Pluto probe peril

Out of the Fog, December 2012

As the Curiosity rover safely studies rocks on the surface of Mars, a NASA mission on route to Pluto may find itself on a treacherously rocky path. NASA announced last month that the $650 million New Horizons space probe’s planned trajectory during its July 2015 flyby could turn into a collision course with unknown moons and debris circling the dwarf planet—an unfortunate end to the mission’s three-billion-mile cosmic road trip.

Keeping Hammerheads Out of the Haul

Science, November 2012

Special fishing weights could take a bite out of endangered hammerhead shark deaths. The global population of these distinctive sharks has fallen by about 89% in the last 2 decades, largely due to illegal poaching and accidental fishing bycatch. But now, scientists have come up with a shocking way to reduce this collateral damage: generating a mild electric field near fishing lines to keep the sharks away.

Mosquito Flight Fails in Fog

Inside Science, November 2012

Mosquito bites are a scourge to campers and spread deadly malaria infections. While nets and insecticides have long been the answer to blocking the winged menaces, researchers have discovered a simple way of grounding mosquitoes: fog.

Investigating the Venus Flytrap’s Speedy Snap

Inside Science, November 2012

Plants aren’t typically known for their speed, but the carnivorous Venus flytrap can close its jaw-like leaves in the blink of an eye. Charles Darwin once referred to the Venus flytrap as “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” But despite the plant’s notoriety, its closing mechanism remains a mystery 250 years after its discovery.

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House windows may kill 22 million Canadian birds each year

Mongabay, November 2012

The sickening thud of a bird crashing into a window is an all-too-familiar sound for many Canadian homeowners. Birds often mistake windows for openings, flying into the glass at full speed. A startling new analysis suggests about 22 million Canadian birds die each year from such crashes, researchers reported Sept. 4 in Wildlife Research.

Bubbles of Trouble for Tumors

Inside Science, November 2012

Researchers are in the early stages of creating a new method that uses bubbles within bubbles to deliver chemotherapy drugs, and could someday reduce the treatment’s significant side effects.

Syndicated by The Daily Mail, LiveScience, and others.

The Case for GMOs

Out of the Fog, November 2012

On Tuesday we Californians will vote on Prop 37 to decide whether or not to force companies to label their genetically modified foods. The European Union already requires the labeling of these GMOs, and some European countries ban genetically modified products outright. This labeling paints the picture that GMOs are dangerous and shouldn’t be developed let alone eaten.

Calcium Keeps Night Vision From Tricking Our Brains

Inside Science, October 2012

As candy-crazed kids run up and down driveways this Halloween, guided only by the flickering light of jack-o’-lanterns, it’s easy to appreciate the low light vision that’s preventing trips over superhero capes and princess dresses. But despite the usefulness of night vision, scientists have only now identified the important chemical process that compensates for visual errors in low light.

Syndicated by Knoxville News Sentinel, LiveScience, and others.

Shortest Laser Pulse Ever Created

Inside Science, September 2012

American researchers have generated a record-setting laser pulse so short that it makes most everything else seem like an eternity. The pulse lasted just 67 attoseconds, which is about two million billion times faster than the blink of an eye. The previous record, set by European researchers in 2008, was about 20 percent slower.

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The Iceman Cometh at 275 Molecules of Water

Inside Science, September 2012

If you’ve ever dealt with an exploded can of frozen soda in the freezer, you’ve seen firsthand that ice takes on a crystal structure. At freezing temperatures, water molecules line up to form geometric shapes, creating ice’s crystal structure. The crystal structure takes up more space than the loose liquid water molecules, causing water to expand when frozen.