Five Hawks Down: watch the tragic migration of six Californian raptors

Tracking project establishes northern Argentina is wintering ground of Swainson's hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons / Ruland Kolen
  • Watch these six dots move across the map and be moved yourself: this is a story about coming of age, discovery, hardship, death and survival.
  • Each dot is a tag attached to the talon of a Swainson's Hawk. We follow them on their very first migration, from northern California all the way down to Argentina.
  • After one year, only one is still alive.
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popular

A pleasure to burn: Why do people like spicy foods?

Spicy foods are enjoyed the world over, but scientists don't know why people partake in culinary masochism.

Image source: Pixabay
  • Humans are the only animals known to willingly eat foods that cause irritation, discomfort, and even pain.
  • Theories for why range from thrill-seeking behavior to an evolutionary adaptation for seeking foods that reduce pathogens.
  • Taste results from an interplay of genes, culture, memory, and personality, a complex design that scientists are only now beginning to understand.
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Culture & Religion

Are birds using quantum entanglement to navigate?

Sounds wild, but it may well be so.

(MattiaATH/Shutterstock)
  • Birds' navigation using Earth's very faint magnetic fields suggests an incredible level of sensitivity.
  • There's reason to think that sensitivity may be based on quantum entanglement in cryptochrome in their eyes.
  • Identifying the role of quantum physics in biology could lead, well, who knows where?
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Surprising Science

Famous fossil is not an Archaeopteryx feather after all

Lasers solve the mystery of the missing quill.

(Daniel Eskriidge/Shutterstock)
  • The famous fossilized feather found in the 1860s is from some unknown animal.
  • The fossil's missing quill has long kept its identity unknown.
  • We're just at the beginning of our awareness of feathered dinosaurs.
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Surprising Science

Dinosaurs are alive! Here’s how we know, and why it matters

Feathery dinosaurs are the perfect case study of how scientific revolutions happen.

  • For most of the 20th century, figuring out the origin of birds was a great challenge of evolutionary biology — they didn't seem to fit anywhere. Then, in the late 20th century, a group of scientists discovered that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, which were large, bipedal meat-eaters like the Velociraptor or the T-Rex.
  • The bird-from-dinosaur theory was considered to be a crackpot idea but after three decades of research, the evidence became irrefutable. Finally, the discovery of feathers on a theropod ended the fiery 30-year debate. "[Birds] didn't just come from dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs living amongst us — 10,000 species found on all continents around the world," says Richard Prum.
  • This piece of science history is a perfect case study of how scientific revolutions happen. The scientific method is a self-repairing system that improves under scrutiny — good science, done with an open mind and not a foregone conclusion, leads to greater knowledge.
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