The same phenomenon that creates the Northern Lights might also be confusing male sperm whales. In case you've forgotten already (really, how could you?), early 2016 brought a veritable tidal wave of beached spermaceti in the North Sea. No one could figure out why at the time, but thanks to a study in the International Journal of Astrobiology, we now have a working hypothesis: it was those gosh darned solar storms at it again.
Hyperloops, the developing mode of transit that promises to zip people frictionlessly in pods and tubes, have long been associated with the innovations and dreams of billionaire Elon Musk. More recently, however, it's captivated the imaginations of others, including, now, a Chinese aerospace giant. The China Aerospace Science and Industrial Corporation (CASIC), a well-heeled newcomer to the mass transit industry, is betting big on its supersonic T Flight 'flying train.'
“Dragon boogers” go by many names. “Moss animals,” for one, and “bryozoans,” for another. They're also known as “ectoprocta,” meaning “anus outside.” If you're unfamiliar with the phylogeny of aquatic invertebrates, it might seem unnecessary to distinguish creatures with anuses outside from creatures with anuses inside. And yet, it is necessary—which is the beauty of water-dwelling blobs.
The atmosphere that blankets our planet contains around 5,600 trillion tons of air. It can blast the ground below with lightning, torrential rain, heat waves, and tornadoes, or caress it with a light breeze or dusting of snowflakes. As the past few days have reminded us, it's no small feat to make predictions about what this vast, seething mass of wind and water will do.
At about 6am on local time Tuesday morning, Japan's government issued a warning to its citizens that a missile was headed their way. That missile, fired from North Korea, crashed into the Pacific Ocean 575 miles east of Japan just 14 minutes after launch. This test was the third time that North Korea's ever successfully launched an object over Japan, and the first time that the object in question was explicitly a missile.
If you want to keep someone from yawning, telling them not to isn't particularly effective, according to a study released today in the journal Current Biology. The researchers sought to better understand why so many of us yawn in response to others doing so, a phenomenon known as contagious yawning. Humans aren't the only animals to participate in this odd practice. Monkeys, chimpanzees, and even dogs will often yawn if they see—or even hear—someone else doing it.
What happens to aquatic life along the Antarctic seabed when the surrounding waters warm by a degree or two? Researchers spent six years developing a heating device capable of heating the ocean—while surviving the region's cutting climate—in an attempt to find out. Their findings were released today in the journal Current Biology, and suggest that even this tiny shift could have a big impact on the local ecosystem.
The bacteria inside our guts—which collectively make up the so-called gut microbiome—are incredibly diverse, with countless species and strains. But they also differ depending on the individual, with one person's microbiome having little to do with another's. And scientists have found that these differences can relate to our health. A person with diabetes is more likely to have a certain suite of microbes than a person without diabetes, for example. But the mechanisms of this bacterial influence are still pretty mysterious.
In the hours before dawn on March 11, 1437, the constellation Scorpio rose over the horizon near Seoul, Korea. Astronomers tasked with scanning the sky and noting nightly changes—aurorae, comets, shooting stars and the like—noticed something odd about the group of stars they called the tail of the dragon, one of the lunar mansions of the night sky.
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 a distant corner of the universe, and yesterday, a group of astronomers and astrophysicists shared preliminary results on their observations.
In the future, your workout—or your workout gear, to be precise—might generate enough energy to charge your activity tracker. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and South Korea's Hanyang University (among other institutions) have figured out that by twisting carbon nanotubes into yarn, forming what they call a “twistron harvester,” they can harness mechanical energy and turn it into electricity. They published their results this week in the journal Science.
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 subject of a new study in the journal Historia Mathematica this week. A team of modern mathematicians claim that new analysis reveals the relic as the oldest ever example of trigonometry, the math that explains relationships between the elements (sides and angles) of triangles. Their findings might make Hipparchus turn a perfect 90 degrees in his grave: The Greek genius often credited as the father of trig didn't come up with it until 1,000 years later.
Like in Australia, the USA's energy mix is under scrutiny. A report commissioned by US Energy Secretary Rick "I Once Said I Wanted to Abolish the Agency I Now Run" Perry acknowledges that low natural gas prices—not renewables—are behind the recent closure of coal energy plants, and that the grid has managed to withstand the increasing presence of renewable energy. According to an unrelated study published this week in the journal Joule, the world is poised to give up fossil fuels altogether.