Space Is the Place to View Meteor Showers

Flame broiled Alaska: With soaring temperatures and crackling lightning, wildfires erupt across the state
After months of record-setting warmth culminating in extremely high temperatures last week, much of Alaska was primed for wildfire. Things had been quiet until then, despite the warmest January through June period in Alaska since 1895. Then the lightning came — with a sudden vengeance: some 45,570 strikes between July 13 and 16th. The result: Flames finally exploded through Alaskan landscapes, with 114 new wildfires resulting in a more-than-100,000-acre increase in the total number

How Trucks Can Make Delivery Drones a Reality
Delivery drones may still seem a ways off because of new U.S. commercial drone regulations requiring drones to stay within sight of their human operators on the ground. But such rules pose no problem for a U.S. startup that developed a drone capable of launching from delivery trucks and dropping off packages within the driver’s line of sight. The HorseFly drone developed by Workhorse Group, an electric vehicle company in Cincinnati, Ohio, is an octocopter designed to ride aboard a deliver

In case you missed it: Juno’s first view of Jupiter from orbit
The image above is the Juno spacecraft’s first view of Jupiter and some of its moons after it entered orbit around the gas giant on July 4th. Published by NASA on July 12, it consists of data acquired by the JunoCam when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter. Juno was heading away from the planet on its first 53.5-day “capture orbit” — the beginning of its orbital mission. On Oct. 19, the spacecraft will execute its final engine burn of the mission, placing Juno into a 14-d

Blogs, Papers, Plagiarism and Bitcoin
Retraction Watch reports on a strange case of alleged plagiarism. In February 2016, F1000Research published a paper called How blockchain-timestamped protocols could improve the trustworthiness of medical science. The authors, Greg Irving and John Holden, demonstrated the use of the bitcoin blockchain as a way of publicly verifying the existence of a certain document at a certain point in time. This approach, they say, could be used to make preregistered research protocols more secure. A prob

We Won’t Finish Discovering New Trees in the Amazon for 300 Years
While millions of people are out hunting Pokémon, biologists are conducting an equally fervent hunt for new and rare species. And instead of 151 species, they estimate that they need to find another 4,000 or so before they become the very best. A new study builds a compendium of all the tree species collected from the Amazon over past three centuries, and concludes that we won’t find them all until 2316. In total, researchers from the Field Museum say researchers have, so far, collected 1

Ask Professor Wil<strike>low</strike>cox: Are Poison-type Pokémon Really “Poisonous”?
I was born in 1985, which is a bit of an awkward year, culturally. I’m technically a millennial, but I was a bit too old for most of the fads that swept through the millennial generation. I never owned a Bratz doll. I missed the brief yo-yo boom. And I never played Pokémon, in game or card form. That’s not to say I was too cool for that sort of thing as a kid; I was a total geek. Heck, I had a dragon deck before the Onslaught block made tribal decks cool (that would be Magic the Gathering, for t

The Psychology of Pokémon Go Haters
When Psy’s “Gangnam Style” broke YouTube, they refused to give it a single view. When people soaked themselves during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, they called it a waste of water. When Pokémon Go took the United States by storm after its release July 6, they went out of their way to tell friends, family and social network followers they would never play the game. They encouraged pocket monster trainers to grow up, pursue gainful employment or just get off their lawns. One writer, Matt

Why is the Sun spinning like a pinwheel?
First the Sun develops a big hole, and now it’s flipping end over end. But once again, not to worry — all is well. A few days ago, I posted a video showing a gigantic hole in the Sun’s atmosphere. Now, NASA has published an animation showing the Sun spinning end over end like a pinwheel. What’s going on? For a detailed explanation of the hole in the Sun, go here: What’s up with that huge dark hole in the Sun? And now, what’s up with the pinwheeling Sun?  In the animation at t

Earth’s Biodiversity Has Fallen Below ‘Safe’ Levels? Ecologists Disagree
A new paper reports that over half of Earth’s land area has suffered biodiversity loss beyond “safe limits.” The study, released today in Science, compiles a global dataset of biodiversity change and compares it to human land use patterns. The analysis shows that 58 percent of Earth’s land, which is home to 71 percent of the human population, has surpassed a recently proposed safe limit for biodiversity loss, beyond which ecosystems may no longer support human societies. While the news

Latest forecast is less bullshish on La Niña
Even so, there’s still better than a 50/50 chance that this weather-influencing phenomenon will emerge during fall and winter In the latest forecast, La Niña — the cool opposite to El Niño — is still favored to develop by winter. But the odds have dropped over the past month. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center now pegs La Niña’s chances of developing at 55 to 60 percent. That’s down from odds of 75 percent just a month ago. If it does develop, it is likely to be a relatively modest on

