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Science and Technology News, Science Articles | Discover Magazine

Science news, articles, current events and future views on technology, space, environment, health, and medicine.

Watch California's Thomas Fire metastasize into a monster likely made more ferocious by climate change  

An animation of satellite imagery offers a revealing perspective on the day-by-day growth of the Thomas Fire "Firefighters achieved huge successes yesterday during a BIG firefight to hold their line & SAVED hundreds of homes in Montecito." That was the news this morning about the horrific Thomas Fire burning in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, as described by the Public Information Officer of the Ventura County Fire Department. Unfortunately, many of the heroic firefighter...

2017-12-17 20:48:47

The Sad World of Uncited Papers  

A Nature News feature examines academic papers that have never been cited. According to author Richard Van Noorden, by some estimates up to half of all papers have yet to receive their first citation 5 years after publication, and even 10% of Nobel Prizewinners' papers go uncited. However, Van Noorden reports that these estimates are far too high. For recent papers indexed on Web of Science (WoS), "records suggest that fewer than 10%" remain uncited, and even this is likely an overesti

2017-12-17 12:02:06

Your Weekly Attenborough: Pristimantis attenboroughi  

Sir David Frederick is the best. That sounds like an opinion, but it's pretty much objective fact at this point. The British broadcaster and naturalist has been narrating the wonders of the natural world for over 50 years now, traveling to almost every country on Earth to do so. His crowning achievement is a massive documentary series known simply as the Life collection. Thirteen separate series filmed over the course of 20 years...

2017-12-15 22:18:53

Ötzi the Iceman Stars in a New Feature Film  

From a block of ice to the silver screen; Ötzi the Iceman, an archaeological star, is getting his own feature film. From German director Felix Randau, the movie is a fictionalized account of Ötzi's life and eventual death at the hands of an unknown archer in the Alps. Though the story is mostly fictional, the clothing, props and setting were all recreated with the help of researchers from the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, with the goal of creating a story that could have potenti...

2017-12-15 20:13:59

Climate Change, Disease and the Fall of Rome  

At some time or another, every historian of Rome has been asked to say where we are, today, on Rome's cycle of decline. Historians might squirm at such attempts to use the past but, even if history does not repeat itself, nor come packaged into moral lessons, it can deepen our sense of what it means to be human and how fragile our societies are. In the middle of the second century, the Romans controlled a huge, geographically diverse part of the globe, from northern Britain to the edges...

2017-12-15 17:01:54

Saturn's Rings Alter Its Ionosphere  

In April of this year, NASA nudged the Cassini spacecraft into an orbit that took it through a narrow gap between Saturn's innermost ring (the D-ring) and the gas giant itself. Over the next few months, Cassini skimmed the upper atmosphere of the ringed planet nearly two dozen times. During 11 of those orbits, Cassini's Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument took unprecedented measurements of Saturn's ionosphere — a shell of charged particles that surrounds the planet and...

2017-12-15 16:34:42

The Roller Coaster Designed to Kill  

I have a friend who loves roller coasters. He once told me, a fellow coaster-head, "You ever get the feeling that most people say they like roller coasters, but then when they're in a park they just ride one or two of them and call it a day?" I nodded in the shared sentiment. All of that said, there's at least one roller coaster that I, or my friend, am not interested in trying out: the "Euthanasia Coaster." Truth in Advertising It's exactly what it sounds: A roller coaste...

2017-12-14 17:16:43

Virtual Reality Can Help Convict Nazi War Criminals  

During World War II, Reinhold Hanning served as a guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp where more than 1.1 million people were killed by Nazi Germany. More than 70 years later, a virtual recreation of Auschwitz helped German prosecutors convict Hanning of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people. Now a new documentary film explores how the virtual model of Auschwitz can be viewed through virtual reality headsets in future court cases involving the last surviving Nazi war...

2017-12-14 06:04:37

A Geoengineered Future Is Downright Scary  

Climate change seems inevitable. Between the still-accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions and the voices of global warming deniers, hitting the targets laid out in the Paris Accord to slow the pace of a warming climate feels increasingly elusive. To hit even the 2 degree Celsius cap on a global temperature increase, emissions would need to peak in 2020, or less than three years from now, and keep going down after that. We could do it, but will we? If we can't change our beh...

2017-12-13 20:06:29

A major federal report finds that the speed of Arctic warming is unprecedented in 2,000 years  

The peer-reviewed report involving 85 scientists finds that the Arctic environmental system has reached a "new normal" It's a common refrain doubters of human-caused global warming: Temperatures now are no higher than they were during the Medieval Warm Period from about 800 to 1400 AD. Never mind that a major paper put this idea to rest in 2013. I still have this flawed argument thrown at me when I write about climate issues. And I would not be surprised if that happens again ...

2017-12-13 17:58:22

The Mysterious Asteroid Behind the Year's Best Meteor Shower  

Step outside after dark this week and you can watch chunks of an asteroid burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Behold, the Geminid meteor shower, which is renowned as the year's best. At peak Geminids, you could catch a shooting star every minute, and this year the moon won't be bright enough to foul the show. That main action arrives just past 9 p.m. local time Wednesday and lasts until dawn. "The Geminids are rich in fireballs and bright meteors so that makes them very good to observe,...

2017-12-13 16:35:53

The Driverless Car Era Began More Than 90 Years Ago  

Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, you'll get a different year for the big roll-out of fully autonomous vehicles. General Motors plans to launch them in big cities by 2019. Ford says it will have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation by 2021. Google's self-driving operation, Waymo, announced last month that its autonomous vehicles are ready to fly solo—sans a test driver babysitter—in an area of the Phoenix metro region. Numerous other technology and automotive...

2017-12-13 16:22:28

Why Do Meteoroids Explode in the Atmosphere?  

