Australian Popular Science News news from, 18 Oct 2017 07:37:07 +100010If an astronaut gets hurt on the moon, this is how we'll rescue themLooks 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&#8212;no budget or specific timeline was released during the announcement&#8212;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.,475342Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:41 +1000You don't need a $200 Oculus Go to get into virtual reality right nowAt 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&#8212;a low-end contraption that uses your smartphone, or a fancy rig that requires a PC.,475341Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:40 +1000An obsessive photographer's guide to the iPhone 8 Plus cameraWe 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.,475340Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:40 +1000Hurricane Ophelia is one extremely weird stormHurricane 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&#8212;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.,475339Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:39 +1000We ate the world's spiciest chip, cried for 45 minutes, then wrote this article about itOnce 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&#8212;an Indian chili better known as the ghost pepper&#8212;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.,475338Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:39 +1000There are fungi living inside your gut, and they're probably pretty importantIn the past couple of years, you've likely heard much talk about the bacteria that live inside your digestive system, what scientists and doctors <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">now call the gut microbiome</a>. 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 <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">little, if any, evidence to back up their claims</a>.,475337Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:38 +1000One Australian island has a bold plan to annihilate all our ratsIn 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 <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">rats</a> decimated native species of insects and birds.,475336Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:37 +1000The first smallpox vaccine changed the world&#8212;but we're still not sure what was in itIt 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.,475335Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:37:35 +1000These are the most beautiful pictures of bugs you will ever see 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.,475283Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:07 +1000Why do some people freeze when scared?Most people are probably familiar with the classic fight or flight response to a feared stimulus. If a snake were to fall from the ceiling on top of you as you read this, you have two options: fight off the snake or get away from it as quickly as possible.,475282Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:07 +1000A list of moist places we'd take Amazon's new waterproof KindleThere's an old man sitting <em>just</em> outside the frame of this photo of the sea. Trust us.,475281Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:07 +1000Is it actually healthy to stop eating red meat?We all hear about how bad red meat is for both the planet's health and our own. Planet-wise, there's no argument: The detrimental effects of greenhouse gases from livestock production on the earth's atmosphere can't be overlooked. So, for the month of October, members of the PopSci staff are abstaining from all forms of red meat (#NoRedOctober) for the sake of the environment, and, by extension, for our own good. We have to live here, after all. It's in our best interest to minimize the cow farts.,475280Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:07 +1000You should get the flu shot&#8212;even if it won't keep you from getting sick&#160; This might sound like sacrilege, but it's not hard to understand why over half of all people in the U.S. avoid getting the flu shot every year. It's a real pain&#8212;let's just start there. Lots of people hate needles or are outright afraid of them, and that's reasonable enough. Very few people want a stranger to poke them in the arm with something sharp. Sometimes you even get fatigue, or aches in your muscles. Then, to add insult to injury, you sometimes end up coming down with the flu anyway. What was even the point? And they want you to do this every year? Voluntarily?,475279Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:06 +1000These dirty birds show why we need natural history museumsAs the male field <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">sparrow</a> soared through the smoke-laden Illinois sky on May 6, 1906, it had no idea that the end was near. It also had no idea that its <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">feathers</a> were collecting scientific data&#8212;information that would prove invaluable to researchers more than a century later.,475278Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:06 +1000How to build the video game you wanted when you were 13If you've got a pulse and a decent memory, you must admit that there are some dreams you had as a pre-teen that you wish you hadn't given up on for practicality's sake. It's the kind of thing you think about rarely, when you read an article about an astronaut or meet a novelist at a party.,475277Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:06 +1000The world's fastest shark is in troubleThe shortfin mako is a strikingly blue, athletic shark with a dubious honor: its meat is considered delicious. While other species are spurned as being tough or unappealing, mako frequently shows up on restaurant menus.,475276Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:05 +1000China is opening a new quantum research supercenterThe Shanghai-based Institute for Quantum Information and Quantum Technology Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences unveiled this quantum computing device in May 2017.,475275Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:50:05 +1000How to find out what Facebook knows about youWith more than 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook can keep tabs on nearly a third of the world's population. Whether you visit the social network daily (as 1.32 billion people do) or only log on to RSVP to events, you should be aware of how much of your personal data you're giving to the site, and the company behind it.,474850Fri, 6 Oct 2017 12:37:12 +1000Jumping spiders dance for the same reason we do: sexYou don't often feel bad for spiders. But when a fuzzy, black-eyed jumping spider raises his green forearms into the air, wiggles his butt, and flashes his orange knees, only to have a lady spider literally turn around in the middle of his dance...what kind of monster doesn't feel a pang of empathy? It doesn't even matter that arachnids are unlikely to experience rejection and angst the way humans do&#8212;you feel for the little guy.,474849Fri, 6 Oct 2017 12:37:12 +1000Does Uber stop drunk driving accidents? It's not clear cutA ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft seems like it should help stem drunk driving by offering an easy, cheap option for tipsy customers to get home at the end of the night. And Uber even <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">claims</a> on its website that ride-hailing options like it &#8220;are helping to curb drunk driving.