Being bitten by an Australian tiger snake is a wholly unpleasant experience. Within minutes, you start to feel pain in your neck and lower extremities—symptoms that are soon followed by tingling sensations, numbness, and profuse sweating. Breathing starts to become difficult, paralysis sets in, and if left untreated,…
Saturn’s moon Titan is a world of contrast; both eerily familiar and strikingly alien. Its calm seas and enormous sand dunes might remind you of Earth, until you learn that what’s flowing across Titan’s surface is not water, but liquid hydrocarbons. Titan’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere seems to have some of the…
Earlier this year, Earthlings rejoiced when scientists announced the discovery of three rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of TRAPPIST-1, an “ultracool dwarf” star located just 39 light years away. Soon after, astronomers brought us back down Earth, pointing out that it might be hard for life to survive on a world…
If a massive solar storm struck the Earth today, it could wipe out our technology and hurl us back to the dark ages. Lucky for us, events like this are quite rare. But four billion years ago, extreme space weather was probably the norm. And rather than bringing the apocalypse, it might have kickstarted life.
Olfactory receptors are not limited to your nose. You have them all over your body, including your blood. Now, synthetic sandalwood has been shown to promote cell death in cancer cells for patients with a certain kind of leukemia. This could open the door for a whole new kind of treatment.
Bacteria have been swimming before anything else in the world was walking, but we know relatively little about their method of locomotion. New research shows how bacteria use their flagella to run and tumble their way through a gooey medium.
We avoid mercury, arsenic, and lead exposure, but there’s one heavy metal that we gulp down in smaller doses: bismuth. And if it were less toxic, bismuth could one day keep us from stinking up elevators and other public places with our farts.
Most people know about the strange smell that asparagus gives off after it has been, ahem, processed by some humans. Yet other humans aren’t able to smell the odor at all. That makes asparagus an unusual marker for the intricacies of genetic variation.
Saying your olive oil is sub-standard isn’t an accusation, it’s just a probability. Adulterated olive oil is extremely common and surprisingly hard to spot. If you’re curious, you might want to grab a bottle of ibuprofen and do a taste test.
There’s a basic test used to identify bodily secretions at crime scenes. It’s not the only test, but it is useful in primary investigations—unless you spill a lot of commercial flour around.
When you get a shot of vitamin B12, you’re also getting traces of cyanide in the mix–although it would be equally accurate to say that there’s artificial B12 in your antidote to cyanide.
People in swamps occasionally see mysterious lights in the forest, dubbed “will-o-the-wisps.” They’ve been attributed to spirits or aliens, but scientists say they are probably the product of resourceful microorganisms.
Minecraft welcomes millions of young players every day and is home to all kinds of nerdery. Now, a team of chemists hope to bring the two together by helping children take their first blocky steps into the world of biochemistry inside the virtual building environment.
Some scientists suspected that our ear wax may contain a natural fungicide, bactericide, and insecticide, the better to protect against buggy invaders crawling inside the ear canal. Alas, this turns out not to be true.
We’ve already seen how beavers can save California from its seemingly endless drought. Now it looks like they can save the world from industrial farming by changing the chemistry of the water, making them natural biochemists.
This is no longer a purely theoretical question, thanks to the modern world. Giving a liberal dose of cocaine to an eel turns out to be far worse for the eel than it is for us.
Yesterday the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Tomas Lindahl, Aziz Sancar, and Paul Modrich for their work in mapping out how cells repair damaged DNA. Their research improved our understanding of how our own cells work and helped in the development of cancer treatments, but…
Valerian root, many cat owners have found, makes their cats turn hyper. Cats aren’t the only creatures that have their behavior affected by valerian root. Slime molds literally go out of their way to seek it out, and that provided researchers a clue to why cats love it so much.
Serotonin got famous as the joy chemical—the one that could lift depression and put us in a good mood. It’s also in the venom of many animals, from hornets to snakes, and in some cases it’s lethal.