On February 15, 2013, a near-Earth asteroid with a diameter of 66 feet (20 meters) entered Earth's atmosphere traveling at around 40,000 miles per hour (60,0000 km/h). Within a few seconds, the cosmic projectile detonated 12 miles above the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, releasing as much energy as about 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs. This created a gigantic fireball — known as a superbolide — that caused shock waves to propagate outward for dozens of miles, damaging several thousand b...

2017-12-12 19:35:49

Amber Preserves Tick On Dinosaur Feather  

Turns out even dinosaurs got ticked off. A nearly 100 million-year-old piece of amber has preserved a tick latched onto a dinosaur feather, the oldest such preserved specimen of the parasite everyone loves to hate. Additional ticks found in related pieces of amber provide more evidence that the nasty critters were feasting on feathered dinos back in the day. Disease-spreading, blood-sucking and just generally repulsive ticks are a modern scourge of wildlife and mildlife (humans, pets and li

2017-12-12 16:00:05

Star Wars Droids Top Sci-Fi Robots Survey  

Disney seems to have a lock on many of the more popular science fiction robots between owning Lucasfilm's Star Wars franchise and the beloved animation studio Pixar. A recent survey of Americans found that the Star Wars robot duo of R2-D2 and C-3PO topped the choices of people's favorite sci-fi robots driven by artificial intelligence, followed closely by Pixar's trash-compacting robot WALL-E. Commander Data, a pasty-looking android with a much more humanlike appearance from "Star Trek: ...

2017-12-12 03:11:17

Poison Frog's Homing Skills Baffle Scientists  

When researchers deposited the little in the jungle, they were already planning a rescue mission. The poison frogs were disoriented, half a mile from home, and in dense underbrush they'd never seen before. Yet, impossibly, the frogs turned themselves in the right direction. They hopped straight back to their home turf. And the results would no doubt teach scientists something about animal navigation—if they had any idea how the frogs pulled it off. ...

2017-12-11 17:26:11

Was The Thylacine Doomed Even Before Humans Arrived in Australia?  

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, went extinct in the 1930s after a concerted eradication campaign by humans. But a new study suggests that the marvelous marsupial native to Australia may have been in trouble long before then. Among recently extinct animals, few capture the imagination quite like the thylacine. The Tasmanian tiger appeared almost dog-like (it's also called the Tasmanian wolf) and yet was loaded with bonus features such as a back-facing pouch and a jaw able to open re...

2017-12-11 16:00:21

This is among the most appalling satellite images of a wildfire that I've ever seen  

The obscuring smoke from the Thomas Fire — now 70 percent as large as L.A. — smothers a large swath of SoCal's coast. I've seen my share of satellite images of wildfires. And whether it has been the size, the intensity, or the massive spread of billowing smoke, quite a few have horrified me. So when I saw the view above of the Thomas Fire blazing between Ventura and Santa Barbara, it wasn't as if I had never encountered anything like it. Even so, when I first saw the thick smok...

2017-12-11 08:01:19

Never Pop a Zit With Woodcarving Tools  

Let's preface this whole story with a disclaimer: It's never really a good idea to pop a pimple. But, if you must, absolutely do not use a dirty woodworking blade. How do we know? Because a 23-year-old man from Chicago did exactly that, and paid a gruesome price. According to a case report published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, doctors at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County treated a construction worker who came to them with a crusty, bloody, bulbous, warty les...

2017-12-08 20:48:46

We Can Do Better Than Road Salt  

Marshes, streams and lakes lie alongside many of the roads and highways that zigzag across North America. Plants and animals inhabit these water bodies and can be exposed to many of the substances we put on those roads, including road salt. Rock salt helps keep roads safe when winter storms hit, reducing winter road accidents. But it can also have serious, negative effects on aquatic ecosystems. At high concentrations, salt can be fatal to some aquatic animals. Salt can also change

2017-12-08 18:05:32

For Homo Sapiens, This Is as Good as It Gets  

Well, that's it. Pack it in, boys. Show's over for us as a species: We've peaked. At least, we might have, according to a paper in Frontiers in Physiology. If anything, it looks like we might be going downhill, with climate change and other environmental effects taking our bodies away from their current idealized forms. Fastest, Highest, Strongest First, the findings themselves. In the paper, "Are We Reaching the Limits of Homo Sapiens?", the authors looked at 120 ye...

2017-12-08 17:40:19

An animation of nighttime satellite images shows the start and breathtakingly rapid spread of the first SoCal wildfires  

A second animation shows the giant smoke plume from the Thomas Fire illuminated by this week's supermoon as it streams over the Pacific Carl Engelking, Discover's online editor, has put together a gallery of scarily dramatic images of the SoCal wildfires as seen from space. With that in mind, I thought I would take a somewhat different tack with this post. Engelking's gallery consists of images acquired during daytime from the International Space Station and two satellites. (Click...

2017-12-08 17:27:17

The Remarkable "Curvature Blindness" Illusion  

A new optical illusion has been discovered, and it's really quite striking. The strange effect is called the 'curvature blindness' illusion, and it's described in a new paper from psychologist Kohske Takahashi of Chukyo University, Japan. Here's an example of the illusion: A series of wavy horizontal lines are shown. All of the lines have exactly the same shape - a sine curve. However, half of the lines appear to have a much more triangular, "zig-zag" shape, when they are superimpose

2017-12-08 08:54:07

Smoke billowing from rampaging California wildfires streams across ~1,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean  

As I'm writing this post on Thursday night, tens of thousands of homes in Southern California are threatened by raging wildfires. And with a forecast calling for bone dry humidity and gusty winds through Sunday, relief is not yet in sight. The total acreage burned so far in Southern California is already approaching 150,000 acres. This is equivalent to about 40 percent of the size of the city of Los Angeles. The fires have prompted authorities to order the evacuation of 200,000 people i...

