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What are fire whirls? | Things to Know

VIDEO: Researchers examine the behavior of these tornado-like fire columns

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Why scientists need to be better at data visualization

The scientific literature is riddled with bad charts and graphs, leading to misunderstanding and worse. Avoiding design missteps can improve understanding of research.  

Fast facts about the Milky Way | Things to Know

VIDEO: Our galaxy may seem humble, but here are a few things to know about what makes it an exceptional place

Election polls aren’t broken, but they still can’t predict the future

Polling can take the pulse of a population’s sentiment, but swing voters, skewed samples and other issues have always limited its ability to pick a winner

GPS is going places

Here are five things you didn’t know the navigation system could do

Measuring surgical quality

Not all surgeons are equally skilled with a scalpel. Doctors are developing new ways to test — and improve — operating room performance.

Polymers promise a more flexible artificial retina

Organic semiconductors can link up with brain cells to send and receive signals. They may find a use in sight-restoring prostheses. 

The global soda tax experiment

An increasing number of cities and countries have begun taxing sugary beverages. But can raising the price of these drinks really make a dent in obesity, diabetes and other ailments?

Revenge is bittersweet at best

Research is starting to reveal how the urge for vengeance may have evolved, when it can be useful and what could prevent the violence it can provoke

The quest for better baby formula

Replicating human milk is no easy feat — nor is separating the science from the hype

Lessons from scorching hot weirdo-planets

Hot Jupiters were the first kind of exoplanet found. A quarter-century later, they still perplex and captivate — and their origins hold lessons about planet formation in general.

An amphibious rescue mission

On the edge of extinction, rare frogs and toads need more than a little love to reproduce. High-tech help, from IVF to hormone therapy, may save them.

What electronic games can teach us

Digital play can enhance certain types of learning, but how to harness that potential for the classroom remains a prize question

How a poisonous plant became breakfast, lunch and dinner for monarchs

By engineering mutations into fruit flies, scientists reconstructed how the butterflies may have evolved resistance to the toxins found in milkweed, allowing their caterpillars to feast on the plant

How maternal mood shapes the developing brain

Stress and anxiety during pregnancy can mean a higher risk of offspring developing ADHD, depression or other conditions. Medical psychologist Catherine Monk explains how prenatal mental care benefits mothers and babies.

Unpersuasive: Why arguing about climate change often doesn't work

COMIC: In the US, where political parties have increasingly staked claims on one side of the issue or the other, beliefs may be more about belonging than facts

When courtroom science goes wrong — and how stats can fix it

COMIC: Bite marks, shoe prints, crime-scene fibers: Matches to suspects are often far shakier than courtroom experts claim. Better statistical methods — among them, a little beast known as the “likelihood ratio” — can cut down on wrong convictions.

The monarch’s stupendous migration, dissected

COMIC: The feisty orange-black butterfly uses a toolbox of biological tricks to find its way down to Mexico for winter and flap north again in spring. Here’s how scientists figured out those tricks — and what they don’t yet understand.

The next omics? Tracking a lifetime of exposures to better understand disease

Of the millions of substances people encounter daily, health researchers have focused on only a few hundred. Those in the emerging field of exposomics want to change that.

From tiger scat to DNA to — hopefully — survival

Researchers dig out the elusive cats’ genetic material where they can, to guide efforts at conservation and diversity

Cell meets robot in hybrid microbots

Researchers are developing microbe-propelled tiny bots to deliver drugs, target cancer or do other work in the body

On whose green Earth?

Are we supposed to take care of the planet or should it take care of us? Willis Jenkins explains how religion shapes the conflicting views over climate change and other environmental issues.

The brain, the criminal and the courts

States of mind that the legal system cares about — memory, responsibility and mental maturity — have long been difficult to describe objectively, but neuroscientists are starting to detect patterns. Coming soon to a courtroom near you?

Getting “exhausted” T cells back into action against cancer

When a malignancy or chronic infection sets in, a kind of immune combat fatigue can follow. Finding ways to recharge immune cells can restore their ability to fight deadly diseases, says immunologist John Wherry.