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Cassini: Going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before—on a dive between Saturn’s rings and the planet itself

Posted: April 26, 2017, 3:13 pm |
On July 1, 2004, Cassini became the first spacecraft ever to orbit Saturn. And today, the spacecraft has likely achieved another milestone: Using its 13-foot-wide high-gain antenna as a shield, it probably has made the first ever dive between the rings and the giant gaseous planet itself.

I say “probably” because the spacecraft is not in contact with Earth right now, so scientists do not yet know how it fared. The earliest that it is expected to regain contact, via NASA’s Deep Space Netwo

The Fake “War Between Neuroscience and Psychiatry”

Posted: April 26, 2017, 2:15 pm |
Neuroscientists have launched an assault on the American Psychiatric Association headquarters and are engaged in bitter, boardroom-to-boardroom fighting. Psychiatrists have captured the leader of a militant pro-brain faction. A ceasefire, brokered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is due to come into effect at midnight.

Yes, indeed. A blog post by Daniel Barron in Scientific American yesterday claimed that there is a War between Neuroscience and Psychiatry

The Arctic as we once knew it is going, going…

Posted: April 26, 2017, 1:31 am |
A new report finds that while continued change is ‘locked in,’ there’s still time to stabilize some trends by cutting greenhouse gas emissions

In the past few years, I’ve heard it from many researchers: Global warming has pushed the Arctic into a completely new state. Now, a comprehensive assessment report published today confirms it:
With each additional year of data, it becomes increasingly clear that the Arctic as we know it is being replaced by a warmer, wetter, and more variable envir

Real Genius

Posted: April 26, 2017, 12:40 am |
If you are going to create a television show called Genius, you had better grapple with the nature of genius. If you are going to do that kind of grappling, you might as well focus on the very first face that comes to mind when people say “genius.” And if you are going to do a show about Albert Einstein–which is exactly where the creators of the new series Genius ended up–you’d better have some fresh things to say about the most famous figure in the history of science.

I’m familiar with

Novel Antibiotic Recipes Could Be Hidden in Medieval Medical Texts

Posted: April 25, 2017, 3:20 pm |
For a long time, medieval medicine has been dismissed as irrelevant. This time period is popularly referred to as the “Dark Ages,” which erroneously suggests that it was unenlightened by science or reason. However, some medievalists and scientists are now looking back to history for clues to inform the search for new antibiotics.

The evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes means that it is always necessary to find new drugs to battle microbes that are no longer treatable with current a

Watch as a giant explosion on the Sun blasts material into space, followed by dancing loops of glowing gas

Posted: April 24, 2017, 3:48 pm |
NASA describes the display of coronal loops as particularly unusual

As NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory watched on April 19, 2017, a huge explosion of hot, ionized gas and magnetic field blasted outward from the Sun.

Immediately following this coronal mass ejection, or CME, gargantuan loops of glowing plasma many times larger than Earth arced high in the Sun’s atmosphere. Such bright coronal loops form as charged particles spin along the Sun’s magnetic field lines.

While such display

Here’s the first installment in a new series at ImaGeo: dazzling imagery from the new GOES-16 weather satellite

Posted: April 23, 2017, 9:17 pm |
With Earth Day just behind us, I’ve been inspired to start a new series here at ImaGeo: semi-regular posts showcasing the truly dazzling imagery now being produced by the GOES-16 weather satellite.

It’s now on its shakedown cruise, so to speak. Scientists are still testing everything out and evaluating the data being returned by the satellite. So it is not yet officially operational.

Even so, just have a look at the animation above, and the others below, and I think you’ll agree that G

There’s no place like home

Posted: April 23, 2017, 12:40 am |
A visual celebration of the home planet, starting with a view from Earth as seen from Saturn — 870 million miles away — and zooming in close

On the morning of the first Earth Day, on April 20th, 1970, a friend and I boarded the IRT subway line in Brooklyn and headed for Manhattan. Our destination: Fifth Avenue, where New York City’s festivities were to take place.

I don’t recall ever having heard the term “home planet” back then. Yet the basic idea already had great currency, thanks

Tropical Storm Arlene spins up in the Atlantic, two months before average date of first storm of hurricane season

Posted: April 22, 2017, 2:25 am |
Is climate change playing any role in an apparent lengthening of the hurricane season?

It’s way early for hurricane season to start, but that’s precisely what happened yesterday with the formation of Tropical Storm Arlene in the far northern Atlantic.

