One reason: They face barriers in their education. Among those barriers, Bryan Shaw notes: “Most of the stunning imagery in science is inaccessible to people who are blind. That makes him a little sad. Images of proteins are what hooked him on science.

Explainer: What are proteins?

Bryan and his colleagues hope to make science more inclusive. To do that, they have come up a new type of with molecule models. Each one takes advantage of the mouths supersensitive touch sensors. Those sensors can perceive finer details than our fingertips can.

The team created models of important proteins such as myoglobin. It provides oxygen to muscles. Like gummy worms and bears, these literally bite-size models are a type of chewable gelatin-based candy. The researchers also 3-D printed nontoxic versions that are not meant to be eaten. Both types can be popped in the mouth where their shapes can be felt.

Biochemist Bryan Shaw (left) inspired by his son Noah (right) whose vision was affected by cancer created models of proteins that students can explore with their mouths.Courtesy of Elizabeth Shaw

To prevent choking, the researchers attached lanyards to the nonedible models. After blindfolding 281 college students and 31 grade schoolers, they gave the students edible or nonedible models to inspect.

Each student examined one protein model either by mouth or by hand. For every additional protein model that the students worked with, they had to determine whether the protein was the same as the first or different. A separate group of 84 college students did the test by eyesight using 3-D computer images of those proteins instead of models they could actually feel.

Students correctly identified the proteins about 85 percent of the time, the team reported May 28 in Science Advances. This was true whether they used their mouths, fingers or eyes. Such cheap, tiny models could help students learn about proteins regardless of how well they can see, Bryan Shaw says.

He got the idea for such an educational tool while twirling a blackberry on his tongue. The fruits bumpy exterior looks like a popular way that scientists depict proteins, in which each of the proteins atoms is represented by a sphere. Stick thousands of atoms together, and the clump resembles an elaborate berry something the tongue might be able to tell apart by shape.

Infants and toddlers typically explore their world at least partially by mouth. A student in Hong Kong made headlines in 2013 by teaching herself to read Braille with her lips. However, the mouths remarkable sensing ability remains largely untapped in science education, Shaw says.

He has patented the models and is eager for advice. But taking the models from prototype to teaching tool will require more work. For instance, the researchers have access to professional equipment to print models and sterilize them between uses. Thats not something all educators have.

The models also would benefit from testing by students who are blind and those who have low vision. Their input could help Shaws team improve the models to better fit the students needs. Shaw has discussed such models with educators at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin. Young Noah did test the models. But his dads team didnt include his data in their analysis.

This is not the first time that Noah has inspired his dad. Shaw previously codeveloped an app that has the potential to catch early signs of eye disease in childhood pictures. Regardless of whether Noah finds a career in science, his father has one wish: I hope he does something cool.

Pulsar (noun, PUHL-sahr)

Pulsars are dense, quickly spinning cores of dead stars that blast radio waves into space.

When a star thats a few times as big as the sun dies, it shoots most of its mass off into space in a huge explosion. That explosion is called a supernova. But the core of the star collapses in on itself and forms an ultra-dense neutron star. All that mass clumps together under the force of gravity. That causes the dead star to spin faster, just like an ice skater pulling in their arms during a turn. Neutron stars can spin faster than the tires on a race car at top speed anywhere from once every few seconds to hundreds of times per second. Thats millions of times faster than the Sun spins.

A pulsar is a special kind of neutron star that blasts out two beams of radio waves in opposite directions. As the dead star spins, those beams sweep through space like the lights on a lighthouse. If Earth is in the path of one of those beams, we see a flash of radio waves every time it sweeps past us. That makes the pulsar appear to pulse at very regular intervals.

This animation shows a pulsars radio beams (purple) sweeping through space. When one of the beams passes over Earth, the pulsar appears to flash.

Astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell first discovered pulsars in 1967. At first, some scientists thought the radio beams she saw might be coming from aliens. That was because the pulses were so regular. But then Bell Burnell found radio pulses coming from a different part of space, far from the first signal. It was unlikely that two groups of aliens were signaling us at the same time from so far apart, so scientists looked for a different explanation. They eventually learned the radio waves were coming from pulsars scattered throughout space.

