Australian Popular Science News news from, 22 Aug 2017 15:18:15 +100010Total eclipses aren't that rare&#8212;and you've probably missed a bunch of themA syzygy feels magical, and not just because it gets you at least 25 points in Scrabble. The whole concept of celestial bodies aligning feels poetic. When it results in a total solar eclipse here on Earth, you can feel for a few moments as though you're part of something much greater and grander than yourself. The transience only makes it more beautiful. Which is why thousands of people will flock to the path of totality on August 21, 2017: to witness a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.,471396Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:36:56 +1000These are China's plans for floating nuclear reactorsYou know that thing where Australians don't want nuclear reactors built in our own backyard? Yeah, China doesn't have that. It's well on its way to becoming a world leader in nuclear power; its 37 reactors are already producing 32.4 gigawatts of electricity, and more than 20 more reactors are currently under construction,471395Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:36:55 +1000Does a fever always mean you have an infection? The shivers, the shakes, the chills&#8212;we've all experienced a fever at one time or another. When we take our temperatures and the thermometer reads anything above 99 degrees, many of us immediately believe we are afflicted with some kind of infectious microbe. But, in fact, having a fever doesn't always signal infection. Yes, contagions like strep throat or the flu, are the most common reason for an elevated temperature, but it's surely not the only one. More uncommon ailments like brain injury, reactions to legal and illegal drugs, and even cancer can raise your body temperature above its natural level. But don't freak out, yet. Knowing what the causes are and how they can occur can help you make the most informed decision about your elevated body temperature.,471394Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:36:55 +1000We've been predicting eclipses for over 2000 years. Here's how.Imagine. You are an ancient human and your reliable and faithful sun suddenly and unexpectedly goes dark. This terrifies you. You think, 'What if it never comes back? Oh gods, WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESER...oh, it's back. Phew.' But then, over the years, it keeps happening. You begin to lose trust in the sun's loyalty and start recording when these events happen. Centuries go by and eventually enough of a pattern has built up that early civilizations are able to predict when these crazy events might occur.,471393Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:36:55 +1000The truth about cat and dog foodYou already know your cat and/or dog walks around leaving its own carbon footprint, and you probably have some idea that a Western dog pollutes more than a Bangladeshi family. Now witness the true scale of the problem!,471392Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:36:53 +1000Drones will fly into the path of the eclipse to study weatherWhen the sun disappears behind the moon on Monday, scientists will be ready. The astrophysics of the eclipse are known, so for space watchers it will be a time to relax and partake in the strange beauty of day gone suddenly dark. For the atmospheric scientist however, the eclipse provides a shining opportunity to directly study how the sun influences weather patterns by heating the atmosphere. To that end, a team of researchers from Oklahoma State University and the University of Nebraska is going to spend Monday tracking changes in the atmosphere in the path of the eclipse. And to get just how the eclipse changes the weather in the low sky, the team will fly drones during the totality.,471217Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:39 +1000Chemists confirm that whiskey really does taste better with a splash of waterYour bartender was right, according to a study released today in the journal Scientific Reports. When it comes to whiskey, a touch of dilution improves the solution. Diluting your whiskey with water makes it more flavorful, especially if it's Scotch.,471216Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:38 +1000A lot of people are getting injured while shaving their pubic hairLook, do what you want with your pubic hair. Shave it off, give it a coconut oil hair mask, braid it, bedazzle it, whatever. Do what makes you feel good. But for heaven's sake, be safe when you're doing it.,471215Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:38 +1000I write about space for a living&#8212;and I'm probably skipping the total eclipseI have a confession to make: I may not go see the total eclipse. And one way or another, I've decided to stop agonizing over that decision. It's really not a big deal.,471214Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:37 +1000America's craft breweries are on an environmental crusadeHenry David Thoreau once said that a glass of beer would &#8220;naturalize a man at once&#8202;&#8212;&#8202;which would make him see green, and, if he slept, dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines.