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The COVID-19 pandemic made U.S. college students’ mental health even worse

The COVID-19 pandemic made U.S. college students’ mental health even worse

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused the mental health of U.S. college students to plummet, a new study shows.Students most include women, Asians, students under age 25, those in poor health, those who knew somebody with COVID-19 and lower-income students, researchers report January 7 in PLOS ONE.Even before the emergence of the novel coronavirus, U.S. college students struggled with depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders at higher rates than the general population. Many college students are grappling with a new social environment, struggling to figure out their...

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Giant worms may have burrowed into the ancient seafloor to ambush prey

Giant worms may have burrowed into the ancient seafloor to ambush prey

Around 20 million years ago, giant ocean worms may have burrowed into the seafloor and burst forth like the space slug from Star Wars to ambush unsuspecting fish.Ancient underground lairs left behind by these animals , researchers report January 21 in Scientific Reports. The diggers may have been analogs of modern bobbit worms (Eunice aphroditois), known for burying themselves in sand to surprise and strike their prey.The burrows are trace fossils — (SN: 6/15/14) such as (SN: 4/27/20) or even (SN: 9/21/17). These newly reported fossils were first spotted in 2013 at Taiwan’s Badouzi...

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Space station detectors found the source of weird ‘blue jet’ lightning

Space station detectors found the source of weird ‘blue jet’ lightning

Scientists have finally gotten a clear view of the spark that sets off an exotic type of lightning called a blue jet.Blue jets zip upward from thunderclouds into the stratosphere, reaching altitudes up to about 50 kilometers in less than a second. Whereas ordinary lightning excites a medley of gases in the lower atmosphere to glow white, blue jets excite mostly stratospheric nitrogen to create their signature blue hue.Blue jets have been observed from the ground and aircraft for years, but it’s hard to tell how they form without getting high above the clouds. Now, instruments on the...

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Explore every gravitational wave event spotted so far

Explore every gravitational wave event spotted so far

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Astronomers spotted a rare galaxy shutting down star formation

Astronomers spotted a rare galaxy shutting down star formation

A distant galaxy has been caught in the act of shutting down.The galaxy, called CQ 4479, is still forming plenty of new stars. But it also has an actively feeding supermassive black hole at its center that will bring star formation to a halt within a few hundred million years, astronomers reported January 11 at the . Studying this galaxy and others like it will help astronomers figure out exactly how such shutdowns happen.“How galaxies precisely die is an open question,” says astrophysicist Allison Kirkpatrick of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “This could give us a lot of insight...

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Some bacteria are suffocating sea stars, turning the animals to goo

Some bacteria are suffocating sea stars, turning the animals to goo

The mysterious culprit behind a deadly sea star disease is not an infection, as scientists once thought.Instead, multiple types of bacteria living within millimeters of sea stars’ skin deplete oxygen from the water and effectively , researchers report January 6 in Frontiers in Microbiology. Such microbes thrive when there are high levels of organic matter in warm water and create a low oxygen environment that can make sea stars melt in a puddle of slime.Sea star wasting disease — which causes lethal symptoms like decaying tissue and loss of limbs — first gained notoriety in 2013 when sea...

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Monitor lizards’ huge burrow systems can shelter hundreds of small animals

Monitor lizards’ huge burrow systems can shelter hundreds of small animals

Meters below the copper, sun-broiled dirt of northwestern Australia, an entire community hides in the dark. Geckos lay their eggs as centipedes and scorpions scuttle by. A snake glides deeper underground, away from the light. This subterranean menagerie is capitalizing on an old burrow, gouged into the earth by a massive lizard. Now, a new study shows that two different species of Australian monitor lizard dig arrays of these burrows into the earth and that the openings have a great impact on local biodiversity, . The findings, published December 18 in Ecology, indicate that the lizards are...

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The most ancient supermassive black hole is bafflingly big

The most ancient supermassive black hole is bafflingly big

The most ancient black hole ever discovered is so big it defies explanation.This active supermassive black hole, or quasar, boasts a mass of 1.6 billion suns and lies at the heart of a galaxy more than 13 billion light-years from Earth. The quasar, dubbed J0313-1806, dates back to when the universe was just 670 million years old, or about 5 percent of the universe’s current age. That makes J0313-1806 two times heavier and 20 million years older than the for earliest known black hole (SN: 12/6/17).Finding such a huge supermassive black hole so early in the universe’s history challenges...