Scientists today use pulsars to make maps of space and keep time in the cosmos. Pulsars can also be used study the fundamental laws of physics that rule the universe.

In a sentence

Scientists time the radio flashes from pulsars to look for gravitational waves.

Check out the full list of Scientists Say.

Spacing out spaceflights may be better for astronauts brains.

Fluid-filled chambers in the human brain expand while in space. Its one way they adapt to lower gravity. But after a space mission, these structures dont shrink back right away. It might take three years to return to normal. Researchers reported this June 8 in Scientific Reports.

This suggests astronauts might need at least that long between flights before their brain is ready to be in space again.

With little gravity in space, fluids build up in an astronauts head. Sometimes their faces even look puffy when space travelers first arrive at the International Space Station, says Rachael Seidler. She studies how the human body adapts to space. She works at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Extra fluid also collects in four chambers in the brain, called ventricles. Astronauts often return to Earth with enlarged ventricles. These chambers are filled with liquid that cushions the brain and clears out cellular wastes. In space, the ventricles expand as they take in more fluid, Seidler says.

She and her colleagues wanted to see how time spent in space affected the brain.

They examined MRI scans of the brains of 30 astronauts. Ones taken before each astronauts missions were compared to those taken after time in space. The longer the mission, the more that three of the four ventricles seemed to expand. (The fourth ventricle is very small, Seidler notes. So any changes in it may have been too tiny to see.)

Two-week spaceflights didnt have much effect. Both six- and 12-month missions, though, resulted in larger ventricles. The amount was similar after these longer trips, suggesting the swelling slows after six months in space.

Eighteen of the astronauts had flown in space before. The time since their last mission seemed to affect how much their brains changed during the new mission that the researchers were studying. In those whose last trip to space was three or more years earlier, three of their ventricles got bigger on average, by roughly 10 to 25 percent. Other astronauts had been to space less than three years prior. Their ventricles didnt swell much if at all. That suggests their brains may not have had enough time between missions to fully recover, the scientists say. 

Surviving Mars missions will take planning and lots of innovation

Im glad that the [study] authors took the first step and are looking at this question, says Donna Roberts. Shes a brain-imaging specialist at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. There are so many variables that could play into the brain changes that were seeing, Roberts says. Its hard to sort them out.

Spaceflights effects on the brain are even more pressing now, she notes. NASA aims to send people to Mars, which could be a two-year round trip. Everybody talks about the rocket technology to get to Mars, Roberts says. But the humans thats the real challenge.

Its common to hear the term chaos used to describe seemingly random, unpredictable events. The energetic behavior of kids on a bus ride home from a field trip might be one example. But to scientists, chaos means something else. It refers to a system that is not totally random but still cannot be easily predicted. Theres a whole area of science devoted to this. Its known as chaos theory.

In a non-chaotic system, its easy to measure the details of the starting environment. A ball rolling down a hill is one example. Here, the balls mass and the hills height and angle of decline are the starting conditions. If you know these starting conditions, you can predict how fast and far the ball will roll.

A chaotic system is similarly sensitive to its initial conditions. But even tiny changes to those conditions can lead to huge changes later. So, its hard to look at a chaotic system at any given time and know exactly what its initial conditions were.

For example, have you ever wondered why predictions of the weather one to three days from now can be horribly wrong? Blame chaos. In fact, weather is the poster child of chaotic systems.

The origin of chaos theory

Mathematician Edward Lorenz developed modern chaos theory in the 1960s. At the time, he was a meteorologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. His work involved using computers to predict weather patterns. That research turned up something strange. A computer could predict very different weather patterns from almost the same set of starting data.

But those starting data werent exactly the same. Small variations in the initial conditions led to wildly different outcomes.

