Changing Climate Kills Magellanic Penguin Chicks

Science, January 2014

A mother Magellanic penguin pants doglike in the afternoon heat, shading her newborn chick from the hot sun. But it’s not enough. The chick’s thick downy coat isn’t designed for the heat, and its efforts to stretch out its wings and neck to cool off don’t work. Despite the mother’s best efforts, the youngster dies.

Scientist Creates Music From Voyager Space Probe Data

Science, January 2014

As the Voyager space probes plunge into the inky cosmic void, each carries a golden record with 27 songs ranging from Mozart to Chuck Berry. Now, with help from a musical physicist, the twin space probes boast a song of their own.

Electronic Whiskers Could Help Robots Sense Their Surroundings

Science, January 2014

Robot lovers, rejoice: The world is one step closer to “robocat.” Many mammals use special hairs on their faces to feel for unseen objects. Researchers realized artificial whiskers could help robots sense the world around them, but until now, attempts at whiskerlike sensors have been bulky and inefficient. Using cutting-edge materials, a team of researchers has now developed electronic whiskers with a sensitivity and size mimicking their natural counterparts.

Turning Your Windows Into Movie Screens

Science, January 2014

The latest Hollywood blockbuster may be coming soon to a window near you. Researchers have developed a see-through video screen embedded with silver nanoparticles that’s both scalable and relatively inexpensive. While traditional projection screens come in pearly white in order to evenly reflect the whole spectrum of visible light, the new display reflects only a single, specific shade of blue.

How the Pepper Got Its Kick

Science, January 2014

Things are heating up in the world of genetics. The hot pepper (Capsicum annuum) is one of the most widely grown spice crops globally, playing an important role in many medicines, makeups, and meals worldwide. Although the plant’s so-called capsaicin chemical is well known for spicing things up, until now the genetic spark responsible for the pepper’s pungency was unknown.

Gut Parasite May Keep Locusts From Swarming

Science, January 2014

By itself, the migratory locust is about as harmless as a grasshopper. But under the right conditions, it can assemble with billions of its comrades into apocalyptic swarms that destroy thousands of hectares of crops in Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Now, scientists have discovered that a gut parasite may be key to keeping these insects living the single life.

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Great Whites Live Twice As Long As Thought

Science, January 2014

Great white sharks are longer in the tooth than we thought. Traditionally, researchers age a great white (Carcharodon carcharias) by tallying the alternating light and dark bands that form on the animal’s vertebrae as it grows, similar to rings on a tree. Using this method, experts believed the species had a life expectancy of about 30 years. But now, scientists have harnessed radioactive remnants of the Cold War to conduct the most precise age measurements of great whites ever—and their results blow the previous estimate out of the water.

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.