It’s hard to say exactly why you like someone. Maybe it’s their goofy smile; maybe it’s their razor-sharp wit; or maybe it’s simply that they’re easy to be around. You just like them. But scientists generally aren’t satisfied with answers like that, and they’ve spent years trying to pinpoint the exact factors that draw
Primates such as apes, monkeys and chimpanzees can appear extraordinarily human in their responses to the world around them. They have been observed, for instance, grieving when members of their tribe die, in a surprisingly touching way. Mother primates are also known to carry around their dead babies for some time after death, although it
Five minutes in the life of a guppy in the terrible spring of 2015: You’re swimming around with your friends in a tank. You’ve been here for days. Food falls from the sky. Everything is fine. Then suddenly, you’re netted up and dropped into an alien world, all alone, just you and the glass.
An enormous Antarctic glacier has given up an iceberg over 100 square miles (259 sq km) in size, the second time in two years it has lost such a large piece in a process that has scientists wondering if its behaviour is changing for the worse. The Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest
As humans have ventured further from our home planet, we have sought other living organisms, proof that we’re not alone. We, of course, haven’t found any yet. But a growing amount of data has given us a better sense of where in the solar system we should look more carefully. Seth Shostak, a senior
Aluminium is already highly prized. It’s conductive, has a low melting point, is very strong when alloyed, is impervious to rust and, above all, it’s extremely light. But what if you could get it lighter – so light, in fact, that it could float on water even when not made into the shape of a
We’ve all heard the terrible stories about the Great Barrier Reef, and the extensive bleaching that has occurred in recent years. But despite what some news outlets might think, the reef is not actually dead, and we still need to monitor what’s happening closely to try to stop the damage where possible. That’s why
Ever since the EM drive first made headlines, science lovers have puzzled over how the propulsion system seems to produce thrust, despite the fact it’s ‘impossible’ according to one of the most fundamental laws of physics – Newton’s third law of motion. Now a team of physicists have put forward an alternative explanation – it
When Dutch sailors became the first Europeans to lay eyes on Easter Island in 1722, they found two sets of figures staring back at them. One gaze belonged to the remote island’s Polynesian inhabitants – the Rapa Nui – but this human society was rivalled by a staggering population of almost 900 monolithic statues, and
The Australian Federal Government announced it will finally commit to a national space agency at the International Astronomical Congress in Adelaide, South Australia on Monday. The move has come after mounting pressure from experts, who have been growing increasingly concerned that Australia was missing the boat taking a share in the AU$420 billion (US$330 billion)
NASA is dead-set on sending astronauts to Mars within the next 15 to 20 years. China has said it hopes to send people there between 2020 and 2030, and even Russia is floating plans to put boots on the red planet. Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Elon Musk is trying to cut the cost of spaceflight enough
The question: Family dogs often spend the night in their owner’s bedroom. Might this affect people’s sleep? In this study, the researchers assessed the sleep habits of 40 healthy adults (average age, 44) who had no sleep disorders and who had a dog older than 6 months (average age, 5 years) that slept in the bedroom.
The subsidiary responsible for the ride-hailing app Uber has been told it isn’t considered “fit and proper” so won’t have its license renewed on 30 September. While Uber London Limited can appeal the decision, if the ban goes ahead it will be one of the biggest blows to date for the global technology company, which
Since the mid-twentieth century, two theories of physics have offered powerful yet incompatible models of the physical universe. General relativity brings space and time together into the (then) portmanteau space-time, the curvature of which is gravity. It works really well on large scales, such as interplanetary or interstellar space. But zoom into the subatomic, and things
Welcome to Lunar Park. You’ll find the ice melting and filtering plant to your left. Low-G tennis is up there on the crater rim. Oh, and here’s the passkey to your new robo-fab domicile. Visions of lunar life are a perennial of science fiction fashion, but the European Space Agency (ESA) takes its “Moon Village”
North Korea may be planning one of the most powerful nuclear explosions in history. Ring Yong Ho, the foreign minister of the isolated nation, reportedly told journalists that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is considering such a test blast. “It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Ri
Can we learn from creationists – people who deny evolution? I think so. It is not enough to say, as Richard Dawkins notoriously did: “If you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane…” That’s a dead end. Conversation is a two-way street, and if I want
The highest energy cosmic rays hitting Earth have finally had their point of origin pinned down. And it isn’t from anything inside the Milky Way. The mystery of where these rays are coming from has puzzled scientists for 50 years, but now a new study is being touted as the first solid evidence that the subatomic
Wrapping your messages up with quantum weirdness is a great way to avoid sneaky eavesdropping, but in its current form it’s more like Morse code than high speed ADSL broadband. That could be set to change with a radical advancement in quantum technology that copies entangled patterns of light to help relay quantum codes, potentially
