Latest Blog Posts


Fingerprints Change Over the Course of a Person's Life

By Carl Engelking | June 29, 2015 3:13 pm

Fingerprints may not be the permanent biological signatures we’ve built them up to be.

Since the 1920s, fingerprints have been accepted as evidence in courtrooms due to their uniqueness and permanence. And their uniqueness has been scientifically validated. But what of their permanence? Do those ridges and swirls remain the same from birth to death? According to a new study, our fingerprints do slightly change as time progresses — which could have implications for everything from law  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts


Smoke From Hundreds of Wildfires in Canada Streams South Across Much of the Central United States

By Tom Yulsman | June 29, 2015 2:53 pm

|See update below |

Pushed by a wildly contorted jet stream, smoke from more than 200 wildfires burning in Canada’s Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces has streamed 1,600 miles south, deep into the United States.

You can see the fires and the plume in the image above, acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite yesterday.

I did my best to analyze the satellite image and locate the approximate end of the plume. By my estimate, it traveled as far south as southern Missouri, near the city of Spri …

Photo: NOAA

Citizen Science Salon

Did you know ‘storm spotters’ in your community keep you safe during severe weather?

By Carolyn Graybeal | June 29, 2015 8:00 am

Civic minded citizen scientists in your community help meteorologists and the National Weather Service stay abreast of inclement weather with on-the-ground data.

Earlier this week, the Midwest and Northeast were slammed with tornados and thunderstorms that grounded planes and held up trains. Thousands of people along the Northeast corridor lost power as a result.

During such hazardous weather, we rely on the knowledge, skill and expertise of meteorologists and designated emergency pers …

Body Horrors

Blood & Fog: The Military's Germ Warfare Tests in San Francisco

By Rebecca Kreston | June 28, 2015 2:10 pm

The Nuremberg Code was drafted in 1947 following the appalling revelations of human experimentation committed in Nazi concentration camps. The overarching goal of the Code was to establish a set of rules for the ethical conduct of research using human subjects, guaranteeing that the rights and welfare of such participants would be protected. Two important principles guide and define this Code: the concept of voluntary, informed consent and that no experiment shall be conducted in which “there i …


Pharma Make The Most of A Negative Result

By Neuroskeptic | June 28, 2015 12:34 pm

A misleading piece of statistical rhetoric has appeared in a paper about an experimental antidepressant treatment. The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. JAD is a respectable mid-ranked psychiatry journal – yet on this occasion they seem to have dropped the ball badly.

The study examined whether the drug armodafinil (Nuvigil) improved mood in people with bipolar disorder who were in a depressive episode. In a double-blind trial, 462 patients were randomized to treat …


Idiot Drone Pilot Hampers Efforts to Save Homes from Southern California's Lake Fire

By Tom Yulsman | June 26, 2015 3:19 pm

|Please see the update below about questions that have been raised about whether this was truly a hobbyist’s drone.|

I check in at NASA’s fabulous Earth Observatory web site almost every day, because I know I’ll be treated to spectacular imagery and also learn something new. Today was no different, except this time instead of being edified I wound up getting enraged.

Along with publishing the image of Southern California’s Lake Fire above, the folks at the Earth Observatory noted thi …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Drought, select, Top Posts, Wildfire


As the Piano-Sized New Horizons Spacecraft Approaches, Pluto and Charon Are Coming Into Intriguing Focus

By Tom Yulsman | June 26, 2015 2:19 pm

The New Horizons spacecraft is about 13 million miles from Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. If that seems really far, consider the image above.

It was captured by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager instrument, or LORI, when the piano-sized spacecraft was even farther away — 20 million miles, give or take. Yet LORI could begin to pick out some intriguing surface detail on both bodies.

Note the light and dark features on Pluto, to the right, which are indicative of large-scale …


DARPA Is Supposedly Engineering Organisms to Make Mars Livable

By Carl Engelking | June 26, 2015 1:08 pm

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to create organisms that will turn the Red Planet a shade of green, at least according to a reporter who had access to their recent conference. As with most things DARPA does, there’s not a lot of publicly available details about the plan. DARPA denies that terraforming Mars in anywhere in their sights. But comments made by Alicia Jackson, deputy director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, seem to indicate that it is at least …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts


Rats Dream About the Places They Want to Explore

By Kiona Smith-Strickland | June 26, 2015 12:02 pm

Rats, like humans, have dreams about the future.

When they see a treat they can’t reach, rats’ later dreams depict them walking toward it, researchers have found. The discovery may one day provide some insight into what happens in the human mind during sleep.

Maps in the Brain
Scientists already knew that after a rat has explored an area, certain neurons in the hippocampus called “place cells” replay those patterns while the rat sleeps.

“Place cells” in both rats and hu …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals


Nervous Sea Squirts Squirt Out Their Stomachs and Grow New Ones

By Elizabeth Preston | June 26, 2015 11:33 am

We may call someone gutless who’s acting afraid. But certain coral-reef dwellers take gutless to a whole other level: they shoot their digestive tracts out of their bodies when they feel threatened. This seems to deter nearby fish from taking a bite. Even more amazing, though, is how quickly the gutless animals grow back their organs.

Polycarpa mytiligera is a little tube-shaped creature called an ascidian, or sea squirt. It resides in tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. W …


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