Louis Pasteur’s devotion to truth transformed what we know about health and disease

Great scientists become immortalized in various ways. Some through names for obscure units of measurement (à la Hertz, Faraday and Curie). Others in elements on the periodic table (Mendeleev, Seaborg, Bohr, among many others). A few become household names symbolizing genius — like Newton in centuries past and nowadays, Einstein. But only one has been ... Read more

Carvings on Australia’s boab trees reveal a generation’s lost history

Brenda Garstone is on the hunt for her heritage. Parts of her cultural inheritance are scattered across the Tanami desert in northwestern Australia, where dozens of ancient boab trees are engraved with Aboriginal designs. These tree carvings — called dendroglyphs — could be hundreds or even thousands of years old, yet have received almost no ... Read more

Tiger sharks helped discover the world’s largest seagrass prairie

Scientists have teamed up with tiger sharks to uncover the largest expanse of seagrasses on Earth. A massive survey of the Bahamas Banks — a cluster of underwater plateaus surrounding the Bahama archipelago — reveals 92,000 square kilometers of seagrasses, marine biologist Oliver Shipley and colleagues report November 1 in Nature Communications. That area is ... Read more

50 years ago, scientists found a new way to clean up oil spills

[In the late 1960s], about the best means of cleaning up oil was to put straw on it, then scoop up the oily straw by hand or with pitchforks. Now industry … has devised an arsenal of oil cleanup chemicals. Thin-layer chemicals can be used to herd oil together and to thicken it…. Chemicals are ... Read more

This child was treated for a rare genetic disease while still in the womb

A toddler girl is flourishing after receiving treatment for a rare genetic disease. In a first for this disease, she received that treatment before she was even born. Sixteen-month-old Ayla has infantile-onset Pompe disease — a genetic disorder that can cause organ damage that begins before birth. Babies born with Pompe have enlarged hearts and ... Read more

Greenland’s frozen hinterlands are bleeding worse than we thought

Sea level rise may proceed faster than expected in the coming decades, as a gargantuan flow of ice slithering out of Greenland’s remote interior both picks up speed and shrinks. By the end of the century, the ice stream’s deterioration could contribute to nearly 16 millimeters of global sea level rise — more than six ... Read more

Some harlequin frogs — presumed extinct — have been rediscovered

Across Central and South America, one group of bejeweled frogs is making a comeback. Harlequin frogs — a genus with over 100 brightly colored species — were one of the groups of amphibians hit hardest by a skin-eating chytrid fungus that rapidly spread around the globe in the 1980s (SN: 3/28/19). The group is so ... Read more

Certain young fruit flies’ eyes literally pop out of their head

Body changes at the brink of adulthood can get awkward in humans, but at least our eyes don’t pop out of our heads on stalks longer than our legs. High-rise eyes, however, give macho pizzazz to the adult male Pelmatops fruit fly. In one of the stalkier species, P. tangliangi, the eyes-up transformation takes only ... Read more

Here’s how mysterious last-resort antibiotics kill bacteria

To kill drug-resistant bacteria, “last-resort” antibiotics borrow a tactic from Medusa’s playbook: petrification. New high-resolution microscope images show that a class of antibiotics called polymyxins crystallize the cell membranes of bacteria. The honeycomb-shaped crystals that form turn the microbes’ usually supple skins of fat molecules into thin brittle sheets, researchers report October 21 in Nature ... Read more

King Tut’s tomb still has secrets to reveal 100 years after its discovery

One hundred years ago, archaeologist Howard Carter stumbled across the tomb of ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamun. Carter’s life was never the same. Neither was the young pharaoh’s afterlife. Newspapers around the world immediately ran stories about Carter’s discovery of a long-lost pharaoh’s grave and the wonders it might contain, propelling the abrasive Englishman to worldwide ... Read more