by Jessica Hall

Rhamphorhynchus phyllurus. (Image: Ryan Somma/FunkMonk, CC BY-SA 2.0)Pterosaurs are an interesting bunch. They are the first vertebrates that took flight, and they share a number of traits with birds despite not being directly related to them. Pterosaurs aren’t actually dinosaurs, despite the fact that dinosaurs and pterosaurs had a large temporal overlap. Both they and dinosaurs descend from an ancient clade of reptiles and birdlike things, known as archosaurs, and pterosaurs are more closely related to dinosaurs and birds than to other reptiles.

Our understanding of the range and lifestyle of these ancient creatures is still evolving…


by Joel Hruska

As part of its iPhone 13 launch event this year, Apple has unveiled the A15 Bionic, the next-generation SoC that powers the iPhone. Like last year’s CPU, the A15 will be built on TSMC’s 5nm process. Apple didn’t clarify if it’s using the company’s N5 or N5P node, but we’d assume its N5P to take advantage of in-generation improvements.

The A15 keeps the same core configuration as the A14, with two high-performance cores (Avalanche) and four high-efficiency cores (Blizzard) replacing the FireStorm/IceStorm cores used in A14. Typically Apple compares performance with its own previous generation, but this…


by Ryan Whitwam

Graphic: Mark Garlick/Getty Images

Graphic: Mark Garlick/Getty Images aims to use the CRISPR gene-editing technique to restore mammoths (or something like them) to Earth by the late 2020s.

The company, known as Colossal, has picked up $15 million in funding to begin work on the project. This is not a Jurassic Park scenario — Colossal isn’t going to clone the original woolly mammoth species. Instead, it will use CRISPR to make modifications to the genome of the endangered Asian elephant, a creature that shares over 99.9 percent of its DNA with its extinct cousin.

According to Church, who has been musing…


by Jessica Hall

Sometimes, when you feed an AI content from the Internet, it learns natural language. Sometimes, it reads the entire contents of GitHub and learns to produce simple snippets of code.

This is the story of what happens when the AI does both.

Neural networks are all the rage these days. From Siri to self-driving, to protein folding and medical diagnostics, the powerful duo of machine learning and big data is taking over. Neural nets started out as one-trick ponies: a Markov chain generated a gobbledygook whitepaper that got accepted as a non-reviewed paper to the (“spammy and…


by Ryan Whitwam

As far as we can tell from modern science, there’s no upper limit to temperature. There sure is a lower limit, though. We call that absolute zero, measured as -273.15 °C (-459.67 °F). Scientists have yet to reach that limit in any experiment, but they’re getting close. A team of physicists in Germany has gotten closer than ever before, reaching a temperature of 38 trillionths of a degree from absolute zero, according to New Atlas.

This news might sound familiar because it is — scientists have inched closer to absolute zero on numerous occasions. A few years…


by Ryan Whitwam

The unaided human eye will never be able to see around corners, but anything is possible with enough fancy imaging technology. So-called non-line-of-sight (or NLOS) tech is an increasingly common area of study in the age of self-driving cars, which would benefit hugely from being able to see what’s around the bend. Now, a team from the Stanford Computational Imaging Lab has taken the idea a step further by spying on objects inside a locked room. All they need is a laser and a keyhole.

NLOS systems don’t yet have any applications in the real world, but…


by Ryan Whitwam

We tend to think of planets and stars as very different things, but the border between very large planets and very small stars is surprisingly hazy. Astronomers have spotted about 2,000 so-called “brown dwarfs,” objects that are dozens of times larger than Jupiter, but not quite large enough to kick off a sustained fusion reaction. Now, we’re discovered one that could teach us about the dawn of the universe, and it’s right in our cosmic backyard.

Astronomers first became aware of WISEA J153429.75–104303.3 about three years ago, but the details have only started appearing in print. It…


by Jessica Hall

(Photo: dottedhippo/Getty Images)

Regular readers will know I turn into a starry-eyed idiot when new tardigrade news breaks. There’s just so much to love about them. Is it gauche to be a biologist and have a favorite animal? The adorkable and insanely tanky tardigrade might be mine. They sit at the junction of biology and physics, boggling minds with their bizarre capabilities, and looking for all the world like real-life Pokémon.

Tardigrades are weird and cool, and full of superlatives and contradictions. For just one example: the way tardigrades move is something special. They’re microscopic and soft-bodied, but they don’t…


by Ryan Whitwam

As the world once again sets its sights on the moon, it can seem like continuing on to Mars is the next logical step. Some space travel fans like Elon Musk have talked excitedly about seeding Maritan colonies within the next decade, but a new study from UCLA could put a damper on such plans. According to the latest data, humans could only safely spend four years on Mars before receiving an unsafe dose of radiation.

The researchers set out to answer two key questions for a hypothetical crewed Mars mission: Is it possible to safely send…


by Ryan Whitwam

The number of known planets in our solar system has changed over time, but we’re currently sitting at eight since the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet. However, some scientists believe there is a ninth planet lurking out there in the inky blackness at the edge of the solar system. A new analysis supports the notion that there’s out there, and it also something narrows the region we need to search if we want to find the contentious Planet Nine.

Astronomers started talking seriously about a ninth planet in 2016 when Caltech’s Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin…

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