2017-12-08 05:56:27

We're Throwing Away Too Many Viable Kidneys, Study Suggests  

Researchers found that thousands of potentially usable kidneys have gone to waste across the United States in recent years, leaving many patients waiting unnecessarily for transplants. The study, published Thursday in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, highlights inefficiencies in the transplant system. According to data collected over the past 15 years, in roughly 7,600 unilateral kidney transplants—those in which one kidney was used and one discarded—about 5...

2017-12-07 22:00:55

Aliens in the Mist  

What would happen if we found an intelligent alien civilization that was less advanced than our own? I posed this as a hypothetical question in a recent blog post. But really, it doesn't need to be posed as a hypothetical. The answer is playing out right now in the forests of Africa, and it doesn't reflect very well on us. The gorillas of Rwanda and Congo are some of our closest living relatives. They are intelligent, socially complex primates. They are also critically endangered. Poachin

2017-12-07 21:09:57

Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?  

You may consume coffee to get your day started, as a pick-me-up, or to get you through a lengthy meeting. You may also drink it to, perhaps, get things moving along on schedule. About 29 percent of people claim they felt the urge to poop after drinking coffee, according to a commonly cited study from 1990. But why? Discover reached out to a gastroenterology expert to see if we could get to the bottom of it. Gastroenterology is the study of the digestive system, which starts at your mo...

2017-12-07 19:49:05

It's Official: Timeline For Human Migration Gets A Rewrite  

The wealth of new paleoanthropological, archaeological and genetic evidence has passed the tipping point: In a review published today in the prestigious journal Science, researchers acknowledge that the conventional timeline of human migration out of Africa "can no longer be considered valid." The idea of an African homeland for our species is less than a century old, rooted in the discovery of early hominin fossils in South Africa in the '20s and championed by individuals such as Ra...

2017-12-07 19:00:56

Mark Your Calendars for a Superb Geminid Meteor Shower  

The stars — or at least the Moon — will align this month for a terrific display of meteors. The Geminid shower ranks as both the richest and most reliable of the annual meteor showers. It peaks the night of December 13/14 under a slim crescent Moon, whose feeble light won't interfere even after it rises around 3:30 a.m. local time. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini, which rises around sunset and climbs nearly overhead by 2 a.m. The best views come th...

2017-12-07 17:13:15

Large-scale Genetic Study Helps Untangle Male Sexuality  

While the discussion of "nature versus nurture" dominates many areas of scientific research, the debate is particularly contentious when it comes to the origin of sexual preference. However, multiple studies have found links between DNA and homosexuality. Building on this foundation, a new large-scale genetic study explores the roots of male sexual orientation, finding two regions of genetic variance in homosexual men. The factors contributing to a person's sexual preferences are...

2017-12-07 17:03:53

Wrinkled Fingers Might Be Your Body's Rain Treads  

Pruny fingers, they're an unavoidable byproduct of a long bath or a turn washing the dishes. Though they may seem like little more than the puzzling cost of getting our hands wet, the phenomenon could actually be helping us keep a tight grip on those wine glasses. If you've never thought about it, consider that fingers and toes are the only parts of our bodies that wrinkle up (as a result of constricting blood vessels) when exposed to water for extended periods. It can't be an intrinsic p

2017-12-07 16:54:38

Plate Tectonics on Europa Boost Odds for Finding Life  

On Earth, the theory of plate tectonics describes the way large pieces of the planet's crust move and interact. These pieces, or plates, slide over the mantle, the malleable outer layer of Earth's core. Now, new research indicates that the frozen surface of Europa, one of Jupiter's four largest moons, may also experience plate tectonics. If so, this process could be a way to transport materials — such as nutrients for life — to the liquid water ocean just beneath the moon's icy c...

2017-12-06 21:17:14

Scientists Crack the Mystery of an Exploding Egg  

Scientists had an explosive mystery on their hands. A man suing a restaurant claimed an egg he bit into detonated loudly enough to damage his hearing. Was this a legit complaint, or an attempt to capitalize in a litigation-happy culture? Well, after a scientific investigation, the man's story is legit. Although microwave ovens have become a staple appliance in many kitchens, they come with oft-unheeded warnings that certain foods pose risks to people when reheated. Potatoes and eggs are a

2017-12-06 18:40:21

Duck, Duck, Dinosaur! Meet Halszkaraptor, A Mongolian Mash-Up  

If it looks like a may be a curious new dinosaur, Halszkaraptor escuilliei. The Mongolian maniraptor is a mouthful to say and a, uhm, glory to behold. But the most interesting thing about it is how it apparently lived. Fossiliferous Mongolia has given dinosaur enthusiasts a trove of discoveries over the years, from the hauls taken in during the escapades of Roy Chapman Andrews back in the day to more recent key finds, such as nearly complete skeletons of Deinocheirus mirificus,

2017-12-06 18:00:00

Love at First Sight? Nah  

Cynics rejoice — the oft-reported phenomenon of love at first sight is more akin to lust at first sight. Psychologist Florian Zsok and colleagues from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands recently published a study that found even though people generally do believe they're experiencing love at first sight (LAFS), the event has more to do with physical attraction than actual feelings of love. Zsok and his team set up various experiments to answer some questions: Is LAFS ac...

2017-12-06 17:44:23

Predicting Suicide: Return of a Scandal (Part 2)  

In the first post in this series, I looked at the work of Swedish psychiatrist Lars Thorell, who has developed a test which, he claims, is able to predict suicides in depressed patients. Thorell's test is called electrodermal orientation reactivity (aka electrodermal hyporeactivity), and while Thorell's work on the technique goes back to the 1980s, it has recently been commercialized by a company called Emotra AB, who named the product EDOR®. Previously, I expressed scepticism over the p...

2017-12-05 21:48:02

Do Robots Deserve Human Rights?  

