Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate

Scientific Agenda

Is new species of microbe gobbling up Gulf oil spill?

Microbes found in an undersea cloud of oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout may have the potential to degrade oil faster than previously thought, according to a new study published Tuesday.

As ‘plant productivity’ dips, a search for answers

Earth’s plants — natural scrubbers removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — reduced their carbon uptake by some 606 million tons during the past 10 years, according to a new study.

Obama’s new offshore oil drilling rules: Too many loopholes?

The Obama administration’s new guidelines for offshore oil drilling, which are intended to require much more detailed environmental reviews for deep-water drilling, have upset not only the oil industry, but environmentalists, too.

Toy makes gathering wind data a breeze

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. — Meteorologists have developed a portable new tool for measuring atmospheric wind speeds by tethering kites to ground-based metering systems.

Hushing noisy hospitals

Hospital noise is taking a toll on the well-being of patients and contributing to errors by staff, a growing body of research suggests.

Mongoose moms synchronize births

WASHINGTON — Giving birth is the social event of the year for banded mongooses in Uganda. When females live in the same group, 60 percent bear their young together on exactly the same night — regardless of when they were impregnated.

Neurology on a chip

WASHINGTON — Engineers and biologists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, have succeeded in coaxing tiny worms to move around a microchip using electric fields. This should help neurologists study the human nervous system.

Hyperlocal effects from a changing climate

A new study by three scientists at the Met Office, the British government agency responsible for making weather forecasts, looks at how hot cities could be by the year 2050.

Secrets of the sponge revealed

Consider the sponge. Call it a lowly, primitive creature and some sponge experts will tell you that you are wrong. These immobile, squishy animals are perhaps better described as simple — so simple, in fact, that they were long thought to be plants.

Living in the past and looking toward the future

WASHINGTON — Making sense of the shards, scraps and other clues left behind by past societies compels archaeologists to study far-ranging topics, from agriculture to art and chemistry to linguistics.

Scientist creates sunscreen from ivy

WASHINGTON — Drive through the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on a sunny day, and you may see a man on the side of the road pruning the English ivy. Mingjun Zhang isn’t the groundskeeper.

Where the best seats will be for northern lights after solar eruption

For fans of the night sky, the big question is: What kind of show will the collision put on, as charged particles hit the upper atmosphere and turn its nitrogen and oxygen atoms into glowing, sweeping curtains of red, green, and blue northern lights