People Were Definitely High For the 2017 Solar Eclipse, Study Finds

By Nathaniel Scharping | August 20, 2018 12:16 pm
Discover photo editor Ernie Mastroianni photographed the total solar eclipse as seen from Glendo State Park in Wyoming on Aug. 21, 2017.

Discover photo editor Ernie Mastroianni photographed the total solar eclipse as seen from Glendo State Park in Wyoming on Aug. 21, 2017.

Day turning to dusk in the span of minutes, sunsets all around, a jewel-bright ring in the sky where the sun once stood — an eclipse is an otherworldly experience. But, if there’s one thing we like to do with amazing experiences, it’s try to make them better. Though you may have already guessed, a new study provides the confirmation: Lots of people got high for the 2017 solar eclipse.

The new data comes courtesy of a study from a group of researchers from Murray State University in Kentucky looking at how celebratory events affect drug use. They compared two towns in Kentucky on a normal week and the Fourth of July, and looked at the solar eclipse in one town and the first week of a college semester in the other. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: drugs & addiction

One Third of Known Planets May Be Enormous Ocean Worlds

By John Wenz | August 17, 2018 5:45 pm
A new model of Super-Earths implies many of these planets are covered in enormous, thick oceans. (Credit: NASA)

A new model of Super-Earths implies many of these planets are covered in enormous, thick oceans. (Credit: NASA)

Water is a key ingredient for life — and new research suggests we might find it all over the galaxy.

Scientists looked at the mass of Super-Earths, a kind of planet common across the cosmos but not present in our own solar system. These rocky worlds are several times larger than Earth, but the team’s analysis of known Super-Earths reveals something astounding: Many of them may be literal water worlds.

According to the research, many of these planets may be half water. By comparison, water is just a tiny fraction of Earth’s mass. But that doesn’t mean these Super-Earths are friendly places to live. The Harvard-led team determined that those planets with 1.5 times Earth’s radius or below would be terrestrial, or rocky.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Astronomers Find New Way to Supersize Baby Black Holes

By Jake Parks | August 16, 2018 4:00 pm
This artist’s concept depicts a supermassive black hole surrounded by a dense disk of gas and dust in the center of a galaxy. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts a supermassive black hole surrounded by a dense disk of gas and dust in the center of a galaxy. (Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Just last year, three American physicists shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their role in the historic detection of gravitational waves. The signals came from cosmic ripples in space-time created by some of the most violent events in the universe: colliding black holes.

Scientists have now detected six gravitational-wave signals — five from merging pairs of stellar-mass black holes, and one from a merging pair of neutron stars. But strangely, most of the stellar-mass black holes involved were more than 20 times as massive as the Sun. The find perplexed astronomers. Stellar-mass black holes, which form when massive stars collapse, typically top out at about 10 to 15 times the mass of the Sun.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics

Millions of Tiny Seashells Are Affecting How Clouds Form

By Nathaniel Scharping | August 16, 2018 3:00 pm
(Credit: Kaushik Panchal/Unsplash)

(Credit: Kaushik Panchal/Unsplash)

For a cloud to appear, it takes more than water vapor. Water won’t condense into droplets, or nucleate, without a surface to do so on, and this often takes the form of particles floating around the atmosphere so tiny as to be invisible. Called aerosols, these particles play an important role in everything from the pace of climate change to the water cycle because they influence how clouds form and grow.

Natural aerosols come from any number of places: Everything from compounds emitted by plants to geyser steam. One of the biggest sources of aerosols, though, is the ocean. When winds whip the surface into a froth, the bursting bubbles explode into fragments tiny enough to take to the air, where they’re sometimes carried high into the atmosphere. Most of these aerosols were thought to be from sea salt, but new research published Wednesday in the journal iScience is showing that an impressive fraction of the tiny particles flying around the atmosphere are actually seashells. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
MORE ABOUT: animals, climate change

Workers of the World! There Is Efficiency in Idleness

By Carl Engelking | August 16, 2018 1:00 pm
(Credit: Radu Bercan/shutterstock)

(Credit: Radu Bercan/shutterstock)

In Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian novel, Player Piano, things get a little awkward after industrialist Dr. Paul Proteus, escorted in a black government limo, passes a crew of “Reeks and Wrecks,” or displaced laborers who could no longer compete economically with the machines that filled factories like Proteus’ Illium Works.

In the street, some 40 construction workers are hunched over shovels and pitchforks, all watching a single man fill a two-foot-wide pothole. With an abundance of idle hands, it’s no wonder the machines conquered the factory floor! At least that’s one takeaway here from Vonnegut — that, and a nihilistic commentary on the linkages between human dignity and work.

However, contrary to industrialist dogma, sitting around and doing absolutely nothing could be one of the best ways to boost the productivity of the wider group, especially for worker ants on excavation duty for their colony.

That’s the insight from researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology who monitored the excavation operations of fire ant colonies to arrive at this counterintuitive conclusion.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, top posts

New Wheat Genome Sequence Could Unlock Hardier Crops

By Mark Barna | August 16, 2018 1:00 pm
(Credit: krolya25/shutterstock)

(Credit: krolya25/shutterstock)

Wheat is one of the most widely cultivated cereals in the world. About 20 percent of the food humans eat has bread wheat (Triticum aestivum).