When the humanoid robot Sophia was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia—the first robot to receive citizenship anywhere in the world—many people were outraged. Some were upset because she now had more rights than human women living in the same country. Others just thought it was a ridiculous PR stunt. Sophia's big news brought forth a lingering question, especially as scientists continue to develop advanced and human-like AI machines: Should robots be given human rights? Discover re...

2017-12-05 16:45:05

Good News! Worms Make Babies in 'Martian' Soil  

Worms can not only survive in faux Martian soil — they can start a new generation. That's the conclusion from biologist Wieger Wamelink who recently discovered two baby worms in his simulated Mars soil experiment. Since 2013, scientists from Wageningen University & Research have been growing crops in Mars and moon soil simulants designed by NASA. They've been successful in growing edible crops (including green beans, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and more), according to a ne...

2017-12-04 21:42:23

If You Stuck Your Head in a Particle Accelerator...  

What happens when you stick your head inside a particle accelerator and get hit with a beam of trillions of protons? Well, if you're Anatoli Bugorski, you go on to finish your PhD. Bugorski is the only person known to have been exposed to a particle accelerator beam, the result of an accident that occurred while he was working at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Russia. On July 13, 1978, he leaned into the path of the U-70 synchrotron while it was still on and a burst of high-en...

2017-12-04 21:38:48

If Your Pet Has This Tapeworm, It Could Kill You  

Dogs are sending us an early warning signal about the spread of a potentially deadly tapeworm in North America. The tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis, is normally found in rodents and other wild animals, including coyotes and foxes, but can spill over into cats and dogs — and even humans. In July, as I was warning veterinarians about the risk of E. multilocularis in dogs — and cautioned that human cases couldn't be far behind — news broke that four people in Alberta ha...

2017-12-04 18:35:13

Artificial Intelligence Gives Drones Abilities We've Only Dreamed About  

George Matus was still in high school when he began raising millions for his startup, Teal. The former quad drone racer's pitch to investors was a wish list of what he thought a drone should be. More than just an aerial camera, his quad would be freaky fast and easy to use — even fly in the rain. And, most challenging of all, Teal would think and learn. It would be a platform that developers might use for all kinds of complex applications, from counting a farmer's cows to following a ta...

2017-12-04 17:08:44

Satellite imagery shows just how bad the loss of Arctic sea ice has been off Alaska and eastern Siberia  

Where sea ice should already be present, there are just vast swaths of open water. The cause: storminess and massive inflows of warmth. With winter descending on the Arctic, sea ice should be expanding rapidly in the Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska and eastern Siberia. But instead of sea ice, satellite sensors see thousands of square miles of open water stretching between the Alaska and Russia. "It's the lowest ice extent on record for this time of year for the combined basins," ...

2017-12-02 20:21:10

The Atomic Age: Far More Than Explosions and Electricity  

Seventy-five years ago, the world officially entered the Atomic Age. Henceforth, it would never be the same. In October 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project, Enrico Fermi assembled a crack team of physicists for an urgent, top-secret government mission: Conduct the first man-made, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction to prove it was indeed possible to build an atomic weapon—and do it before the Germans. For months, Fermi's team toiled away on a squash court tucked beneath the w...

2017-12-02 00:53:44

Voyager 1 Fires Dormant Thrusters for the First Time in 37 Years  

Man, they just don't build 'em like they used to. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, has fired up a pair of thrusters that haven't been used for 37 years. Meanwhile, I'm on my third car in two years. The set of four small thrusters came online Wednesday after NASA engineers noticed the spacecraft's attitude control thrusters had been degrading for several years. Those served to make minute adjustments to the craft's orientation to keep its antenna pointed back at Earth and main...

2017-12-01 22:44:36

Move over record-setting warmth: A brutal blast of winter misery straight out of the Arctic appears to be on its way  

But up in the Arctic, the ironic forecast is for unusual warmth. What's up with this weird pattern of a warm Arctic with cold continents? Lately, I've been wondering what happened to winter. And my guess is that I'm not alone. I live along the Front Range of Colorado, and we've been luxuriating in very unusual warmth for this time of year. In fact, Denver reached 81 degrees on Monday. This set the record not just for the high temperature on that particular day but for the entire month o...

2017-12-01 21:30:45

Close Calls Nearly Doomed These Space Missions  

A tiny problem can have huge consequences for a space mission. Sometimes a huge endeavor hinges on the smallest detail — three seconds' worth of fuel, an engineer's stubbornness, a speck of paint, or a 1.3-millimeter calibration. When surprise glitches revealed themselves after launch, it took massive efforts to save the missions that gave us a closer look at Mercury, a tour of the outer solar system, our only glimpse of Titan's surface, and an incredible view of the early univers...

2017-12-01 20:21:02

'Uptown' and 'Downtown' NYC Rats Are Genetically Distinct  

If you're an uptown rat, you don't associate with the downtown kind. Segregation is real if you're a rat in New York City, though likely for more prosaic reasons than in their human counterparts. A recent genetic study of NYC rats found unique populations living in uptown and downtown Manhattan, indicating that they probably don't interact with each other all that much.  City of Rats The project is the work of Fordham University graduate student Matthew Combs, whose dissertation  focu...

2017-12-01 19:48:55

How Visionaries Planned to Reach the Moon 500 Years Ago  

People have been dreaming about space travel for hundreds of years, long before the arrival of the spectacular technologies behind space exploration today - mighty engines roaring fire and thunder, shiny metal shapes gliding in the vastness of the universe. We've only traveled into space in the last century, but humanity's desire to reach the moon is far from recent. In the second century AD, Lucian's True History, a parody of travel tales, already pictured a group of adventure se...

2017-12-01 17:14:25

How Tanks Went from War Curio to Homefront Hero  

When the first tanks appeared on the battlefields of World War I, journalists described them as "grotesque creatures" and made comparisons to prehistoric animals such as dinosaurs. Even German prisoners of war supposedly laughed when recalling their first glimpse of the mechanical beasts. Later versions of British heavy tanks received an unflattering paint color known as "dog turd brown." But 100 years ago, the first mass attack by hundreds of British tanks at the Battle of Cambrai s...

