Jellyfish Chips: A Delicious Oxymoron

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 20, 2018 7:00 am
A dried-out jellyfish chip. (Credit: Anders Boe/University of Southern Denmark)

A dried-out jellyfish chip. (Credit: Anders Boe/University of Southern Denmark)

Ah, nothing beats the crispy crunch of a jellyfish chip. Wait, what?

Forget “Lady Doritos,” jellyfish chips are a future snack for the masses. It turns out that the swimming gelatinous invertebrates can be leached of water to leave behind a thin, crispy wafer. It tastes of sea salt, apparently. Read More

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

So Unfair! How the Brain Responds to Injustice

By Lauren Sigfusson | February 19, 2018 1:10 pm

(Credit: Shutterstock)

In this cruel world, it’s impossible to navigate from cradle to grave without experiencing the bitter fruits of injustice. But bitter fruits, it turns out, are better shared. According to findings from a study published Monday in the journal JNeurosci, punishing the wrongdoer seems to be more rewarding than helping out the victim.

The participants, 53 males (a bit skewed, I’d say), all played a two-player game designed to analyze how people perceive and respond to a thief. Each player — the taker and the partner — started with 200 chips. Taker could steal up to 100 of the partner’s chips, and the partner could retaliate by spending up to 100 chips to reduce the taker’s stash by up to 300 chips. Study participants played either a partner or observer role, and they could decide to spend chips to help out the partner or punish the taker. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts

10 Ways Space Changes the Body

By Jake Parks | February 19, 2018 12:18 pm

Former astronaut Mark Kelly (left) poses with his identical twin brother, astronaut Scott Kelly (right). As part of NASA’s Twins Study, Scott spent nearly a year in space, while Mark stayed here on Earth. This gave researchers a chance to study the health effects of long-term spaceflights. (Credit: NASA)

Scott and Mark Kelly are identical twin brothers. Though that alone does not make them unique, what does is the fact that they are also both astronauts. In order to take advantage of the Kellys’ unique situation, NASA scientists decided to conduct a detailed study on the twins, aimed at unraveling how nature versus nurture plays out in space. Read More

How Did Hurricane Maria Affect Wildlife? Just Listen

By Bill Andrews | February 16, 2018 4:36 pm


Hurricane Maria, it’s safe to say, was devastating to Puerto Rico. More than five months ago, on September 20th, the Category 4 storm ravaged the U.S. territory, causing $90 billion worth of damage in some estimates and scores of deaths. Much of the island is still without power. As someone born and raised on the island (despite my gringo name), it’s been hard to watch, and keeping in touch with family still there has been difficult, especially right after the storm.

But part of what makes the “Island of Enchantment” so enchanting are the wide variety of animal species. So how did they weather the storm? Well, according to findings from a presentation today at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon, at least one particular coastal ecosystem has responded pretty well. And we know it because scientists just happened to be eavesdropping on various species for months. Read More

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

So That’s Why the Gate to Hell Is So Deadly

By Lauren Sigfusson | February 16, 2018 4:05 pm
The main thoroughfare in Hierapolis. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The main thoroughfare in Hierapolis. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

If there’s a highway to hell, there’s probably a gate to hell—well, there is. It’s located in what was the ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis, which is now in modern-day Turkey.

Called Plutonium after Pluto, the gate was thought to be an opening to the underworld. It was first described by the ancient Greek geographer Strabo and Roman author Plinius. When Strabo visited, he described a thick vapor that would overtake the gate. During religious ceremonies, the castrated priests who entered Plutonium would come out alive. But “bulls that are led into it fall and are dragged out dead; and I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Your Weekly Attenborough: Materpiscis attenboroughi

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 16, 2018 3:48 pm
A 3-D rendering of what M. attenboroughi might have looked like — baby included. Are we living in the future or what! (Credit: Museum Victoria)

A 3-D rendering of what M. attenboroughi might have looked like — baby included. (Credit: Museum Victoria)

I mean, really. No matter how you feel about the man, surely his mother is off-limits? Translated from the Latin, the full name of this species comes out to be “Attenborough’s mother fish.” Attenborough’s mother — a fish! Where I come from, them’s fightin’ words.

But the name is quite accurate. Hot takes aside, the fossil of Materpiscis attenboroughi actually turns out to contain the oldest vertebrate pregnancy we’ve ever found. It sets in stone the ancient roots of live birth, and the “mother fish” appellation honors the species’ status at the vanguard of viviparity. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

If We Discover Alien Life, Will Humanity Keep Its Cool?

By Carl Engelking | February 16, 2018 2:35 pm

Mars has long been the best candidate to find extraterrestrial life? (Credit: NASA)

For well over 1,500 years, humanity accepted that Earth was the center of the solar system. After all, the Bible—which was the scientific authority at the time—said this was so.