As the world’s population grows, wheat researchers and breeders have been studying how to get even more out of the cereal.

And some estimates say bread wheat production needs to increase by more than half in coming decades to feed everyone. To achieve this, scientists have been tinkering with wheat DNA to improve the health and production of this staple crop.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World

Cracking Open The Hearts of Dead Suns

By Alison Klesman | August 15, 2018 4:15 pm
Neutron stars are extreme objects composed of 95 percent neutrons and five percent protons. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

Neutron stars are extreme objects composed of 95 percent neutrons and five percent protons.
(Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

Neutron stars are the remnants of violent supernovas, all that’s left behind when a star tens of times the mass of our sun ends its nuclear fuel-burning life. These extreme objects pack more mass than our sun — about 1.4 suns’ worth of mass, to be more exact — into a stellar remnant about the width of a small city (6 to 12 miles [10 to 20 kilometers]).

These tiny, distant objects get their name from the fact that they’re almost entirely composed of neutrons. But they do contain a small fraction (about 5 percent) of protons. Now, new research indicates these protons may have more influence over the properties of the star — such as its size, its temperature, and its “stiffness” — than previously thought. The finding, published August 13 in Nature, was made by members of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) Large Acceptance Spectrometer (CLAS) Collaboration, which included researchers at MIT, Tel Aviv University, and Old Dominion University.

The data the team used, however, didn’t come from neutron star observations. Instead, the data came from neutron star analogs — dense atomic nuclei here on Earth. Although atomic nuclei aren’t quite as densely packed as neutron stars, they are easier to observe and can still give insight into the inner workings of some of the most extreme objects in the universe.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics

This Teeny, Tiny Galaxy is Hiding a Supermassive Black Hole

By John Wenz | August 15, 2018 3:45 pm
The tiny dwarf galaxy Fornax UCD3 (inset) orbits around a giant elliptical galaxy called NGC 1399. Astronomers used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to discover a supermassive black hole at UCD3's heart. (Credit: Courtesy of NASA/STScI/ESO/Afanasiev et al.)

The tiny dwarf galaxy Fornax UCD3 (inset) orbits around a giant elliptical galaxy called NGC 1399. Astronomers used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to discover a supermassive black hole at UCD3’s heart. (Credit: Courtesy of NASA/STScI/ESO/Afanasiev et al.)

A small galaxy some 70 million light-years from Earth has been hiding a big secret.

This week, astronomers announced they’d found a supermassive black hole (SMBH) lurking at the center of a galaxy called Fornax UCD3. It’s an odd place for such a giant black hole to survive.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics

Hailstorms Cost Americans Billions. It’s Probably Going to Get Worse

By Roni Dengler | August 15, 2018 2:00 pm
(Credit: swa182/shutterstock)

(Credit: swa182/shutterstock)

BOULDER, Colo. – Severe storms cause tens of billions of dollars in property damage each year. And that cost will likely go up in the coming years thanks in large part to hailstorms.

Climate scientists, meteorologists and insurance experts gathered at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) here in Boulder, Colorado, this week for a three-day workshop to discuss how climate change affects these storms and brainstorm how to better detect and forecast them.

“It looks like 2018 will become the 11th straight year in which total dollar losses will exceed $10 billion from severe storms,” Ian Giammanco, a meteorologist with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, said during a press conference. “Most of that is hail.”

In North America, hail produces 70 percent of the annual damage from thunderstorms and often accompanies tornadoes and hurricanes. That means hail makes up a huge percentage of the destruction.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment

New Date For Greek Eruption That May Have Inspired Atlantis Myth

By Charles Choi | August 15, 2018 1:30 pm
An ancient eruption on the present day Greek island of Santorini devastated the Minoan people, possibly inspiring the myth of Atlantis. (Credit: Aleksandra H. Kossowska/shutterstock)

An ancient eruption on the present day Greek island of Santorini devastated the Minoan people, possibly inspiring the myth of Atlantis. (Credit: Aleksandra H. Kossowska/shutterstock)

A long-standing controversy over the date of a volcanic blast that possibly inspired the myth of Atlantis may have been resolved with the aid of ancient tree rings, a new study finds.

One of the largest volcanic eruptions in the past 4,000 years burst from the volcano Thera on what is now the Greek island of Santorini. The catastrophic eruptions spewed forth about 40 to 60 cubic kilometers of lava, devastating the ancient seafaring Minoan civilization, potentially inspiring the legend of the lost city of Atlantis.

The effects of this eruption were felt as far away as Egypt and Turkey. And by pinpointing when this eruption happened, scientists might have a way to tie together the timelines of ancient Greece, Egypt, Turkey and the rest of the Mediterranean.

However, precisely dating when this eruption occurred has proven difficult. Entire conferences have focused on the problem, said study lead author Charlotte Pearson, a dendroarchaeologist at the University of Arizona at Tucson.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology, geology
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