The Science Behind Maple Syrup Production

tapping maple trees for sap

As winter transitions to spring, the perfect conditions arise for collecting sap from sugar maple trees. (Photo credit: James Pintar/Shutterstock)

As winter turns to spring, syrup producers turn their eye to the weather forecast. They are in search of the perfect conditions to begin tapping sugar maple trees for sap. Have you ever wondered how sap from a maple tree is turned into a delicious topping for pancakes and waffles? [Read more…]

Getting to Know the Groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil and his handler. (Photo credit: Corbis)

On February 2nd, all eyes turn to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Local lore has it that this groundhog can predict the following six weeks of weather. If he sees his shadow, then six more weeks of winter are in order. If he does not see his shadow, then an early spring is on the way.

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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)

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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.

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A Long Winter’s Nap No More

hibernating bear

Many bears hibernate during the long, cold, and dark winter months. (Photo credit: Ralph A. Clevenger/Corbis)

When temperatures get colder and the days get shorter, many mammals settle into a period of hibernation. But what effect will climate change — and the associated changes in weather patterns — have on this annual behavior? [Read more…]

How ‘Super’ Are Superfoods?

superfoods

Some foods, such as asparagus and blueberries, are called superfoods. But what — if anything — does it mean to be a superfood? (Photo credit: Marilyn Barbone/Shutterstock)

If you search the term superfoods, the results will include a seemingly endless list of articles expounding upon the health benefits of various fruits, vegetables, and other foods. Most likely, the articles also will have headlines such as “The 10 Best Superfoods for Weight Loss” or “8 Superfoods that Prevent Cancer.” But what exactly makes a certain food item super? And, will eating these superfoods really benefit your health? [Read more…]

Vaccination: Increasing Your Shot at a Long, Healthy Life

Vaccinations save lives. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Today, vaccinations exist for a variety of diseases, including measles, tetanus, and everyone’s least favorite wintertime malady, influenza (i.e., the flu). But how are these vaccines developed? More important, are they safe?

vaccine

A number of illnesses and diseases can be prevented through vaccination. (Photo credit: Richard Shock/Corbis)

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Where Do Insects Go When it Snows?

stonefly

Some insects, such as the stonefly, thrive in the harsh conditions of winter. (Photo credit: Photo Fun/Shutterstock)

For those who don’t like the cold and snow,perhaps the one good thing about winter is the fact that were not bothered by a lot of insects. Insects, however, don’t disappear when its cold. [Read more…]

Cephalopod Intelligence Tied to Genetic Anomaly

cuttlefish

Cuttlefish (shown here), squid, and octopuses can edit their own RNA. (Photo credit: David Litman/Shutterstock)

Cephalopods, such as the squid and octopus, have long been known for their wily intelligence. Their complex behaviors include unlocking and escaping from aquarium tanks, opening jars, and communicating with one another using a system similar to Morse code. These underwater creatures, along with cuttlefishes, are all coleoids, which is a subclass of cephalopods. New research highlights another unique ability of these underwater creatures: they can edit their own RNA. [Read more…]

World’s Oldest Homo sapiens Fossils Discovered

hominin skull

These images show two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. (Photo credit: Philipp Gunz/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

It’s time to rewrite the textbooks. Until now, the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils, found in Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, dated to 195,000 years ago. The new fossils, discovered in Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, date to approximately 300,000 years ago. This means the new findings predate the previous oldest-known fossils by over 100,000 years.

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