Science

Science news

In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology.

The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon.

During my senior year of high school, I started dreading calculus. Every time my teacher slapped our tests face-down on our desks, I would peel up the corner of the page just enough to see the score, circled in red. The numbers were dropping quickly: 79, 64, 56.

My classmates and I were not coy about our grades. After class, we would hover outside the door and compare them. But when my friends asked me what I got on tests, I said, childishly, "I'm not telling."

You don't need me to tell you how exciting or important Marvel Studio's Black Panther has become. It's one of the most anticipated films of the year — and broke records for pre-release ticket sales.

As the news broke of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, hundreds of Twitter accounts believed to be under Russian sway pivoted.

Many had been tweeting about places like Syria and Ukraine — countries where Russia is seeking to strengthen its influence. Suddenly the accounts shifted to hashtags like #guncontrol, #guncontrolnow and #gunreformnow. Tweets mentioning Nikolas Cruz, the name of the shooting suspect, spiked.

Federal health officials say that, as they anticipated, the flu vaccine isn't very effective this year — but they say it has still prevented thousands of serious illnesses and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures that, overall, the flu vaccine is 36 percent effective at preventing disease. One bright point for parents of young kids: Children ages 6 months to 8 years responded significantly better to the vaccine than older Americans.

The world's largest species of orangutans is rapidly disappearing.

Borneo has lost more than 100,000 orangutans in the last 16 years – that's more than the number of the critically endangered species remaining.

This species — the Bornean orangutan — is only found on the island, which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It has seen dramatic deforestation, as lush jungle is converted into palm oil and paper pulp plantations.

As the fox told the prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's wonderful fable The Little Prince: "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

If the fox had not been talking about love, she could have been referring to the elementary particles of matter, the building blocks of everything that exists. The poetry here is in knowing that the world is made of tiny, invisible bits of stuff that carry, in them, the story of creation itself.

Back in 1983, it seemed like a good idea.

Penguins can't swipe right, but they can grab a big red heart in their beak and waddle it over to deliver at their beloved's feet.

African Matabele ants are fighters — several times a day, they leave their nests on raids, battling termite soldiers and dragging termite workers home for dinner.

They drag their fallen comrades back, too, bodies maimed by termite jaws.

Now German biologists have discovered what happens at the end of those rescue operations: Back at the nest, ants act as medics, cleaning the wounds of injured ants — and reducing their mortality rates in the process.

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