Latest Blog Posts


Wildfires rage near Siberia's "mouth of hell" — a giant depression that's getting bigger due to global warming

By Tom Yulsman | June 18, 2019 9:09 pm

Wildfires blazing in Siberia, as seen by one of the Sentinel 2 satellites on June 11th. (Source: Copernicus Sentinel image data processed by Pierre Markuse)

I started writing this post last week after seeing the stunning satellite image above showing a blazing Siberian wildfire.

When I returned to finish the post today, I learned from a story in the Siberian Times that wildfires in this part of Russia’s Sakha Republic are now threatening a spectacular landscape feature known among locals  …

The Crux

Understanding Microsleep — When Our Minds Are Both Asleep and Awake

By Megan Schmidt | June 18, 2019 2:33 pm

Seconds-long periods of sleep, known as “microsleep,” are common during mundane tasks like driving. While these unintended brain naps can be difficult to control, getting adequate sleep is the key to preventing them. (Credit: pathdoc/Shutterstock)

Have you ever spaced out during a meeting, but been jolted back to reality by the sound of your boss calling your name a few times? If you’ve ever been in this awkward situation, you might have experienced “microsleep.”

This weird state of con …

Dead Things

Fossil Find Is First Evidence Of Arctic Hyenas

By Gemma Tarlach | June 18, 2019 5:00 am

An artist’s rendering of ancient Arctic hyenas belonging to the genus Chasmaporthetes, now known to have roamed Canada’s Yukon Territory. (Credit: Julius T. Csotonyi)

You might associate hyenas with Africa’s sprawling savannas, but the animals were once right at home above the Arctic Circle.

Modern hyenas generally stick to Africa. (A decreasing number of one species, the striped hyena, can be found on the edges of southwestern Asia.) However, back in the day, various now-extinct sp …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Beringia, paleontology

Citizen Science Salon

It's Pollinator Week and we're all a-buzzzz!

By lshell | June 17, 2019 8:52 pm

This is a perfect week to make and share your pollinator observations with scientists. Our editors selected five projects in need of your help.

More about pollinators from Penn State’s website:”Pollinators are animals (primarily insect, but sometimes avian or mammalian) that fertilize plants, resulting in the formation of seeds and the fruit surrounding seeds. Humans and other animals rely on pollinators to produce nuts and fruits that are essential components of a healthy diet.”

So, …


The Crux

Closing In On a Non-sugar Sweetener — One Without a Weird Aftertaste

By Kate Golembiewski | June 17, 2019 5:14 pm

(Credit: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock)

first time someone synthesized saccharin, the artificial sweetener in Sweet’N
Low, it was an accident. A scientist studying coal tar in 1879 didn’t wash his
hands before eating dinner and was surprised to taste a sweet residue from the
lab on his fingertips. Same goes for the invention of the sweetener sodium
cyclamate in 1937: the unwitting pioneer, who was working on a fever medication,
put his cigarette down on the lab bench, and when he picked it …

MORE ABOUT: nutrition, plants


The globe just experienced its second warmest March through May since at least 1880

By Tom Yulsman | June 17, 2019 2:11 pm

Overall, the global mean temperature during March through May was 1.02 °C warmer than the 1951-1980 average. This made it the second warmest such period in records dating back to 1880. (Source: NASA GISS)

March through May — spring in the Northern Hemisphere — was the second warmest such period in records dating back to 1880, according to a new analysis out today from NASA.

On its own, the month of May was third warmest.

The map above shows how temperatures around the world vari …

Rocky Planet

What's So Special About Our Moon, Anyway?

By Erik Klemetti | June 17, 2019 9:41 am

Moonrise over the Wasatch Mountains. NASA.

This summer is really the summer of the Moon. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, many people are thinking about our past and future relationship with our celestial partner. It is the only object in space whose surface can be seen with the naked eye (without going blind … sorry Sun), yet only two dozen people have even been there. As we look back at our first visit five decades ago, it’s worth taking a moment to consider  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs

Out There

Could the Big Bang be Wrong?

By Corey S. Powell | June 15, 2019 3:02 pm

A short history of the universe since the time of the Big Bang. We can directly observe more than 13 billion years of change, but the beginning itself is an enduring mystery. (Credit: ESA)

The Big Bang is the defining narrative of modern cosmology: a bold declaration that our universe had a beginning and has a finite age, just like the humans who live within it. That finite age, in turn, is defined by the evidence that universe is expanding (again, and unfortunately, many of us are familiar  …


Vintage Space

How Apollo Astronauts Didn’t Get Lost Going to the Moon

By Amy Shira Teitel | June 15, 2019 9:01 am

A mockup of the Apollo Guidance Computer that navigated Apollo’s way to the Moon. MIT Library.

Driving, say, to a friend’s house, we usually have directions to follow like “turn left at the light then it’s the third door on the right.” The same isn’t true when going to the Moon; there are no signposts guiding the way. So how exactly did Apollo astronauts know where they were going when they went to the Moon?

This one is tough. You can’t just launch a rocket towards th …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts

The Crux

Light Pollution From Satellites Will Get Worse. But How Much?

By Troy Farah | June 14, 2019 4:30 pm

An artist’s depiction of space junk. (Credit: ESA)

SpaceX’s ambitious Starlink
project could eventually launch more than 10,000 satellites into orbit and
rewrite the future of the internet. But Elon Musk’s company has been taking
heat from the astronomical community after an initial launch in late May
released the first 60 satellites. The  500
pound (227 kg) satellites were clearly visible in
Earth’s night sky,
inspiring concern that they could increase light pollution, interf …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: spacecraft

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