Selected Sci-News Items March 14 - March 20, 2020

General Interest    Cosmos    Innovation    Health    Nature    Environment    Climate

SftPublic March Events will be rescheduled because of coronavirus (studio closed)
Please check these links for updates

NOTE:  This week we have added a Coronavirus section


How Long Will Coronavirus Live On Surfaces or In the Air Around You?
New York Times, March 17, 2020
A new study could have implications for how the general public and health care workers try to avoid transmission of the virus.

How China's "Bat Woman" Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus
Scientific American, March 11, 2020
Wuhan-based virologist Shi Zhengli has identified dozens of deadly SARS-like viruses in bat caves, and she warns there are more out there.

Don't Rush to Deploy COVID-19 Vaccines and Drugs without Sufficient Safety Guarantees
Nature, March 16, 2020
Standard protocols are essential for safeguarding health. Before allowing use of a COVID-19 vaccine in humans, regulators should evaluate safety with a range of virus strains and in more than one animal model.

Coronavirus Cases Have Dropped Sharply in South Korea. What's the Secret to Its Success?
Science, March 17, 2020
Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts.

How We Can Stop the Next New Virus
Washington Post, March 16, 2020
Emerging human diseases - including not just covid-19 and SARS, but also AIDS, Ebola and Marburg - don't arise spontaneously in humans. Instead, they are animal diseases (so-called zoonoses) that jumped from an animal host to humans.


Why Plague Doctors Wore Those Strange Beaked Masks
National Geographic, March 12, 2020
In the 17th century, people believed these outfits could purify poisonous air. They were wrong.

Scientists Are Leading Notre Dame's Restoration -and Probing Mysteries Laid Bare by Its Devastating Fire
Science, March 12, 2020
The cathedral, laid bare to inspection by the fire, is yielding clues to the mysteries of its medieval past.

Pi Day: How One Irrational Number Made Us Modern
New York Times, March 14, 2020
The famous mathematical ratio, estimated to more than 22 trillion digits (and counting), is the perfect symbol for our species' long effort to tame infinity.

Ideal Glass Would Explain Why Glass Exists at All
Quanta, March 11, 2020
Glass is anything that's rigid like a crystal, yet made of disordered molecules like a liquid. To understand why it exists, researchers are attempting to create the perfect, still-hypothetical "ideal glass."
Columbus Brought Measles to the New World. It Was a Disaster for Native Americans.
Washington Post, May 05, 2019 (archive)
The New World before Columbus: no typhoid, no flu, no smallpox, no measles.  The New World after Columbus: epidemics of death.


How Slime Mold Helped Scientists Map Out the Cosmic Web
Science News, March 17, 2020
Creeping tendrils of slime seem to mirror the structure of the universe's enormous filaments. That superficial similarity, in an organism called a slime mold, helped scientists map out the cosmic web, the vast threads of matter that connect galaxies.

A New Theory of Magnetar Formation
Phys.Org, March 16, 2020
Magnetars are neutron stars endowed with the strongest magnetic fields observed in the universe, but their origin remains controversial.
Scientists Crack 58-Year-Old Quantum Mystery
Cosmos, March 12, 2020
Fluke discovery could revolutionize nuclear magnetic resonance.

Abel Prize in Mathematics Shared by 2 Trailblazers of Probability and Dynamics
New York Times, March 18, 2020
Two mathematicians who showed how an underappreciated branch of the field could be employed to solve important problems share this year's Abel Prize, the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel.
Spring arrives Thursday Night. Here's What the 'Spring Equinox' Is.
Washington Post, March 18, 2020  (good graphics)
It's the earliest spring equinox in 124 years.

How to Plant a Well-being Garden
The Guardian, March 14, 2020
From herbs to aid sleep to trees that tackle pollution, plants can provide more than just a visual feast.

Could Our Energy Come from Giant Seaweed Farms in the Ocean?
Scientific American, March 16, 2020
A U.S. agency is funding projects to help create a bioenergy industry based on macro-algae.

How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
Wired, March 12, 2020
No Purell? No problem! When disinfecting gel sells out everywhere, you can just make some yourself with stuff you (maybe) already have at home.

How to Optimize Online Learning In the Age of Coronavirus
Phys.Org, March 16, 2020
Due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) there will be increasing reliance on online learning for school students.