2017-12-01 05:44:42

The Big Caveat on AI and Future Work  

Artificial intelligence will likely both giveth and taketh away jobs for humans. A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that automation could displace between 400 million and 800 million people worldwide by 2030, even as the report also suggests the benefits of automation could help create enough new jobs for displaced workers. But beyond the numbers, the report offers more useful lessons regardless of whether future work ultimately looks sunny or bleak. One of the clearest le...

2017-12-01 01:06:45

Artificial DNA Base Pair Expands Life's Vocabulary  

Scientists have taken another step towards putting two additional letters in the dictionary of life to work. Researchers at the Scripps Institute have engineered cells to successfully transcribe a brand new artificial DNA base pair and make a never-before-seen protein with it. The breakthrough is part of an effort to expand the library of amino acids that animal cells can work with, potentially leading to the creation of compounds entirely different from those life can produce now. ...

2017-11-30 21:57:28

Smile, Your Car Is on Google Street View  

When sedans outnumber pickup trucks, chances are the community votes Democrat. When pickup trucks rule, the community leans Republican. What you drive matters, at least when it comes to revealing the nuts and bolts of American demographics. That's the assertion by researchers in a paper published in November in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For thousands of years, authorities have conducted surveys to determine the demographic of regions and cities....

2017-11-30 20:48:20

Heart-Stopping Sex? Forget About It  

During sex, the heart races, blood pressure rises and the breath quickens, sometimes to a pant. Muscles tense and euphoric feelings flood the brain. This is not a time to be thinking, "I hope my heart doesn't stop." But according to cardiologists, male patients over 50 during checkups sometimes ask what the chance is of a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest during sexual intercourse. The concern is based on the heightened physiology experienced (racing heart, contracted muscles...

2017-11-30 18:53:56

Why Some Bird Babies Ride Piggyback  

Having your children trail you like ducklings in a pond sounds pretty good to human parents, who are stuck carrying or pushing their offspring through toddlerhood. But some animals with mobile babies choose to carry them anyway. One scientist looked at waterbirds to figure out why certain species find it worthwhile to haul their kids around, while others leave them to paddle alone. The reasons he found range from snuggle time to murderous fish. Animals including anteaters, bats,...

2017-11-30 18:05:16

The Bottom of the Barrel of Science Fraud  

Sometimes, scientific misconduct is so blatant as to be comical. I recently came across an example of this on Twitter. The following is an image from a paper published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C: As pointed out on PubPeer, this image - which is supposed to be an electron microscope image of some carbon dot (CD) nanoparticles - is an obvious fake. The "dots" are identical, and have clearly been cut-and-pasted. Where one copy has been placed over the top of another, the overlap

2017-11-30 17:16:02

Researchers Use Drones to Track Glacier Change in Peru  

In the crisp Andes air, a drone flew at an altitude of about 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) in order to map and track the glaciers in Peru. This marks the highest altitude a drone has flown for mapping purposes in current scientific literature, according to a paper released in November in The Cryosphere.  Using a drone to map glaciers is way easier than manually staking out individual data points and provides much crisper images than satellites. "The ultimate goal was to be down in town, ...

2017-11-30 16:29:39

Shell Shape Helps Tortoises Get Up  

It's tough being an adult giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands—they're always one step away from flipping upside down. Whether it's from a fight for male dominance or treading over a jagged field of lava rocks, being unable to get back up is among the most common ways these giant tortoises can die. There is no Life Alert button to press for help. Instead, these animals must rely on their ability to flip over and keep on living. Luckily, many Galapagos tortoises are successful a...

2017-11-30 14:59:43

Sharks Terrorize Reef Fish In The Shallows, Changing When And Where They Eat Seaweeds  

It's kind of incredible how our fears can shape our behaviors. When Jaws was released in 1975, it fundamentally changed how we interact with sharks. In the years that followed, we hunted these large marine predators more intensely, and came to view them as terrible monsters—attitudes scientists still fight to this day. But while our fears are largely unfounded, there are lots of species that have good reason to be wary of these awesome fish. Scientists have now discovered that such fea...

2017-11-30 14:00:56

Virtual Reality Immersion Beyond the Headset  

Virtual reality experiences can provide an uncanny sense of immersion that tricks participants' brains into believing they are walking on that narrow beam high above a city or are being chased by a monster through dark halls. The New Reality Company wants to push the boundaries of virtual reality by adding real-world props and additional sensory stimuli based on touch and smell--clever steps that can strengthen the power of immersion. Most virtual reality experiences begin with puttin...

2017-11-29 23:16:44

A literally breathtaking view of Earth, as filmed by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik during a spacewalk  

If you know any flat-earth types, you might share this with them... Sometimes on a #spacewalk, you just have to take a moment to enjoy the beauty of our planet Earth. — Randy Bresnik (@AstroKomrade) November 27, 2017 Video shot by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik from the International Space Station on Nov. 7, 2017 (Source: Randy Bresnik, Twitter) Sometimes, all it takes is a stunning new view of the home planet to make all the complications of every day life go ...

2017-11-29 20:06:29

Satellites watch as Bali's Mount Agung volcano propels ash and gas into the atmosphere, threatening climate cooling  

With magma boiling at its peak and swelling its body from within, Mount Agung in Bali, Indonesia has awakened from more than a half century of slumber. Agung has been rumbling since August. Now it is propelling ash thousands of feet into the atmosphere, prompting evacuations of thousands of people from the danger zone around it and causing authorities to halt flights in and out of Bali's international airport. (Flights have resumed today to allow stranded travelers to get out.) Drama...

