Far up in the Langbian Plateau in southern Vietnam, a dense, dark forest gently breathes with a passing breeze. Billowing fog continually invades and shrouds the canopy. Thick, verdant moss blankets every rock and tree, and the landscape weeps with trickling rivulets of water. This gorgeous setting feels like it could host any number of magical beasts, and now, a team of researchers has revealed a new woodland creature that looks particularly at home. Behold, the elfin mountain toad.
Science & Health
As twilight descends, nocturnal bat species rouse from their daily resting places to feed, creating spectacular clouds as they pour out of caves en masse. But look closer at Jamaican fruit bat colonies as they emerge from sinkhole caves in Cuba, and you may catch a glimpse of a concurrent macabre ritual: As the bats erupt from the cave, a deadly curtain of Cuban boas hangs in their path, aiming to snatch the winged creatures mid-flight.
A recent study has shown that electronic cigarettes can cause lung damage and are definitely not a harmless alternative to cigarettes.
In the first long-term study of its kind, researchers at Telethon Kids Institute compared the lung health of mice exposed to mainstream tobacco smoke with those exposed to aerosols from four different types of e-juices (the liquid in the e-cigarette) over an eight week period.
There's no drama quite like space drama. And Juno's flight to Jupiter has been about as dramatic as a sci-fi thriller can get. Last October, Juno's engine system malfunctioned, causing NASA to delay the orbiter's planned approach into a 14-day "science orbit". This February, NASA decided to forego the science orbit engine burn entirely, keeping the spacecraft in its much longer 53.5 day orbit. But today, we're finally getting some good news.
Republican senators are reportedly planning to send President Trump a legally dubious letter asking him to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, a historic accord to combat climate change. Although EPA head Scott Pruitt and others have said they want the US to withdraw, Trump faces intense pressure to stay in from China's President Xi, the Pope and members of his inner circle. He has repeatedly delayed making any final decision on the matter.
While rocket launches aren't typically thought of as "cute", watching the maiden voyage of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket is the closest we'll get to seeing the Brave Little Toaster go to space. Yesterday, the 17m carbon fibre rocket blasted off from New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula and made it to the edge of space. Though Electron didn't make it into orbit, it tried its best, and that's all that counts.
Imagine this thing that has actually happened: You're in the US when your infant develops a strangely-shaped skin lesion. Seeing this disgusting skin lesion and thinking it might be anthrax, you take your child to the doctor. "Doc, I think I my kid has anthrax," you might say. The doctor's eyes roll. "It's obviously a spider bite," doc probably replies. Turns out your kid had anthrax all along.
As companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com help make genetic testing commonplace, you would think that people would become better at ensuring protections for the privacy of that data. Instead, multiple Congressional actions in the US threaten to erode already-weak protections against genetic discrimination. But it isn't just a dystopian Gattaca future where citizens are discriminated against based on their genes that we need to be worried about — one researcher is concerned that our inadequate genetic privacy laws will stymie science.
If there's one thing on Earth we don't know enough about, it's the ocean. We've only mapped around five per cent of the seafloor, and two-thirds of the ocean's animal species might remain undiscovered. It shouldn't be a surprise that we're only now able to create detailed maps of the seafloor — but that doesn't stop each new one from being mind-boggling.
Everyone knows the cure for existential ennui is the Three P's: Pail (of ice cream), Pink Floyd, and Pretty space pictures. While we can't provide you with ice cream or a psychedelic experience, we can offer you some truly sublime galaxy simulations that are sure to fill the void inside you — for now.
The best part about science fiction, besides the explosions, space explorations and psychotic aliens, is the fact that it reveals our most human fears. While they aren't flesh and bone, robots are arguably most emblematic of our anxieties: Besides being smarter, faster and (sometimes) shinier than us, "bad robots" are a sci-fi favourite because they reveal how obsolete we might be becoming — or already are.
Now that TRAPPIST-1 is the trendiest star system in the galaxy, astronomers and nerds alike are clamouring to learn more about it. We know that the seven-planet system contains three planets in the habitable zone, which means they could hypothetically support liquid water, and even life. We also know that the TRAPPIST-1 planets orbit around their ultracool dwarf star very closely, which could be good or bad for finding life, depending on who you ask. And now, we know a little more about the most distant planet in the bunch.
Baleen whales (Mysticeti) are vacuums of the sea. The blue whale, which is one of 12 species of baleen whales, is the largest animal in the world — AKA the biggest sea vacuum. It fuels its 200-tonne body by eating tiny crustaceans called krill, which get filtered through the blue whales' baleen. New research suggests that over millions of years, baleen whales' filter system — and a hell of a lot of krill — allowed these beasts to grow into giants.
Planets sort of look like big basketballs in space, floating around aimlessly. Sometimes they have rings. Other times, they look like gnocchi. More or less, to the average stargazer, planets have roughly the same shape — but a pair of scientists has just thrown a most delicious curveball into this whole equation. Apparently, doughnut planets might be a thing.