Super Bright Space Volcano

Jupiter’s biggest and closest moon, Io, is one of the most geologically active planetary bodies in the solar system. But last year researchers at the University of California Berkeley’s Gemini Observatory captured the brightest, most spectacular volcanic eruption to date over the course of 11 days. These recently-published infrared images of the moon show the eruption, in the upper right, and the lava lake Loki is visible in the middle.

A Hummingbird, Still

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, photographer Chris Morgan caught up with a particularly fast-paced bird: the hummingbird. With wings that beat between 50 and 200 times per second, hummingbirds have many unique adaptations for flight and speed, including a greater density of feathers, larger pectoral muscles and larger hearts.

For A Secret Message, Just Exhale

Have you ever written on a bathroom mirror after an extra hot shower? Researchers at University of Michigan Engineering are also embracing condensation to reveal secret images. When a person breathes on a plastic film, an array of nanopillars under the surface of the film trap moisture, making the image visible. The researchers envision this technology being used to authenticate pharmaceuticals, currencies and documents that are often subject to counterfeiting.

Inflatable Lego-Like Blocks Will Build Future Robots

The Harvard University team that specializes in soft, squishy robots has created flexible, LEGO-inspired blocks to be used in future prototypes. The blocks, called click-e-bricks, are 3-D printed and made of soft, squishy plastic that snaps into place. But the team has much loftier goals for this material; they hope that their robots will be able to modify the bricks to replace their own parts when needed.

California’s First Wolf Babies In 100 Years

In 2011, a gray wolf named OR-7 left his pack in northeast Oregon and made his way south to California. This was a pretty big deal, because OR-7 became the first wolf in the state since 1924, after decades of extermination programs wiped them out completely. Miraculously, OR-7 found a mate, and biologists recently captured images of the first wolves to be born in California in at least a century. OR-7’s migration has inspired California lawmakers to declare the gray wolf an engangered species in the state, even as Washington lawmakers consider delisting it.

New Microscopic Material Makes Water Flow Upward

Imagine sunflowers in a field, moving to face the sun throughout the day. Now apply that same motion to tiny, hair-like microstructures on a new material, which respond similarly to the presence of a magnetic field. Researchers at MIT created the material with thousands of flexible microhairs made of nickel that are each a quarter of the width of a human hair. The new material can be used to filter sunlight (like blinds on your window) or redirect how water flows across man-made surfaces.

Shark Eyes In The Twilight Zone

In the deep ocean, between 650 and 3,200 feet of depth, there’s such little light that it’s called the “twilight zone.” For sharks that live there, they must distinguish the shadowy silhouettes of their own kind from those of potential prey. So their eyes have perfectly adapted to suit their needs; they’re bioluminescent, meaning that they have ability to glow. About 10 percent of shark species are bioluminescent.

What Lovely Jaws You Have

The thought of fish jaws may bring back some unpleasant associations, like chomping piranhas or the infamous movie “Jaws.” But recently paleontologists at the Royal Ontario Museum uncovered the mother of all fish jaws– the first ones, specifically, in a fish from the Silurian period (443-419 million years ago). Not many fossils have been found in Ontario from this period, and this specimen is the only one known. Animals have no need for jaws, of course, unless they’re predators, and this little fish (it measures only 4.5 inches in length) would have been a feisty chomper, the first of its kind. This is an artist’s rendering based on the fossil.

New Types Of Terrifying Tentacles

Off the coast of Western Australia, a tiny jellyfish threatens swimmers that may cross its path. The irukandji jellyfish is famous for being highly venomous and, although it measures less than half an inch, it can shoot its tentacles at its prey. This week, biologists discovered two new species of the floating menace, doubling the number of known species on the Western Australian coast. These new species, however, are much larger, measuring 11-20 inches in length. They’re just as toxic as their tiny counterparts, though.