2017-11-29 18:55:33

This Is Not The Yeti You're Looking For  

Researchers took another crack at hair, bone and other samples allegedly from the yeti, or abominable snowman, of the Himalayas. The analysis was the most sophisticated to date but — spoiler alert — the results won't thrill cryptozoology fans. The study did reveal, however, an evolutionary plot twist of scientific significance. The wild man of the snows, the glacier spirit, the abominable snowman...the yeti. The mysterious creature purported to dwell in the mountains of Tibet, Nepal...

2017-11-29 00:00:09

Patients Say Poop Pills Are Both Effective and Preferable  

Swallowing poop is ok. That's the conclusion of a recent study assessing the effectiveness of fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) delivered in pill form, versus given by colonoscopy. It sounds a bit off-putting, but validating the safety and efficacy of fecal capsules could give patients with gut diseases a cheaper and less invasive option for treatment. The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, took place in patients suffering from recurring ...

2017-11-28 21:32:25

Watch an Epic Duet Between Human and Robot  

Dance can be defined as "a series of movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music." Notice it doesn't say dance is specific to humans — and this performance proves it. A Taiwanese choreographer, dancer and inventor named Huang Yi programmed and created a robot to dance with. This isn't the first time machines and humans have shared the dance floor — Cirque du Soleil choreographed a magical sequence filled with twirling, flying drones that looked like lampshades. But...

2017-11-27 21:02:18

NASA Proves Humans Fly Drones Better Than AI  

Artificial intelligence (AI) still has a ways to go before it reigns supreme. In October, a group of researchers at California's NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) pitted a professional human drone racer, Ken Loo, against an AI-piloted drone. They set out to test two years of research into drone autonomy, which was funded by Google. The researchers built three custom drones with algorithms that were outfitted with Google's Tango, a platform that uses computer vision to help...

2017-11-27 17:24:00

Turd Tales: Did You Know You Can Sex A Turkey By Its Poo?  

In the U.S., it's Thanksgiving, which means today is all about the Turkey. So here's a fun fact you may not have heard to chew on as you masticate your meal: you can tell a turkey's sex by it's poop. That's right—male turkeys and female turkeys crap different turds. The toms' feces are long and skinny, while the hens' are coily little clumps. While it might seem strange that males and females would have such different bowel movements, it makes a lot more sense when you conside...

2017-11-23 19:00:12

That Interstellar Asteroid is Pretty Strange. Could It Be...?  

It isn't aliens. It's never aliens. That's the only sensible answer whenever astronomers spot something truly weird in space. That unusual radio blip from the planet Ross 128b? Not aliens. Potential SETI signal SHGb02+14a? Not aliens. The mysterious 'alien megastructure' star? Probably not aliens, either. There are so many unexplored natural explanations for unusual phenomena, and so many ways to make errors, that the starting assumption has to be no, no, a thousand times no, it is not al

2017-11-23 16:36:41

Storms Generate Thunder, Lightning and...Antimatter?  

In the skies above Japan, scientists have detected lightning triggering nuclear reactions. These new findings are clear evidence that thunderstorms are a natural source of radioactive isotopes on Earth. Thunderstorms are natural particle accelerators, capable of hurling electrons outward at nearly the speed of light. When these electrons strike atoms, they can generate gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. Previous research suggested that gamma rays from lightning can have a va

2017-11-22 18:00:42

PTSD: An Overlooked Consequence of a Cancer Diagnosis  

Roughly one in five cancer patients struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of diagnosis and treatment. A recent study from Malaysia indicates that PTSD is a fairly common result of the long and difficult process of living with and treating cancer. Though most commonly associated with soldiers returning from war, PTSD can result from many different forms of trauma. The disorder can sometimes go unnoticed, or be misdiagnosed, causing those suffering to endure ...

2017-11-21 22:13:40

Photo feature: a lenticularly gorgeous sunset along the Front Range of Colorado  

The cloud formations in the photograph above, and those to follow, may look otherworldly, and maybe even a bit ominous. But they are perfectly benign (except when they herald an approaching storm), and are well known to meteorologists. The scientific name for these cloud formations is "altocumulus standing lenticularus.' But from here on out, I'll just refer to them lenticular clouds. If you've never seen lenticular clouds like these before, whether in pictures or in person, you migh...

2017-11-21 21:29:23

The Opioid Epidemic Hits Some Generations Harder Than Others  

As the opioid epidemic rages in the U.S., the number of overdose deaths has nearly quadrupled since 1999. And according to a new study, baby boomers and millennials are at significantly higher risk. Researchers from Columbia University analyzed drug overdose deaths in the United States between 1999-2014, the most recent year for which data was available. (The team selected 1999 as the start date due to changes in drug classification that would have made reconciling pre- and post-1999...

2017-11-21 21:00:38

High-Ranking Male Primates Keep Wafting Their Sex Stink at Females, Who Hate It  

Researchers call it "stink flirting." A male ring-tailed lemur rubs his signature scent onto his long, fluffy tail, then waves it over his head in the direction of a nearby female. Males seem to intend this gesture as a sexual overture. But it often gets them into fights—with lemurs of both sexes. In fact, scientists aren't sure stink flirting helps male lemurs at all. Smell is an important communication tool for ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Both males and females have s...

2017-11-21 20:31:21

A new weather satellite roars into orbit, promising faster and better forecasts of extreme weather like hurricanes  

The NOAA-20 satellite was to be the first of four, but the Trump Administration has sought to delay and massively cut the program In the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 18th, a Delta  II rocket roared to life and propelled the newest U.S. weather satellite into orbit on a column of fire that lit up the nighttime sky of coastal California. The NOAA-20 satellite is now circling the globe 14 times a day, orbiting from pole to pole at about 520 miles above the surface. It is ...

