What will be the big science stories of 2019? Here are our predictions

Entire disciplines are devoted to predicting the future. Trained forecasters use data, trends, human behavior and more to predict what lies ahead. Exactly no one at Science News is a quantitative forecaster or futurist. But we do hear what scientists are buzzing about at meetings, on social media and while reporting stories. So when we ... Read more

These are the most-read Science News stories of 2018

More than 11 million people visited the Science News website this year. Check out this recap of the most-read stories of 2018, and the most popular stories published this year on each of our blogs. Top 10 stories Top blog postsContext | Tom Siegfried In honor of his centennial, the Top 10 Feynman quotationsPhysicist and ... Read more

A new quantum engine packs more power than its standard counterparts

For the first time, a quantum engine has outperformed its traditional equivalent, without any special tweaks to its environment. The device harnesses the weird physics of very small objects to produce more power than a standard, or classical, engine under the same conditions, scientists report in the March 22 Physical Review Letters. “They’ve shown very ... Read more

In ‘The Perfect Predator,’ viruses vanquish a deadly superbug

Epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee and her husband, Thomas Patterson, went to Egypt in 2015 expecting to come home with some photos and souvenirs. Instead, Patterson was hit with his own version of the 10 plagues. At first, doctors in Egypt thought Patterson had pancreatitis. But his health worsened after treatment, and he started hallucinating. Once flown ... Read more

The LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors are back on

It’s open season in scientists’ hunt for gravitational waves. A trio of detectors are back on the lookout for the ripples in spacetime. And the newly souped-up machines could make this the most productive search yet. The two detectors of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, located in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La., and ... Read more

This Greek philosopher had the right idea, just too few elements

Long before there was a periodic table of the elements, there was no need for a table — just four chairs. From ancient through medieval into early modern times, natural philosophers could count the known elements with the fingers of only one hand (with no need for the thumb). All material reality, nearly every authority ... Read more

Metal asteroids may have once had iron-spewing volcanoes

Imagine a metal asteroid spewing molten iron, and you’ve got the gist of ferrovolcanism — a new type of planetary activity proposed recently by two research teams. When NASA launches a probe to a metal asteroid called Psyche in 2022, planetary scientists will be able to search for signs of such volcanic activity in the ... Read more

A major crop pest can make tomato plants lie to their neighbors

Don’t blame the tomato. Tiny pests called silverleaf whiteflies can make a tomato plant spread deceptive scents that leave its neighbors vulnerable to attach. Sap-sucking Bemisia tabaci, an invasive menace to a wide range of crops, are definitely insects. Yet when they attack a tomato plant, prompting a silent shriek of scents, the plant starts ... Read more

520-million-year-old animal fossils might not be animals after all

A species that lived about 520 million years ago and was thought to be the oldest known bryozoan is instead a type of colony-forming algae, a new study proposes.Bryozoans are filter-feeding, tentacle-bearing animals that live in apartment complex–like colonies attached to rocks, shells or other surfaces on seafloors or lake bottoms. Trouble is, some other ... Read more

How wildfires deplete the Earth’s ozone layer

Towering clouds of smoke sent into the stratosphere by ferocious wildfires can eat away at Earth’s ozone layer thanks to a potent mix of smoke, atmospheric chemistry and ultraviolet light, a new study finds.During late 2019 and early 2020, Australia’s skies turned black, darkened by thick columns of wildfire smoke that reached into the stratosphere. ... Read more