&#8221; But new research shows that Uber's presence in a city only inconsistently leads to a decline in accidents caused by intoxication behind the wheel, and there's far from being a conclusive answer to the question.,474848Fri, 6 Oct 2017 12:37:11 +1000A man who's participated in 41 space missions remembers the Sputnik launchWhen it comes to space exploration, Don Gurnett has seen it all. He still vividly remembers seeing America's first attempt at a satellite launch, the Vanguard project, blew up on the launch pad from the comfort of his living room. When it comes time to talk of more modern cosmic endeavors, he will wax poetic about hydrocarbon rains falling into pools of methane on Titan. He's been there for everything, and he's not done yet.,474847Fri, 6 Oct 2017 12:37:09 +1000Another hurricane could threaten the Gulf Coast this weekendThe brief lull in the Atlantic Ocean's hurricane activity seems to have come to an end sooner than we'd hoped. A new tropical depression is brewing in the western Caribbean Sea, and it could threaten the United States this weekend and early next week. It's still too soon to know what effects the storm will have, but the threat exists for a potential hurricane to approach the Gulf Coast on Sunday or Monday.,474746Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:36:24 +1000A super chill microscopy method just nabbed a Nobel prizeBefore the invention of cryo-electron microscopy, which won biochemists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson the 2017 <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">Nobel Prize</a> in Chemistry on Wednesday, scientists had to stain or fix cells before they looked at them under an electron microscope. That process often caused fragile biological structures to fall apart, and if they didn't, the radiation from the electron microscope or the vacuum the scientists put the cells into often turned the once-living specimens into mush. Cryo-electron therapy allows scientists to look at the cells as if they were in their natural liquid environment&#8212;just like they are in our bodies.,474744Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:36:23 +1000When a hurricane finally passes, it spreads deadly disease in its wakeMost of the damage caused by a hurricane is obvious&#8212;roofs ripped off buildings, homes flooded, downed electrical lines. But long after the eye of the storm has passed, big storms can continue to spread disaster.,474743Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:36:22 +1000Participating in #NoRedOctober is good. Meatless Mondays are better.So I was happy to hear about #NoRedOctober, a punny initiative started by PopSci's editor in chief that encourages people to cut red meat out of their diets for 31 days. But then I did a little math, and realized that we already have a better option: Meatless Mondays.,474742Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:36:21 +1000Deep dive: How exactly the Apple Watch tracks swimmingLast 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, thanks to a partnership with Nike, particularly well-suited as a running companion. But the Apple Watch also tackles something more dynamic and varied than your morning jog: exercise in the water.,474741Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:36:00 +100060 years ago, Sputnik shocked the world and started the space raceIt 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 beep sang out over short-wave radios, filling up our ears with the knowledge that humans had succeeded in sending something to the wispiest edge of our protective blanket of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.,474745Thu, 5 Oct 2017 11:36:00 +1000Hurricane Maria proves how difficult it is to predict a storm's devastationThe second scale-topping hurricane to make landfall in the past two weeks will tear through Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday, bringing to a climax one of the most severe hurricane seasons in recent memory. On Monday evening, Hurricane Maria rapidly strengthened into a category five shortly before striking the small island of Dominica. The tiny eye of the storm happened to hit the island of more than 70,000 people head-on, creating the latest in a string of humanitarian crises set forth by an unusually intense hurricane season. The island nation's prime minister reported on Tuesday morning that his country was devastated, <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">grimly stating on Facebook</a> that &#8220;we have lost all what money can buy and replace.&#8221;,473781Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:39 +1000Fake diamonds helped scientists find the hottest temperature ever recorded on EarthAbout 36 million years ago, an asteroid slammed into Canada and created a fake diamond, which over the millennia degraded and transformed into a shiny black rock. Now, geologists have used that gem to confirm a new temperature record for the Earth's surface: 2370 degrees Celsius.,473780Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:39 +1000This scorching black exoplanet takes in all the light it can and gives almost nothing back<em>We have discovered a planet. It gathers in light from its sun, and refuses to let go. In return, the star strips away the planet's atmosphere, slowly devouring it.</em>,473779Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:38 +1000The Plimp is a plane-blimp mashup that promises safe air transportIn 1908, five years after the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, U.S. Army Lieutenant Thomas Etholen Selfridge earned the dubious distinction as the first person to die in an <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">airplane crash</a>. In fact, the early years of aviation are littered with bodies. Last week, a pair of brothers in Washington state debuted an aircraft they see as the answer to the long-sought dream of perfectly safe flight. With a rigid, winged body held underneath a massive helium-containing envelope, their craft is billed as a fusion of both airplane and blimp technology. It is called &#8220;Plimp.