To explain his findings, Lorenz likened the subtle differences in starting conditions to the impacts of the flapping wings of some distant butterfly. Indeed, by 1972 he called this the butterfly effect. The idea was that the flap of an insects wings in South America might set up conditions that led to a tornado in Texas. He suggested that even subtle air movements such as those caused by butterfly wings could create a domino effect. Over time and distance, those effects might add up and intensify winds.

Does a butterfly really affect the weather? Probably not. Bo-Wen Shen is a mathematician at San Diego State University in California. This idea is an oversimplification, he argues. In fact, the concept has been generalized mistakenly, Shen says. Its led to a belief that even small human actions could lead to huge unintended impacts. But the general idea that tiny changes to chaotic systems can have huge effects still holds up.

Maren Hunsberger, a scientist and actress, explains how chaos is not some random behavior, but instead describes things that are hard to predict well. This video shows why.

Studying chaos

Chaos is difficult to predict, but not impossible. From the outside, chaotic systems appear to have traits that are semi-random and unpredictable. But even though such systems are more sensitive to their initial conditions, they do still follow all the same laws of physics as simple systems. So the motions or events of even chaotic systems progress with almost clock-like precision. As such, they can be predictable and largely knowable if you can measure enough of those initial conditions.

One way scientists predict chaotic systems is by studying whats known as their strange attractors. A strange attractor is any underlying force that controls the overall behavior of a chaotic system.

Shaped like swirling ribbons, these attractors work somewhat like wind picking up leaves. Like leaves, chaotic systems are drawn to their attractors. Similarly, a rubber ducky in the ocean will be drawn to its attractor the ocean surface. This is true no matter how waves, winds and birds may jostle the toy. Knowing the shape and position of an attractor can help scientists predict the path of something (such as storm clouds) in a chaotic system.

Chaos theory can help scientists better understand many different processes besides weather and climate. For instance, it can help explain irregular heartbeats and the motions of star clusters.

Heads up, weather geeks. U.S. weather has just hit a new normal. The government has changed its reference values for temperature and precipitation. And these show that the last three decades have been the warmest on record.

People in the American West and the Pacific Northwest may not be surprised. Many cities there hit repeated record temperatures in June. They occurred during two back-to-back heat waves.

In mid-June, cities from Omaha, Neb., to Sacramento, Calif., set records of at least 105 Fahrenheit (40.6 Celsius). Phoenix, Ariz., and Death Valley, Calif., hit monster extremes on June 17 of 118 F and 128 F (47.8 and 53.3 C, respectively).

Then, in late June, another heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest. Seattle set a record high temperature of 105 F (40.6 C). Portland, Ore., reached a record 116 F (46.7 C). Even in Lytton, a village in Canadas British Columbia, temperatures soared to 121 F (49.6 C). That set a new record for the entire country. cited the director of the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix to put Junes extreme heat in context: “If you look at hot pavement or asphalt at two o’clock in the afternoon in direct sunlight, the temperature is usually somewhere around 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.” (Thats 76.7 to 82.2 C.)

Hot spots

NOAAs new climate normal shows that average temperatures across mainland United States increased nearly everywhere compared to the preceding three decades. 

U.S. mean temperature change: 19912020 compared with 19812010


The new normals

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, reports climate normals. These offer a standard way to compare todays weather against 30-year averages. But figuring out a new normal isnt simple. The agency compiles 30 years of observations from about 8,700 U.S. weather stations. Later, it ensures the quality of those data. Only data that past that test are used to calculate multiple measures of climate.

Over the past 30 years, the average temperature across the U.S. mainland was 11.8 C (53.3 F). The previous periods average was 11.6 C. But bump in temps varied across the United States. That likely was due in part to geography. Seasonal waverings also played a role. Some of the largest increases were in the South and Southwest. Those same regions showed a dramatic drop in rainfall.

The World Meteorological Organization requires the United States and its other member nations to update their climate normals once each decade. These allow people to view data on daily weather events against what has happened in recent history. Farmers use these data to track droughts or risk of freezes.

Keeping track of shifting averages also helps us understand the skyrocketing pace of climate change. NOAA compared the current and previous 30-year normals to the average highs in daily heat between 1901 and 2000. No part of the country is cooler now than that 20th century average. And temps in large swaths are higher by 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.6 to 1.1 degrees Celsius).

