Tag Archives: Ars Technica

In wars with termites, ants rescue and care for their wounded

Enlarge / This won’t hurt a bit. (credit: Erik T. Frank)

Deadly battles play out several times a day in the Ivory Coast’s Comoé National Park, leaving wounded behind. The fights break out when hundreds of African Matabele ants march off to raid a nearby termite mound to slaughter termite workers and haul them back to the nest to feed the colony. But termites, with their strong, sharp mandibles, aren’t easy prey, and raiders often get limbs bitten off in the fight.

In the aftermath of a raid, researchers are finding evidence that the ants care for their wounded. The wounded ants secrete a pheromone that calls other returning raiders to carry their injured comrades home. Back at the nest, healthy nest-mates clean the injured ants’

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The Falcon Heavy is an absurdly low-cost heavy lift rocket

Twenty-seven engines on the Falcon Heavy rocket, all burning their happy little flames. (credit: SpaceX)

One may criticize the Falcon Heavy rocket for having a short launch manifest, as it has only two confirmed flights in the next year or so. There just aren’t that many commercial customers right now for the heavier-lift rocket when a cheaper Falcon 9 or another medium-lift class of booster will suffice. But when one considers the more extreme cases—such as big Department of Defense missions to geostationary orbit or potential human exploration plans—the Falcon Heavy shines.

Now that SpaceX’s new rocket is finally flying, we can directly compare costs between this new booster and an existing rocket in its class, the Delta IV Heavy, as well as NASA’s upcoming

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Woman pulls wiggling cattle worms from her eyeball, makes medical history

Enlarge / Gross. (credit: Getty | Tim Graham)

A 26-year-old Oregon woman has received the undesirable title of the first human to have tiny parasitic worms previously only ever seen in cattle squirming around in her eyeball.

Infectious disease experts reported that the woman had a total of 14 of the wriggling parasites pulled from her left eyeball after she experienced eye irritation. This happened in August 2016, although the experts only published their paper on Monday, February 12. The woman pulled most of the worms out herself over a 20-day period, despite visiting several doctors. The translucent worms were less than a half-inch long. Since then, she’s made a full recovery, with no more irritation or any evidence of additional worms.

Several of the

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Yes, sea level rise really is accelerating

Enlarge / A family of sea-level-measuring satellites. (credit: NASA)

Some people have eyeballed satellite measurements of sea level rise and claimed that there is no sign of acceleration—just a linear increase. Then, ignoring the physics of melting glacial ice and the expansion of warming water, they declare that future sea level rise won’t be a big deal. Many studies have demonstrated accelerating rates of sea level rise over the past millennia, as well as the tide gauge record spanning the 20th century. But the short satellite record—which only started in 1993—is a slightly different question.

While the global satellite record is in many ways cleaner than coastal measurements that can be affected by processes that raise or lower the ground that the tide gauge sits

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West sent lizards as nuclear spies, claims Iran defense official

Enlarge / A senior military advisor to Iran’s supreme leader claims reptiles can be used for nuclear espionage because they “attract atomic waves.” (credit: Dorit Hockman)

The senior military advisor to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed in a press conference in Tehran today that Western nations had deployed reptiles as nuclear spies. Agence France-Presse reports that Hassan Firuzabadi, previously chief of staff of Iran’s military, justified the recent arrest of environmentalists by claiming that the West had used scientists and environmental activists to spy on Iran’s nuclear program by deploying lizards that could “attract atomic waves.”

There has been a recent wave of arrests of prominent Iranian environmentalists. Kavous Seyed Emami, a sociology professor and environmental activist who also held Canadian citizenship, was

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The Greatest Leap, part 6: After Apollo, NASA still searching for an encore

California green-lights initiative that is conspiracy theorist’s dream

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Joe Amon)

Activists in California can now move forward collecting signatures for an expansive ballot initiative that encompasses a world of non-evidence-based and fringe notions, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The initiative would eliminate vaccination requirements for schools and daycares, banish genetically modified organisms, and prohibit basic water treatments with fluoride and chlorine. The initiative would ban more than 300 chemicals, including fire retardants, and it would order the removal of smart meters. These, the initiative claims, are “neither smart nor meters but intermittent samplers, not accurate, not accountable, [that] emit and receive unnecessary radiation.”

The initiative, dubbed the “California Clean Environment” initiative, will create an elected, three-person board to oversee the sweeping

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Odd vertebrate gets rid of hundreds of genes early in development

Enlarge / There’s no jaw on the front of that face, and all the tissues you see have deleted hundreds of key developmental genes. (credit: Michael Heck, Oregon Fish and Wildlife)

Sea lampreys are parasites native to the northern and western Atlantic Ocean that suck blood and other vital fluids from their fellow fish. They have the distinction of possibly being the first destructive invasive species in North America; they entered the Great Lakes in the 1830s through the Welland Canal and have been killing trout there ever since.

They also have the distinction of having split off from the rest of the vertebrate lineage very early on, about 550 million years ago, before the evolution of jaws. This makes lampreys useful as a model

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Can we zero-in on Earth’s sensitivity to CO₂?

Enlarge (credit: Kristin Andrus)

If it were easy to pin down the exact value for our planet’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas emission, it would have been done a long time ago—and you wouldn’t be reading yet another news story about it. It’s not like we have no idea how sensitive the climate is. The range of possible values that scientists have been able to narrow it down to only spans from “climate change is very bad news” to “climate change is extremely bad news.”

But the difference between “very bad” and “extremely bad” is pretty important, so climate scientists aren’t throwing up their hands any time soon—as two new studies published this week show.

There are several basic strategies available for calculating the climate’s sensitivity.

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The global state of science

Enlarge (credit: Oak Ridge National Lab)

By law, the National Science Foundation is required to do a biennial evaluation of the state of science research and innovation. This is one of the years it’s due, and the NSF has gotten its Science and Engineering Indicators report ready for delivery to Congress and the president. The report is generally optimistic, finding significant funding for science and a strong return on that investment in terms of jobs and industries. But it does highlight how the global focus is shifting, with China and South Korea making massive investments in research and technology.

Science isn’t a monolithic endeavor, so there’s no way to create a single measure that captures global scientific progress. Instead, the NSF looked at 42 different

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