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cover of May 30, 2015 issue

Roberta Kwok's Articles

  • Secrets of slime

    student holding hagfish slime
    Mucus—snot—can be so gross. It’s also critical for many animals, including hagfish, snails and people. Snot can rid our bodies of nasty bacteria and viruses. In other creatures, it can smooth the road or rough up predators.
  • Ants on guard

    Tiny insects can take on big critters — from fly larvae to giraffes — in defense of their home, sweet home. And that home pays them back for this help.
  • True vampires

    Forget Count Dracula or Twilight’s Edward and Bella. Many creatures have a true thirst for blood, and here’s why.
  • Alien carp leap onto the scene

    Last summer, Alison Coulter got a big surprise as she piloted a boat along the Wabash River in Indiana. Startled by her boat’s motor, a 60-centimeter (24-inch) carp leaped out of the river. In some cases, jumping Asian carp have broken a boater’s nose, jaw or arm.
  • Wanted: ‘Smart’ cleaners

    Cleaning is a lot of work. When you spill spaghetti sauce on a table, you have to wipe it up. When your clothes get dirty, you have to launder them. And when birds poop on your car, you have to scrub off the droppings.

    But what if these everyday things could clean or sanitize themselves? Imagine surfaces, paints and fabrics with special cleansers built right into them. A material with such additives could disinfect itself or remove its own stains.

    Some scientists are already creating such products. One team has concocted a special paint that could keep stains from sticking to cars. Another group has engineered cotton fabrics to break down dangerous chemicals. And other researchers are creating a coating to kill germs.

  • This shrimp packs a punch

    One day in 1975, a curious magazine editor knocked on Roy Caldwell’s door at the University of California, Berkeley. The journalist had come by to ask the marine biologist what he was working on. Caldwell walked his visitor over to a glass tank and pointed to its dweller: a mantis shrimp.

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