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Articles on Microbes

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Legendrea loyezae, a very rare ciliate that lives in oxygen-free sediments of lakes. James Weiss

How we found microbes rarer than a ticket to the Moon

Microbes are so tiny humans can’t see them without special equipment. But the discovery of 20 new species will help scientists map the evolutionary tree of life.
Science shows that humans are happier and healthier around other animal and plant species. Artur Debat/Moment via Getty Images

Do humans really need other species?

People wouldn’t last long without the countless other species we depend on for survival.
Plastic trash accumulates in trees and shrubs along the Los Angeles River. Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If plastic comes from oil and gas, which come originally from plants, why isn’t it biodegradable?

Plastic is made from oil and natural gas, which started out as fossilized plant and animal material. But buried deep underground for millions of years, those materials changed in important ways.
Permafrost and ice wedges have built up over millennia in the Arctic. When they thaw, they destabilize the surrounding landscape. Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Thawing permafrost is roiling the Arctic landscape, driven by a hidden world of changes beneath the surface as the climate warms

Ground is collapsing and massive lakes are draining in a matter of days. Thawing permafrost is having profound effects on the region and its infrastructure.
Low-cost air-ventilation systems have been installed in many classrooms across the U.S. to help reduce COVID-19 transmission. Halfpoint Images/Moment via Getty Images

COVID-19 has spurred investments in air filtration for K-12 schools – but these technologies aren’t an instant fix

Air-ventilation upgrades have been badly needed in U.S. classrooms since long before the pandemic. Low-tech filtration systems that cost about the same as a textbook per student can make a big difference.
A tailings pond at an oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, Alta., in July 2012. The estimated cost of reclaiming oilsands mines is almost $31 billion. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

How engineered bacteria could clean up oilsands pollution and mining waste

Solutions to some of the globe’s most daunting environmental challenges may be closer than you think. Scientists are harnessing nature to clean up toxic chemicals and mining waste.

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