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Brown tree snakes use their tails as lassos to climb wide trees

Brown tree snakes use their tails as lassos to climb wide trees

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The more contagious coronavirus variant may soon be the U.S.’s dominant strain

The more contagious coronavirus variant may soon be the U.S.’s dominant strain

A highly contagious coronavirus variant will become the dominant version of the virus in the United States in March, emphasizing the need for more rapid vaccination, a new modeling study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests.The coronavirus variant was (SN: 12/22/20). Called B.1.1.7, it has some mutations that may help the virus better spread among people, though the variant isn’t thought to cause more severe disease. It has so far . Because experts have analyzed the genetic fingerprints of only a small percentage of the millions of coronavirus infections in the...

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Earth’s oceans are storing record-breaking amounts of heat

Earth’s oceans are storing record-breaking amounts of heat

January 13, 2021 at 4:00 amPandemic-related shutdowns may have spared Earth’s atmosphere some greenhouse gas emissions last year, but the world continued to warm.Water temperature measurements from around the globe indicate that the total amount of heat stored in the upper oceans in 2020 , researchers report online January 13 in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. Tracking ocean temperature is important because warmer water , which raises sea levels (SN: 4/30/20) and (SN: 11/11/20).Researchers estimated the total heat energy stored in the upper 2,000 meters of Earth’s oceans using temperature...

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Jan 13
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Some electric eels coordinate attacks to zap their prey

Some electric eels coordinate attacks to zap their prey

One Volta’s electric eel — able to subdue small fish with an 860-volt jolt — is scary enough. Now imagine over 100 eels swirling about, unleashing coordinated electric attacks.Such a sight was assumed to be only the stuff of nightmares, at least for prey. Researchers have long thought that these eels, a type of knifefish, are solitary, nocturnal hunters that use as they sleep (SN: 12/4/14). But in a remote region of the Amazon, , corralling thousands of smaller fish together to concentrate, shock and devour the prey, researchers report January 14 in Ecology and Evolution.“This is hugely...

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Jan 14
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Drones could help create a quantum internet

Drones could help create a quantum internet

The quantum internet may be coming to you via drone.Scientists have now used drones to transmit particles of light, or photons, that share the quantum linkage called entanglement. The photons were sent to , researchers from Nanjing University in China report in a study to appear in Physical Review Letters.Entangled quantum particles can retain their interconnected properties even when separated by long distances. Such counterintuitive behavior can be harnessed to allow new types of communication. Eventually, scientists aim to build a global quantum internet that relies on transmitting...

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One of the oldest known cave paintings has been found in Indonesia

One of the oldest known cave paintings has been found in Indonesia

Inside a cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, scientists have found one of the oldest known artistic depictions of a real-world object or organism. It’s a painting of a warty pig, an animal still found on Sulawesi, that was rendered on , researchers report January 13 in Science Advances.The discovery adds to evidence that “the first modern human cave art traditions did not emerge in Ice Age Europe, as long supposed, but perhaps earlier in Asia or even in Africa, where our species evolved,” says study author Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.At...

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Earth’s oceans are storing record-breaking amounts of heat

Earth’s oceans are storing record-breaking amounts of heat

Pandemic-related shutdowns may have spared Earth’s atmosphere some greenhouse gas emissions last year, but the world continued to warm.Water temperature measurements from around the globe indicate that the total amount of heat stored in the upper oceans in 2020 , researchers report online January 13 in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. Tracking ocean temperature is important because warmer water , which raises sea levels (SN: 4/30/20) and (SN: 11/11/20).Researchers estimated the total heat energy stored in the upper 2,000 meters of Earth’s oceans using temperature data from moored sensors,...

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Ocean acidification may make some species glow brighter

Ocean acidification may make some species glow brighter

A more acidic ocean could give some species a glow-up.As the pH of the ocean decreases as a result of climate change, , while others see their lights dim, scientists report January 2 at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.Bioluminescence is (SN: 5/19/20). The ability to light the dark has evolved more than 90 times in different species. As a result, the chemical structures that create bioluminescence vary wildly — from single chains of atoms to massive ringed complexes.With such variability, changes in pH on creatures’ ability to glow (SN:...

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Jan 11
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Wildfires, heat waves and hurricanes broke all kinds of records in 2020

Wildfires, heat waves and hurricanes broke all kinds of records in 2020

2020 was a year of unremitting , from heat waves to wildfires to hurricanes, many of which scientists have directly linked to human-caused climate change (SN: 8/27/20). Each event has taken a huge toll in lives lost and damages incurred. As of early October, the United States alone had weathered at least 16 climate- or weather-related disasters each costing more than $1 billion. The price tags of the late-season hurricanes Delta, Zeta and Eta could push the final 2020 tally of such expensive disasters even higher, setting a new record.With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the news, some of...

