Methane Is Invisible, Ubiquitous, and More Powerful Than We Imagined

A California Gas Leak Is Revealing the Outsize Punch of an Underestimated Molecule

Made of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms, lighter than air, methane is a democratic molecule. You make it, I make it, cows and coal mines emit it, as do termites and multinational oil companies. Power plants, land fills, sewage treatment plants, rice paddies, natural gas pipelines, and oil rigs leak it. When NASA looks for life on other planets, they don’t look for little green men, they scan for traces of methane. Methane is the ultimate sign of life, though a massively mysterious, and invisible, one.

The mysteries surrounding …

More In: Small Science

When Birders With Binoculars Trump Supercomputers

If You Want to Know Which Species Are Going Extinct, Don’t Use an Algorithm. Count Ducks at Christmas.

It was just after dawn on January 3 and a freezing wind blew around my binoculars and into my face as I stood scanning a steely Atlantic bay. Suddenly, where …