This week, science will both enrage and delight you. We’ve got extinctions, global warming deniers, and conspiracy theorists, but also the world’s smallest movie and a beautifully terrifying trip inside an active volcano, plus a look at how pregnancy shapes evolution. Let’s go!
Good news/bad news in space: Curiosity and the other Mars missions are back to work; they’d been mostly shut down for the last few weeks since the planet’s orbit had put it behind the sun, which can garble transmissions. Unfortunately, the Herschel Space Telescope is no longer functioning, since it has run out of the coolant needed for its instruments to function. Scientists will continue to comb through the data it has collected, so we my still learn of new discoveries it made.
There’s an enormous hurricane raging on Saturn’s north pole. The Cassini spacecraft just snapped the first pictures of it, but we have no way of knowing how long it’s been going on since the pole has been in the dark since Cassini arrived there in 2004 due to its long winter.
Ever wondered what it looks like inside an active volcano? Check out these amazing pictures from Tolbachik. I want to go there! (And yes, I realize that probably isn’t a normal reaction to those pics!)
Global warming news![fancy_list style="bullet_list" variation="teal"]
- A recent study found that political conservatives and moderates are less likely to choose compact fluorescent lightbulbs over standard ones if the packaging says, “Protect the environment,” though they were equally as likely as liberals to do so without the explicit message.
- Another reason many in the U.S. oppose taking steps to curb global warming – the Apocalypse is nigh, so why bother?
- Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats are pushing a resolution to recognize that poor women will be disproportionately affected by climate change and that we should address it to save them from having to become prostitutes.
- Want to see 62 years of global warming in only 13 seconds?
Rats show depression symptoms similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but with a key difference from SAD in humans – they’re nocturnal, so they react poorly to long hours of sunshine.
Endangered species/extinction news. Sadface.[fancy_list style="bullet_list" variation="teal"]
- Taiwan’s Formosan clouded leopard has been declared extinct; researchers have been looking for them since 2001 and recent attempts to locate any remaining leopards using infrared cameras failed to find a single one.
- Seven species of South African vultures are facing extinction because some people believe that smoking their brains will make them clairvoyant.
- Painted turtles are likely to go extinct within the next 100 years. Warm soil temperatures make eggs grow into females, while embryos turn male in cooler conditions, so if temperatures rise too much, they’ll all be female.
- A new study shows that there’s no single cause of colony collapse disorder, which has been causing widespread bee deaths. Unfortunately, that means it won’t be as easy to reverse as it would be if all it took was eliminating a single stressor.
A 16-year-old African-American girl has been expelled and charged with a felony after a science experiment gone awry. Kiera Wilmot, “Mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. The reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.” It was later reported that she had combined aluminum foil and toilet cleaner on the urging of another student and thought it would only create some smoke. Many are outraged that an experiment is being treated the same as a deliberate bombing and have suggested that her race is a factor, and there’s a Change.org petition asking her principal to reconsider the expulsion and drop all charges against her.
IBM researchers have created a stop-motion animation by moving dozens of carbon atoms around on a copper surface.
Recommended reading:[fancy_list style="bullet_list" variation="teal"]
- Carl Zimmer has a fascinating rundown on how pregnancy has shaped human evolution in different populations.
- Scientific American reviewed Timothy Melley’s new book “The Empire of Conspiracy,” which explains why some people are so susceptible to conspiracy theories, even if they directly contradict each other.
- Phil Plait explains the latest batch of political attacks on science, much to the detriment of my current mood.
- Medical mystery – a tiny deformed skeleton found in the Atacama Desert is human, but how in the world did the individual survive for 6-8 years and only grow to about six inches tall? (Freaky pictures at the link.)
- The cinnamon challenge may be popular on YouTube, but it’s dangerous and can cause permanent health problems, so don’t do it!
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