Forests and other land ecosystems today absorb 30 percent of humanity’s CO2 pollution, but rapid global warming could transform these natural ‘sinks’ into carbon ‘sources’ within a few decades, opening another daunting front in the fight against climate change, alarmed researchers have said. Climate skeptics often describe CO2 as “plant food”, suggesting that increased
For decades, scientists have wrestled with a complex mystery of physics: Could the immense amounts of energy theoretically produced by rotating black holes ever be tapped by human hands? If future societies were somehow able to pull off this magnificent feat, the power supply of far-off galactic civilisations would seemingly be assured – and
Curiosity affects everything from our relationships to our education, but it’s not easy to pin down and put under a microscope to study. With the help of Wikipedia though, researchers have now done just, exploring two main types of curiosity. Using Wikipedia browsing as an activity to observe, and a maths technique called graph
The emergency is not invisible. But that doesn’t mean we can see it. After decades of inaction and ineffective action on biodiversity decline, climate change, and pollution, civilisation stands on the precipice of a “ghastly future” it has gravely underestimated, an international team of scientific experts warns in an unnerving new study published this week.
The idea of artificial intelligence overthrowing humankind has been talked about for many decades, and scientists have just delivered their verdict on whether we’d be able to control a high-level computer super-intelligence. The answer? Almost definitely not. The catch is that controlling a super-intelligence far beyond human comprehension would require a simulation of that
The oldest-known animal drawing in the world is a 45,500-year-old depiction of a hairy, warty pig on a cave wall in Indonesia, a new study finds. The mulberry colored painting, drawn with the red mineral ochre, shows the profile of what is likely a Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis), a wild stubby-legged beast with facial warts that can
The ancient, extinct dire wolf may have been among the lonest of the wolves – so genetically distinct from its closest wolf relative that it could no longer interbreed, forcing it into an evolutionary dead end when it died out 13,000 years ago. That’s the finding based on a new study, the in-depth analysis
They say the truth is out there, but nobody ever said it would be easy to find. Now, after a search lasting decades, a giant trove of long-classified records held by the CIA in relation to reported UFO activity has finally come to light. This huge public release of what the CIA claims is
Every eight years during fall, a plague of millipedes swarm train lines in mountainous Japan, earning them the nickname ‘train millipedes’. Working together, these small beasties (around 3 cm or 1.18 inches long) – which play a large role cycling nitrogen in Japan’s larch forests – have forced trains to come to a skidding halt.
Metals and insulators are the yin and yang of physics, their respective material properties strictly dictated by their electrons’ mobility – metals should conduct electrons freely, while insulators keep them in place. So when physicists from Princeton University in the US found a quantum quirk of metals bouncing around inside an insulating compound, they
At least two gorillas at California’s San Diego Zoo have caught the coronavirus, the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes, officials said Monday. Two primates began coughing last week and have since tested positive for COVID-19, while a third is showing symptoms, Governor Gavin Newsom said. They are thought to have
Microplastics are everywhere. These tiny plastic fragments can be found throughout the oceans, infiltrating the animals within it, the food we eat, and even our children. The proliferation extends from the highest peak in the world to the beginnings of life itself. Even the remoteness of Earth’s polar regions offers no shelter from the storm
Two thin strands wound together in a spiraling helix: This is the iconic shape of a DNA molecule. But sometimes, DNA can form a rare quadruple-helix, and this odd structure may play a role in diseases like cancer. Not much is known about these four-stranded DNA, known as G-quadruplexes — but now, scientists have developed
The thylacine has long been considered a truly remarkable species. The extinct Australian beast was a marsupial, but its skull was distinctly canine in appearance, almost identical to the skulls of red foxes and grey wolves. Now, new research has confirmed that this resemblance wasn’t limited to adult thylacines (Thylacinus cynocephalus) – it was
It’s not a question you might have thought about, but which came first: sleep or the brain? To put it another way, can organisms without brains go to sleep? Based on a study of primitive, water-dwelling life forms called Hydra vulgaris, scientists might finally have the answer. New research shows how these tiny creatures
Scientists have created new kinds of ‘living materials’ by tweaking the base ingredients of kombucha – the popular tea drink fermented with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (aka SCOBY). This kind of ‘tea fungus’ – sometimes called ‘kombucha mother’ – can do a lot more than just produce sour-tasting beverages, it seems.
