How exploding ants do their work
At the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Center in Brunei, there is a nest of very special ants. They explode. Scientists recently published an in-depth description of the newly named species, called Colobopsis explodens, including a portion of their genome sequence. Workers of C. explodens have a distinctive talent. When their nest is invaded, they rupture their own abdomens, releasing a sticky, bright yellow fluid laced with toxins. The exploded ants do not survive, but their sacrifice can help save the colony.
‘Precipitation whiplash’ more likely
The 1862 flood that went down as the worst washout in modern California history is often described as a 200-year event. A study in the journal Nature Climate Change, however, finds that extreme swings from dry spells to intense storms will become increasingly frequent, a phenomenon the authors dub “precipitation whiplash.’’ Because of the warming atmosphere, this type of extreme weather will probably become more frequent, meaning San Francisco and Los Angeles are more likely than not to see an 1862-style deluge by 2060.
Uranus stinks, and science proves it
Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, has an upper atmosphere full of one of the smelliest chemicals known to humans, hydrogen sulfide, according to a study in Nature Astronomy. The odorous gas is what gives rotten eggs — and human flatulence — their distinctive smell. Scientists discovered evidence of “the noxious gas swirling high in the giant planet’s cloud tops” after observing how sunlight bounced off Uranus’ atmosphere.
Diamonds from a lost planet?
In 2008, chunks of space rock crashed in the deserts of Sudan. Scientists now say that diamonds discovered inside one of the recovered meteorites may have come from a destroyed planet that orbited our sun billions of years ago. If confirmed, it would be the first time anyone has recovered fragments from one of our solar system’s so-called “lost” planets. News services