(Left to right): REUTERS/Les Stone; DIGITALGLOBE, INC.; Andreas März/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Fracking’s harmful effect on babies and Afghanistan’s lost empires

Spy satellites are revealing Afghanistan’s lost empires

For archaeologists, Afghanistan is virtually off-limits for fieldwork. Yet U.S. and Afghan researchers are now finding thousands of never-before-cataloged ancient sites in the country, which for more than a millennium served as a crucial crossroads linking East and West. The discoveries promise to expand scholars’ view of long-vanished empires while giving the battered nation a desperately needed chance to protect its trove of cultural heritage.

French president’s climate talent search nabs 18 foreign scientists

French President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to lure disgruntled foreign climate scientists to France—especially from the United States—has produced its first harvest. France announced Monday that Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative has recruited its first class of 18 scientists. Of the new recruits, 13, including a few French nationals, now work in the United States; the others are based in Canada, India, and Europe.

Fracking linked to low-weight babies

Fracking—the hydraulic fracturing of deeply buried shale rock to extract natural gas—has transformed the United States over the past 15 years, boosting energy stocks, cutting pollution from conventional coal-power plants, and creating new jobs. But this boom may have come at the cost of infant health, according to the first large-scale study of babies born before and after natural gas extraction began in Pennsylvania.

99-million-year-old ticks sucked the blood of dinosaurs

Ticks may be a disease-carrying menace for hikers and pets, but they’re also masters of survival: The parasites were sucking the blood of dinosaurs 99 million years ago, according to a set of newly analyzed amber fossils from Myanmar. One of the samples, in which a tick is hanging onto a dino feather, provides the oldest direct evidence of what these ancient parasites ate.

Why some clownfish are boring

Some clownfish are social and frisky, but others live placid and uneventful lives. To find out why, scientists observed two related species that lived in either sheltered lagoons or harsh, exposed reefs. Despite their sedate surroundings, the lagoon-dwellers were braver and more aggressive toward other fish, whereas the reef fish didn’t seem to have any obvious personality traits. Harsher conditions force the reef fish to adapt to their surroundings, reasoned the researchers, and the constant adaptations prevent distinct personalities from emerging.