2017-11-21 00:36:32

First-Known Interstellar Object Looks...Pretty Weird  

Scientists now have an idea of what the first recorded extra-solar asteroid looked like. The hunk of rock of that whipped through the solar system in October looks like no other asteroid we've seen before, they say, long and thin like a javelin and colored red from millions of years of accumulated radiation exposure. The coloration wasn't surprising, but the shape was, say astronomers from the European Southern Observatory. Most objects astronomers observe in our solar system are roughly

2017-11-20 20:27:35

Tesla's Electric Semi Shows Promise—But Will it Deliver?  

Elon Musk finally revealed the Tesla Semi, an electric big-rig he professes will outstrip the diesel fleets that have dominated American freight for decades. The Tesla CEO flaunted his latest creation and its "BAMF performance"—it's a technical term, he says—at an unveiling ceremony Thursday night in Hawthorne, CA. He outlined the semi's specs, which include parlor tricks like going from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds and potentially industry-upending figures for driving range and cost...

2017-11-17 22:12:28

We Should Toss That $450M da Vinci into a Particle Accelerator  

A portrait of the world's most recognizable person, Jesus Christ, painted by an icon whose renown doesn't trail too far behind, Leonardo da Vinci, on Wednesday sold at auction for $450.3 million, setting a new record for artistic largesse. Only a handful of authentic da Vinci paintings exist today, and Salvator Mundi is the only one that could still be purchased by a deep-pocketed collector. Christie's Auction House billed the work as "The Last da Vinci," "the holy grail of ou...

2017-11-17 21:57:36

Darwin Was Right About Bird Vomit  

Charles Darwin was a busy man. When he wasn't advancing his groundbreaking theory of evolution by natural selection, he could be found carefully analyzing the contents of bird vomit and droppings. No, this wasn't an obscure hobby. He was getting his hands dirty to stack up more evidence to support one of his many hypotheses. He suspected that some birds had an unusual way of transporting plants to new locations. "Freshwater fish, I find, eat seeds of many land and water plants; fis...

2017-11-17 18:00:03

A First Attempt to Edit Genes Inside the Body  

For the first time, doctors have attempted to edit a man's genes inside his body. The patient is 44-year-old Brian Madeux, who suffers from a rare genetic disease that has left him progressively more debilitated over the course of his life. His liver can't produce an enzyme necessary for breaking down a type of carbohydrate, something researchers hope to repair with a gene-editing technique called zinc-finger nucleases (ZFN). Gene Repair Through an IV, billions of copies of a harmles...

2017-11-15 22:50:17

Even Pills Are Going Digital  

Not following medicine as prescribed can be costly — like $100 billion to $289 billion, as reported by The Atlantic in 2012. Not only that, but it can also harm patients and set back their treatment. But a new digital pill could change that. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday approved the first pill in the United States that comes loaded with a digital ingestion tracking system. After taking one of these new pills, the IEM sensor communicates to a patch worn by the pa...

2017-11-15 22:38:58

Researchers Capture Video of CRISPR Slicing DNA  

Forget about the generic stock art that shows scissors cutting chunks of DNA, because researchers have recorded actual video of CRISPR in action. CRISPR is a powerful gene-editing tool that allows researchers to cut and paste snippets of DNA to make targeted changes to a living organism's genome. It's a method that's fast and easy, and it has ushered in a new era of customized life. Scientists have used the technique to breed mosquitoes that resistant to the malaria virus, develop ...

2017-11-15 22:14:50

Signatures of Alzheimer's Disease Discovered in Dolphins  

A team of scientists in the United Kingdom and the U.S. recently reported the discovery of pathological signs of Alzheimer's disease in dolphins, animals whose brains are similar in many ways to those of humans. This is the first time that these signs - neurofibrillary tangles and two kinds of protein clusters called plaques - have been discovered together in marine mammals. As neuroscience researchers, we believe this discovery has added significance because of the similarities bet...

2017-11-15 19:17:52

Organic Farming Could Feed the World, But...  

The United Nations estimates the global population will reach more than 9 billion by 2050, and, by some estimates, agricultural output will have to increase by 50 percent to feed all of those mouths. So is it possible to do it organically? Modern farming methods focus on maximizing crop yields with the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which put off a surplus of nitrogen that turns into greenhouse gases or finds it's way into waterways. Advances in industrial farming methods a...

2017-11-15 17:38:44

Is Life Locked in Ice on Mars?  

Missions from above and on the surface have been searching for life on Mars for years. But there's an important question worth asking, amidst this vital search: If life once thrived there, how long could even extreme microorganisms survive in Mars' current harsh conditions? And where might they best survive? A group of researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University has just released their answer to those questions.  The paper, published in the journal Extremophiles, focused ...

2017-11-15 17:26:33

With Just $1,000, Anyone Can Track Your Every Move  

By now, most of us are probably used to the idea that large corporations track our preferences and activities every time we go online. It's the price we pay for the custom, convenient experiences we seek on the internet. But tracking your activity online isn't exclusive to high-flying FAANG companies. For a modest sum, anyone can use the similar tracking tools to essentially spy on another person's activities. To illustrate the ease of web-based voyeurism, researchers from the University...

2017-11-13 21:32:40

A New Titleholder For Earliest Wine?  

Where are the roots of the earliest wine? Countries in southwestern Asia have long contested who was first to ferment grapes. To date, the oldest widely accepted evidence for viniculture came from the Zagros Mountains of Iran. But now new research from the Republic of Georgia — a perennial and fierce challenger for the title — suggests people in that Southern Caucasus country were sipping the nectar of the gods even earlier. Wine* was all the rage throughout much of the ancien...

2017-11-13 20:00:36

She's back! As a giant blob of cold water arises from the depths, La Niña takes over the equatorial Pacific  

Will La Niña help bring a warmer or colder winter to your neck of the woods? And will it be wetter or drier? Read on. Before I delve into the substance of this post, I should mention this: As regular readers may have noticed, I've been gone for awhile. That's because my day job is directing the University of Colorado's Center for Environmental Journalism, not ImaGeo — and sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to keep up with everything. But now I'm very glad to be back. An...