Diploscapter pachys has a lineage that goes back about 18 million, and in all that time it seems the tiny little roundworm hasn’t cared much for doing the horizontal Hokey-Pokey. That’s quite a record, and now researchers think they know why D. pachys is such an all-star of sexual abstinence; it has amassed a rather
Fast radio bursts are quite the ongoing space mystery. We don’t know what they are, and only a couple of dozen sources have ever been detected by radio telescopes. But they may not be as rare as we think – they could be firing off as frequently as once a second over the entire observable
Rain and hail were pelting down, and a thunderclap roared across a lake in central California. From afar, the fiery lightning strike that came with it looked like an explosion, darting down a tree trunk before it hit a father and his two young children who had hunkered down beneath it. “It hit that
It was well past midnight when Michael Abrams, Claire Bedbrook and Ravi Nath crept into the Caltech lab where they were keeping their jellyfish. They didn’t bother switching on the lights, opting instead to navigate the maze of desks and equipment by the pale blue glow of their cellphones. The students hadn’t told anyone that they were
Hermit crabs are well known for their ability to turn an empty shell into protective armour, but it seems that shells aren’t the only armour around. A new species of hermit crab that shelters in solitary corals has been discovered in southern Japan. Details of the discovery, made by scientists at Kyoto University, have
New research into Neolithic stone circles on the Scottish islands of Orkney has revealed they were the party hotspots of the end of the Stone Age – places where people met to find partners, celebrate the summer and winter solstices, and pay tribute to the dead. The study has also revealed how the area was
It’s not often humanity gets to pat itself on the back for a positive effect on the environment, but researchers are hailing sea turtles as a “global conservation success story” as population numbers climb. Six of the seven species of sea turtle are at varying threat levels on the International Union for Conservation of Nature
The more that planetary astronomers study asteroids, they more they’re realising just how varied and different they can be. Some, like 16 Psyche are made of solid nickel and iron, while others are made of rock. Some asteroids have been found with moons, rings, and some icy objects really blur the line between comet and asteroid.
It doesn’t come along very often, but after some 540 million years, this world we live on has witnessed five mass extinctions – and the next curtain could fall before the century is up. That’s the grim assessment of a new mathematical analysis of Earth’s revolving carbon cycle, with calculations predicting our horrendous output of
Imagine that a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you. Do you know how the city, surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone. “We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are
In the world of ducks, there’s a lot going on under the surface. But the biggest influence on what’s down below seems to be the company they keep. Of the 10,000 or so known species of birds, ducks are in the rare minority that have actually retained their penises, which shrink and expand by as
The Hubble space telescope has seen a lot of weird things that defy easy definition. Here’s one more for the list – a binary asteroid that’s also a comet. Astronomers have found a pair of them, in fact, swirling around one another in the asteroid belt while leaving a stream of dust in their wake.
A giant, beach ball-sized frog that lived 70 million years ago had a bite that would have been strong enough to snap up small dinosaurs. Beelzebufo ampinga was the largest frog to have ever lived – at least that we know of. But it was similar to the modern Ceratophrys frogs, and now scientists have used
As Hurricane Maria slams Puerto Rico with devastating force, scientists at the historic Arecibo Observatory are among the millions of people being battered by the storm. A spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation, which owns the massive radio telescope, said that all on-site staff were safe as of 8am Wednesday. Monitors on the observatory’s
For the first time, new research into solar winds and the ‘space hurricanes’ they create explains in detail how these bursts push plasma towards Earth – and how we might better protect the satellites and other technology we all rely on for modern living. We’re usually protected from the rays of charged particles pushed out
It’s not easy raising kids. You bring them into this world, feed them, look after their every need, and what kind of thanks do you get? Well, in the case of velvet spiders, a mother’s pride in her brood is nightmarishly short-lived, because when food supplies run low, her crawling, many-legged children will ultimately devour
The proposal, conceived by a bunch of pointy-headed Parisian philosophers, sounded brilliant: A universal system of measurement, derived from decimal-based units and identified by a shared set of prefixes. It would end the era of merchants buying goods according to one unit, selling in another, and pocketing the ill-gotten profit. It would simplify scientific calculations
There’s an increase in lightning storms at sea, and the culprit is the exhaust produced by diesel-powered cargo ships, a new study has found. Our oceans are criss-crossed with invisible lanes taken by cargo ships, and now it turns out those heavily trafficked areas have surprisingly different weather. Diesel fumes are some of the
Wolves have an understanding of cause-and-effect that domesticated dogs do not – and they’re just as good as dogs at following directions given by a human. This difference in cognition may have something to do with the domestication process, according to researchers from the Wolf Science Centre at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.