Charles Darwin just 48% away from serving in the US Congress
Remember Paul Broun, the Congressman from Georgia who called embryology, the big bang theory, and evolution “lies from the pit of hell” in his now-famous tirade? Well, unfortunately Broun was reeelected on November 6th, and he still sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology. However, his reelection was not without a unique challenge: a write-in campaign for Charles Darwin, mounted by a University of Georgia plant biologist. And Darwin didn’t perform all that bad! He received 4,000 votes, representing about 2% of the total vote. The best part is that the write-in campaign might have an impact beyond its original humorous intent. The local Democratic party has been inspired to run a serious candidate against Broun in 2014, even though their candidates have historically lost by 20-40 points. Said the county Democractic Committee Chairman, “What we’re talking about doing is finding a well-qualified candidate who’s willing to change their name to Charles Darwin.”
The National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Office was likely a bit confused when their radar picked up some unusual patterns near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this past Friday in the afternoon. What might look like snow on the radar was in fact probably a flock of migrating birds, massive enough to show up on the weather radar. It’s actually a relatively common phenomenon to catch flying animals on radar; in this video, the blue and green blobs shown here spreading across the continental US represent bird, bat, and insect migrations overnight.
One ton of CO2 would fill a sphere 33 feet across. The office of the mayor of New York City decided to take this information and, given the city’s overall CO2 emissions, visualize exactly what New York’s CO2 emissions would look like if all of the gas was condensed around the center of Manhattan. The screenshots above are taken from Michael Bloomberg’s video, and the visuals are dramatic - the emissions after only an hour tower over nearby buildings, and after just one day, the Empire State Building would be swallowed by CO2. The scariest part of the whole project? New York is only the 5th worst city in terms of per capita emissions.
When you walk through an airport security door you’re walking through a rapidly changing magnetic field. The laws of physics dictate that if you put a conducting material in a changing magnetic field electric currents will arise and those electric currents will then create a secondary magnetic field. This secondary field is often referred to as the induced magnetic field because it is induced by the primary field of the doorway. Also contained within the doorway are detectors that can sense when an induced field is present. When these sensors detect an induced field, the alarm goes off, and you get whisked over to the ‘special’ search line.
The same basic principle, the same fundamental physics, is largely responsible for our knowledge of oceans on some of these distant worlds. Jupiter’s moon Europa provides a good example. Back in the late 1990’s the NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made several flybys of Europa and the magnetic field sensors on the spacecraft detected that Europa does not have a strong internal field of its own, instead it has an induced magnetic field that is created as a result of Jupiter’s strong background magnetic field. In other words, the alarm went off.
But in order for the alarm to go off there needed to be a conductor. And for Europa the data indicated that the conducting layer must be near the surface. Other lines of evidence had already shown that the outer ~150 km of Europa was water, but those datasets could not help distinguish between solid ice water and liquid water. With the magnetic field data, however, ice doesn’t work—it’s not a good conductor. Liquid water with salts dissolved in it, similar to our ocean, does work. A salty ocean is needed to explain the data. The best fits to the data indicate that Europa has an outer ice shell of about 10 km in thickness, beneath which lies a global ocean of about ~100 km in depth. Beneath that is a rocky seafloor that may be teeming with hydrothermal vents and bizarre other-wordly organisms.
— Kevin Hand, on what airport security has to do with planetology
They sure are beautiful, but especially if you’re a starfish, these shrimp are not to be taken lightly. That’s because the shrimp feed on starfish, first stunning them with their front legs and then dragging them off to be eaten alive (so they stay fresh, of course).