Can you imagine being able to remotely measure seismic activity on another planet? NASA’s InSight mission launched this weekend to do just that, hopefully providing “insight” into the formation of our solar system by looking deep into the interior of Mars.
This April marks the 48th Earth Month, offering us an opportunity to reflect on our collective impact on the one and only planet we call home. Many simple life changes can make a big difference – switching our household electricity provider to renewable or carbon-neutral energy sources, replacing inefficient household electronics, using cold water to wash our clothes, signing up for a composting service, and recycling, just to name a few.
After holding steady for three years, anthropogenic (human caused or influenced) carbon emissions were once again on the rise in 2017. The brief pause had many climate scientists hopeful that manmade carbon emissions had perhaps hit their maximum, and that a downward trend would soon follow. However, last year's uptick quickly reversed the tenor of the conversation from hopeful to concerned.
In 2018, the U.S. Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative celebrates its fifth anniversary. The goal of this unique nationwide alliance of research organizations has been to push our understanding of the brain farther and faster than ever before, by inventing new technologies, deciphering the details of brain function and behavior, and developing new treatments for brain disorders.
You might have seen the viral headlines recently declaring that, after a year in space, astronaut Scott Kelly’s genes were no longer the same as his identical twin Mark’s. Sounds like an exciting finding, right? Unfortunately, it took a few days for the real science to break through the noise.
It’s Not Just Space that Changes Your Gene Activity
The Houses of Westeros may have captured our attention with their epic battle for the Iron Throne, but there’s another competition taking place in nature that's fascinating in its own right. Ecologists often study species that are competing for the same food, habitat, or other resources to understand how their interaction affects the structure of an ecosystem. These same principles apply within animal hosts, at a microscopic level, when multiple species of parasites fight over red blood cells.
Winter cold spells are often mistakenly pointed to as evidence against global warming. A common remark I’ve encountered this winter season is, “It’s so darn cold, how can the globe be warming?” It may seem counterintuitive, but while the globe continues to warm, erratic cold snaps at the middle latitudes may actually become more frequent.
Here in Philadelphia, we’re still relishing the thrill of long-awaited victory as the ticker tape from the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade flutters from the trees. Even as we watched the game, however, we couldn’t escape the ever-present risk of brain injuries in football, as several players suffered game-ending hits.
Combusting coal. Driving cars and trucks. Flying airplanes. Operating industrial parks. The list of top carbon-intense activities may soon be getting a new addition: bitcoin mining.
For humans, navigating the dating scene to find a mate is tricky enough. It’s even tougher for a male Australian redback spider—80% of males never find a mate. Dr. Maydianne Andrade at the University of Toronto Scarborough has studied these spiders for decades, discovering that desperate times call for desperate measures. During mating, male redbacks somersault onto the fangs of females, often getting cannibalized. But this self-sacrifice is worth it, as it significantly improves their odds of reproduction.
The Falcon Heavy launch scheduled for this afternoon has me nostalgic for the days of the space shuttle launches. As a photographer and digital media producer, I covered over 50 space shuttle launch attempts for National Geographic and AOL from 2005 to 2011.
People would always ask me, “Why do you keep going back?” It was expensive (it was a self-funded project and I don’t live in Florida), time consuming, heart breaking, and exhausting. And honestly, every time I would go, I would make the decision that it was my last launch: I’d seen enough, and I didn’t need to come back.
As Environmental Scientist at The Franklin Institute, part of my job is to find ways to help the public separate fact from fiction when it comes to climate science. The task is not always easy: the study of our changing climate is complicated, and is constantly evolving as we learn more and more about our remarkable planet.
What’s the story?
Manned spaceflight began in 1961 when the Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took man’s first flight beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Humans have, ever since, been exploring space through a variety of missions including the International Space Station, which has housed individual Astronauts and Cosmonauts for periods of up to a year. Nevertheless, life in space would not be possible with the often specialized foods that consumed in orbit and beyond. In a microgravity environment, however, certain foods are impractical.
Update: April 27, 2017
The Cassini spacecraft is back in touch with Earth after its first-ever successful dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings. Raw images and data have begun to be received at NASA's Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in the Mojave Desert of California.