Is Anybody Listening?

from Forbes How much longer will we continue to ignore the impact of our continued refusal to do anything to mitigate the planet’s long-standing climate emergency? California and Oregon are in flames, forcing half a million people to abandon their homes, and exceeding in a matter of weeks the area burned last year: yet we still refuse to accept that this is a direct result of the increase in global temperature caused by human activity that has turned our forests into tinder. The orange skies lending an apocalyptic, science-fiction air to San Francisco illustrate the terrible magnitude of the catastrophe […]

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R0, the Messy Metric That May Soon Shape Our Lives, Explained

from NYTs World leaders and public health experts are poised to spend the coming months or years obsessed with a variable known as R0. Pronounced “R-naught,” it represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case. In other words, if R0 is 2.5, then one person with the disease is expected to infect, on average, 2.5 others. An R0 below 1 suggests that the number of cases is shrinking, possibly allowing societies to open back up. An R0 above 1 indicates that the number of cases is growing, perhaps necessitating renewed lockdowns or other measures. But […]

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Daylight Saving Time Has A Dark Side. Here’s What You Need To Know

from Fast Company A train hurtled around a corner at 82 mph, eventually coming off the rails and killing four passengers. Decades earlier, faulty decision-making resulted in the deaths of the seven-person crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Years before these events, a stuck valve regulating the supply of coolant to a nuclear reactor nearly resulted in the meltdown of a nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. In each of these cases, poor or inadequate sleep was one of the factors that contributed to the failure. Even if you are not an engineer working in one of those contexts, the odds are […]

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The Day the Dinosaurs Died

from The New Yorker If, on a certain evening about sixty-­six million years ago, you had stood somewhere in North America and looked up at the sky, you would have soon made out what appeared to be a star. If you watched for an hour or two, the star would have seemed to grow in brightness, although it barely moved. That’s because it was not a star but an asteroid, and it was headed directly for Earth at about forty-five thousand miles an hour. Sixty hours later, the asteroid hit. The air in front was compressed and violently heated, and […]

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How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Science

from Quanta No human, or team of humans, could possibly keep up with the avalanche of information produced by many of today’s physics and astronomy experiments. Some of them record terabytes of data every day — and the torrent is only increasing. The Square Kilometer Array, a radio telescope slated to switch on in the mid-2020s, will generate about as much data traffic each year as the entire internet. The deluge has many scientists turning to artificial intelligence for help. With minimal human input, AI systems such as artificial neural networks — computer-simulated networks of neurons that mimic the function […]

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Where Did The Moon Come From? A New Theory

from TED The Earth and Moon are like identical twins, made up of the exact same materials — which is really strange, since no other celestial bodies we know of share this kind of chemical relationship. What’s responsible for this special connection? Looking for an answer, planetary scientist and MacArthur “Genius” Sarah T. Stewart discovered a new kind of astronomical object — a synestia — and a new way to solve the mystery of the Moon’s origin. More here.

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Can Clouds Buy Us More Time To Solve Climate Change

from TED Climate change is real, case closed. But there’s still a lot we don’t understand about it, and the more we know the better chance we have to slow it down. One still-unknown factor: How might clouds play a part? There’s a small hope that they could buy us some time to fix things … or they could make global warming worse. Climate scientist Kate Marvel takes us through the science of clouds and what it might take for Earth to break its own fever. ? More here.

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Climate Scientists: Humans Have Only 12 Years to Limit Devastating Climate Changes

from kottke In a 700-page report detailing the latest research on climate change, a UN panel of scientists strongly warns that unless we make “massive and unprecedented changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels” to limit the world’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, there will be widespread coastal flooding, food shortages, wildfires, and other issues related to climate change. If you are 60 or under, these changes will occur in your lifetime. From the NY Times: More here.

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What You Need To Know About CRISPR

from TED Should we bring back the wooly mammoth? Or edit a human embryo? Or wipe out an entire species that we consider harmful? The genome-editing technology CRISPR has made extraordinary questions like these legitimate — but how does it work? Scientist and community lab advocate Ellen Jorgensen is on a mission to explain the myths and realities of CRISPR, hype-free, to the non-scientists among us. More here.

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How “Mr. Robot” Is Going To Reveal The Storytelling Possibilities Of Virtual Reality

from co.create “You can look away,” the narrator of the Mr. Robot VR Experience tells you, the viewer, just before things get awkward. And of course, you can look away. You can look anywhere you choose in the entire drab apartment, which should be familiar to viewers of the bracing hit USA show. Up until now, the main feature of virtual reality experiences has always been that you can look away, anywhere you want in 360 miraculously accounted for degrees. What’s revolutionary about this experience, though, is that the story in front of you is so compelling, you don’t want to look away. Besides, there will […]

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6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Gravitational Waves

from Wired NOW THAT WE have had some time to think about LIGO’s detection of gravitational waves, there are a few interesting comments I can make about it. Gravitational waves don’t have to be useful There is a common question that comes up in media whenever there is a new scientific discovery—“What can you do with it (gravitational waves)?” Can you build an anti-gravity machine? Could you use this to build a warp drive? These are all great ideas, but they miss the point. We don’t study gravitational waves so that we can make stuff. We study gravitational waves because we want […]

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Should You Be Able to Patent a Human Gene?

from TED A decade ago, US law said human genes were patentable — which meant patent holders had the right to stop anyone from sequencing, testing or even looking at a patented gene. Troubled by the way this law both harmed patients and created a barrier to biomedical innovation, Tania Simoncelli and her colleagues at the ACLU challenged it. In this riveting talk, hear the story of how they took a case everybody told them they would lose all the way to the Supreme Court. More here.

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Behind Each Breath, an Underappreciated Muscle

from NYTs Some muscles get all the glory. Bodybuilders show off their swollen triceps; sprinters flash their sharp-edged calves. But deep inside all of us, a sheet of muscle does heroic work in obscurity. In order to breathe in, we must flatten the dome-shaped diaphragm; to breath out, we let it relax again. The diaphragm delivers oxygen to us a dozen times or more each minute, a half-billion times during an 80-year life. “We are completely dependent on the diaphragm,” said Gabrielle Kardon, a biologist at the University of Utah. “But we take it for granted every moment we’re breathing.” To […]

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To See the Birth of an Atlantic Hurricane, Look to Africa

from Wired THE WINTER CRUSHED the East Coast of the US. So let us crush your dreams of spring with a gentle reminder: Hurricane season is right around the corner. And the hurricanes that will slam into the Atlantic seaboard in just a couple of months are already glints in the eyes of storms-yet-to-be-born in Africa.  The Atlantic hurricane season officially kicks off in June, but it starts over the Sahara. In the Sudanese highlands—the same place the Nile begins—sun-heated air bubbles upward and condenses into mushroom-shaped thunderheads thousands of miles high. At the same time, enormous waves of air in […]

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