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The Crux

A Geoengineered Future Is Downright Scary

By Nathaniel Scharping | December 13, 2017 2:06 pm

Climate change seems inevitable. Between the still-accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions and the voices of global warming deniers, hitting the targets laid out in the Paris Accord to slow the pace of a warming climate feels increasingly elusive.

To hit even the 2 degree Celsius cap on a global temperature increase, emissions would need to peak in 2020, or less than three years from now, and keep going down after that. We could do it, but will we?

If we can’t change our beh …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts


A major federal report finds that the speed of Arctic warming is unprecedented in 2,000 years

By Tom Yulsman | December 13, 2017 11:58 am

The peer-reviewed report involving 85 scientists finds that the Arctic environmental system has reached a “new normal”

It’s a common refrain doubters of human-caused global warming: Temperatures now are no higher than they were during the Medieval Warm Period from about 800 to 1400 AD.

Never mind that a major paper put this idea to rest in 2013. I still have this flawed argument thrown at me when I write about climate issues. And I would not be surprised if that happens again  …

The Crux

The Mysterious Asteroid Behind the Year's Best Meteor Shower

By Eric Betz | December 13, 2017 10:35 am

Step outside after dark this week and you can watch chunks of an asteroid burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Behold, the Geminid meteor shower, which is renowned as the year’s best.

At peak Geminids, you could catch a shooting star every minute, and this year the moon won’t be bright enough to foul the show. That main action arrives just past 9 p.m. local time Wednesday and lasts until dawn. “The Geminids are rich in fireballs and bright meteors so that makes them very good to observe, …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts


The 'Driverless' Car Era Began More Than 90 Years Ago

By Carl Engelking | December 13, 2017 10:22 am

Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, you’ll get a different year for the big roll-out of fully autonomous vehicles. General Motors plans to launch them in big cities by 2019.

Ford says it will have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation by 2021.

Google’s self-driving operation, Waymo, announced last month that its autonomous vehicles are ready to fly solo—sans a test driver babysitter—in an area of the Phoenix metro region. Numerous other technology and automotive …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: transportation


Why Do Meteoroids Explode in the Atmosphere?

By Jake Parks | December 12, 2017 1:35 pm

On February 15, 2013, a near-Earth asteroid with a diameter of 66 feet (20 meters) entered Earth’s atmosphere traveling at around 40,000 miles per hour (60,0000 km/h).

Within a few seconds, the cosmic projectile detonated 12 miles above the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, releasing as much energy as about 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs. This created a gigantic fireball — known as a superbolide — that caused shock waves to propagate outward for dozens of miles, damaging several thousand b …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts

Dead Things

Amber Preserves Tick On Dinosaur Feather

By Gemma Tarlach | December 12, 2017 10:00 am

Turns out even dinosaurs got ticked off. A nearly 100 million-year-old piece of amber has preserved a tick latched onto a dinosaur feather, the oldest such preserved specimen of the parasite everyone loves to hate. Additional ticks found in related pieces of amber provide more evidence that the nasty critters were feasting on feathered dinos back in the day.

Disease-spreading, blood-sucking and just generally repulsive ticks are a modern scourge of wildlife and mildlife (humans, pets and li …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
The Star Wars droids C-3PO (left) and R2-D2 (right) were the most popular science fiction robots in a recent survey by Conversica. Credit: Disney | Lucasfilm

Lovesick Cyborg

Star Wars Droids Top Sci-Fi Robots Survey

By Jeremy Hsu | December 11, 2017 9:11 pm

Disney seems to have a lock on many of the more popular science fiction robots between owning Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise and the beloved animation studio Pixar. A recent survey of Americans found that the Star Wars robot duo of R2-D2 and C-3PO topped the choices of people’s favorite sci-fi robots driven by artificial intelligence, followed closely by Pixar’s trash-compacting robot WALL-E. Commander Data, a pasty-looking android with a much more humanlike appearance from “Star Trek:  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts


What Do the Last Words of Death Row Inmates Tell Us?

By Nathaniel Scharping | December 11, 2017 5:13 pm

Any last words?

It’s a question prisoners on death row hear before their execution begins. Along with last meals and long cell block walks, the opportunity to give a final statement has become deeply ingrained in the highly ritualized process of executing prisoners.

Most prisoners take the opportunity to pause on the lip of annihilation and utter a final statement, and the content of these messages range from expressions of guilt and sorrow to expletive-laced outbursts. Examining the f …

MORE ABOUT: psychology


Poison Frog's Homing Skills Baffle Scientists

By Elizabeth Preston | December 11, 2017 11:26 am

When researchers deposited the little fanny-pack-wearing amphibians deep in the jungle, they were already planning a rescue mission. The poison frogs were disoriented, half a mile from home, and in dense underbrush they’d never seen before. Yet, impossibly, the frogs turned themselves in the right direction. They hopped straight back to their home turf. And the results would no doubt teach scientists something about animal navigation—if they had any idea how the frogs pulled it off.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: brains, navigation, top posts

Dead Things

Was The Thylacine Doomed Even Before Humans Arrived in Australia?

By Gemma Tarlach | December 11, 2017 10:00 am

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, went extinct in the 1930s after a concerted eradication campaign by humans. But a new study suggests that the marvelous marsupial native to Australia may have been in trouble long before then.

Among recently extinct animals, few capture the imagination quite like the thylacine. The Tasmanian tiger appeared almost dog-like (it’s also called the Tasmanian wolf) and yet was loaded with bonus features such as a back-facing pouch and a jaw able to open re …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

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