Rising temps

The average temperatures for consecutive 30-year periods in the U.S. mainland show the country getting hotter since 1901. Here, each 30-year period is compared with the average temperature for the entire 20th century.

U.S. 30-year temperature averages compared with 20th-century average

NOAA, Jared Rennie/NCEI/North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies

NOAA, Jared Rennie/NCEI/North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies

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Massive numbers of sharks died abruptly 19 million years ago, new data show. Fossils from sediments in the Pacific Ocean reveal that 90 percent of them vanished. And so far, scientists dont know why.

Its a great mystery, says Elizabeth Sibert. She led the new study. A paleobiologist and oceanographer, she works at Yale University. Thats in New Haven, Conn. Sharks have been around for 400 million years. And yet this event wiped out [up to] 90 percent of them.

Explainer: How a fossil forms

Sharks have suffered losses in the past. It started 250 million years ago during the Great Dying. This event marked the end of most large ocean species. Much later, about 66 million years ago, a huge asteroid fell to Earth. It killed off most dinosaurs and 30 to 40 percent of shark species. After that, sharks enjoyed about 45 million years as the oceans top predator. They even survived large climate disruptions, such as an episode about 56 million years ago when global levels of carbon dioxide spiked and temperatures soared.

The newly discovered fossils are a surprising twist in the sharks story.

Sifting sediment

Sibert sifted through fish teeth and shark scales in the sediment. She worked with Leah Rubin, a student at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Scientists had collected that sediment during various expeditions to the North and South Pacific oceans. The project came out of a desire to better understand the natural background variability of these fossils, Sibert explains.

Sharks bodies are mostly cartilage. Unlike bone, cartilage is difficult to preserve as fossils. But sharks skin is covered in tiny scales. Each scale is about the width of a human hair follicle. These scales make for an excellent record of past shark abundance. They contain the same hard mineral as sharks teeth. Both can turn to fossils in sediments. And we will find several hundred more [scales] compared to a tooth, Sibert explains.

Fossil shark scales provided clues to the change in biodiversity after a mysterious shark die-off. Researchers sorted the scales into two main types: those with lined grooves (left) and those with geometric shapes (right). The geometric shapes all but disappeared from ocean sediments following the extinction event.E.C. Sibert and L.D. Rubin/Science 2021

What her team discovered was a surprise. From 66 million to about 19 million years ago, the ratio of fish teeth to shark scales held steady at about 5 to 1. Then the ratio took a dramatic turn: 100 fish teeth appeared for each shark scale. The team estimates this change was abrupt within 100,000 years or so.

That sudden disappearance of shark scales came at the same time as a change in the scales shapes. This provides clues about shark diversity.

Most modern sharks have lined grooves on their scales, ones that may help them swim faster. Other sharks scales have geometric shapes. The researchers looked at the change in the abundance of various scale shapes before 19 million years ago and then again afterward. This revealed a huge loss in shark diversity. It appears some seven in every 10 shark species went extinct.

And this extinction event was quite selective, notes Rubin. After the event, the geometric scales were almost gone. And that previous diversity in sharks, she adds, was never seen again. She and Sibert describe their findings June 4 in Science.

A cautionary tale

An explanation for the massive shark die-off isnt obvious, Sibert says. Nineteen million years ago is not known as a formative time in Earths history. Solving the mystery is one question she hopes to answer. She wants to understand how the varied scale shapes might relate to shark lineages. Shed also like to learn what impact the sudden loss of so many big predators might have had on other ocean dwellers.

Answers to those questions could be helpful today. Overfishing and ocean warming in the last 50 years have decreased shark populations by more than 70 percent. This loss of sharks no doubt impacts the oceans ecology.

Catherine Macdonald is a marine conservation biologist at the University of Miami in Florida. She sees the study as a cautionary tale. Our power to act to protect what remains does not include an ability to fully reverse or undo the effects of the massive environmental changes we have already made, she notes.