&#8221;,471213Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:37 +1000Scientists found something surprising at the heart of these jellyfish galaxiesOur galaxy, the Milky Way, is a barred-spiral, making its way through space like a twirling baton with streamers on each end, carefree. It's a shape that we all know and love. Nothing wrong with that, barred spirals are great. But other galactic shapes are far more mysterious and intriguing to astronomers.,471212Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:36 +1000How alternative cancer therapies kill youThere's a decent chance you'll get some kind of cancer at some point. If you're a man, your odds are one in two. If you're a woman, one in three. Your risk of dying from cancer is only slightly lower: one in four and one in five, respectively.,471211Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:36 +1000China's making major progress with its aircraft carrier techPart of the reason we take our (or at least, the US's) technological superiority for granted, when it comes to military gear, is aircraft carriers. The US has 10 proper ones, 9 sort-of ones, and everyone else has, well, they do their best. Now China is starting to do better.,471210Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:36 +1000There's a lot of money up for grabs if you can land (softly) on the moonIf you can send a spacecraft to the moon and loop around our natural satellite one time, or&#8212;even better&#8212;gently set a rover down on the lunar surface, there could be money in it for you. $4.75 million, to be precise.,471209Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:36 +1000NASA is about to find out if a supercomputer can survive a year in spaceOn Monday, at 12:31 pm Eastern time, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on a resupply flight for the International Space Station, and among its cargo, in addition to ice cream, was something else very cool: a supercomputer.,471208Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:35 +1000Important things found in Antarctica this week: 91 volcanoes and also a fruitcakeYou can see how volcanoes tend to spring up along the edges of plates, though it's admittedly challenging given the terrible color scheme here...,471207Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:35 +1000How goldfish use booze to get through a hard winterRaise your fin if you've got alcohol flowing out of your gills,471206Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:34:33 +1000Yes, you can still get the bubonic plague. Here's what to look out for.&#8220;Bubonic&#8221; is almost onomatopoeic. It sounds bulbous and grotesque and ancient. It sounds like something your great great grandmother might have contracted as a child, along with &#8220;the consumption.&#8221; So when headlines proclaim that the bubonic plague is alive in Arizona (or New Mexico, or wherever) it feels like some archaic monster has risen from the grave. The reality is that it never actually died.,470871Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:45 +1000What can genetic testing really tell you?Once difficult and expensive even for the most technologically advanced labs, genetic testing is fast becoming a cheap and easy consumer product. With a little spit and 200 dollars, you can find out your risk for everything from cystic fibrosis to lactose intolerance.,470870Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:45 +1000The US Forest Service really doesn't want you flying your drones into wildfireForget Smokey the Bear. The Forest Service has a new message for Americans: Keep your drones out of their wildfires.,470869Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:44 +1000Now climate change is coming for our sea turtlesEvery year, young sea turtles migrate up the US East Coast to spend the summer foraging in northerly waters. Sometimes, they wind up in the Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Cape Cod Bay to Nova Scotia. As the weather cools, the turtles, including endangered Kemp's ridley and loggerhead turtles, begin to swim south.,470868Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:44 +1000This paper battery is powered by bacteria in your spitYou can make a battery out of a lemon, a tomato, an orange or a stack of old two cent coins. And now, thanks to a miracle of modern science, you can make a battery using spit.,470867Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:44 +1000We finally know how your tongue tells your brain what you're tastingWhat makes lollies taste sweet and coffee taste bitter, and not the other way around? In a <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">study</a> published this week in <em>Nature</em>, researchers identified the secret ingredient that keeps our tastes distinct.,470866Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:43 +1000North Korea's miniaturized nuclear warheads were a long time comingOn October 9, 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. Since then, the nation has tested nuclear devices four more times, most recently in September 2016. Running parallel and complementary to the nuclear program is a missile program that, twice in July, tested ICBMs with a range that can likely reach most of the continental United States. Earlier this week, a report from the Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear warhead, making it small enough to fit on a missile.,470865Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:42 +1000This protein makes your heart fit without actually exercising it It's no secret that exercise makes your heart bigger in a healthy way, helping it to pump blood more efficiently and lessening the potential for heart failure. Figuring out a way to mimic the way exercise manages to do