The Curious Case of Acrylamide: California’s Prop. 65 Explained

By Kendall Powell | July 17, 2018 2:13 pm
(Credit: M. Unal Ozmen/Shutterstock)

(Credit: M. Unal Ozmen/Shutterstock)

Most of us think of coffee as a morning essential, not a cancer-causing hazard. So the nation got a jolt after a California judge made a final ruling in May that Starbucks and other coffee sellers must inform customers about carcinogenic chemicals in their brews.

The ruling stemmed from a court case invoking Proposition 65, a state law that requires warnings if products or places contain certain types of hazardous chemicals. But the implications reach far beyond the Golden State. California has the sixth-largest economy in the world, so manufacturers of consumer goods worldwide try to abide by Prop. 65 regulations.

Here’s a primer on how hazardous chemicals get listed and regulated, the ongoing coffee case — yes, it’s still not over — and what might be labeled or litigated next. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: cancer, nutrition

Why Some Black Holes Look Different From Others

By Summer Ash | July 16, 2018 1:17 pm
Despite having a standard model of an AGN—a supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disk with jets streaming out in opposite directions, all encompassed by a dusty torus—making sense of our observations is still a challenge. (Credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; ESO/WFI.)

Despite having a standard model of an AGN—a supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disk with jets streaming out in opposite directions, all encompassed by a dusty torus—making sense of our observations is still a challenge. (Credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; ESO/WFI)

Astronomers can sometimes be literal to a fault. We like to call things as we see them. For example, if it’s red and it’s huge: “Red Giant.” White and small: “White Dwarf.” Massive explosion: “Big Bang.” Dark and sucks everything in: “Black Hole.” Most of the time, classifying objects this way works fine—either it’s new, or it’s something we already know of. But sometimes, as with Pluto, we make new observations that force us to question the name, reassess the object, and identify it differently. You might think this never happens with something as clearly defined as a black hole, but you’d be wrong. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: black holes, physics, stars

The Loudest Sound Ever Heard

By Aatish Bhatia | July 13, 2018 2:48 pm
A lithograph of the massive 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. (Credit: The eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena, 1888; Parker & Coward; via Wikipedia)

A lithograph of the massive 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. (Credit: The eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena, 1888; Parker & Coward; via Wikipedia)

On 27 August 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since.

It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. It was heard 1,300 miles away in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (“extraordinary sounds were heard, as of guns firing”); 2,000 miles away in New Guinea and Western Australia (“a series of loud reports, resembling those of artillery in a north-westerly direction”); and even 3,000 miles away in the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, near Mauritius (“coming from the eastward, like the distant roar of heavy guns.”) In all, it was heard by people in over 50 different geographical locations, together spanning an area covering a thirteenth of the globe. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment
MORE ABOUT: earth science

What Is A Blazar? It’s Like Staring Down The Barrel Of A Black Hole

By Erika K. Carlson | July 12, 2018 10:00 am
Many galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers. These can feed on disks of gas and dust, shooting out jets of material at near light-speed. When the jets happen to point toward Earth, it’s considered a blazar. (Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Many galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers. These can feed on disks of gas and dust, shooting out jets of material at near light-speed. When the jets happen to point toward Earth, it’s considered a blazar. (Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

On Thursday, researchers announced that they’d caught a single, tiny, high-energy particle called a neutrino that had rained down on Earth from a supermassive black hole some 4 billion light-years away.

Astrophysicists are excited because this is only the third identified cosmic object they’ve managed to collect the elusive particles from — first the Sun, then a supernova that went off in a neighboring galaxy in 1987, and now a blazar.

So, what is a blazar, anyway?

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts

The Solar Neutrino Problem — Science’s Original Neutrino Mystery

By Eric Betz | July 12, 2018 10:00 am
Construction of the neutrino detector inside the Homestake Mine in South Dakota. (Credit: Brookhaven National Lab)

Construction of the neutrino detector inside the Homestake Mine in South Dakota. (Credit: Brookhaven National Lab)

Back in 1938, physicist Hans Bethe figured out that the Sun and other stars generate energy by fusing hydrogen into helium. With that mystery solved, solar scientists thought they had a pretty good understanding of what was going on at the heart of the sun.

