Listen to 25 Endangered Languages From Around the World

While the world’s population is steadily increasing, the number of spoken languages is actually decreasing. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) looked at factors like intergenerational language transmission, total number of speakers and percentage of speakers within a population, and found that about 2,700 of the world’s 6,700 languages, each carrying generations of worldviews and cultural traditions, are at risk of extinction. The list includes

What Would an Alien Language Sound Like?

Projects like SETI and Breakthrough Listen are dedicated to spotting the signals extraterrestrials may be sending out into the universe. But there’s an additional side to the story — if E.T. did contact us, would we even be able to understand him? That was the topic of a recent gathering of linguists that took place in Los Angeles, California, over the Memorial Day weekend. The daylong workshop, “Language in the Cosmos,” was organized by METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and hel

Sex Matters in the Lab

In 2016, the National Institutes of Health introduced a regulation to address a growing issue in clinical research — sex differences. Until then, most work that relied on animal models tended to use only male critters. The trend was problematic, particularly since any drug therapies based on these studies often worked differently once females were factored into the equation. Since the recent push for more balance, researchers are discovering startling sex differences in their animal model

Cloud porn: Watch as a swirl of clouds materializes into a beautiful, nearly perfect circle

A striking circle of clouds with a bullseye center is seen over Asia in a high-resolution satellite image, and an animation of multiple images We're accustomed to seeing satellite images of clouds organized in big swirly circles. They are, of course, called cyclones. And, in fact, as I'm writing this post, one of these — Subtropical Depression Alberto — is looking quite impressive in all its swirly glory as it spins over Alabama. But until I spotted the satellite image above in a stor

No Eyes? No Problem. Sea Urchins See with Their Feet

Threaten a sea urchin, and you may see it point its spines at you. This defensive response is pretty unremarkable—except for the fact that, if you look closer, you will not see the sea urchin's eyes. It doesn't have any. Sea urchins are the only animals that have vision despite "conspicuously lacking eyes," write Dan-Eric Nilsson, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden who studies animal vision, and his colleagues. In a new study, the researchers gave the spiny sea creatures a ki

Lava Flows and Fountains Continue To Pave Kilauea’s Slopes

What is rapidly becoming the new normal in the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea continued over last few days. Fissures in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens have waxed and waned, with Fissure 8 taking center stage now, producing ~60 meter (200 foot) lava fountains and a lava flow that moved at ~15 meters per hour. Many other fissures have quieted as has the multiple ocean entries. The lava flows from fissure 7 (see below) have also stopped after overrunning a drill hole on the Puna G

665 Days in Space and 47 minutes on TV: A Conversation with NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson

Life is all about bubbles. Every cell in your body is a bubble, a membrane holding together a miniature world of organelles, ribosomes, and genetic material. Your body itself is another bubble, a skin wrapped around a wet, salty interior that carries a distant memory of the oceans in which our ancestors lived hundreds of millions of years ago. And our entire planet is a bubble, a thin membrane of oxygen-rich air wrapped around a spinning rock warmed by a nearby Sun. Being able to perceive

Yellowstone’s Steamboat Geyser Keeps Erupting … And That’s OK

Over the weekend, USGS Volcanoes tweeted this: Again? Yes. @YellowstoneNPS#SteamboatGeyser erupted at 7:33 PM MST. That's 7 times since March 15. We've got a counter on our Yellowstone Volcano Observatory home page. See signal on this @UUSS_Quake_Info webicorder (continuous signal at the bottom). — USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) May 28, 2018 If you're unfamiliar with Steamboat Geyser at the Yellowstone Caldera, it is one of the larges

Power Doesn’t Cause Brain Damage

An Atlantic article from July 2017 has been widely discussed on Twitter over the past few days. It's called Power Causes Brain Damage and I remember that it was fairly popular at the time of publication. Its recent revival was prompted I think by Harvey Weinstein's arrest and more generally the abuses of power revealed by the #MeToo movement. The article itself, of course, dating to the pre-Fall of Weinstein era, isn't specifically about this. In my view, while power is certainly all too

Your Weekly Attenborough: Bonus Round

At my current count, there are at least 30 species named after David Attenborough. That's a ton. 23 posts in and I'm feeling the pinch, I'm not going to lie. Sometimes there just isn't enough information to put together a decent post, so I'm going to take a bit of a cop out here. Instead of one species, today we're gonna do five. Don't think of it as me selling out, think of it as a special bonus gift. In this super-special edition of Your Weekly Attenborough we're gonna journey back t

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