How Technology Can Combat the Rising Tide of Fake Science
The Conversation, March 09, 2020
Science gets a lot of respect these days. Unfortunately, it's also getting a lot of competition from misinformation.


The Man Who Saw the Pandemic Coming
Nautilus, March 12, 2020
Will the world now wake up to the global threat of zoonotic diseases?

What Should I Look for When Buying Whole Grains?
New York Times, March 16, 2020
There are several reliable ways to identify whole-grain foods.

The Case Against Sugar
Aeon, December 22, 2016 (archive)
A potent toxin that alters hormones and metabolism, sugar sets the stage for epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes.

In 6 Minutes, You Can Be Done With Your Workout
New York Times, February 18, 2020
Our three short workout videos will get your heart pumping and give you a full-body workout without a trip to the gym.

BPA and Babies: Controversial Chemical and Substitutes Pollute the Womb
Environmental Health News, March 18, 202
Babies are being exposed to "totally unacceptable concentrations."


Why You Get Shorter As You Age
The Conversation, March 10, 2020
This apparent shrinking is due to several factors relating to changes in bone, muscles, joints and other tissues in your body.

Earth's Tilt Angle Key Trigger For Ending Ice Ages
Cosmos, March 13, 2020
Analysis of global glaciations over the last million years confirms its significance.

Why Horse Racing Is So Dangerous
National Geographic, January 21, 2020 (archive)
Nearly 500 Thoroughbred racehorses died in the U.S. in 2018. Here's why.

Why Birds Are the World's Best Engineers
New York Times, March 17, 2020
The term "bird's nest" has come to describe a messy hairdo, tangled fishing line and other unspeakably knotty conundrums. But that does birds an injustice.
This Is One of the Largest Ice Age Structures Made of Mammoth Bones
Science News, March 16, 2020
Hunter-gatherers in what's now Russia constructed the massive ring around 25,000 years ago


Attenborough Backs Calls for Halt to Deep Sea Mining Over 'Terrible' Risks
Belfast Telegraph, March 12, 2020
A report from Fauna & Flora International warns of wildlife risks and climate impacts from exploiting the deep sea for minerals.

Long Phased-Out Refrigeration and Insulation Chemicals Still Widely in Use and Warming the Climate
Inside Climate News, March 12, 2020
New study concludes that "banked" CFCs have greenhouse gas impacts equal to all registered U.S. cars and slow the shrinking of the ozone hole.

Revealed: Monsanto's Secret Funding for Weedkiller Studies
The Guardian, March 12, 2020
The research, used to help avoid a ban, claimed 'severe impacts' on farming if glyphosate was outlawed.

Study Finds Staggering Economic Benefit From Protecting Wetlands
The Revelator, March 12, 2020
For example, in Florida, the loss of just 3% of wetland coverage resulted in $480 million in property damage during just one hurricane.
Record-High Global Tree Cover Loss Driven by Agriculture
Mongabay, March 10, 2020
Across the globe, tree cover loss hit record highs from 2016-2018, with roughly the size of a soccer field lost each second.


Inside Climate News, March 10, 2020
The city's lawsuit cites the industry's concealing of science that predicted catastrophic consequences for the continued burning of fossil fuels.

Global Banks 'Failing Miserably' on Climate Crisis by Funneling Trillions into Fossil Fuels
The Guardian, March 18, 2020
Analysis of 35 leading investment banks shows financing of more than $2.66tn for fossil fuel industries since the Paris agreement.

Restoring Soils Could Remove Up to '5.5 Billion Tons' of Greenhouse Gases Every Year
Carbon Brief, March 16, 2020
Around 40% of this carbon offsetting potential would come from protecting existing soil carbon stores in the world's existing forests, peat-lands and wetlands, the authors say.
The Demise of the Polar Vortex Could Spell Weather Surprises This Spring
Washington Post, March 14, 2020
As far removed as it is, the polar vortex had dramatic implications on our winter weather, and this could continue to heading into spring.

Climate Change: Will Planting Millions of Trees Really Save the Planet?
BBC, March 14, 2020
How much carbon dioxide do trees really pull in from the atmosphere? And what happens to a forest, planted amid a fanfare, over the following decades?

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