Scientists Reexamine Why Zebra Stripes Mysteriously Repel Flies

Scientists Reexamine Why Zebra Stripes Mysteriously Repel Flies

For the current study, Tombak, then a PhD candidate at Princeton, and her team wanted to test stripe width to see if narrower ones might be even more repulsive to flies—a potential evolutionary advantage that would explain the difference between zebra species. They also restricted their experiment to close-range encounters to rule out the theory … Read more

To Ditch Pesticides, Scientists Are Hacking Insects’ Sex Signals

To Ditch Pesticides, Scientists Are Hacking Insects’ Sex Signals

Proving that this way of producing pheromones works, and that they’re effective, has taken almost a decade. “We are now looking at scaling up the process and introducing them in the market,” says Löfstedt. This research also opens the door to using sex disruption to protect other commodity crops from pests. “It should be possible … Read more

Turns Out Fighting Mosquitoes With Mosquitoes Actually Works

Turns Out Fighting Mosquitoes With Mosquitoes Actually Works

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not just a nuisance—it’s a known carrier of dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Distinguished by the black and white stripes on its legs, the species is one of the most dangerous to humans. In the Brazilian city of Indaiatuba, an effort is underway to eliminate these pests before … Read more

A New Explanation for How Fireflies Flash in Sync

A New Explanation for How Fireflies Flash in Sync

A similar scenario played out in the 1990s, when a Tennessee naturalist named Lynn Faust read the confidently published assertion of a scientist named Jon Copeland that there were no synchronous fireflies in North America. Faust knew then that what she had been watching for decades in the nearby woods was something remarkable. Faust invited … Read more

This Gulp of Engineered Bacteria Is Meant to Treat Disease

This Gulp of Engineered Bacteria Is Meant to Treat Disease

In the mud trenches of World War I, thousands of soldiers on both sides fell ill with dysentery, a diarrheal disease often spread by contaminated water. Curiously, one German soldier deployed in the Balkans didn’t become sick when the rest of his comrades did. When scientist Alfred Nissle isolated a strain of E.coli from the … Read more

The Sci-Fi Dream of a ‘Molecular Computer’ Is Getting More Real

The Sci-Fi Dream of a ‘Molecular Computer’ Is Getting More Real

The reason they could opt for a more information-dense bit is because of the physics of the reading head. When the head sticks to a -1, it contorts in a predictable way. When it sticks to a section deemed +1, it contorts the opposite way. For 0, no contortion. Then, if you shine light at … Read more

How to Detect a Man-Made Biothreat

How to Detect a Man-Made Biothreat

But even if the platforms’ accuracy improves, it’s hard to know whether they would be able to detect a completely new organism that scientists have never seen before. Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, is skeptical that any technology will be able to definitively identify a bioengineered organism. “There is no technology—none—that comprehensively … Read more

The Spooky Science of How Undead Spores Reanimate

The Spooky Science of How Undead Spores Reanimate

Here’s a spooky conundrum: Is a spore alive or dead? Gürol Süel, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, wouldn’t blame you if you voted for dead: “There’s nothing to detect: no heartbeat, no gene expression. There’s nothing going on,” he says. But a spore might actually just be dormant—in a deep state … Read more

Sorry, Prey. Black Widows Have Surprisingly Good Memory

Sorry, Prey.  Black Widows Have Surprisingly Good Memory

Black widow’s must despise Clint Sergi. While working on his PhD in biology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Sergi spent his time designing little challenges for spiders—which often involved rewarding them with tasty dead crickets, or confounding them by stealing the crickets away. “The big question that motivated the work was just wanting to know … Read more

After Hurricane Ian’s Floods, the Flesh-Eating Bacteria

After Hurricane Ian’s Floods, the Flesh-Eating Bacteria

In September, Hurricane Ian smashed into the southwest coast of Florida, bringing with it a storm surge that reached 13 feet in the coastal town of Fort Myers. Warm, brackish Gulf water inundated homes and businesses as well as sewers, wastewater pumps, and septic tanks. As the torrential winds and rain mixed everything together into … Read more