Approved

Fijian ants grow their own homes

HUMANS began planting crops about 10,000 years ago. Ants have been at it rather longer. Leafcutters, the best known myrmicine agriculturalists, belong to a line of insects that has been running fungus farms based on chopped-up vegetable matter for 50m years. By that yardstick even Philidris nagasau, a species of Read more…

By Brian Poncelet, ago
Approved

Where’s the catch?

ABOUT 90% of the world’s fish stocks are being fished either to their limit or beyond it. Monitoring fish numbers reliably, though, is no easy matter. Official catch data are often incomplete and sometimes untrustworthy. Moreover, large tracts of the sea are not monitored at all. In order to know Read more…

By Brian Poncelet, ago
Approved

Magnetic moments

A CLASSIC experiment beloved of scientifically inclined children is to cover a magnet with a piece of paper and sprinkle iron filings onto the paper. This reveals the field lines that connect the magnet’s north and south poles. Try something similar with some of the new types of magnets now Read more…

By Brian Poncelet, ago
Approved

Not so lonely sea in the sky

A great hole in Pluto IS THE solar system about to get another ocean? So far, besides Earth, six bodies are known or suspected to harbour oceans. These are Europa, Callisto and Ganymede (all moons of Jupiter), Enceladus and Titan (both moons of Saturn) and Triton (a moon of Neptune). Read more…

By Brian Poncelet, ago
Approved

Hunting submarines with magnets

SUBMARINES rely on stealth to do their jobs, whether that is sinking enemy ships or hiding nuclear-tipped missiles beneath the ocean. The traditional way of hunting them is with sonar. Modern sonar is extremely sensitive. But modern submarines are very quiet, and neither side has gained a definitive upper hand. Read more…

By Brian Poncelet, ago
Approved

Missile tracking

MANY anti-cancer drugs are packaged for delivery into tiny fatty envelopes called liposomes. Because tumour cells are bound more loosely than healthy cells, liposomes squeeze between them more easily. They thus tend to accumulate in cancerous tissue and so, when they degrade, release their payloads there rather than in healthy Read more…

By Brian Poncelet, ago