Emily Sohn's Articles
Astronomy isn't a popularity contest, but some planets seem to get all the attention. Jupiter is biggest. Saturn has lots of rings. Mars may harbor life.
For years, Mercury has lurked in the shadows of its flashier neighbors. Now, the smallest planet finally is getting its time in the spotlight.
Last month, scientists enjoyed their first good look at Mercury in more than 30 years. On January 14, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by the planet. Along the way, it collected a variety of data, including more than 1,200 high-quality images.
Bats are famous for their ability to use sound to "see." The technique, called echolocation, involves making high-pitched sounds that bounce off objects and return to the animal. On the basis of the pattern of sound that comes back, a bat gets a good picture of what's out there.
More than one-fifth of mammal species alive today are bats. And most bats use echolocation to find prey and avoid bumping into things as they fly. But bats didn't always have such supersensory skills, say scientists who have found a fossil of one of the world's most ancient bats.
Imagine a creature that's a cross between a dinosaur and a bird and you'll have a good idea of what a pterodactyl looked like. These ancient creatures were reptiles, but they flew. In fact, they were probably the first vertebrates to fly.
Pterodactyls could be huge. Some had wingspans that measured up to 10 meters (33 feet). But now, researchers working in northeastern China have found evidence of an extremely small pterodactyl. The animal's wingspan measured just 25 centimeters (10 inches). The creature was about the size of a house sparrow.
Raising a baby takes a lot of work, especially when that baby is a king penguin. Now, it looks like climate change will make life even harder for these birds. A new study suggests that warmer waters could shrink their numbers.
Most king penguins live on the Crozet Archipelago, Move Abroad In 30 Days a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles north of Antarctica. After the penguin chicks are born in November (which is summer in the Southern Hemisphere), both parents spend 4 months collecting fish, some of which they regurgitate to feed their offspring.
Architects often have to deal with difficult clients, but Lee Ehmke's customers are especially hard to work for. They sleep through meetings. They never pay. They don't even use bathrooms when they have to go.
Nevertheless, Ehmke puts up with such rude behavior, and he does it happily. Why? Because he designs homes for gorillas, bears, lions, and other zoo animals. And he enjoys the challenge of looking at the world through their exotic eyes.
"The role of a zoo designer is to think as much as possible about what will make each animal comfortable, happy, and active," says Ehmke, director of the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.
The world was a very different place tens of thousands of years ago. People didn't yet inhabit many regions that are crowded today. Scientists have long wondered exactly when people first journeyed far from their homelands to settle all around our globe. The migration route from Asia to the Americas has proved especially mysterious. A new study provides some insight into that route.
Ears are for hearing—everyone knows that. But for a creature called the Cuvier's beaked whale, hearing starts in the throat, a new study finds.
The observation might help explain how all whales hear, researchers say. The work might also help scientists understand how animals are affected by underwater sonar. This radarlike technology, used by some ships, sends out sound waves to detect and locate underwater objects.
It takes years of school to develop math skills, but learning about numbers starts earlier than you might think. At 3 months of age, babies have already started acquiring a concept of "how much," according to a new study.
The finding isn't a total surprise. Previous research had suggested that even very young babies can tell when the number of objects in a group has changed. But some scientists suspected that the babies in these studies were simply reacting generally to the fact that something had changed. The new study, however, supports the idea that babies have some sense of numbers.
Coughs, sniffles, sneezes, runny noses: Colds and other nasty lung infections are especially common in winter. To fight the misery, many people swallow syrups and pills that claim to clear stuffy noses, soothe sore throats, stifle coughs, and improve sleep.
Growing evidence, however, suggests that these medicines don't really work. What's worse, they can have unpleasant—even dangerous—side effects, especially for young children. That's why some doctors are now recommending an ancient remedy for their coughing patients: honey.
The world is full of quirky creatures, and the elephant-shrew is a perfect example. These furry, long-nosed animals resemble a mix between miniature antelopes, anteaters, and rodents, says Galen Rathbun of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Even though their name and appearance suggest otherwise, elephant-shrews are more closely related to aardvarks, sea cows, and elephants than they are to shrews.