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The Crux

The Drake Equation: What Are the Odds That Aliens Exist?

By Korey Haynes | October 19, 2018 9:56 am

The Drake equation is one of astronomy’s most famous attempts to answer the question: Are we alone? It asks not just about any life, but the top shelf stuff: intelligent life with the ability to communicate with beings outside their planet. Microbes or floating sentient clouds don’t make the cut. We want aliens that will talk to us.

To be clear, this means there could be life out there in the universe that the Drake equation would discount. But in terms of knowing how likely we are to re …

D-brief

How Mantis Shrimp Punch So Hard

By Roni Dengler | October 18, 2018 4:23 pm

Mantis shrimp — four-inch long seafloor crustaceans — knock out prey with a punch that accelerates faster than a .22 caliber bullet. Now, researchers have figured out exactly how the tiny stomatopods wind up their forceful blows. It’s all thanks to a double-layered saddle-shaped spring made from surprisingly brittle material.

“If you asked a mechanical engineer to make a spring that can store a lot of elastic energy, they wouldn’t think of using ceramic,” Ali Miserez, a materi …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts

D-brief

Astronomers Discover 'Hyperion' — An Ancient Supercluster of Galaxies

By Alison Klesman | October 18, 2018 2:46 pm

There are clusters of galaxies, and then there are superclusters of galaxies. In the local universe, the Virgo and Laniakea Superclusters reign supreme, the latter stretching some 500 million light-years across and containing about 100,000 galaxies, including our own.

Because they take time to assemble, most superclusters are found nearby, rather than at great distances — which would mean they’re older. But a team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: cosmology

D-brief

This Juvenile Dinosaur Got Eaten, Bite Marks on Bones Reveal

By Charles Choi | October 18, 2018 2:23 pm

A reconstruction of a young Gorgosaurus eating the ceratopsian. (Credit: Marie-Hélène Trudel-Aubry)

As heavily armored as Triceratops and its cousins often were, they were far from invulnerable. That’s apparent in a new fossil scientists have unearthed from a juvenile member of the horned dinosaurs. It’s got obvious bite marks in it that might have come from a tyrannosaur or raptor.

Paleontologists examined a fossil roughly 76.5 million years old excavated from the badlands of Di …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: paleontology

D-brief

In a Major Feat, Scientists Create a Bose-Einstein Condensate in Space

By Chelsea Gohd | October 18, 2018 1:57 pm

Space-Based Matter
By blasting a miniature, experimental chip into space, scientists have created the first space-based Bose-Einstein condensate. The feat could allow for the more precise exploration of gravitational waves, dark matter, and add to our fundamental understanding of physics.

Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) are a state of matter in which a cloud of atoms is cooled until it’s very close to absolute zero. At this extremely low temperature, the atoms move very, very slowly, cl …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: physics

D-brief

Look Up This Weekend: The Orionid Meteor Shower Will Light Up the Sky

By Chelsea Gohd | October 18, 2018 1:13 pm

A Gift From Halley
This weekend, go outside and look up in the dark hours before dawn to witness the annual Orionid meteor shower, which will hit its peak overnight on October 21-22.

You may have seen a few stray meteors zooming across the sky, leftover Draconids whose peak passed earlier this month or leftover meteors from the South Taurid shower that’s still ongoing. But this week, and more specifically this weekend, the Orionid meteors will be easy to spot.

The Orionid meteors stre …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics

D-brief

Reading a Cuttlefish's Mind — On Its Skin

By Nathaniel Scharping | October 18, 2018 11:22 am

Pity the cuttlefish that tries to play poker. Where humans might blush when embarrassed or go white when frightened, cuttlefish wear their thoughts on their skins much more literally.

Our own color transformations are caused by nothing more than changes in the blood flowing right under our skin, and it’s a poor marker of what our actual thoughts are. Cuttlefish, by contrast, are covered in up to millions of tiny pigment-filled cells called chromatophores. Muscles in the cells stretch to  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

D-brief

Why Dandelion Seeds Are So Good At Floating

By Bill Andrews | October 18, 2018 10:53 am

Dandelion blowing may be about as close to a universal experience as there is. Kids and adults alike delight in huffing the white fluffy seeds from a dried sample of Taraxacum officinale, and watching them fly away.

But as with all things in nature, it only happens that way because it works. Dandelion seeds can travel for miles before setting down, making them particularly efficient fliers. And scientists didn’t really know why. Other plant seeds, such as maples, use more of a wing-like …

MORE ABOUT: physics, plants

D-brief

Astronomers May Have Spotted Another Neutron Star Merger

By Alison Klesman | October 18, 2018 10:12 am

In 2017, gravitational waves and light were observed coming from the merger of a pair of neutron stars. The discovery proved that gravitational wave sources could also be viewed at visible, X-ray, and even gamma-ray wavelengths, but has remained the only such event observed to date. Now, researchers have identified a “cosmic look-alike” — an event they believe came from the same type of system as the one that produced the gravitational waves.
Seeing Double
Such a discovery woul …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Dead Things

Earliest Flesh-Ripping Fish Found (With Nibbled Victims)

By Gemma Tarlach | October 18, 2018 10:00 am

Jumping right out of nightmares and into my heart (it’s kind of cute, isn’t it?), meet Fincutter, the Bavarian Piranha. Less than three inches long, the Late Jurassic fossil is the earliest ray-finned fish with flesh-ripping teeth — and paleontologists say it was preserved alongside some of its prey.

Piranhamesodon pinnatomus (“pinnatomus” = fincutter) turned up in the same fabulously fossiliferous Bavarian quarry that has given us specimens of Archaeopteryx and other key Jurassic an …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
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