50 years ago, Earth’s chances of contacting E.T. looked slim

The possibility of life … on other planets has stimulated many people’s i­maginations…. In the Feb. 9 Nature, James C. G. Walker of Yale University studies the possible parameters of such a search and comes to some pessimistic conclusions. UpdateWalker estimated it could take 1,400 to 14 million years to contact E.T. with the available ... Read more

A new biomaterial heals heart attack damage in animals. Humans could be next

A new biomaterial delivered to the heart soon after a heart attack can heal damaged tissue from the inside out. Heart attacks kill cardiac muscle tissue, scarring the heart and leaving permanent damage after just six hours. The damage prevents the heart from functioning properly. If there was a way to begin healing damaged tissue ... Read more

Trauma distorts our sense of time and self. A new therapy might help

Trish Tran narrates her life in staccato notes. “I remember carrying my little sister on my back because she’s too tired and walking through the huge sunflower fields … and me feeling so tired I didn’t think I could walk another step.” “I remember being in a taxi with my mother, coming back to the ... Read more

50 years ago, scientists discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Setting sail into a plastic sea — Science News, February 10, 1973 Scientists on an oceanographic voyage in the Central North Pacific last August became startled about the number of manmade objects littering the ocean surface. [Far from civilization and shipping lanes], they recorded 53 manmade objects in 8.2 hours of viewing. More than half ... Read more

Insect bites in plant fossils reveal leaves could fold shut millions of years ago

As early as 252 million years ago, some plants may have curled up their leaves at night for a cozy “sleep.” Fossilized leaves of two now-extinct Gigantonoclea species bear signs of nyctinasty, or circadian rhythmic folding at night, researchers report February 15 in Current Biology. That would make these specimens the first known fossilized examples ... Read more

Rapid melting is eroding vulnerable cracks in Thwaites Glacier’s underbelly

Antarctica’s most vulnerable climate hot spot is a remote and hostile place — a narrow sliver of seawater, beneath a slab of floating ice more than half a kilometer thick. Scientists have finally explored it, and uncovered something surprising. “The melt rate is much weaker than we would have thought, given how warm the ocean ... Read more

Cockatoos can tell when they need more than one tool to swipe a snack

Forget screwdrivers or drills. A stick and a straw make for a great cockatoo tool kit. Some Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana) know whether they need to have more than one tool in claw to topple an out-of-reach cashew, researchers report February 10 in Current Biology. By recognizing that two items are necessary to access the ... Read more

We prioritize family over self, and that has real-world implications

A focus on family might be the key to personal well-being. Surveys in the social sciences, such as those measuring happiness or health, tend to focus on the smallest unit: the individual. But two new studies, each surveying over 10,000 people worldwide, show that primary unit of analysis may need scaling up. One study suggests ... Read more

Many plans for green infrastructure risk leaving vulnerable people out

If you’ve noticed more lush medians and plant-covered roofs in cities, it’s not your imagination. Incorporating more natural elements in urban landscapes is a growing management solution for the planet’s increasing climate hazards (SN: 3/10/22). Rain gardens, green roofs and landscaped drainage ditches are all examples of what’s known as green infrastructure, and are used ... Read more

A new metric of extinction risk considers how cultures care for species

In shallow coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, a seagrass-scrounging cousin of the manatee is in trouble. Environmental strains like pollution and habitat loss pose a major threat to dugong (Dugong dugon) survival, so much so that in December, the International Union for Conservation of Nature upgraded the species’ extinction risk status to ... Read more