• 60 years ago, Sputnik shocked the world and started the space race

    60 Years On: The Silver Ball That Shook the World

    It was 8:07 p.m. on a Friday night in Riverhead, Long Island, when the operators at an RCA Communications outpost picked up a signal that had never been heard before on Earth. A sharp, insistent ... More >
  • Deep dive: How exactly the Apple Watch tracks swimming

    How Your Smartwatch Tracks Your Swim

    Last week I splashed into an underground university pool with an Apple Watch Series 3. As the company's wearable has matured, Apple has marketed it more and more as a fitness device, one that's, ... More >
  • Strange signals were just spotted coming from a distant galaxy

    The Radio Pulse No Astronomer Can Explain

    Long ago, 15 bright radio pulses emerged from a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away from Earth. Last Saturday, a telescope in a remote area of West Virginia picked up those signals from ... More >
  • This mysterious ancient tablet could teach us a thing or two about math

    Is This The First Maths Textbook?

    Some researchers say the Babylonians invented trigonometry—and did it better. A long-debated tablet known as Plimpton 332, featuring 3,700-year-old scrawls from a Mesopotamian scribe, is the ... More >
  • Is my drinking normal, or could I be an alcoholic?

    Does Science Think You're An Alcoholic?

    The trouble with alcohol is that it's everywhere. We don't treat any other drug the way we treat alcohol, marijuana included, and in part that's because we mostly don't think of it as a drug. It's ... More >
Mary Beth Griggs
at 15:10 PM Oct 19 2017
NSF / LIGO / Sonoma State University / A. Simonnet

  Two city-sized orbs dance through their galaxy. Their dense mass, each equivalent to a star, spins the partners as they get closer and closer together, grazing the outer limits of their other half's being. For 100 breathless seconds, their pas de deux of anticipation sends gravitational shivers through the universe.

Claire Maldarelli
at 15:10 PM Oct 19 2017
Pixabay
Science // 

This month, Northern California experienced some of the worst fires it's ever had, killing dozens of people and leaving thousands without homes. The ongoing fires started in Napa and Sonoma counties and spread to Mendocino and Solano, all regions world-renowned for their wine. While it's certainly far from the biggest concern in the midst of such tragedy, some are wondering how the local grapes—and the local wine industry—will fare in the wake of the fire.

Stan Horaczek
at 15:10 PM Oct 19 2017
Stan Horaczek
Mobile // 

Back in the film photography days, different films produced distinct “looks”—say, light and airy or rich and contrasty. An experienced photographer could look at a shot and guess what kind of film it was on by looking at things like color, contrast, and grain. We don't think about this much in the digital age; instead, we tend to think of raw digital files as neutral attempts to recreate what our eyeballs see. But, the reality is that smartphone cameras have intense amounts of processing work happening in the background. Engineers are responsible for guiding that tech to uphold an aesthetic. The new Google Pixel 2 phone uses unique algorithms and a dedicated image processor to give it its signature style.

Kendra Pierre-Louis
at 15:10 PM Oct 19 2017
Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Science // 

When Charles Reilly and Donald Inger set out to make their short film—In the Beginning, an homage of sorts to Star Wars that (spoilers) tells the tale of a single sperm's triumph in a literal life or death race to fertilize an egg—they had just one goal.

Timothy J. Jorgensen/The Conversation
at 15:10 PM Oct 19 2017
Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie
Science // 

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.)

Stan Horaczek
at 15:09 PM Oct 19 2017
Stan Horaczek
Mobile // 

I started using the iPhone as my personal device in the 4S era of 2011. I liked the hardware and the fact that it let me avoid all the tricky Android version and compatibility issues. Since then, I have waited for an Android phone that could sway me to the other side, away from the iOS life I chose for myself many years ago.

Mary Beth Griggs
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017

Looks like we're going back to the moon. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced a new priority to put Americans on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. If we do manage to return to our natural satellite—no budget or specific timeline was released during the announcement—then it will likely be for a longer period of time than the short Apollo missions, and will almost certainly involve longer moonwalks. That means more time for something to go wrong, and more of a need for plans and equipment ready in case of emergency.

Rob Verger
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017
Oculus

At its best, virtual reality is transportative: It will let you scale a simulated cliff face, or come face-to-teeth with a T-rex. You can have those experiences from your living room, but of course, you need a virtual reality headset, and for that, you have two broad categories to choose from—a low-end contraption that uses your smartphone, or a fancy rig that requires a PC.

Stan Horaczek
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017
Stan Horaczek
Gadgets // 

We have an abusive relationship with our smartphone cameras. We take them into dark bars, shoot them into blinding backlight at the beach, and refuse to wipe the pocket goo off their lenses. Then we blame the phone when our pictures don't look great. It's the equivalent of holding the phone upside-down, screaming into its earpiece, and then getting upset about sub-par sound quality.

Dennis Mersereau
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017
Dennis Mersereau
Nature // 

Hurricane Ophelia is an odd storm. It's a picture-perfect hurricane with winds around 90 MPH, but that's not the odd part, of course. What makes this storm weird is its location. It's way out in the Atlantic, where it's usually too cool for hurricanes to develop—much less survive. Ophelia is so far off the beaten path that instead of heading for the Americas (as so many storms have this season), the system will evolve and threaten Ireland and the United Kingdom early next week.

Kendra Pierre-Louis
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017
Depositphotos
Science // 

Once upon a time, Tabasco sauce was considered spicy and a jalapeno hit the upper threshold of heat for the American palate. But that was before 2007, when the Bhut jolokia—an Indian chili better known as the ghost pepper—became the first to top a million Scolville Heat Units (SHU), the measure of spicy pain. While your typical sweet pepper weighs in at zero on the Scolville scale, the ghost pepper's 1 million SHUS make it 125 times hotter than your hottest jalapeno; between 200 and 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

Claire Maldarelli
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017
Pixabay
Nature // 

In the past couple of years, you've likely heard much talk about the bacteria that live inside your digestive system, what scientists and doctors now call the gut microbiome. All that buzz is for good reason. Researchers have found that these tiny bugs can have an influence on our health, though how much and in what ways is still unknown. Store shelves are now full of products promising to deliver these beneficial bacteria, though many of them have little, if any, evidence to back up their claims.

Ellen Airhart
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017
John Game / Flickr
Nature // 

In 1918, a ship beached on Lord Howe Island. It brought rodents to the lush, crescent-moon-shaped volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea for the very first time. Without any predators to hold them back, the rats decimated native species of insects and birds.

Sara Chodosh
at 11:37 AM Oct 13 2017

It only took 181 years to eradicate smallpox once we had a way to inoculate against it. That cocktail was the first successful vaccine, and the basis for most future immunizations. And we're still not really sure what was in it.

Mary Beth Griggs
at 15:50 PM Oct 12 2017
Levon Biss
Nature // 

We typically think of insects as pests or pestilences, carrying disease or gnawing their way through our gardens before we can get a bite. But they are also gorgeous creatures, as photographer Levon Biss explores in his latest book, Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects. The book is a continuation of his Microsculpture exhibit at Oxford's Museum of Natural History, which displayed bugs from the collection in a larger-than-life way.

 
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