What happens to communities of the oceans top predators can be critical signs of those changes. Unraveling how the ocean ecosystem responded to shark losses in the past could help researchers predict what may await us now, Sibert says. The sharks are trying to tell us something, she explains, and I cant wait to find out what it is.

The cosmos keeps outdoing itself.

Extremely energetic light from space is an unexplained wonder. Scientists dont know where that light comes from, exactly. And now astronomers have spotted this light, called gamma rays, at higher energies than ever before.

You cant see gamma rays with your eyes. They are much more energetic than the light that we can see. So you need a fancy detector to spot them. The Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory, LHAASO, is an experiment in China. It searches for extremely high energy gamma rays.

Understanding light and other forms of energy on the move

LHASSO spotted more than 530 of these brilliant rays with more than 0.1 quadrillion electron volts of energy. The highest-energy of these gamma rays was about 1.4 quadrillion electron volts. Thats a lot. And its the highest-energy light ever seen.

Previously, the most energetic gamma ray known had less than a quadrillion electron volts.

For comparison, the super-energetic protons in the largest particle accelerator on Earth the Large Hadron Collider only reach trillions of electron volts.

The researchers reported their new observations online May 17 in Nature.

Scientists spotted 12 gamma-ray hot spots. These are parts of the sky from which the gamma rays emanate.

Those hot spots hint that our galaxy, the Milky Way, has powerful particle accelerators. But those particle accelerators arent made by humans. Instead, they come from violent events in the cosmos. They might be exploding stars, for example. Such violent events make electric and magnetic fields. Those can speed up protons and electrons. Those fast particles can then produce gamma rays with a lot of energy. That can happen when protons interact with other matter in space, for example.

Scientists arent sure what could produce gamma rays with the extreme energies observed. But the new observations point to two possibilities. One hot spot was associated with the Crab Nebula. Thats the turbulent remains of an exploded star. Another possible source was the Cygnus Cocoon. Thats a region where massive stars are forming. The stars blast out intense winds in the process.

LHAASO is located on Haizi Mountain in Chinas Sichuan province. It is not yet fully operational. Its due to be completed later this year. Then, it could find even more gamma rays.

Sea urchins are underwater lawnmowers. Their never-ending appetites can alter whole coastal ecosystems. Normally they eat algae and other underwater greenery. But these spiny invertebrates also will take a bite of something more meaty and dangerous. Thats the surprise finding of a new study.

In a first, researchers have seen urchins attacking and eating predatory sea stars. Normally starfish are the predators. Researchers describe this unexpected flip on who eats who in the June issue of Ethology. 

Jeff Clements is a marine behavioral ecologist. He now works for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Moncton. But back in 2018 he worked at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. For one project, he became part a team studying common sun stars in Sweden. At some point, Clements needed to separate one of the sun stars for a short while. So he placed it in an aquarium that already housed some 80 green sea urchins.

Starfish are predators of urchins, he recalls thinking. Nothings gonna happen. But the urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) hadnt eaten a bite in two weeks. When Clements came back to the tank the next day, the sun star (Crossaster papposus) was nowhere to be seen. A group of urchins were piled on the side of the tank. Below them was something red. It was barely visible. When Clements pried the urchins off, he found the remains of the starfish.

The urchins had just ripped it apart, he says.

No fluke

Clements and his colleagues realized no one had ever described this urchin behavior. To test whether it was a freak occurrence, the team ran two trials. Each time, they placed a single sun star in the urchin tank. Then they watched. 

One urchin would approach the starfish. It would feel around. Eventually it attached itself to one of the sun stars many arms. Other urchins would soon do the same. They quickly covered the sun stars arms. When the team removed the urchins after about an hour, they found tips of the starfishs arms had been chewed off. So had its eyes and other sensory organs that reside on those arms.

This aspect of the sun stars anatomy may pose a risk. 

[The tips] are the first part of the sun star that the urchin is going to encounter as it approaches, explains Clements. So if the urchin consumes those first, the sun star is going to be less effective at escaping the attacks.

The team calls this tactic urchin pinning.

