Author: Conover Emily

‘Designer molecules’ could create tailor-made quantum devices

Researchers are concocting molecules specially suited for use as quantum bits or sensors

Quantum bits made from “designer molecules” are coming into fashion. By carefully tailoring the composition of molecules, researchers are creating chemical systems suited to a variety of quantum tasks.

A reeking, parasitic plant lost its body and much of its genetic blueprint

The genome of Sapria himalayana is rife with gene loss and theft

For most of their lives, plants in the Sapria genus are barely anything — thin ribbons of parasitic cells winding inside vines in Southeast Asian rainforests. They become visible only when they reproduce, bursting from their host as a dinner plate–sized flower that smells like rotting flesh.

A drop in CFC emissions puts the hole in the ozone layer back on track to closing

A reduction in illegal pollution from China is driving the decline, new data suggest

Good news for the ozone layer: After a recent spike in CFC-11 pollution, emissions of this ozone-destroying chemical are on the decline.

Humans made a horn out of a conch shell about 18,000 years ago

Fitted with a modern mouthpiece, it plays the notes C, C sharp and D

Ancient Europeans made a horn out of a large seashell and blew musical notes out of it roughly 18,000 years ago, a new study suggests. While it’s not known how ancient people used the shell horn, conch shells in historical and modern cultures have served as musical instruments, calling or signaling devices and sacred or magical objects, researchers say.

Can privacy coexist with technology that reads and changes brain activity?

Ethicists, scientists and our readers consider the ethics of brain technology

Gertrude the pig rooted around a straw-filled pen, oblivious to the cameras and onlookers — and the 1,024 electrodes eavesdropping on her brain signals. Each time the pig’s snout found a treat in a researcher’s hand, a musical jingle sounded, indicating activity in her snout-controlling nerve cells.

Meatier meals and more playtime might reduce cats’ toll on wildlife

Simple steps to keep felines happy can also keep more wild birds and mammals alive

Surprisingly simple measures might keep domestic cats from killing a lot of wildlife.

Estimates vary, but it’s likely that billions of birds and mammals succumb each year to our outdoor-ranging feline friends (SN: 1/29/13). Calls to keep cats indoors are often contentious among cat owners, and cats can sometimes reject colorful collars or loud bells designed to make them more noticeable.

Fin whale songs can reveal hidden features of the ocean floor

The sounds can penetrate Earth’s crust as seismic waves, illuminating its structure

The fin whale’s call is among the loudest in the ocean: It can even penetrate into Earth’s crust, a new study finds. Echoes in whale songs recorded by seismic instruments on the ocean floor reveal that the sound waves pass through layers of sediment and underlying rock. These songs can help probe the structure of the crust when more conventional survey methods are not available, researchers report in the Feb. 12 Science.

Black, Hispanic and female police use force less often than white male officers

A case study of Chicago police suggests diversification may improve treatment of civilians

Black and Hispanic police officers tend to stop, arrest and use force against civilians less often than white officers do, and female officers of all races use less force than their male colleagues, a new case study of the Chicago Police Department suggests.

Stonehenge may have had roots in a Welsh stone circle

Population movements may explain how certain stones at the iconic site came from far away

At an ancient site situated among the hills of western Wales, researchers suspect they have uncovered the remnants of a stone circle that contained initial building blocks of Stonehenge.

The number of Milky Way nova explosions per year has been pinned down

Every year, about four dozen of these stellar eruptions occur in our galaxy

Each year, astronomers discover nova explosions in the Milky Way that cause dim stars to flare up and emit far more light than the sun before they fade again. But our galaxy is so big and dusty that no one knows how many of these eruptions occur throughout its vast domain, where they fling newly minted chemical elements into space.

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