2017-11-10 21:12:15

New Fabric Warms or Cools Depending How You Wear It  

If you've ever worked in an office, you know about the battle of the thermostat. This futile clash costs quite a bit of energy: some 12 percent of the United States' total energy consumption goes to regulating building temperature with air conditioning. Now, a new fabric could end that war and save energy at the same time. The textile, described Friday in the journal Science Advances, offers wearers dual heating and cooling, allowing individuals to control their personal temperatur...

2017-11-10 19:00:03

Stuffed Animals Help Scientists Learn How Sea Lion Moms Recognize Their Babies  

Tending to a nursing newborn is hard enough, but sea lion moms have an extra challenge. To consume enough calories for themselves and their pups, they have to repeatedly leave their babies behind and swim out to sea to hunt. Each time the mothers return, they have to find their pups again. Australian sea lion moms use a pup's smell and the sound of its calls to recognize it. They also use sight—which scientists learned by creating fake, stuffed sea lion pups, and leaving them for mo...

2017-11-10 17:45:12

Is Cannabis an Effective Sleep Aid?  

If you speak to someone who has suffered from insomnia at all as an adult, chances are good that person has either tried using marijuana, or cannabis, for sleep or has thought about it. This is reflected in the many variations of cannabinoid or cannabis-based medicines available to improve sleep - like Nabilone, Dronabinol and Marinol. It's also a common reason why many cannabis users seek medical marijuana cards. I am a sleep psychologist who has treated hundreds of patients with ...

2017-11-10 16:27:16

New Horizons, New Worlds  

Four billion miles away, an ancient and pristine world awaits the Pluto hunter.

2017-11-10 12:00:00

A Global State of Mind  

Mental illness knows no borders. One relentless Indian psychiatrist pushes to make treatment a standard around the world.

2017-11-10 12:00:00

The Peanut Plague  

A toxic fungus infects crops eaten across the developing world. Scientists are engineering a solution.

2017-11-10 12:00:00

27 Ways to Die In A Heatwave  

If you want to teach your children the alphabet while mildly traumatizing them at the same time, look no further than "The Gashlycrumb Tinies." In alphabetical order, and with a jaunty rhyme scheme, 26 children meet fates both gruesome and preposterous. In the future, though, as climate change warms the planet beyond our comfort zone in many regions, the book could be rewritten by adding some heat. There are 27 ways that a heat wave can kill you, say researchers from the University of H...

2017-11-09 20:49:09

First Americans: Overland Beringia Route Takes Another Hit  

One if by land, two if by sea...if only the debate about how the first humans arrived in the Americas was as easy to sort out as Paul Revere's fabled lantern signal. Maybe it is. A new study from a different field offers indirect support to researchers advocating a coastal route for human migration to the New World. For decades, reconstructions of the earliest human migrations to the Americas had hunter-gatherers crossing from Siberia to what's now Alaska via the land bridge known a...

2017-11-09 19:00:26

Pigeons Sound the Alarm with Whistling Feathers  

When the crested pigeon of Australia flees potential foes, it can raise an alarm — not by calling out vocally, but with whistling feathers in its wings. These new findings may be the first proof of an idea Darwin proposed nearly 150 years ago suggesting that birds could use feathers as musical instruments for communication. Birds are known for the songs they can sing, but many can also generate unusual noises with their feathers. Darwin called these sounds "instrumental music" in his 18...

2017-11-09 18:00:41

Killer Mosquitoes Will be Released in 20 States  

Talk about a killer job. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week approved a bacterium that will be carried by mosquitoes to eradicate their offspring. A Kentucky-based company called MosquitoMate is using the common bacterium Wolbachia pipentisa and sexual attraction to help eradicate Asian tiger mosquitoes, Aedes albopictus, an invasive species in the United States. These mosquitoes can carry a cocktail of dangerous diseases including dengue, yellow fever and Zika. S...

2017-11-09 16:41:12

80 Percent of Patient's Skin Replaced With Genetically-Modified Grafts  

Doctors have replaced the majority of a patient's damaged skin using genetically-modified grafts. In 2015, a seven-year-old boy was admitted to a German hospital with lesions and blisters across nearly his entire body. He suffered from a rare genetic condition called junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) that prevents the epidermis, the outermost layer of our skin, from properly attaching to the underlying base. It results in extremely fragile skin prone to breaking and tearing, and pat...

2017-11-08 20:53:38

NASA Needs Your Help Naming a New World  

NASA needs your help. The New Horizons probe, which flew past Pluto two years ago to much fanfare, is heading towards another, even more distant world — (486958) 2014 MU69. It's a maddeningly boring name, and it just doesn't quite capture the adventure, the thrill, the awe of an earthly spacecraft visiting an object over 4 billion miles away. But if you act now, you can help give the target a more fitting nickname. NASA announced earlier this week they'll be looking to the public...

2017-11-08 17:22:31

Scientist Wants to Replicate Google Street View With Drones  

Google Street View can pretty much show you every location in the world, even the Faroe Islands thanks to camera-yielding sheep, from the ground. While Satellite View shows us a large-scale aerial of the world, what about what's in between? Gregory Crutsinger, a scientist who's worked for drone companies like 3D Robotics and Parrot, recently started a UAV consulting company called Drone Scholars and is leading a citizen scientist drone project called Fly4Fall. The project's goals: to s...

2017-11-07 22:07:40

Human Brain 'Organoids' Implanted Into Rats  

Tiny brain "organoids," or clusters of neurons grown from human stem cells, have been implanted into rats. The news comes from Stat, and it seems that two different teams have managed to integrate human brain cells into rat brains. The organoids began stretching out new cells, and even showed signs of activity when the researchers shone lights at the rat's eyes, a sign that they were functionally connected to the rats' own neurons. Organ-ish It's another step forward in the new, but ra...

2017-11-07 20:10:32

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