Earth’s Magnetic Field <i>Probably</i> Isn’t Reversing

The Earth’s magnetic field has been declining about 5 percent every 100 years since at least 1840, and possibly even earlier. The dip in strength has spurred worries of an imminent "flip," a reversal of magnetic polarity that could be catastrophic to our modern technological networks. But a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences brings some good news. A reversal is not likely in the near future, say European researchers, and the decrease in the field'

NASA Is About to Launch the Next Mars Lander

As early as 4:05 a.m. PDT on May 5th, those on the West Coast of the United States will have the chance to witness an interplanetary launch for the first time. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will carry NASA’s InSight spacecraft into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, California. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a lander bound for the Elysium Planitia region in Mars’s Northern hemisp

From Victim’s Remains, Scientists Estimate Hiroshima Radiation Doses

Before dropping the first nuclear bomb ever used in combat, American scientists studied Japan looking for a target that could maximize damage. Hiroshima's flat, open landscape caught their eye – it offered little topography that could slow the blast. Then weapons engineers dialed in the bomb's settings – they wouldn't need much pressure to level the city's thatched roof houses. Some 70,000 people died on August 6, 1945, as Little Boy struck Hiroshima, wiping out roughly 70 percent of the

Team of Top Scientists Prepare to Invade Antarctica’s Scariest Glacier

An elite team gathered in the United Kingdom on Monday to plot their plan of attack in a daring effort to hold off a global catastrophe. No, it isn't the latest Avengers flick. This group, roughly 100 strong, consists of some of the world's top polar scientists. And their quarry is an absolutely massive chunk of ice. They're calling it the Thwaites Invasion. Of all the glaciers in Antarctica threatened by climate change, scientists have recently grown especially concerned about one in par

Why I Became a Neuroscientist

I’ve been thinking lately about the question of what leads scientists to choose a discipline. Why does someone end up as a chemist rather than a biologist? A geneticist as opposed to a cognitive neuroscientist? We might hope that people choose their discipline based on an understanding of what doing research in each discipline involves, but I don't think this often happens. I know it didn't happen in my case. Here, then, is how I became a neuroscientist. As far back as I can remember,

With Parasites, Nothing is Sacred: Study Finds Lungworms Alter How Their Host Toads Poop

Parasites are nature's master puppeteers. Jewel wasps can make cockroaches into docile, edible nannies for their young with just a sting, for example. Some nematodes convince the insects they infect to commit watery suicide because their larvae are aquatic. It's even thought that Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that usually infects rats and cats, can alter our brains when we accidentally host them instead, subtly altering our personalities and maybe even making us more likely to commit suicide

Your Weekly Attenborough: Platysaurus attenboroughi

There's a concept in economics that I've always been a bit fascinated by called a Veblen good. The basic idea is: A product or service for which demand goes up the more expensive it gets. It runs totally counter to the normal precepts of economics, but there's a logic to it. For some things, works of fine art, say, or luxury cars, it's not the physical object itself that's desired, but what it represents. Like Nic Cage buying a dinosaur skull, it's a statement that you can afford to spend

Kilauea’s Summit Lava Lake is Overflowing

Last week, I mentioned that things are getting exciting at Kilauea in Hawai'i, and sure enough, at least one thing changed at the summit lava lake: it started to overflow! The lake levels go so high that lava began to spill out onto the floor of the crater where the lava resides. This created new, dark basaltic lava flows coating the crater floor (see above and below). Geologists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory took a helicopter over the lava lake to catch a better view of the new lava

Flashback Friday: A scientific study of binge TV watching finds that yes, you’ll probably regret it

Binge-watching TV is a relatively new phenomenon -- 10 years ago, the only way you could do it was via box sets of DVDs or the occasional marathon on TV. Now, Netflix, Hulu, and many other providers let you watch as many episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" as you can handle in one sitting. In this study, scientists used an online survey to measure how much TV qualifies as a "binge" and how binge-watching makes people feel. They found that watching more than two episodes of the same show in a

At the Bottom of the Ocean, Octopus Moms Cling to Their Bad Decisions

Parents may feel guilty when they use television to keep their kids quiet, or give in to a demand for cookies. But most of us are doing a better job than these octopus mothers. Scientists found them clustered on the sea floor, trying to grow their young in a warm bath that will certainly kill babies and moms alike. The mothers were doomed to begin with. After mating, most female octopuses choose a spot to glue down a batch of eggs. Then they park themselves on top of those eggs and give u

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