Common, cheap ingredients can break down some ‘forever chemicals’

There’s a new way to rip apart harmful “forever chemicals,” scientists say. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are found in nonstick pans, water-repellent fabrics and food packaging and they are pervasive throughout the environment. They’re nicknamed forever chemicals for their ability to stick around and not break down. In part, that’s because ... Read more

Why mosquitoes are especially good at smelling you

Some mosquitoes have a near-foolproof thirst for human blood. Previous attempts to prevent the insects from tracking people down by blocking part of mosquitoes’ ability to smell have failed. A new study hints it’s because the bloodsuckers have built-in workarounds to ensure they can always smell us. For most animals, individual nerve cells in the ... Read more

Oort cloud comets may spin themselves to death

Comets from the solar system’s deep freezer often don’t survive their first encounter with the sun. Now one scientist thinks he knows why: Solar warmth makes some of the cosmic snowballs spin so fast, they fall apart. This suggestion could help solve a decades-old mystery about what destroys many “long-period” comets, astronomer David Jewitt reports ... Read more

What you need to know about the new omicron booster shots

Revamped COVID-19 vaccines are poised to do battle with the super-contagious omicron variant. On September 1, U.S. health officials greenlit the first major update of the mRNA-based shots, reformulated to recognize both the original version of SARS-CoV-2 and the recently circulating versions of omicron. Those mRNA vaccine boosters could start going into arms within days. ... Read more

Zapping plastic with a laser forged tiny diamonds

A laser blast produces miniature diamonds from plain-old plastic. That’s right, the same kind used in soda bottles. When squeezed to about a million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, forms nanodiamonds, physicist Dominik Kraus and colleagues report September 2 in Science Advances. Ice giant planets, ... Read more

In 2021, a deadly volcano erupted with no warning. Here’s why

In May 2021, Congo’s Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, burst to life without warning. Lava erupted from fissures and flowed down the mountain toward cities below, leaving hundreds dead or missing and hundreds more injured. Now, using data from monitoring stations installed near the volcano in 2015, researchers have pieced together ... Read more

How the COVID-19 pandemic may leave a long-term imprint on our health

At the start of another school year, I’ve been thinking about the differences between 2021 and 2022. Last year, many schools had mask mandates, testing programs and quarantine rules (SN: 3/15/22). This year, masking is optional and testing and quarantines are out (SN: 8/19/22). We’ve shed measures that stop the spread of the coronavirus and ... Read more

Living fast may have helped mammals like ‘ManBearPig’ dominate

In the wake of the dinosaurs’ demise, a bizarre beast that some researchers have nicknamed “ManBearPig” lived life in the fast lane. This sheep-sized mammal — which sported five-fingered hands, a bearlike face and the stocky build of a pig — gave birth to highly developed young. And those young grew up much faster than ... Read more

Need to keep cockatoos out of your trash? Try bricks, sticks or shoes

Human trash can be a cockatoo’s treasure. In Sydney, the birds have learned how to open garbage bins and toss trash around in the streets as they hunt for food scraps. People are now fighting back. Bricks, pool noodles, spikes, shoes and sticks are just some of the tools Sydney residents use to keep sulphur-crested ... Read more

How living in a pandemic distorts our sense of time

Time hasn’t made much sense since spring 2020 for many people, myself included. In February 2020, during the Before Times, my family traveled to Barcelona, a relatively carefree trip that now feels like a lifetime ago. Other times, I feel like I blinked, and three years vanished. How can my son be starting fifth grade? ... Read more