this could be an extremely beneficial way to treat certain types of heart conditions. A <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">study</a> out this week shows how a protein called cardiotrophin 1 might in fact do this: have the same positive effects on the heart, minus the actual exersise part.,470864Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:42 +1000Vinyl cyanide found on Titan&#8212;aliens, have at itOne man's garbage is another man's treasure. Or in this case, one space telescope's extra data is another researcher's gold mine.,470863Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:11:42 +1000New Horizons will soon solve a mystery about an object a billion miles past PlutoIn less than two years, the New Horizons space probe is going to go whizzing by an object a billion miles further away from us than Pluto at speeds of up to 30,000 miles per hour. We know generally where that object&#8212;MU69, a cold dark object in the Kuiper Belt&#8212;will be thanks to telescope observations, otherwise we wouldn't be able to rendezvous with it at all, but like a blind date, we're not 100 percent sure what to expect. Details like the shape, exact size, color of the object and even if it has close neighbors all remain elusive.,470327Tue, 8 Aug 2017 08:00:26 +1000This is how much of the world is currently on fireYou may have missed the memo (we get it, there's been a lot going on) but the world is currently on fire as massive blazes burn in the United States, Canada, and across Europe. To give you a sense of the scale of the inferno, we've included maps of the wildfires, as well as images from some of the fiery scenes. Here, is the lowdown.,470326Tue, 8 Aug 2017 08:00:26 +1000How to build an hourglass watchtowerHumans have been building watchtowers since long before we had the written language to describe them. In the ancient city of Jericho, archeologists found the ruins of a conical 30-foot-tall building that dates back to 8000 BCE. In northeastern Scotland, 2,000-year-old tower-like structures called broches dot the countryside.,470325Tue, 8 Aug 2017 08:00:26 +1000Growing skin in a lab has benefits for humans and turtles alikeIf you look at your skin, most of what you will see is actually dead cells. This thin outermost sheet protects the living cells underneath as they develop.,470324Tue, 8 Aug 2017 08:00:24 +1000Artificial intelligence now powers all of Facebook's translationSpend enough time on Facebook, and you'll likely encounter a post written in a tongue that's foreign to you. That's because the social network has two billion users and supports over 45 languages. On Thursday, Facebook announced that all of its user translation services&#8212;those little magic tricks that happen when you click &#8220;see translation&#8221; beneath a post or comment&#8212;are now powered by neural networks, which are a form of artificial intelligence.,470139Fri, 4 Aug 2017 12:59:44 +1000This giant exoplanet has a glowing atmospherePicture Jupiter, the gas giant. Now inflate it to over five times its size. Throw in a sun close enough that it can heat the planet's atmospheric surface to 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit.,470138Fri, 4 Aug 2017 12:59:44 +1000I floated in zero-g with former astronaut Scott Kelly I did not throw up. When I tell people that I've ridden in a zero-g plane, invariably they ask, propriety be damned, if I threw up. So, it's best to address that aspect of zero-g straight away. Though I dutifully stick the company issued barf bag in my flight suit's pocket&#8212;just in case&#8212;my stomach's contents remain my stomach's contents through the many 30-to-40 second cycles of less than Earth's gravity. Five other fliers&#8212;all men&#8212;are significantly less fortunate.,470137Fri, 4 Aug 2017 12:59:43 +1000Climate change is making our favorite carbs less nutritiousWe already know how prolonged drought, high heat and heavy rains prompted by climate change can wreak havoc on agriculture. But there is more disturbing news.,470136Fri, 4 Aug 2017 12:59:43 +1000How a snowflake get its shapeSnow can be soft and fluffy or stinging and icy; perfect for skiing or prone to melt. The difference lies in the shape of the flakes. They don't all look like the kind you see in emoji. Researchers have classified as many as 108 types, but according to Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, you can pare them down to four broad categories: plates, columns, needles, and dendrites.,470135Fri, 4 Aug 2017 12:59:43 +1000NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer, but it's not Earth that needs savingDefending Earth from aliens sounds like a big job, but the bigger one is actually defending alien life from us. The <a href=";src=syn#btn-add-info" target="_blank">position NASA is hiring for</a>&#8212;with the amazing title of Planetary Protection Officer&#8212;is probably nothing like the image conjured by the <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">trending headlines</a>.,470134Fri, 4 Aug 2017 12:59:42 +1000Come see China's new hexacopters and self-detonating dronesAs part of its celebration of the People's Liberation Army, the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution in Beijing is showing off a range of exciting exhibitions, offering a peek into the PLA's new self-propelled artillery, cruise missiles, ballistic missile launchers, and&#8212;perhaps most notably&#8212;tactical unmanned aerial systems.,469804Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:09 +1000Four ways that anyone can be a scientist during the solar eclipseMillions of people are expected to turn their heads skyward to watch the Great American Eclipse on August 21. You might be one of them. But did you know that you can enjoy this natural wonder while also helping scientists out? Here are four ways that you too can be an eclipse scientist&#8212;at least for a day.,469803Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:09 +1000Why your muscles hurt so much the day after you work outEver woken up the day after a workout and wondered what you did to deserve such pain?,469802Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:08 +1000Sunscreen made from DNA would last forever&#160; A DNA-based sunscreen that not only stops harmful ultraviolet (UV) light, but also becomes more protective the longer you expose it to UV rays? That's the dazzling premise behind a recent study published in the journal Science Reports.,469801Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:08 +1000There's something scarier than a grenade-toting droneEvery armory is a potential explosion waiting to happen. And in Eastern Ukraine, a stockpile of ammunition recently ignited, spewing smoke and fire into the sky in a dramatic video. The culprit? A small drone carrying a <a href=";src=syn" target="_blank">1-pound grenade</a> armed with the pyrotechnic substance thermite.,469800Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:08 +1000Scientists are trying to treat autoimmune disease with intestinal wormsIt takes a hookworm four to six weeks to travel through the human body and reach the gut, where it latches onto the small intestine and sucks blood to sustain itself.,469799Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:08 +1000New Zealand needs to kill these adorable rabbits Every year on Easter in the Otago region of New Zealand, people gather to shoot thousands of bunnies. A police officer is on hand, not to arrest the hunters but rather to spur them on. This is the annual Easter bunny hunt, and by the time the day is done there will be literal piles of rabbit carcasses.,469798Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:06 +1000This "map" could change the way we treat cancerThere are countless ways for a person to develop cancer, and this tangle of biological routes leading to illness can make it more difficult for researchers to develop treatments and cures. Scientists have already done a lot of work on sequencing the genes of cancer cells. That's given them insight into what a cancer cell looks like and how it grows endlessly. But to know what fuels those cells, and where they come from, scientists had to plot a course back to each cell's source.,469556Tue, 1 Aug 2017 10:02:06 +1000Future surgeons might patch you up with synthetic slug secretionsListen, Humpty Dumpty, I hate to break it to you, but while there are certain medical situations where a bandage is good enough to stick you back together again, this is not one of them. Sometimes, even the best intentions (and combined efforts of the reigning monarch's horses and men) aren't enough. Please, go consult with the slug mucus experts immediately.,469615Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:00:07 +1000The world's water quality might be in troubleWhen we think about how climate change will impact water, we &#8220;tend to think about droughts or flooding or extreme rainfall,&#8221; says Anna Michalak. &#8220;But the linkages between climate and water quality are potentially just as strong as climate and water quantity.&#8221;,469614Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:00:07 +1000Scientists know how to make mice angry&#8212;but mice know how to keep their coolMale territoriality is a pretty well-defined scientific concept. Some animals mark their domain with rocks or urine, others attack intruders (and we've all seen guys who pick fights at the bar).,469613Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:00:07 +1000We need to remember the Tuskegee Study victims now more than everIn November 1974, President Richard Nixon signed the National Research Act into law. Some of the rules established by the law and its subsequent revisions seem so commonsense it's hard to imagine they needed to be codified into a bill. Don't knowingly deny subjects life-saving medication, for example. And don't experiment on people without their consent. But those rules did need to be formalized into the law.,469612Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:00:06 +1000It looks like we're one step closer to creating genetically modified humans in a labIn a US first, a team of biologists has edited a human embryo's DNA. The technique has been used before by scientists in China, but never in the United States, where the ethical debate over editing embryos rages on with no consensus in sight. And according to the U.S. team, their trial has achieved an unprecedented level of success.,469611Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:00:06 +1000The Navy is preparing its railgun for the future of warFrom the earliest cannons to the last battleships, the fundamentals of a naval gun have remained roughly the same: hurtle a heavy projectile through the air using gunpowder. But railguns are a clean break from that method, as they use a powerful electrical pulse to drag a projectile at high speed down a long track before shooting it at a target far away.,469610Fri, 28 Jul 2017 17:00:04 +1000