What Wombats Leave Behind

wombat

Wombats are furry marsupials endemic to Australia. (Photo credit: covenant/Shutterstock)

Let’s be honest, poop is kind of gross. It’s not something normally discussed in polite company. Yet, we can all agree it serves a purpose. Beyond the obvious purpose of eliminating wastes, what organisms excrete also can help both human and animal doctors diagnose illnesses and assess the general health of a patient. In the wild, “scat,” as it’s often referred to, has even greater significance. [Read more…]

Hate Cilantro? Blame Your Genes

New research indicates that your love (or hate) for cilantro depends on your genes. (Photo credit: Marnie Burkhart/Fancy/Alamy Images)

When it comes to the taste of cilantro in a spicy bowl of soup or wrapped up in a burrito, where do you stand? Do you find its taste refreshing? Or does it seem like you’re eating a mouthful of soap? This seemingly-benign herb elicits a love-hate relationship for many people. New research indicates that your genes may dictate your initial reaction to the flavor of this green herb.

[Read more…]

The Science Behind an Airplane Meal’s Lackluster Flavor

airplane food

Don’t blame the airplane food — it’s your senses (or lack thereof) that make it taste so bland. (Photo credit: Alex Segre/Alamy)

Airline meals have long been maligned for their bland flavor and strange textures. It turns out that at least some of the blame lies in an airline passengers sense of taste. [Read more…]

Yes, We Have No Bananas – The Demise of the Cavendish

Whether sliced into a bowl of cereal, split in two and served with ice cream, or peeled and eaten, the banana is a common part of the American diet. Americans eat more bananas annually than oranges and apples combined. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamins, including B6 and C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. While Americans typically view bananas as a snack food, in other parts of the world, they hold a much more important nutritional role. In some areas of Africa, where more than 200 species of the fruit are grown, bananas account for 80% of consumed calories. However, the banana that you know and love a variety called the Cavendish is in danger of being wiped out by a catastrophic disease currently spreading across the globe.

bananas

The Cavendish variety accounts for nearly 100% of the bananas imported around the world.(Photo credit: Muellek Josef/Shutterstock)

[Read more…]

Want to Prevent Algal Blooms? Toilet Train Birds

cormorants resting on a rock in a lake

While they may not be the sole cause, recent research shows that an increase in the population of cormorants on a lake in South Korea may have contributed to algal blooms.(Photo credit: EAGiven/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Algal blooms are a rapid increase in the population of algae in a body of water. They are characterized by their bright green color. While they can be an entirely natural phenomenon, algal blooms can be very harmful. They can deplete lakes of oxygen, produce toxins, and ultimately kill much of the aquatic life. [Read more…]

Scientists Trigger Artificial Photosynthesis

blue LEDs

Researchers have developed a method to trigger photosynthesis using synthetic materials and blue light. (Photo credit: Mifid/Shutterstock)

Researchers have successfully triggered artificial photosynthesis in a synthetic material, producing both clean air and energy at the same time. This process may one day be used to in the development of technology that simultaneously reduces greenhouse gases and produces clean energy.  [Read more…]

A Breath of Fresh Fructose?

naked mole rat

Described by some as looking like “bratwurst with teeth,” naked mole rats live in communities with social structures resembling beehives, are coldblooded like reptiles, and now are known to get energy from fructose, like a plant. (Photo credit: Ger Bosma/Alamy)

It’s difficult to find an odder animal than the naked mole rat (Heterosphalus glaber). A native of east African deserts, these mammals live more like bees, in complex, underground societies complete with a queen who gives birth to worker offspring who will never reproduce.  [Read more…]

52 Environmental Things to Do for Earth Day (and Every Day)

planet Earth

April 22 marks the 46th annual celebration of Earth Day. (Photo credit: Digital Vision/Getty Images)

April 22 marks the 47th annual Earth Day celebration. Earth Day was originally established by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 to bring environmental issues to the forefront of the national agenda. Until then, there were little to no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment.

[Read more…]

Promising New Drug Prevents Spread of Melanoma

dermatologist checking moles

Researchers have discovered a chemical compounds that prevents the spread of melanoma by up to 90 percent. (Photo credit: JPC-PROD/Shutterstock)

According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, every hour of every day one American dies from melanoma–that’s approximately 10,000 people per year. [Read more…]

The Secret’s in the Knots

brown recluse

A series of tiny knots make the silk of a brown recluse spider super strong. (Photo credit: Miles Boyer/Shutterstock)

Though most infamous for its deadly venomous bite, the brown recluse is also known for its unusual silk. Now researchers have discovered the secret behind the construction of this dangerous spider’s unique silk. [Read more…]