Scientists have identified an entirely new mode of snake locomotion. The newly documented climbing behaviour is difficult, but allows snakes to impressively shimmy up large, smooth cylinders. Researchers have dubbed it ‘lasso locomotion’, because the snake climbs poles by lassoing its body around the cylindrical structures, gripping them tightly in a looped noose from
In a first-of-its-kind discovery, scientists have found that a species of non-photosynthetic bacteria are regulated by the same circadian rhythms that hold sway over so many other life-forms. In humans, our circadian rhythms act as a kind of biological clock in our cells, controlling virtually all the processes in our bodies, influencing when we
Megalodon, the largest species of shark ever to have existed in Earth’s history, likely had a somewhat gruesome method for getting a head start in life. According to new research, the pups of the Megalodon shark (Otodus megalodon) are larger than most humans when they’re born. This suggests that they hatched in the womb and
2020 has tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, the European Union’s climate monitoring service said Friday, keeping Earth on a global warming fast track that could devastate large swathes of humanity. The six years since 2015 are the six warmest ever registered, as are 20 of the last 21, evidence of a
A long-extinct lineage of insect, known fondly as the ‘hell ant’, has been discovered frozen in 99-million-year-old amber, with its scythe-like jaw still pinning its prey. According to scientists, this fierce predator is a newly identified species of prehistoric ant, known as Ceratomyrmex ellenbergeri, and it’s the first time we’ve ever seen a hell ant actively
Scientists have recently discovered a totally new type of chemical bond – and it’s way stronger than it has any right to be. The new type of bond shows that the divide between powerful covalent bonds, which bind molecules together, and weak hydrogen bonds, which form between molecules and can be broken by something as
Taxonomy, or the naming of species, is the foundation of modern biology. It might sound like a fairly straightforward exercise, but in fact it’s complicated and often controversial. Why? Because there’s no one agreed list of all the world’s species. Competing lists exist for organisms such as mammals and birds, while other less well-known groups
Scattered across the world are a number of bewildering ‘mystery spots’ that appear to defy gravity – places where cars seem to drift uphill, and cyclists struggle to push themselves downhill. Also known as gravity hills, these bizarre natural phenomena can be found in places like Confusion Hill in California and Magnetic Hill in Canada,
Spend a few minutes watching the graceful dance of an octopus on the prowl and you’ll quickly appreciate their talent for making their arms flow like a living liquid. It’s one thing to marvel at their flexibility. To really get a grip on their motor skills, researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts put
Scientists are studying a major, once-in-a-century drought from Medieval Europe to better understand how extreme weather events indicate rapid climate changes. In the years leading up to the Little Ice Age, between 1302 and 1307, many regions on the European continent were facing exceptional heat and drought, according to historical records and data collected from
Humans and dogs have come a long, long way together. For tens of thousands of years, as our species hunted, foraged, farmed, and explored, canines have been by our side. Today, while many large predators face endangerment and extinction from human hunting and competition, dogs, which are descended from grey wolves, remain the most prolific
The new year is going to be better. It has to be better. Maybe you’re one of the 74 percent of Americans in one survey who said they planned on hitting the reset button on January 1 and resolving to improve. Those New Year’s resolutions most commonly focus on eating healthier, exercising, losing weight and
A stroll in the city is no walk in the park. A small psychology study suggests urban environments can slow your step and possibly increase your mental load. An amble through nature, on the other hand, appears to ease your mind and quicken your pace. The findings support the idea that natural settings are mentally
The stretch of Arctic ice between Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is known as ‘the Last Ice Area’, thought by scientists to have the best chance of surviving the climate crisis – but new research suggests it could be more vulnerable to disappearing than previously thought. It’s the oldest and the thickest stretch
Seeing our world through the eyes of a migratory bird would be a rather spooky experience. Something about their visual system allows them to ‘see’ our planet’s magnetic field, a clever trick of quantum physics and biochemistry that helps them navigate vast distances. Now, for the first time ever, scientists from the University of
Bitcoin continues to trade close to its all-time high reached this month. Its price is at the time of writing around US$34,000 – up about 77 percent over the past month and 305 percent over the past year. First launched in 2009 as a digital currency, Bitcoin was for a while used as digital