&#8221;,473778Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:38 +100011 new iOS 11 features to tryThis week marks the official arrival of iOS 11, and Apple's latest operating system boasts quite a few party tricks that you're going to want to try out. Here are some of the best new features, from playing with the magic of augmented reality to adding a dock to your iPad interface.,473777Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:37 +1000Siri has a peppy new voice. But that's not the most important thing.Have you heard? Siri, the virtual persona that speaks from your iPhone, sounds different now. The new voice officially rolls out today as a part of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 11. Her new pipes make her sound higher in pitch and younger. She's perkier and more personable. Most important, she sounds more human.,473776Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:37 +1000Your DNA probably didn't make you do itIn March, an episode of <em>Law &amp; Order SVU</em> dove into murky scientific waters when it introduced a character claiming to have a gene that made him commit sexual assault. The story was never clear on what specific gene had supposedly doomed the defendant to such a life. But claiming to have DNA that predisposes one to commit a crime is decidedly non-fictional.,473775Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:35 +1000Cassini is gone. What comes next?It sent back data until <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">the last possible moment</a>, struggling against the atmospheric forces that would soon vaporize the spacecraft into dust. Then, it was gone. Cassini's perfectly executed dive last week shuttered one of our few windows to the solar system.,473773Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:34 +1000Is there a single food that you can survive on forever?For all of 2016, Andrew Taylor ate only potatoes. There were a few caveats: He ate both white potatoes and sweet ones, and sometimes mixed in soymilk, tomato sauce, salt and herbs. He also took B12 supplements. But, overall, he ate potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He took four blood tests over the year which he claims all came back normal. He even lost weight and felt more energized.,473772Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:34 +1000Is my drinking normal, or could I be 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 what you down a shot of to loosen up on the dance floor, or to ease your social anxieties at your company's holiday party. You know it's not good for you, sure, but it's a part of daily life. It's easy to stop thinking of alcohol like a drug&#8212;but it is one. And like any drug, you can become addicted to it without even realizing.,473774Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:53:00 +1000To guard against climate change, Los Angeles is painting its streets white&#160; Labor Day weekend delivered record-breaking temperatures to California as a heat wave swept the state, fanning the flames of the largest wildfire Los Angeles has seen in decades. The unusually warm weather bears the mark of climate change, which is fueling record heat around the globe.,472801Thu, 7 Sep 2017 14:26:00 +1000North Korea wants the world to know it has a working thermonuclear bombOver the weekend, North Korea unveiled a new weapon. It is small, maybe small enough to fit in the nose cone of a missile. It is powerful, detonating with the force of possibly 140 kilotons, or almost 10 times the destructive power as &#8220;Little Boy,&#8221; the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. This thermonuclear warhead is shiny, bare metal like the naked skins of the early jets that first fought in the skies above Korea almost 67 years ago.,472800Thu, 7 Sep 2017 14:26:00 +1000Space weather may be killing sperm whalesThe 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.,472799Thu, 7 Sep 2017 14:26:00 +1000China's looking to one-up Elon Musk's hyperloopHyperloops, 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&#160;Aerospace Science and&#160;Industrial Corporation (CASIC), a well-heeled newcomer to the mass transit industry, is betting big on its supersonic T Flight 'flying train.',472798Thu, 7 Sep 2017 14:26:00 +1000Look at the mysterious 'dragon booger' found in Vancouver's Lost Lagoon&#8220;Dragon boogers&#8221; go by many names. &#8220;Moss animals,&#8221; for one, and &#8220;bryozoans,&#8221; for another. They're also known as &#8220;ectoprocta,&#8221; meaning &#8220;anus outside.&#8221; 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&#8212;which is the beauty of water-dwelling blobs.,472469Mon, 4 Sep 2017 12:12:48 +1000This 1,000-year-old oak tree survived Hurricane HarveyHurricane Harvey first made landfall in the town of Rockport, Texas last Friday night. The 108 mph winds and more than 40 inches of rain destroyed houses, churches and schools. But a 1,100-year-old oak tree was left standing at Goose Island State Park.,472468Mon, 4 Sep 2017 12:12:46 +1000Weather forecasts aren't perfect, but they're getting thereThe atmosphere that blankets our planet contains <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">around</a> 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.,472467Mon, 4 Sep 2017 12:12:46 +1000North Korea's missile test over Japan was a threatening proof of conceptAt 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.,472348Fri, 1 Sep 2017 13:17:11 +1000Reading this headline might make you yawn. Here's why. 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&#8212;or even hear&#8212;someone else doing it.,472347Fri, 1 Sep 2017 13:17:11 +1000You shouldn't be too worried about the huge asteroid that's about to fly right past usAn asteroid named Florence will pass by Earth on September 1, and it's the largest one to fly by since NASA started keeping records. But except for amateur astronomers and some NASA scientists, most of us will be completely unaffected.,472346Fri, 1 Sep 2017 13:17:11 +1000What happens when you heat the Antarctic ocean by a single degree?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&#8212;while surviving the region's cutting climate&#8212;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.,472344Fri, 1 Sep 2017 13:17:11 +1000Scientists still want to turn our gut bacteria into medicineThe bacteria inside our guts&#8212;which collectively make up the so-called gut microbiome&#8212;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.,472343Fri, 1 Sep 2017 13:17:11 +1000Found: A star that last dazzled astronomers in 1437In 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&#8212;aurorae, comets, shooting stars and the like&#8212;noticed something odd about the group of stars they called the tail of the dragon, one of the lunar mansions of the night sky.,472342Fri, 1 Sep 2017 13:17:10 +1000