Selected Sci-News Items Mar 07 - Mar 13, 2020

General Interest    Cosmos    Innovation    Health    Nature    Environment    Climate


Why Does the Coronavirus Spread So Easily between People?
Nature, March 06, 2020
Researchers have identified microscopic features that could make the pathogen more infectious than the SARS virus - and serve as drug targets.

A Puritan Minister Incited Fury by Pushing Inoculation against a Smallpox Epidemic
Washington Post, March 08, 2020
In 1721, Boston's colonists greeted Cotton Mather's proposal with a terror that bordered on hysteria

AEON, March 05, 2020
Superman et al were invented amid feverish eugenic speculation: what does the superhero craze say about our own times?

Surge of Virus Misinformation Stumps Facebook and Twitter
New York Times, March 08, 2020
Secret labs. Magic cures. Government plots. Despite efforts by social media companies to stop it, false information about the coronavirus is proliferating around the world.

How Rational Math Catches Slippery Irrational Numbers
Quanta, March 10, 2020
Finding the best way to approximate the ever-elusive irrational numbers pits the infinitely large against the infinitely small.


Study Reveals Life in the Universe Could Be Common, But Not in Our Neighborhood
Phys.Org, March 05, 2020
A new study looked at how life's building blocks could spontaneously form in the universe --a process known as abiogenesis.

Science history: Paul Erdos Goes In Search of Coffee
Cosmos, March 09, 2020
A great mathematician for whom math was life.

Creating Antimatter: Matter's "Evil Twin"
NPR, March 09, 2020 (w/audio)
Physicists have known about antimatter for decades. And they've known that, according to the math, there should be just as much of it lurking around the universe as there is matter.  However....

The Golden Age of Neutron-Star Physics Has Arrived
Nature, March 04, 2020
These stellar remnants are some of the Universe's most enigmatic objects - and they are finally starting to give up their secrets.
The Axion Solves Three Mysteries of the Universe
Science Daily, March 10, 2020
A hypothetical particle called the axion could solve one of physics' great mysteries: the excess of matter over antimatter, or why we're here at all.
Science Has a New Way to Gauge the Universe's Expansion Rate
Wired, March 01, 2020
Cosmologists want to know how fast the universe is growing, but their data doesn't match predictions. Wendy Freedman thinks red giant stars can help.  


To Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine, Synthetic Biologists Try to Outdo Nature
STAT, March 09, 2020
Natural vaccines take years to develop and manufacture, they become obsolete if the virus evolves, and the immune response they produce is often weak.  The emerging field of synthetic biology is answering the SOS over Covid-19, aiming to engineer vaccines that overcome these obstacles.

Unexpected Discovery: Blue-Green Algae Produce Oil
Science Daily,  March 5, 2020
Cyanobacteria -- colloquially also called blue-green algae - can produce oil from water and carbon dioxide with the help of light.

Aspirin, the Original Wonder Drug
New York Times, March 09, 2020
In recent years, its reputation has been sullied by recognition of potentially serious side effects, especially dangerous bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract or the brain.

The Small Dutch Town That Wants to Shape the Future of Your Food
The Guardian, March 05, 2020
If an innovative solution to feeding the world's growing population is to be found, it is likely to come from Wageningen, a quiet corner of Europe that is the nexus of global food science. But at what cost to the environment?

Municipal Aggregation Savings 'Shattering Expectations' in Massachusetts
Energy News, February 28, 2020
A new report finds cities and towns are lowering residents' electric bills and emissions by negotiating for green power.

The Camera Will See You Now: New Tech Takes Wildlife Vitals from Afar
Scientific American, March 05, 2020
Measuring zoo animals' heart and breathing rates from a distance keeps them-and humans-safe.


These Are 6 of the Main Differences between Flu and Coronavirus
MIT Technology Review, March 10, 2020
The World Health Organization has released a report outlining the differences between the flu and coronavirus.

PFAS Forever Chemicals Found in Tap Water Linked to Cancer Risks
TruthOut, March 08, 2020
The new study comes on the heels of alarming laboratory tests that detected many of these "forever chemicals" in tap water sampled across the country and suggest that fluorinated compounds in the PFAS family have contaminated virtually every major source of drinking water in the United States.

The Microbes in Your Mouth, and a Reminder to Floss and Go to the Dentist
Science Daily, March 02, 2020
Microbiome researchers offer fresh evidence to support that conventional wisdom, by taking a close look at invisible communities of microbes that live in every mouth. Their study found a correlation between people who did not visit the dentist regularly and increased presence of a pathogen that causes periodontal disease.