Then along came Nicolaus Copernicus, who in the 16th century dared to challenge the church and mathematically described a solar system with the sun at its center. After his death, Galileo Galilei’s observations of heavenly bodies further supported the Copernican model. The Catholic Church, fearing such a finding undermined the supreme authority of the Bible, charged him with heresy. Galileo would be sentenced to life imprisonment, but was allowed to serve his sentence at home due to his declining health. Read More

Will Elon Musk’s Roadster Ever Crash Back to Earth?

By Alison Klesman | February 16, 2018 1:19 pm
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket carried Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster, manned by a mannequin in a spacesuit named Starman. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket carried Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster, manned by a mannequin in a spacesuit named Starman. (Credit: SpaceX)

On February 6, SpaceX wrote a new chapter in the ongoing book on commercial spaceflight with the successful launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket. Along for the ride was Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, which is now on an elliptical orbit around the Sun. But what about the risk to Earth? Could the car, which is estimated to last up to a few tens of millions of years, ever pose the threat of raining down from the sky as a fireball in the future?

The answer, as it turns out, is probably not. A paper posted on Cornell University Library’s arXiv preprint server February 13 (and to be submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society) with the jaunty title The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets concludes that there is just a six percent chance that the Tesla will collide with Earth in the next one million years. The chance does rise to 11 percent in the next three million years; but even if you’re a pessimist, “it will either burn up or maybe one component will reach the surface,” said first author Hanno Rein in a press release. “There is no risk to health and safety whatsoever.”

The Roadster's orbit takes it out just past Mars, then in toward Earth's orbit. Over the next several million years, it will cross the orbits of Mars, Earth, and Venus several times. Generated on

The Roadster’s orbit takes it out just past Mars, then in toward Earth’s orbit. Over the next several million years, it will cross the orbits of Mars, Earth, and Venus several times.
(Generated on

The authors calculated the probabilities by fast-forwarding the Tesla’s orbit — along with the orbits of the planets — over time and observing whether collisions occurred over the course of many simulations. In addition to the probability of colliding with Earth, they also found only a 2.5 percent chance the Tesla will collide with Venus in the next one million years. Though they predict several close calls with Mars, they don’t believe it is likely to collide with the Red Planet. After three million years, they only observed one collision with the Sun.

The Tesla, which is estimated to rotate about once every five minutes based on reflected light measured with the 4.1-meter SOAR telescope in Chile, is on an orbit that will cross the orbits of not only Earth, but also Venus and Mars, several times over the course of its dynamically stable lifetime. According to Rein, this orbit is not unlike that of many near-Earth Asteroids regularly observed. In fact, the Tesla has been officially labeled by NASA as a Near-Earth Object and listed in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Horizon’s database as object -143205 SpaceX Roadster (spacecraft) (Tesla). It is one of about 150 manmade objects in the database, which allows you to chart any object’s position on the sky. According to the database, the Tesla is currently following an orbit with a perihelion of 0.99 astronomical units (AU, where 1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance) and an aphelion of 1.67 AU (Mars’ average distance from the Sun is about 1.5 AU).

The Tesla’s first close pass of Earth will occur in 2091; after that, it has a 50 percent chance of continuing to orbit for a few tens of millions of years, before it either collides with a planet or falls into the Sun. For now, it’s on its way out past Mars, carrying an appropriate message: Don’t panic.



How Big Is the Andromeda Galaxy?

By Jake Parks | February 15, 2018 10:25 am

This image of the Andromeda galaxy, captured by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer, shows the ultraviolet side of our familiar galactic neighbor. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Both the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy (M31) are giant spiral galaxies in our local universe. And in about 4 billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide in a gravitational sumo match that will ultimately bind them forever.

Because astronomers previously thought that Andromeda was up to three times as massive as the Milky Way, they expected that our galaxy would be easily overpowered and absorbed into our larger neighbor. But now, new research suggests we’ve overestimated our opponent.  Read More

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

What’s the Deal With Pulsating Auroras?

By Leah Froats | February 14, 2018 3:30 pm
(Credit: Jonatan Pie/Unsplash)

(Credit:Jonatan Pie/Unsplash)

Auroras, known to many as the northern lights, are a beautiful and mysterious phenomenon. To the casual observer the streaks of colored light across the sky can seem miraculous and inexplicable.

And one kind in particular, called a pulsating aurora, has indeed been mysterious to scientists, who have never been able to directly prove their hypothesis about how it’s formed. Now, armed with better technology, researchers from Japan say they’ve finally caught the aurora in the act. Read More

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


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