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Dec 21
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Some identical twins don’t have identical DNA

Some identical twins don’t have identical DNA

Identical twins may not be carbon copies at the DNA level after all.On average, identical twins , researchers report January 7 in Nature Genetics. The finding is important because identical twins — also called monozygotic twins because they come from a single fertilized egg — are often studied to determine whether particular traits, diseases or conditions result from genetics or from environmental influences. Identical twins were thought to be genetically the same, so differences in their health were considered to be the product of their environment. The new finding suggests that some...

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Jan 7
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A new polio vaccine joins the fight to vanquish the paralyzing disease

A new polio vaccine joins the fight to vanquish the paralyzing disease

After decades of work and mass vaccination campaigns that have spared millions of children from paralysis, the world is close to wiping out polio.But a small number of outbreaks that have simmered in areas of low vaccination remain. And some happened after weakened virus in the oral polio vaccine, over time, moved around a community and regained the ability to cause disease. No other vaccines made with weakened live viruses have caused outbreaks of disease.To stamp out vaccine-derived polio outbreaks, the World Health Organization has granted . The oral vaccine got the go-ahead on November...

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Jan 8
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Bonobos, much like humans, show commitment to completing a joint task

Bonobos, much like humans, show commitment to completing a joint task

Bonobos display responsibility toward grooming partners akin to that of people working together on a task, a new study suggests.Until now, investigations have shown only that presumed to require back-and-forth exchanges and an appreciation of being obligated to a partner (SN: 10/5/09).Primate biologist Raphaela Heesen of Durham University in England and colleagues studied 15 of the endangered great apes at a French zoological park. The researchers interrupted 85 instances of social grooming, in which one ape cleaned another’s fur, and 26 instances of self-grooming or solitary...

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Dec 19
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Clearing land to feed a growing human population will threaten thousands of species

Clearing land to feed a growing human population will threaten thousands of species

Humankind’s growing need for food is running up against thousands of other species’ need for space.By 2050, humans may need to clear an additional 3.35 million square kilometers of land for agriculture. Converting these largely natural habitats, collectively about the size of India, , researchers report December 21 in Nature Sustainability. But changing how, where and what food is grown can minimize the impacts, says conservation scientist David Williams of the University of Leeds in England. “We can feed the planet without screwing it up too badly.”To figure out how, Williams and...

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Dec 21
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Plastic drinking water pipes exposed to high heat can leak hazardous chemicals

Plastic drinking water pipes exposed to high heat can leak hazardous chemicals

In August, a massive wildfire tore through the San Lorenzo Valley north of Santa Cruz, Calif., destroying almost 1,500 structures and exposing many others to extreme heat. Before the fire was even out, lab tests revealed as high as 9.1 parts per billion in residential water samples — nine times higher than the state’s maximum safety level.This isn’t the first time the carcinogen has followed wildfires: California water managers and other volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in Santa Rosa after the Tubbs Fire in 2017, and in Paradise after the Camp Fire in 2018.Scientists suspected that,...

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Dec 24
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These science claims from 2020 could be big news if confirmed

These science claims from 2020 could be big news if confirmed

Discoveries about the cosmos and ancient life on Earth tantalized scientists and the public in 2020. But these big claims require more evidence before they can earn a spot in science textbooks.The scorching hellscape next door may be a place to look for life. Telescopes trained on Venus’ clouds spotted traces of phosphine in quantities that suggest (SN: 9/14/20). On Earth, phosphine is emitted by certain bacteria or industrial processes, leading some astrobiologists to speculate that microbes may be living in Venus’ relatively temperate upper atmosphere. But other research teams’ analyses...

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Dec 23
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The longest trail of fossilized human footprints hints at a risky Ice Age trek

The longest trail of fossilized human footprints hints at a risky Ice Age trek

On a day during the late Ice Age, a young adult or teen carrying a toddler hustled across a muddy flat where mammoths and giant sloths roamed. Now, over 10,000 years later, fossilized footprints reveal that possibly perilous journey.The tracks, found in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, and back, making them the longest set ever found, researchers report in the Dec. 1 Quaternary Science Reviews.“The length of the trackway is really exceptional and give us a prolonged window into the behavior of the individuals,” says evolutionary biologist Kevin Hatala of Chatham University in...

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Oct 26
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Ivory from a 16th century shipwreck reveals new details about African elephants

Ivory from a 16th century shipwreck reveals new details about African elephants

In 2008, miners off the coast of Namibia stumbled upon buried treasure: a sunken Portuguese ship known as the Bom Jesus, which went missing on its way to India in 1533. The trading ship bore a trove of gold and silver coins and other valuable materials. But to a team of archaeologists and biologists, the Bom Jesus’ most precious cargo was a haul of more than 100 elephant tusks — the largest archaeological cargo of African ivory ever discovered. Genetic and chemical analyses have now back to several distinct herds of forest elephants that once roamed West Africa. “It is by far the most...

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Dec 17
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