Latest Blog Posts


The Nile as Seen From Space: A Glowing Ribbon of Life

By Tom Yulsman | July 27, 2015 12:10 am

I wasn’t intending to post anything on a Sunday night, but I happened on this mind-blowing photograph shot and posted to Twitter by Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. So I just had to share it.

You’re looking at his astronaut’s-eye-view of the River Nile, all aglow at night. In this inverted view, North is toward the bottom of the frame, south toward the top. The Nile flows from the heart of Africa in the upper right quadrant to the dark Mediterranean Sea.

Near where …

Body Horrors

The Inheritance of Syphilis

By Rebecca Kreston | July 26, 2015 9:30 pm

The mother gazes at her naked, lethargic infant, wan with a pustular red rash dotting his chest. She’s dressed in the fashion of the day: a high-necked black blouse with leg-of-mutton sleeves, a heavy full-length skirt, a formless red feather jutting from her hat. She holds a white handkerchief to her distorted scarlet face, one arm hanging limply at her side, seemingly in despair over the lamentable circumstances that have brought her to this bare waiting room.

The Norwegian expression …


"Is Your Brain Really Necessary?", Revisited

By Neuroskeptic | July 26, 2015 7:40 am

According to British biochemist Donald R. Forsdyke in a new paper in Biological Theory, the existence of people who seem to be missing most of their brain tissue calls into question some of the “cherished assumptions” of neuroscience.

I’m not so sure.

Forsdyke discusses the disease called hydrocephalus (‘water on the brain’). Some people who suffer from this condition as children are cured thanks to prompt treatment. Remarkably, in some cases, these post-hydrocephalics turn out to have …


Organic Brown Gunk (Technical Term) Rains Out of Pluto's Surprising Atmosphere, Coloring the Planet's Surface

By Tom Yulsman | July 25, 2015 4:40 pm

I’m just catching up on some of the recent spectacular imagery of Pluto sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby, and this one really caught my eye.

This beautiful image of sunlight streaming through the atmosphere was captured by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager instrument, known as LORRI. The spacecraft was racing away from Pluto at the time, just seven hours after its closest approach on July 14, 2015.

But the image isn’t just beautiful. It actually astounde …


As Northern Lights Shimmer, a Glacier National Park Fire Lights up the Nighttime Sky — and Is Visible From Space

By Tom Yulsman | July 24, 2015 8:26 pm

Although the Reynolds Creek Fire burning in Glacier National Park may not be particularly large (at least not yet), its smoke plume and even its glow have been easily visible from space.

And back on the ground, photographers have already captured some spectacular images of the blaze.

The wildfire began at about 3:45p.m. on Tuesday, July, 21, about six miles east of Logan Pass in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Lightning is the likely culprit, but a definitive determination hasn’t …

Science Sushi

Four-Legged Snake Shakes Up Squamate Family Tree - Or Does It?

By Christie Wilcox | July 24, 2015 5:28 pm

Snakes, with their sleek, slithering shape, are unmistakable amongst the reptiles. Yet for decades, scientists have been debating just how these limbless lizard relatives ended up with their distinctive, elongated body.

On one side are scientists who argue that the serpentine shape was an aquatic adaptation. Many snake traits, including an elongated body and reduced limbs, are also features of swimming animals (think whales and dolphins, for example, which have lost their hind limbs). Ear …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, More Science, select, Top Posts

Drone 360

VIDEO: Man Rescues His Drone... With Another Drone

By Carl Engelking | July 24, 2015 2:47 pm

When your drone gets lost on a neighbor’s rooftop, it’s high time to channel your inner MacGyver.

And that’s exactly what Harrisen Howes did.

Two months ago, Howes’s roommate enjoyed one too many alcoholic beverages and drunkenly crashed a DJI Phantom onto the roof of a neighboring home, according to Howes’s YouTube post. In response, Howes upgraded to a larger drone and pieced together a rescue mission.

Howes strung two hooks — fashioned from coat hangers — to the l …

MORE ABOUT: drone, drone rescue


Four-Legged Snake Ancestor Dug Burrows With Tiny Limbs

By Carl Engelking | July 24, 2015 2:00 pm

Snakes’ earliest ancestors liked to hug it out.

Scientists announced this week the discovery of a 113-million-year-old four-legged reptile fossil found in Brazil. That makes it the most primitive ancestor of modern-day snakes ever found. While scientists have previously identified ancient snake fossils rocking a pair of hind limbs, this is also the first four-legged snake scientists have ever seen.

And the way this snake used its delicate arms helps clarify a longstanding debate abou …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts


Your Musical Tastes Reflect Your Thinking Style

By Andy Berger | July 24, 2015 11:37 am

Are you good at putting yourself in someone else’s shoes? Then there’s a good chance that you enjoy R&B. If, instead, you are drawn to take things apart to understand how they work, you likely prefer punk music.

That’s the conclusion of a new study on how musical tastes relate to cognition. “We wanted to address this longstanding question, Why do people like the music that they do?” says study author David Greenberg. “Because you could have one person, for example, who lov …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: psychology


An Anxious Moment Makes People Clean Obsessively

By Elizabeth Preston | July 24, 2015 11:26 am

Whether you’re a person biting her nails during a phone interview or a polar bear pacing its cage, anxious animals often do the same thing over and over. Extreme cases of repetitive behavior show up in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder or autism. Now researchers have shown that even a simple, anxiety-inducing experiment can make an average person act in a repetitive and ritualized way.

“A lot of social theorists have talked about the link between anxiety and ritualization,” sa …


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