Taxonomy term

april 2015

Mysterious rapid radio burst captured live

Last year, astronomers received a signal from the depths of the cosmos: a fleeting pulse of intense electromagnetic radiation known as a fast radio burst (or FRB). First discovered in 2007, these millisecond blasts occur sporadically and continue to baffle astronomers. Now, for the first time, an FRB has been caught red-handed.

29 Apr 2015

On-site inspections

In the event that the CTBT enters into force, a third element of the CTBTO's verification regime — in addition to the IMS and IDC — would come into play: on-site inspections (OSI). Given potential evidence of a nuclear test, member states can call for an inspection of the suspected area as a final verification measure.

27 Apr 2015

Beyond the bomb: The world's nuclear watchdog expands its science

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization uses a vast array of scientific instruments deployed around the world to detect evidence of rogue nuclear weapons tests. Now, they're using the collected data for other types of science as well.

27 Apr 2015

Travels in Geology: A trek through Himalayan geology in Nepal

A doctoral student escapes the lab to trek through the Himalayan geology that’s the subject of his isotope geochemistry research.

27 Apr 2015

Shrinking snowpack projected in western U.S. as rain-snow boundary climbs higher

Gauging the impacts of climate change on future precipitation is challenging, especially in the western U.S., a region with highly variable temperatures, precipitation patterns and terrain. But understanding such impacts in the West — and, in particular, how much precipitation will fall as snow versus rain in the future — is important given the region’s dependence on wintertime snowfall as a freshwater resource. Now, a new study forecasts a broad shift from snow to rain for much of the West — a projection that will require attention from land and water resource managers planning for the future.

24 Apr 2015

Earliest primates were tree dwellers

The first primates evolved shortly after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. But whether these small mammals lived on the ground or in trees has puzzled paleontologists, who only had fossil teeth and jaws to examine, which left much of the animals' appearance and behavior a mystery.

24 Apr 2015

Wedge approach proposed to lower water stress

Roughly 30 percent of the global population — or about 2.2 billion people — lives in water-stressed parts of the world, where high freshwater withdrawals endanger ecosystems, agriculture and drinking-water supplies. If current population and water usage trends persist, this fraction could rise to about one-half by the century’s end. In a recent study, researchers — taking a page from the climate-change mitigation literature — have proposed a “wedge” approach to address global water stress, laying out how various tactics could ease the growing problem.

22 Apr 2015

Bird genomes untangle branches of avian family tree

Birds, the only surviving descendants of dinosaurs, have one of the most fascinating — and perplexing — family trees in the animal kingdom. To sort it out, an international collaboration known as the Avian Phylogenomics Project has sequenced the genomes of dozens of different bird species, representing all the orders in the bird family. Even with a glut of new data, however, many questions remain about the branches of the avian family tree.

22 Apr 2015

Geologic Column: The Rumpelstiltskin Factor

Are you a taxonomic “lumper” or “splitter”? The author ruminates on the meanings and conventions of scientific classification and naming.

21 Apr 2015

Of temperature and tone: Has climate shaped human languages?

Humans today speak more than 6,500 languages, and thousands more dialects once spoken have gone extinct. Understanding how and why so many languages have evolved over human history has long been the work of linguists. Recently, however, the emerging field of geo-phonetics has begun looking into how geography — and perhaps climate — affects language. In a new study, researchers suggest that humidity and temperature, which can impact our ability to craft certain sounds, appear to have influenced the evolution of tonality in languages in different parts of the world.

20 Apr 2015