Green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) took only minutes to glom onto this sun stars arms. They pinned the bigger animal in place while they gnawed at its sensitive, eyed arm tips.Jeff Clements

Do urchins play defense or offense

Its possible the urchins are acting in self-defense. They may be disarming literally a predator in their midst. But the urchins hunger might also explain their attacks, says Julie Schram. Shes an animal physiologist at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. In crowded lab conditions with limited food, urchins can switch up their diet in surprising ways, she notes. Some species, for instance, have been seen cannibalizing each other.   

This would suggest to me that when starved, adult urchins will seek out alternate food sources, she says. 

The urchins capacity to feed on predatory sea stars had been hinted at before. Sea stars have turned up in urchin stomachs, notes Jason Hodin. Hes a marine biologist at the University of Washington in Friday Harbor. But this dining turnabout often was interpreted as scavenging. For instance, the urchins might have just finished off the remains of someone elses dinner.

Actively attacking starfish for dinner is a more interesting possibility, he says. And, he adds, Its satisfying to see that possibility confirmed, at least in the lab.

If urchin attacks also occur in the wild, Clements thinks there could be some interesting impacts on kelp forests. When overabundant, urchins can overgraze kelp forests,  leaving behind barrens. If urchins are able to survive by eating other animals, they may not die off when the kelp is gone. This could keep urchin numbers high and delay the recovery of these kelp forests, says Clements.

Such discussions are premature, argues Megan Dethier. Such ideas are making way too much out of a peculiar lab situation, says this marine ecologist. She works at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories. After all, Dethier notes, such attacks havent been documented even in urchin barrens, where food is scarce,

And the urchin attacks cant be intentional, she adds, since the animals dont have a brain or central nervous system. It makes no sense, she says, that urchins could mount a coordinated predatory attack.

Such mob attacks may be based on chemicals released into the water by feeding, Clements counters. Once the first urchin starts chewing on a starfish, the other urchins may start recognizing the chemical scent of sea stars as food. Clements wants to run new tests to see what levels of hunger and crowding density might affect urchin appetites for sun stars. 

When is a parasite not a parasite? Answer: When it provides a benefit to its host. Consider some microbes long thought to bring only harm to coastal mussels. New research shows some may actually help their hosts survive dangerous heat waves.

Called cyanobacteria (Sy-AN-oh-bak-TEER-ee-uh), these bacteria bore into the mussels outer shells. Studies had shown this can weaken mussel shells, notes Katy Nicastro. Shes a marine biologist at Rhodes University in South Africa. Being infested with those microbes can slow a mussels growth and reproduction, too. It can even cause the shells to shed their dark outer coat. But lighter-colored shells absorb less sunlight. And that might keep their hosts from overheating on sunny days.

Nicastro and her teammates wanted to know just how much heat protection those microbes might offer. So they collected mussels in Europe. They retrieved them from a rocky shore in northern Portugal. Some mussels had shells infested with the microbes. These had large white patches. Non-infested mussels had normal dark shells.

The researchers first removed the mussels from their shells. Then they inserted temperature sensors inside those shells. They placed these robomussels at nine coastal sites across Europe. The most northerly sites were in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland. The most southerly sites were in Portugal.

Up to a dozen robomussels were glued next to live mussels on rocks in the intertidal zone. Here, seawater would cover the shells at high tide. Low tide would expose them to the air and sun. The sensors showed the temperature could drop 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or more when the shells were submerged.

Those sensors took measurements every half hour from August 1 to September 13, 2017. In the end, the researchers had to ignore data from three sites where weather records were not available.

Trends for the other six sites were clear. When not underwater, dark-shelled robomussels warmed faster. Sensors inside the dark-shelled robomussels also reached a higher temperature than the lighter-shelled ones. The team described its work in the June Global Change Biology.

Shells whitened by microbial infestation (top left) help mussels stay cool on hot, sunny days. In the thermal image (bottom), reds and yellows represent hotter temperatures.K. Nicastro

These data suggested shell color could mean the difference between life and death for mussels. So for these microbe infestations, Nicastro says, Now we have to consider the balance between positive and negative effects. It appeared those microbes can sometimes help the mussels.

