BIOLOGY: REPLACING PESTICIDES WITH GENETICS

Every spring, a host of unwelcome visitors descends on the Hansen farm in upstate New York. Diamondback moths blown in from the South threaten rows of cabbages to be sold for slaw and sauerkraut. The moths can’t be fought off with a single insecticide. Workers must spray a series of chemicals throughout the growing season to keep the moths’ numbers in check ... At a university laboratory down the road, scientists are hoping to substitute sex for sprays ...

 

SPACE: astrometry: Europe's Star Power

The century-old brass telescope was broken in places and long past its useful life — but it captured Lennart Lindegren's heart. Forty years ago, when Lindegren was a graduate student at the Lund Observatory in Sweden, he fell in love with the elaborate, once cutting-edge technology that had allowed nineteenth-century astronomers to track and time the motion of the stars. The telescope had an ingenious mechanical stopwatch — originally invented to time race horses — and a large metal wheel ...

 

NEUROSCIENCE: MIND-CONTROLLED PROSTHESES OFFER HOPE FOR DISABLED

The first kick of the 2014 FIFA World Cup may be delivered in Sao Paulo next June by a Brazilian who is paralyzed from the waist down. If all goes according to plan, the teenager will walk onto the field, cock back a foot and swing at the soccer ball, using a mechanical exoskeleton controlled by the teen’s brain. Motorized metal braces tested on monkeys will support and bend the kicker’s legs. The braces will be stabilized by gyroscopes and powered by a battery carried by the kicker in a backpack ...

 

GEOLOGY: Icelandic Eruption Spews Record-Breaking Amounts of Lava, With No Signs of Slowing

A tremendous gush of lava in Iceland that began six weeks ago shows no signs of slowing. The eruption, on a plain of old lava called Holuhraun in the Bárðarbunga volcanic system, has spewed out enough molten rock so far to fill 740 Empire State buildings and has buried, on average, an area the size of an NFL football field every 5.5 minutes.At this rate, the lava flow will soon be larger than any seen for more than two centuries in the volcanically active island nation. And there's no telling when it will stop—months, maybe, or years.

 

PHYSICS: EVERYTHING WORTH KNOWING ABOUT ... ENTANGLEMENT

Up until last year, mathematician Peter Bierhorst had hoped the physicists he works with would fail. It was nothing personal. He just found their worldview a little disturbing.Like most physicists, his co-workers believe that our universe’s particles can influence each other using a sort of telepathy. Called “entanglement,” this connection allows two particles separated by vast distances to behave as a single entity. Both instantly react to something that happens to one of them ...

 

POLICY: THE PRICE OF DOING A POSTDOC

For the overwhelming majority of Ph.D. holders who do not become tenured professors, spending time as a postdoc comes at a hefty price. Compared with peers who started working outside academia immediately after earning their degrees, ex-postdocs make lower wages well into their careers, according to a study published today in Nature Biotechnology. On average, they give up about one-fifth of their earning potential in the first 15 years after finishing their doctorates ...

 

CLIMATE: SEE WHERE CLIMATE CHANGE CONFLICT HAS INVADED U.S. CLASSROOMS

Despite the events depicted in The Imitation Game, Alan Turing did not invent the machine that cracked Germany’s codes during World War II—Poland did. But the brilliant mathematician did invent something never mentioned in the film: a mathematical tool for judging the reliability of information. His tool sped up the work of deciphering encoded messages using improved versions of the Polish machines. Now researchers studying rhesus monkeys have found that the brain also uses this mathematical tool ...

 

DINOSAURS: WERE PTEROSAURS TOO BIG TO FLY?

SORRY, Superman. The largest animal capable of soaring across the sky unaided could have weighed no more than a labrador. Or so says some controversial research which claims to cast doubt on the flying ability of the quarter-tonne pterosaur. Katsufumi Sato of the University of Tokyo, Japan, travelled to the Crozet Islands, halfway between Madagascar and Antarctica. He attached accelerometers, the size of AA batteries, to the wings of 28 birds from five large species, including the world’s biggest flying bird, the wandering albatross ...

 

ENVIRONMENT: ALIENS IN ANTARCTICA

It was a summer day in January when Peter Convey pulled up a weed in Antarctica for the first time. The alien plant stuck out among the native species eking out an existence on the rocky debris beneath his feet. Convey doesn’t know for sure how the intruder, a rugged relative of the ornamental plant gerbera, traveled from its usual home 1,000 kilometers away in Tierra del Fuego. A seed may have drifted in on the wind or hitched a ride on the feather of a bird crossing the Southern Ocean ...

 

CHEMISTRY: Dissolve the Dead? Controversy Swirls around Liquid Cremation

Eight times a year a funeral director sets off by boat from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base carrying about two dozen plastic bags filled with unusual human remains. The powder he pours overboard is from corpses that have been “cremated”—not by fire, but by liquid. That’s how the University of California, Los Angeles, disposes of bodies donated to science: by dissolving the flesh off their bones ...