Trump's Devaluing of Science Is a Danger to US Coronavirus Response, Experts Warn
The Guardian, March 06, 2020
Efforts to address the outbreak risk are being undermined by an exodus of scientists and a leader who regularly distorts facts.

Coronavirus: How Hand Sanitizers Protect Against Infections
Compound Chemistry, March 04, 2020
What's in these sanitisers and how effective are they in comparison to hand washing? This graphic takes a look.


Indigenous Amazonians Managed Valuable Plant Life
Scientific American, March 04, 2020
Studies on very old vegetation in the Amazon basin show active management hundreds of years ago on species such as Brazil nut and cocoa trees.

Malnourished Bugs: Higher CO2 Levels Make Plants Less Nutritious, Hurting Insect Populations
The Conversation, March 09, 2020
All that added carbon is squeezing out other nutrients that plant feeders - like insects and people - need to thrive.

When Litter Becomes Habitat
Hakai, March 09, 2020
In a busy and polluted Italian port, living things thrive on anthropogenic debris.

Almost Alien: Antarctic Sub-glacial Lakes Are Cold, Dark and Full of Secrets
Science Daily, March 04, 2020
More than half of the planet's fresh water is in Antarctica. While most of it is frozen in the ice sheets, underneath the ice pools and streams of water flow into one another and into the Southern Ocean surrounding the continent. Understanding the movement of this water, and what is dissolved in it as solutes, reveals how carbon and nutrients from the land may support life in the coastal ocean.  

Smallest-Ever Fossil Dinosaur Found Trapped in Amber
National Geographic, March 11, 2020
The little bird-like dinosaur Oculudentavis khaungraae probably dined on insects in a Cretaceous rainforest.


Climate Change: Carbon-Reducing Seagrass Planted Off Welsh Coast
BBC News, March 10, 2020  (w/video)
Experts say seagrass helps tackle the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide faster than trees.  But up to 92% of the plant may have disappeared from the UK's coast over the last century, research has found.

How South Korea Is Composting Its Way to Sustainability
New Yorker, March 02, 2020
Automated bins, rooftop farms, and underground mushroom-growing help clean up the mess.

E.P.A. Updates Plan to Limit Science Used in Environmental Rules
New York Times, March 04, 2020
Even with the latest changes, scientists warned that the regulation would let the federal government dismiss or downplay some of the most important environmental research of the past decades.

10 Folks Who Have Influenced the Environmental Landscape -For Better or Worse
Environmental Health News, March 08, 2020
A thoroughly incomplete list of politicians, scientists, activists, tycoons, journalists, and philanthropists who have made a difference.

Fukushima: How the Ocean Became a Dumping Ground for Radioactive Waste
Deutsch Welle, March 11, 2020
The nuclear disaster at Fukushima sent an unprecedented amount of radiation into the Pacific. But, before then, atomic bomb tests and radioactive waste were contaminating the sea - the effects are still being felt today.


Where Biden and Sanders Diverge on Climate Change
Reuters, March 09, 2020
Democratic White House hopefuls Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders believe climate change is an existential threat, that the United States should immediately rejoin global climate talks, and that fossil fuel workers need help adjusting to a cleaner energy economy. The similarities end there.

Inside Clean Energy: An Energy Snapshot in 5 Charts
Inside Climate Change, March 05, 2020
New data from the Energy Information Administration show coal tanking, solar surging, wind growing fast and electricity usage remaining stable.  
Ecosystems the Size of Amazon 'Can Collapse Within Decades'
The Guardian, March 05, 2020
Large biomes can break down like Jenga bricks once tipping point reached, research finds.
A Decade of Dithering on Climate Action Calls For Crisis Mode
Cosmos, March 05, 2020
Four times the effort now needed to comply with the Paris agreement.
World Meteorological Organization: Climate Change Pushes Sea Levels to Record High
Inews, March 10, 2020
Oceans are approaching crisis point as warming hits 1.1C in 2019.

Science for the Public is a volunteer organization, whose mission is to provide accurate information about science concepts, innovations and issues from outstanding scientists. 

We produce public lectures, an interview program ( Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations), and a mini-documentary series ( Working Science).  All of our productions are videotaped and are available on our website and our online channels, as well as on WGBH Forum Network and Belmont Media Center Community TV. 

Visit our website at and sign up for our newsletter. 
Contact us at