Mosquito moms prefer laying eggs in bacteria-filled water
Scientists may be a step closer to winning the war with disease-spreading mosquitoes. Entomologists at North Carolina State University in Raleigh say they have figured out where and why yellow-fever mosquitoes—carriers of diseases including dengue fever and chikungunya fever—decide to lay their eggs. They report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA this week that the pests lay more than 90 percent of their eggs in stagnant water infused with leaves that pool inside everything from flower pots to junked tires. The reason: they are apparently attracted by chemical cues sent out by the bacteria residing in the decomposing leaves. Seems the blood-sucking breeders are lured by the availability of food for their future spawn, which feast on the yummy microorganisms. The scientists hope to turn the tables on the prickly varmints by setting insecticide traps for the unsuspecting mosquito mommies in likely egg-laying venues.
Dark energy permeates the universe--and now even the dictionary
It took 10 years, but Merriam-Webster has finally recognized "dark energy," adding the term—used to describe the perplexing force that is causing galaxies to accelerate away from one another—to some 100 other new dictionary entries this year. Some hesitation was appropriate: As with any new discovery, researchers needed time to digest and confirm the 1998 finding of dark energy, made by analyzing the light coming from distant supernovae. The origin of dark energy is one of the biggest mysteries in physics, but its existence is now well accepted. Researchers believe it will eventually leave individual galaxies isolated in vast oceans of empty space. Among this year's other geeky dictionary-worthy words: dwarf planet (Pluto and other smallish round bodies in the solar system, recently rechristened "plutoids"); malware (harmful computer software); norovirus (which causes stomach flu); phytonutrient (a plant substance beneficial to human health); and air quotes, the gesture you no doubt made if you read this out loud.
Hybrid car gets a sunroof—literally
The Prius gas-electric hybrid car will become even more environmentally friendly now that Toyota will be adding solar panels to its popular model's roof, according to Nikkei, Japan's financial newspaper. The publication reported that the next generation of the iconic "green" car will be launched in May and may draw enough power from such solar panels—on a sunny day—to power its air conditioner. The solar panels, or photovoltaics, would likely only be included on a limited number of more expensive models. And Toyota will also begin cutting down on shipping pollution associated with the popular hybrids; the company plans to begin producing the Prius in its new Mississippi production plant beginning in 2010.