Science

Low turnout and polarization are a deadly combo for electoral stability

Enlarge Frankie Roberto / Flickr When people talk about elections like horse races, policy doesn’t matter—all we care about is who’s likely to win. In this fetid theory of elections, governments tend to represent a kind of dissatisfying average of voter opinion. Everyone gets a little bit of the stuff they want, and everyone gets …

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The most complete brain map ever is here: A fly’s “connectome“

Enlarge Katja Schulz When asked what’s so special about Drosophila melanogaster, or the common fruit fly, Gerry Rubin quickly gets on a roll. Rubin has poked and prodded flies for decades, including as a leader of the effort to sequence their genome. So permit him to count their merits. They’re expert navigators, for one, zipping around without crashing …

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After 3000 years, we can hear the “voice” of a mummified Egyptian priest

Enlarge / The mummy of Nesyamun, a priest who lived in Thebes about 3,000 years ago, is ready for his CT scan. Leeds Teaching Hospitals/Leeds Museums and Galleries Around 1100 BC, during the reign of Ramses XI, an Egyptian scribe and priest named Nesyamun spent his life singing and chanting during liturgies at the Karnak …

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Time check: Examining the Doomsday Clock’s move to 100 seconds to midnight

Enlarge / The Doomsday Clock reads 100 seconds to midnight, a decision made by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, during an announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2020. EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images Today, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released a statement that the group’s Science and Security …

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Jewel beetle’s bright colored shell serves as camouflage from predators

Enlarge / The brightly colored shell of this jewel beetle is a surprisingly effective form of camouflage, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Bristol. Bristol Museums, Galleries, and Archives Artist and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer became known as the “father of camouflage” with the publication in 1909 of a book …

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Ancient African skeletons hint at a “ghost lineage” of humans

Enlarge / A 1994 photograph of the excavations that yielded the skeletons at Shum Laka. Pierre de Maret Understanding humanity’s shared history means understanding what happened in Africa. But figuring out what happened in Africa has been a difficult task. Not every area is well represented in the fossil history, and most African environments aren’t …

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The Mount Vesuvius eruption was so hot, one man’s brain turned to glass.

Enlarge / Plaster casts of victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. Flory/iStock/Getty Images When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, the heat was so extreme in some places that it vaporized body fluids and exploded the skulls of several inhabitants unable to flee in time. Now, archaeologists have determined that the …

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Coronavirus from China has made its way to the United States

Enlarge / Travelers in China are often wearing protective masks in response to the spread of 2019nCoV Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images On Tuesday afternoon, the US Centers for Disease Control announced that the coronavirus that’s been spreading within China had made it to the United States. A patient in Washington state …

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New twist on marshmallow test: Kids depend on each other for self control

Enlarge / Could you resist these Oreos? Maybe if you depended on a friend to help you delay gratification. Pranee Tiangkate/iStock/Getty Images In the 1970s, the late psychologist Walter Mischel explored the importance of the ability to delay gratification as a child to one’s future success in life, via the famous Stanford “marshmallow experiment.” Now a …

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Researchers completely re-engineer yeast to make more biofuel

Enlarge / Colonies of genetically modified yeast. Conor Lawless A little while ago, we covered the idea of using photovoltaic materials to drive enzymatic reactions in order to produce specific chemicals. The concept is being considered mostly because doing the same reaction in a cell is often horribly inefficient because everything else in the cell …

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