These giant viruses have more protein-making gear than any known virus

Two newly discovered giant viruses have the most comprehensive toolkit for assembling proteins found in any known virus. In a host cell, the viruses have the enzymes needed to wrangle all 20 standard amino acids, the building blocks of life. Researchers dubbed the viruses Tupanvirus deep ocean and Tupanvirus soda lake, combining the name of ... Read more

Pollution regulations help Chesapeake Bay seagrass rebound

Underwater grasses are growing back in the Chesapeake Bay. The plants now carpet three times as much real estate as in 1984, thanks to more than 30 years of efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution. This environmental success story shows that regulations put in place to protect the bay’s health have made a difference, researchers report ... Read more

Hospital admissions show the opioid crisis affects kids, too

As I’ve been reporting a story about the opioid epidemic, I’ve sorted through a lot of tragic numbers that make the astronomical spike in deaths and injuries related to the drugs feel more real. The rise in the abuse of opioids — powerfully addictive painkillers — is driven by adults. But kids are also swept ... Read more

Earwigs take origami to extremes to fold their wings

To quickly unfurl and refold their wings, earwigs stretch the rules of origami. Yes, those garden pests that scurry out from under overturned flowerpots can also fly. Because earwigs spend most of their time underground and only occasionally take to the air, they pack their wings into packages with a surface area more than 10 ... Read more

Umbilical cord banking gets a lot of buzz. Why all the excitement?

When you’re pregnant, especially for the first time, you have to make a lot of decisions. Will coffee remain a part of your life? Where are you going to give birth? What are you going to name the baby? What values will you teach him? Do you really need a baby spa bathtub? Before my ... Read more

Seafloor map shows why Greenland’s glaciers melt at different rates

Greenland is melting rapidly, but some glaciers are disappearing faster than others. A new map of the surrounding seafloor helps explain why: Many of the fastest-melting glaciers sit atop deep fjords that allow Atlantic Ocean water to melt them from below. Researchers led by glaciologist Romain Millan of the University of California, Irvine analyzed new ... Read more

This plastic-gobbling enzyme just got an upgrade

Just a few tweaks to a bacterial enzyme make it a lean, mean plastic-destroying machine. One type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is widely used in polyester clothing and disposable bottles and is notoriously persistent in landfills. In 2016, Japanese scientists identified a new species of bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, which has a specialized enzyme ... Read more

A hole in an ancient cow’s skull could have been surgery practice

Ancient surgeons may have practiced dangerous skull-opening procedures on cows before operating on people. A previously excavated cow skull from a roughly 5,400- to 5,000-year-old settlement in France contains a surgically created hole on the right side, a new study finds. No signs of bone healing, which start several days after an injury, appear around ... Read more

Clues to an Iron Age massacre lie in what the assailants left behind

Club-wielding assailants struck the Scandinavian settlement with devastating violence, slaughtering at least 26 people and leaving the bodies where they fell. There, the bodies lay for 1,500 years until recovered recently by archaeologists analyzing clues about the Iron Age massacre. It’s unclear why the seaside ringfort of Sandby borg, on the Baltic Sea island of ... Read more

A celebration of curiosity for Feynman’s 100th birthday

Richard Feynman was a curious character. He advertised as much in the subtitle of his autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character. Everybody knew that, in many respects, Feynman was an oddball. But he was curious in every other sense of the word as well. His curiosity about nature, about how ... Read more