Viruses Have Guided the Path of Human Evolution
The struggle between humans and viruses stretches back far into the dusty depths of history, and it appears that we wear the scars of this epic battle in that most personal of places: our genome. Whenever a viral epidemic tears through a community, there are those lucky enough to possess mutations rendering them immune to the disease. If the epidemic is large enough, this mutation can become embedded in our genome, both because of its protective powers, and because those with it will be o

Does Sugar Really Fuel Willpower?
Another prominent psychology theory has come under scrutiny by researchers who say the published results look unrealistic. In a new paper, Miguel A. Vadillo et al. take aim at the idea that the body’s reserves of willpower rely on glucose. The background here is the ‘ego depletion’ model, a psychological theory which holds that self-control is effortful and draws on a limited resource, which can eventually be depleted if it’s overused. Many researchers have proposed that glucose is thi

Why Flying Eastward Worsens Jet Lag Symptoms
When you step off a plane in another country, the first thing you usually want to do is hit the hay. It’s the sleepy side effect of travel known as jet lag. Experienced travelers power through fatigue and wait until nighttime to get some shut-eye in an attempt to match the natural cycles of their new locale. While some people acclimate to time-zone jumping better than others, most agree that traveling eastward is a more daunting challenge to our sleep cycle, but it’s not clear why that is

Juno Sends Back Its First Image of Jupiter
On July 4, space enthusiasts awaited word that the Juno probe had entered orbit around Jupiter. The journey was perilous, as the craft was going incredibly fast. Once that was done, it turned its solar panels towards the sun and began its first orbit. Now, a safe distance from Jupiter has been attained and the system is slowly coming online, giving NASA its first photo opportunity since it made its own jovian fireworks. NASA says high resolution images are still a few weeks away, but this

Convergent Evolution: A Theropod’s Right To Bear Silly Arms
If you thought T. rex and its close relatives were the only dinosaurs that had a tough time brushing their teeth, making the bed or completing any other task that required forelimbs of useful length, think again. In a prime example of convergent evolution — unrelated animals evolving the same trait — a new theropod dinosaur from South America was also doing the short arm shuffle. Both tyrannosaurids and the newly described dinosaur, Gualicho shinyae, were theropods, but don’t think th

A New Tool for Studying Gorilla Health: Half-Chewed Food
In the mountains of Central Africa, scientists who study critically endangered gorillas have a new tool. They’ve discovered that they can learn what viruses gorillas are carrying by stealthily collecting half-chewed plants the apes leave behind. If this sounds reminiscent of that class clown at the third-grade lunch table who would ask if you liked seafood and then say “See? Food!” and open his mouth wide to display his sloppy Joe slurry, don’t worry—mountain gorillas are vegetarians. And

Blame Your Subpar Fitness on That Neanderthal DNA
Most of us harbor about 2 percent Neanderthal DNA, inherited when our ancestors bred with Neanderthals more than 50,000 years ago. This was revealed back in 2010, when geneticists salvaged enough fragments of ancient DNA from Neanderthal bones to piece together a full genome. The discovery squelched a longstanding debate over whether Neanderthals and modern humans met — they did — and mated — oh yeah. But why do we only have 2 percent Neanderthal ancestry? And what are the effects of that

WATCH: Wild Corals Caught ‘Kissing’ on Camera
A first-of-its-kind underwater microscopic imaging system is giving scientists an up-close perspective on the frenzied daily lives of corals. Corals appear fairly sedate when viewed from on high, but they’re abuzz with activity that occurs on scales too small for us to see with the naked eye. Fully zoomed in, scientists observed coral polyps engaging in the “three Fs” of existence: fighting, feasting and…making love within their vast colonies. Spying on the way coral engage in these ess

Outer solar system survey strikes, well, ice: New dwarf planet orbiting beyond Neptune is discovered
It all began with a small dot moving across a computer screen. That dot has now turned out to be a new dwarf planet, temporarily dubbed “RR245.” It’s a chunk of rock and ice about two thirds the size of California (north to south) orbiting amidst other small, icy worlds in the nether reaches of the solar system beyond Neptune. Its discovery was announced today by an international team of astronomers. The dwarf planet is roughly 435 miles across (700 kilometers). And it’s orbit is one o

Everything Worth Knowing About … Medical Imaging
Getting inside your head (and other parts).

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