What’s the most popular news? It’s news you can use. The most-read stories on Science News for Students were about subjects close to home, such as smartphones, e-cigarettes, shark movies and chocolate. Why? Those are subjects people encounter in their everyday lives. Here’s what you were reading in 2018:
10. How the phone in your pocket is telling your secrets
Some people depend on their smartphones so much they walk, run, eat and sleep with the devices nearby. But these handy assistants are full of sensors collecting data on where you are, how fast you’re going and much more. But that means your phone could tell a bad app a lot about you — without your being aware of it. Here’s how.
9. Editing our way out of extinction
We bring lots of baggage when we travel to new places — and not just the suitcase kind. Our travels can spread invasive species that can drive native residents to the brink of extinction. Now, scientists are thinking about ways to edit our way out of the problem. The key is a technology called a gene drive. But just because we can, does that mean we should?
8. Chocolate: The most delicious science of all
Chocolate is so popular that people spend more than $90 billion on it every year! Here’s how scientists are helping farmers protect this precious crop from nasty diseases. They’re also making chemical strides to boost chocolate’s health benefits.
7. Why we should care about dirty air
Very dirty city air can make it hard for people with diseases such as asthma to breathe. But it also can do much more. Scientists are now finding that exposure to dirty air — and the many particles in it — can cause memory problems and even lesions in the brain. It also can boost chemicals in the body associated with stress — another excuse to get out of the city.
6. Spend a lot of time on the phone? Forget about it
People who spend a lot of time on the phone with it pressed against their ear may be harming more than their data plans. Teens who talked on their phones a lot, holding their phones against their right ears, were exposed to more cell-phone radiation. They also scored lower on certain memory tests compared with teens who didn’t gab so much.
And that’s not all for smartphone science. Another study showed that college students who were allowed phones in class didn’t retain information as well as those where smartphones weren’t allowed. That was true even if the students didn’t check their phones; just having them around was distracting.
5. Packing for Mars
Going to Mars is much more challenging than simply sending a rocket there. Mars colonists will have to grow food and make objects, such as tools and spare parts. They’ll have to be creative — and might even have to use their own poop. After all, they can’t just go to the corner store for more supplies. But science is tackling the technology that will help us survive on the Red Planet.
4. Blue diamonds are born deep
Blue diamonds are stunning, expensive and rare. They get their color from the element boron. But there’s not a lot of that element in the Earth’s mantle, where diamonds are born. Where do they get it from? Shifting pieces of the Earth’s crust send boron deep into the planet.
3. Here’s what happens when animal species mix
Two different species don’t always stay separate. Sometimes, when one species moves into new territory, or can’t find a date, it might mate with a very similar species. A hybrid can then result. Scientists are studying hybrids to find out what happens when two sets of different DNA unite.
2. A nicotine-free e-cigarette can still cause harm
E-cigarettes don’t need the addictive chemical nicotine. Some vape liquids are just flavors. Being nicotine-free, though, doesn’t make these e-cigs harmless. The flavors that are safe when they come in food or drink form may have very different effects when they are inhaled.
1. The real science behind “The Meg”
Science went to the movies this year with a film about a huge, long-dead shark called Megalodon. But was “The Meg” really that big? And could it really have survived for millions of years in the ocean deeps? Well, we hate to tell you this…but here are all the things wrong with “The Meg.”