Brian McNoldy, a researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, writing at his Tropical Atlantic Update blog, puts this into perspective:
. . . this is exactly two months before the average dat

Check out this cool animation illustrating California’s dramatic change in fortunes

Posted: April 21, 2017, 8:20 pm |
The animation, based on data from a NASA airborne observatory, show just how much the state’s snowpack has grown

The incredible impact of California’s drought-busting deluges has now become even clearer, thanks to this compelling new animation from NASA.

You’re looking at a comparison of snowpack on April 1, 2015 and 2017 in the Tuolumne River Basin of the Sierra Nevada range. Famous Mono Lake is to the right. The entire basin spans more than 1,600 square miles, an area larger than the s

Functional Connectivity Between Surgically Disconnected Brain Regions?

Posted: April 21, 2017, 7:26 pm |
A new article posted on preprint site bioRxiv has generated a lot of interest among neuroscientists on Twitter. The article reports the existence of ‘functional connectivity’ between surgically disconnected distant brain regions using fMRI, something that in theory shouldn’t be possible.

This is big news, if true, because it suggests that fMRI functional connectivity isn’t entirely a reflection of actual signalling between brain areas. Rather, something else must be able to produce connectivi

We just had our 2nd warmest March, and with El Niño maybe rising from the dead, things could get interesting

Posted: April 18, 2017, 9:01 pm |
The home planet just experienced its second warmest March on record, according to an analysis released by NASA last week. The agency’s temperature records go all the way back to 1880

From the analysis:
Last month was 1.12 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean March temperature from 1951-1980. The two top March temperature anomalies have occurred during the past two years.
Here’s how the year so far compares with the seasonal cycle for every year since 1880:

It’s still early in the

Why Felines Can’t Resist the #CatSquare

Posted: April 18, 2017, 5:40 pm |
Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare.

This social media fascination is a variation on a question I heard over and over as a panelist on Animal Planet’s “America’s Cutest Pets” series. I was asked to watch video after video of cats climbing into cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, plastic storage bins, cupboards and even wide-ne

It sure does look like a flying saucer zinging around Saturn

Posted: April 17, 2017, 10:43 pm |
But in reality, it is a flying saucer moon named Atlas

Who knew? I certainly didn’t… Saturn has a moon shaped eerily like a flying saucer.

Check it out in the image above, acquired by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on April 12, 2017 during a flyby that came as close as 7,000 miles from the moon.

This is the closest image ever taken of the moon, named Atlas, according to NASA. The object is just 19 miles across; it orbits Saturn just outside the giant planet’s A ring — the outermost of Sa

Say, WHAT? After one of the strongest El Niños on record, another one may be brewing

Posted: April 17, 2017, 10:03 pm |
The equatorial Pacific Ocean is suffering from a split personality disorder: El Niño-ish in the east; La Niña-ish to the west. El Niño is likely to win out.

Climate forecast models are predicting a full-fledged El Niño by summer or fall. If it should happen, it would bring all manner of disruption to global weather patterns.

And it would also be an extraordinary event.

If you’ll recall, in 2015-16, the planet experienced a monster El Niño event, one of the three strongest on record. I

What are “Neural Correlates” Correlates Of?

Posted: April 17, 2017, 6:52 pm |
In a thought-provoking new paper called What are neural correlates neural correlates of?, NYU sociologist Gabriel Abend argues that neuroscientists need to pay more attention to philosophy, social science, and the humanities.

Abend’s main argument is that if we are to study the neural correlates or neural basis of a certain phenomenon, we must first define that phenomenon and know how to identify instances of it.

Sometimes, this identification is straightforward: in a study of brai

Another month, yet another record low for Arctic sea ice

Posted: April 13, 2017, 2:43 am |
Finally! Some relief from the unrelenting decay in Arctic sea ice.

Well, no. I was hoping to be able to report that. But I can’t. The National Snow and Ice Data Center’s most recent update shows the extent of Arctic sea ice in March dropping to a record low for the month. And that marks the sixth month in a row of record-setting lows.

On March 7, the extent of Arctic sea ice seems to have reached its maximum extent for the year, after an entire winter of frigid temperatures. But here t

The Names Behind the Units of Measure

Posted: April 10, 2017, 10:00 am |
You know the units, but do you recognize the scientists responsible for them?

The Unsung Heroes of Science

Posted: April 10, 2017, 10:00 am |
Some scientists never got the praise they deserved. Here’s to the ones history passed over.

The Case for Cannibalism

Posted: March 10, 2017, 12:00 pm |
A once taboo topic now appears perfectly natural in the animal kingdom. And it’s changing what we know about evolution.

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