Red wood ant mound. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Some species of red wood ants, found in Europe and North America, build 7-foot mounds in the forests. A few years ago, a husband-and-wife team of geologists, Gabriele and Martin Berberich, noticed the mounds tend to be found near active tectonic faults. They struggled to publish that observation. "It sounds crazy, right? — geology and ants interacting?" says their collaborator Israel del Toro, an entomologist at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

But in a study published last week, they outlined an experiment modeled on medicine's double-blind test to determine whether there is an association between the geology of a place and the occurrence of ants there. They found there is.

"These things that are really conspicuous in nature often get overlooked. But when we look, something cool pops up," says Del Toro.

How they did it: Del Toro and his colleague mapped the location of nests in two forested areas in Denmark without knowing the geology or the hypothesis. The Berberichs meanwhile compiled data about the tectonic faults in the area, not knowing what Del Toro found.

When they put the two datasets together, they found the ants' nests "were eight times more likely to be found within 60 m of known tectonic faults than were random points in the same region but without nests."

What's next: Correlation, of course, doesn't imply causation. The researchers want to know whether there is any underlying biology. One idea: the ants could be using warm gas released from microfaults that can't be seen with the eye as chimneys to stay active during the cold winters. They plan to now map the microfaults in the area and determine their temperature.

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Michael Cohen taken back into federal custody

Michael Cohen arrives at his Park Avenue apartment on May 21 in New York City. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's disgraced former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is heading back to prison after refusing the conditions of his home confinement, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Details: A New York Post report earlier this month placed Cohen out at a restaurant in New York with his wife, while one of the sources said that more broadly he refused to wear an ankle bracelet.

U.S. sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur human rights abuses

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The Treasury Department announced Thursday that the U.S. has sanctioned four Chinese Communist Party officials and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau for human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 12,118,667 — Total deaths: 551,271 — Total recoveries — 6,649,930Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 3,081,383 — Total deaths: 132,570 — Total recoveries: 953,420 — Total tested: 37,431,666Map.
  3. Public health: Cases rise in 33 statesFlorida reports highest single-day coronavirus death toll since pandemic began.
  4. Science: World Health Organization acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus.
  5. Travel: Young adults are most likely to have moved due to coronavirus.