The first complete map of a platypus genome has just been released, and it’s every bit as strange as you’d expect from a creature with 10 sex chromosomes, a pair of venomous spurs, a coat of fluorescent fur, and skin that ‘sweats’ milk. The duck-billed platypus is truly one of the oddest creatures on
The audio on the otherwise shaky body camera footage is unusually clear. As police officers search a handcuffed man who moments before had fired a shot inside a pizza parlor, an officer asks him why he was there. The man says to investigate a pedophile ring. Incredulous, the officer asks again. Another officer chimes
Physicists have identified a new state of matter, hidden inside the mysterious transformations that take place between liquid and solid states of glass. The glass transition holds a lot of fascination for scientists, and the new state of matter – called ‘liquid glass’ – exhibits behaviour at the microscopic level that hasn’t been seen before,
Every winter in the Northern Hemisphere, a cold wind circles the North Pole like water around a drain. It’s an annual weather pattern meteorologists keep an anxious eye on – any significant changes could suggest Europe is in for a serious cold snap. Right now, that wind is ripping in two. Researchers from the Universities
As if spiders weren’t already crafty enough, on the island of Madagascar, biologists have now found what appear to be frog traps crafted by huntsman spiders (Damastes sp.). The so-called traps were made from leaves stitched together with silk, and potentially offered shady spots for amphibians to rest, resulting in them getting trapped in the
Archaeologists claim that they have identified the deadly dance floor where John the Baptist – a preacher who foretold the coming of Jesus – was sentenced to death around CE 29. The Bible and the ancient writer Flavius Josephus (CE 37-100) both describe how King Herod Antipas, a son of King Herod, had John the Baptist executed.
The power to be unseen has long captured our imaginations – from ancient myths to modern fantasies of rings and cloaks that can bestow such a gift. One way to achieve a type of invisibility is to let light pass straight through you – to become transparent. This requires a body composed of tissues that
While we’ve all lived through the same pandemic the past few months, not all of us have responded to the fallout in the same way. A recent small study suggests that there are some distinct differences in the way people with ‘dark’ personality traits have reacted to COVID-19 . These dark personality traits include
The bleak history of whaling pushed many species to the brink of extinction, even in the remote waters of the North and South Poles. Over 1.3 million whales were killed in just 70 years around Antarctica alone. The scale of this industrial harvest completely decimated many populations of large whales in the Southern Ocean.
When falling asleep, it’s not unusual to imagine a calm, provincial scene, like a flock of sheep jumping over a fence. Some people with a rare and poorly understood condition find that task nearly impossible. While they can describe what a sheep is and remember what it looks like, they cannot visualise something in
Residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been told to remain alert after a Caribbean volcano came back to life. La Soufrière is the highest point in St. Vincent and is located near the northern tip of the country but remained dormant for decades before beginning to spew ash on Tuesday this week, AP reported.
From daily tooth-brushing to the 11 am coffee, we all have dozens of habits that get us through our daily routine. Some are great – weekly gym visits are often encouraged – others not so much, like smoking a pack a day, or dialling the number of the pizza place way too often. Because we
For a few moments in late April of 2020, oil – normally the lifeblood of the world economy – became more expensive to store than to pay someone to take it away. Crude oil’s wildly fluctuating futures prices reflected the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with record falls in greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel
The way a person talks or types might reveal little clues about their personality. A meta-analysis of psychological research involving more than 80,000 people has found a small but noticeable link between certain word choices and extraversion, one of the big five personality traits. When talking in person or online, the study found extraverts
Melting permafrost in the icy north of Siberia is revealing a veritable graveyard of frozen prehistoric animals. In recent decades, locals and scientists in the Russian Republic of Yakutia have uncovered the ancient carcasses of two cave lion cubs, a bison, a horse, a baby woolly rhinoceros, and the most intact woolly mammoth ever found.
Let’s admit it: It’s been a pretty rough year for our neck of the Solar System. But it’s been a great year for scientists studying more distant reaches of the Universe. From a colossal explosion to mystery burps deciphered, here were some of the top stories in physics in 2020. 10. Boom! What might