To test that, Nicastros team looked at death rates for mussels during three 2018 heat waves in France. More than 95 percent of the mussels dying during the heat waves had dark shells, studies showed. Dark-shelled mussels were likely between 1.67 and 4.77 C (3 and 8.6 F) warmer than those with lighter shells. This suggests light-shelled mussels were more likely to survive.

Shell-weakening microbes usually are not viewed as a good thing for mussels, says Christopher Harley. Hes a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. But during heat emergencies, that can save [a mussels] life, he says.

Mussels may not seem to be important creatures, but they are, says Harley. At low tide, intertidal mussel beds provide a moist, cool habitat. Hundreds of different species live among them. This includes everything from hermit crabs and worms to sponges and sea cucumbers. Indeed, Harley says, Mussel beds are the apartment complex of the rocky shore.

If a tree farts in the forest, does it make a sound? No. But it does add a smidge of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air.

A team of ecologists measured these gases, or tree farts, released by dead trees in ghost forests. These spooky woodlands form when rising sea levels drown a forest, leaving behind a marsh full of skeletal dead trees. The new data suggest these trees generate about one-fifth of the greenhouse gases from ghost forests. The other emissions come from the soggy soils. Researchers report their findings online May 10 in Biogeochemistry.

Explainer: Why sea levels arent rising at the same rate globally

Ghost forests are expected to expand as climate change raises sea levels. So scientists have been curious how much climate-warming gas these phantom ecosystems spew.

Over long periods, ghost forests could actually help draw carbon out of the air, says Keryn Gedan. The reason: Wetlands can store a lot of carbon in their soils, she says. Gedan is a coastal ecologist who wasnt involved in the study. She works at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. It takes a while for carbon to build up in wetlands. In the meantime, dead trees in ghost forests give off greenhouse gases as they decay. Thats why in the short term, she says, ghost forests can pose an important source of carbon emissions.

Researchers used tools that sniffed for tree farts in five ghost forests. These forests line the coast of the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in North Carolina. Its kind of eerie out there, says Melinda Martinez. But this wetland ecologist aint afraid of no ghost forest. In 2018 and 2019, she trekked through ghost forest with a portable gas analyzer on her back. It measured greenhouse gases wafting off trees and soils. I definitely looked like a ghostbuster, Martinez recalls. She did this research while studying at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh.

Wetland ecologist Melinda Martinez uses a portable gas analyzer to measure tree farts from dead trees. A tube connects the gas analyzer on her back to an airtight seal around a tree trunk.M. Ardn

Her measurements revealed how ghost forests pass gas into the atmosphere. Soils gave off most of the gases. Each square meter of ground (about 10.8 square feet) gave off an average 416 milligrams (0.014 ounce) of carbon dioxide per hour. The same area gave off smaller amounts of other greenhouse gases. For instance, each square meter of soil expelled an average 5.9 milligrams (0.0002 ounce) of methane and 0.1 milligram of nitrous oxide per hour.

Dead trees released about one-fourth as much as soils.

Those dead trees dont emit a ton, but they are important to a ghost forests overall emissions, says Marcelo Ardn. Hes an ecosystems ecologist and biogeochemist at NCSU who worked with Martinez. Ardn came up with the term tree farts to describe the dead trees greenhouse-gas emissions. I have an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old, he explains. Fart jokes are what we talk about. But the analogy is rooted in biology, too. Actual farts are caused by microbes in the body. Likewise, tree farts are created by microbes in decaying trees.

Explainer: Global warming and the greenhouse effect

In the grand scheme of things, releases of greenhouse gases from ghost forests may be minor. Tree farts, for instance, have nothing on cow burps. In just one hour, a single cow can emit up to 27 grams of methane (0.001 ounce). Thats a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. But accounting for even small emissions is important to get a complete picture of where climate-warming gases come from, says Martinez. So scientists shouldnt turn up their noses at ghost-tree farts. 
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