Google’s Timelapse Tool Shows How Busy Humanity Has Been

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 30, 2016 1:07 pm

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One of the most difficult problems for writers and historians alike is that it’s hard to encapsulate the sheer magnitude of man’s impact on the planet. Spill as much ink as you want about continents shifting, glaciers melting and humans taking over the planet, but some things are too massive to adequately put into perspective.

An update to Google’s Timelapse tool, first introduced in 2013, does a pretty good job of conveying the speed at which some parts of our planet are changing. Using satellite imagery dating back to 1984, mostly collected from NASA’s Landsat program, Google constructed a year-by-year series of snapshots of the entire planet —some 5 million individual images stitched together. The interactive visualization allows users to select any place on Earth and watch how it changed over the course of three decades.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

In Tiny Spaces, Boiling Water Stays Solid

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 29, 2016 3:37 pm
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(Credit: Iryna Dzvonkovska/Shutterstock)

A new study shows that confining water to very small spaces can keep it solid past even its normal boiling point.

Using carbon nanotubes, researchers from MIT report that they kept water from turning into a liquid, and even a gas, at far higher temperatures than normal. While not technically ice, this solid water could be used to create new types of wires that take advantage of solidified water’s unique properties. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology, top posts

Coconut Crabs’ Crushing Grip Finally Measured

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 28, 2016 4:10 pm
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A coconut crab. (Credit: Shin-ichoro Oka/PLOS.org)

Talk about a powerful handshake.

Researchers have measured the crushing grip of coconut crabs, the largest hermit crabs on Earth, for the first time, and the results are imposing. The crustaceans’ claws are capable of exerting forces that rival a lion’s bite, researchers from Japan’s Okinawa Churashima Research Center say. They think this impressive show of strength is partly an adaption to their shell-less existence, swapping out formidable weaponry for protective defenses. Read More

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

A Brief History of Celebrating Thanksgiving in Space

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 23, 2016 2:41 pm
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A turkey adorns the interior of the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Nothing puts the concept of “thanks” in perspective like floating in a tin can, high above the world. Not only do astronauts in orbiting space labs get to dine in zero gravity, they’re treated to an unrivaled view: the bright blue marble that supports and sustains us.

Celebrating in space comes with some limitations, of course. The food is all freeze-dried or thermo-regulated, and forget baking a turkey in the oven. Still, space residents do the best they can preparing a special menu, inviting their foreign companions to dine with them, and even treating themselves to some football piped in from mission control. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Antarctica’s Fastest Melting Glacier Began Retreating in the 1940s

By Eric Betz | November 23, 2016 1:25 pm
(Credit: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA)

A large ice crevasse begins forming on the Pine Island Glacier. For perspective, the crevasse in the foreground is approximately hundreds of feet deep. (Credit: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA)

In the late 1940s, with World War II finally over, the USS Pine Island was redeployed from the fight in the Pacific on yet another perilous mission: Operation Highjump.

Pilots would launch from the ship, surveying Antarctica from seaplanes and helicopters, and performing some of the earliest photo mapping of the continent. Three airmen died during the mission. And a Texas-sized chunk of ice was named in honor of their ship: The Pine Island Glacier. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts

When Humans Domesticated the Turkey

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 22, 2016 4:58 pm
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(Credit: dmitro2009/Shutterstock)

As Thanksgiving approaches we all try to remember to count our blessings, but we should also give thanks to the animal that sacrificed it all for our holiday meal — the noble turkey.

Bald eagles aside, turkeys are one of the most recognizable birds native to North America, and their meaty bulk has earned them a place on tables all around the world. Turkeys have been kept for food, and for other purposes, since well before the Pilgrims touched our shores. They were likely an important food source for Native Americans — who may have done more than just hunt them. Read More

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

The ‘Impossible’ EmDrive Thruster Has Cleared Its First Credibility Hurdle

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 21, 2016 4:52 pm
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The experimental setup of the controversial “EmDrive.” (Credit: White et.al)

After years of unwarranted hype and dubious experimental claims, the EmDrive, an “impossible” propulsion device that claims to produce thrust while violating Newton’s Laws of Motion, has received its first published, peer-reviewed paper.

A team of researchers from the NASA-affiliated Eagleworks lab published a paper last week describing a series of tests on the EmDrive. They say their methodology accounted for nearly all possible errors and returned results indicating that the device produced thrust, an apparent violation of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. The drive works by bouncing microwaves around the inside of a cone-shaped chamber, apparently producing thrust even though nothing is being emitted from the device. This is in opposition to the laws of physics as we understand them, which state that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. For example, conventional propellant-based rockets are pushed forward by the ejection of superheated gas from the nozzle. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology

Genetic Basis of ‘Uncombable Hair Syndrome’ Discovered

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 18, 2016 3:33 pm
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A child with uncombable hair syndrome. (Credit: University of Bonn)

The next time you have a bad hair day, at least you can fix it. Be glad you don’t suffer from “uncombable hair syndrome.”

The condition, which is usually present only in childhood, results in a tangled mess of frizzy hair that leaves the afflicted looking like they’re being perpetually shocked by static electricity. The condition seems to be correlated with light-blonde hair that has a characteristic sheen to it. There have only been around 100 cases reported in the medical literature, under a variety of names. But now researchers have discovered its underlying genetic cause.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes & health

Yellowstone Park: America’s Cherished Cauldron of Death

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 18, 2016 10:28 am
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(Kris Wiktor/Shutterstock)

Walking into the wilderness is always dangerous.

That holds true in national parks, where the bounty of paved roads, groomed campsites and friendly rangers can make nature feel downright civilized. The great outdoors still pose risks to tourists and grizzled mountain men alike, whether due to freak accidents — being dissolved in acid — or incidents of regrettable decision-making — putting a bison calf in your trunk. Read More

Brightest-Ever Fast Radio Burst Contains Cosmic Clues

By Shannon Stirone | November 17, 2016 3:08 pm
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(Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions)

There’s a long list of scientific discoveries that continue to puzzle researchers around the world, and one of the most mysterious comes in the form of something called Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs.

Scientists suspect that these extremely bright flashes of light originate from outside of the Milky Way Galaxy, but they still aren’t entirely sure where in the universe they’re coming from, or what kind of event causes them.

Up until last year only 17 had been detected. That changed when the brightest FRB ever discovered was seen by two different telescopes at Parkes Observatory in Australia on August 5, 2015. Published today in the journal Science, a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Curtin University, and CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science center in Australia announced not only that they’d observed the 18th FRB, but it’s also the brightest ever seen. Read More

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