This decade will be a make-or-break point for the space junk problem. (Pixabay/WikiImages)
This decade will be a make-or-break point for the space junk problem. (Pixabay/WikiImages)So much debris from past missions has accumulated in low Earth orbit that between one-third and half of the zone’s capacity to sustain long-term space activities has already been filled, scientists have reported.

Increasing salinity in fresh water causes more bacteria to be released into the air. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Increasing salinity in fresh water causes more bacteria to be released into the air. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Increasing the saltiness of freshwater changes the number and types of bacteria that are launched into the air by breaking waves and bursting bubbles, which could have implications for the risk that people will be exposed to toxins from harmful algal blooms in the future.

Smartphones might be great detectors of solar disruptions. (AP Photo/Enid News & Eagle, Joe Rickets)
Smartphones might be great detectors of solar disruptions. (AP Photo/Enid News & Eagle, Joe Rickets)Massive solar storms in space can be picked up by iOS and Android smartphones, meaning billions of people have a personal geomagnetic storm detector — but the signals threaten to interfere with future location-based applications.

Single-use plastics of various types litter the deep ocean floor. (Jamstec)
Single-use plastics of various types litter the deep ocean floor. (Jamstec)By doing video surveillance deep in the ocean, researchers working in the North Pacific have discovered the densest accumulation of plastic waste ever recorded on an abyssal seafloor, finding that the majority of this waste is single-use packaging.

A "net" of seismometers on the moon could detect galactic gravitational waves. (NASA via AP)
A "net" of seismometers on the moon could detect galactic gravitational waves. (NASA via AP)An international collaboration of scientists has developed a blueprint for moon-based seismometers that detect gravitational waves reverberating throughout the celestial body, a design that would pick up frequencies that are out of reach for detectors on Earth.

An Italian volcano might be waking up. (Stefano Caliro)
An Italian volcano might be waking up. (Stefano Caliro)Scientists tracked escalating gaseous emissions from magma beneath a volcanic crater near Naples, Italy, and concluded that the related increases in pressure and temperature helped trigger the numerous low-magnitude earthquakes the area has experienced in recent years.

Urban oil wells have health impacts for the surrounding neighborhoods. (Nicole Wong)
Urban oil wells have health impacts for the surrounding neighborhoods. (Nicole Wong)People who live near active or dormant oil wells have poorer lung function than those whose homes are farther away, according to a study of two predominantly low-income Black and Latinx neighborhoods in South Los Angeles.

The new frontier in lung cancer detection involves the breath from those lungs. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The new frontier in lung cancer detection involves the breath from those lungs. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)A new test that detected lung cancer from exhaled breath with 96% accuracy is simpler and faster than similar breath tests, according to researchers, who suggest their advance is a step toward improved diagnostics for the prevalent disease.

The land is sinking and the sea is rising, meaning Texas floods will be more severe. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
The land is sinking and the sea is rising, meaning Texas floods will be more severe. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)Houston and other cities in the populous southeastern part of the Lone Star State are likely to face worsened flooding later this century due to the combined impacts of sea level rise and a gradual sinking of the land, scientists have reported.

Quantum computing has finally met the internet. (Matteo Pompili for QuTech)
Quantum computing has finally met the internet. (Matteo Pompili for QuTech)The dawn of the quantum internet has begun: A group of scientists successfully built a fully functional prototype of such a network, which uses diamonds as a foundation and calls on paradoxical quantum concepts that were once restricted to the pages of a textbook.

A decades-long dispute over something you've likely never heard of has been settled. (University of Stuttgart/Björn Miksch)
A decades-long dispute over something you've likely never heard of has been settled. (University of Stuttgart/Björn Miksch)A fresh experiment on an extreme state of matter has settled nearly 20 years of contradictory results about its ground state in one material, using direct measurements of electron spins unprecedented to the material to advance understanding of an almost five-decade-old physics problem.

A new paint promises to be whiter than white. (Unsplash/Yoann Siloine)
A new paint promises to be whiter than white. (Unsplash/Yoann Siloine)In October, a team of researchers at Purdue University rolled out the world's whitest paint, touting its ability to reflect the sun's heat from rooftops, sending it back into outer space. Now, they're back with a whiter, more reflective paint that could potentially ease our reliance on air conditioning and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.