But an experiment that started in 1967 made astronomers just a tad uneasy.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics

5 Times (At Least) Einstein Was Wrong

By Bill Andrews | July 11, 2018 5:00 pm
(Credit: Bangkokhappiness/shutterstock)

(Credit: Bangkokhappiness/shutterstock)

The past few weeks have featured a few stories about how Albert Einstein’s theories, or the ideas underpinning them, have all been confirmed to a new degree of accuracy. That’s usually the case: Scientists try to disprove Einstein, and Einstein always wins.

But that’s not to say the man was infallible. He was human, just like the rest of us, and did make some mistakes. Here’s a few of them.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts

We Can Thank Poor Evolutionary Design for Vitamin D Deficiencies

By Nathan H. Lents | July 10, 2018 2:04 pm
(Credit: vvvita/Shutterstock)

(Credit: vvvita/Shutterstock)

My doctor recently declared me deficient in vitamin D and prescribed a weekly pill. Because I take care to eat a healthy and diverse diet, I was a bit annoyed. She said it was no big deal and actually very common, the medical equivalent of a parent telling a child, “Because I said so.” Later on, I was grousing to some of my friends and many of them said they had gotten the same news.  It made me wonder: What is going on with vitamin D? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: nutrition

Counting Down Thunder: How Far Away Was That Lightning?

By Becky Bollinger, Colorado State University | July 10, 2018 12:54 pm
(Credit: Vasin Lee/shutterstock)

(Credit: Vasin Lee/shutterstock)

A version of this article originally appeared on The Conversation.

You probably do it. It might be ingrained from when you were a kid, and now it’s almost automatic. You see the flash of lightning – and you immediately start counting the seconds till it thunders.

But does counting really get you a good estimate for how far away the lightning is? Is this one of those old wives’ tales, or is it actually based on science? In this case, we have physics to thank for this quick and easy – and pretty accurate – calculation.

So what happens when a big storm rolls in?
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts

Chimps Can’t Tell Us Much About Being Human

By Agustín Fuentes | July 9, 2018 5:17 pm
(Credit: Ari Wid/shutterstock)

(Credit: Ari Wid/shutterstock)

Do we gain insight by comparing President Trump to a chimpanzee? Can we learn something useful about gender-based violence among humans by studying other primates? Can observing chimpanzees or bonobos tell us why humans go to war or how we can get along better?

The urge to try and find the animal “roots” for human behavior is enticing because humans are animals. We are mammals, primates and hominoids (the superfamily of apes). Due to these realities, we share more of our evolutionary history, our DNA, and our physiology with chimpanzees (including bonobos) than with any other living thing. In light of our commonalities, many researchers look to the chimpanzee world in order to better understand the human one.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts

The Seven Best Travel Spots In Our Solar System – And How To Die There

By John Wenz | July 9, 2018 12:15 pm
(Credit: Thinkstock: Cemil Adakale/Hemera (Earth), eddtoro/iStock (astronaut))

(Credit: Thinkstock: Cemil Adakale/Hemera (Earth), EddToro/Shutterstock (astronaut))

In the why-aren’t-you-watching-this television show The Expanse, humanity has spread out into the solar system. Mars and Earth stand as bitter rivals, with Ceres settlers somewhere in between. A few companies even have settlers in the outer regions of the solar system.

You wouldn’t necessarily want to live in the world of The Expanse, as fantastic as it is. Yet the show still plays to the dreams of those of us who long to wander the final frontier. However, the reality of what awaits you beyond Earth is far more dangerous than the show. Even if you make it past the interplanetary radiation, you’re still confronted with any number of hazards, and they don’t stop once you land.

Here are a few places from your colonization dreams that might end up actual nightmares.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

The Crux

A collection of bright and big ideas about timely and important science from a community of experts.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+