April 23, 2014

3:55 PM | Ask Anything: Can Insects Get Fat?
Miroslaw Kijewski/Getty Images Some initial work on chubby bugs occurred in the early 1960s, when a Florida entomologist started publishing research on obese mosquitoes. When he fed the wild-caught flies by hand (“by easing the proboscis into a micropipette”), he found that he could turn half their bodies into fat, by dry weight. More recently, scientists have studied obesity in male dragonflies. Ruud Schilder, a biologist at Penn State, showed that infection with a certain […]

April 02, 2014

5:35 PM | Ask Anything: Why Do Some Birds Chirp While Others Gobble?
Turkey Versus Chickadee Lifeonwhite/Getty Images, Donald M. Jones/Getty Images Different bird sounds have different functions. Songbirds use elaborate music to attract a mate or to let rivals know the limits of their territory; other kinds of birds will chirp for food or to communicate a message to their peers, such as the presence of a predator. But there are other factors that determine why songs and calls may not sound so much alike from one species to the next. First of all, […]

March 24, 2014

6:45 PM | Ask Anything: Wind Chill? Heat Index? Can't We Combine Them?
Wind chill? Head index? Fred Zhang/Getty Images More than 100 weather indices have been proposed over the past century in an effort to translate environmental conditions—how cold it is, how windy, how sunny, how wet—into felt experience and physiological risk. Many of these, like the wind chill and the heat index, focus on specific subsets of the variables in play. (The wind chill uses ambient temperature and wind speed; the heat index uses temperature and humidity.) But […]
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