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Watch: Animation of satellite images shows smoke from the Brian Head fire drifting across much of Utah and beyond

Posted: June 27, 2017, 9:52 pm |
With hot, dry and windy conditions continuing, the dangerous Brian Head fire is expected to grow significantly

Super dry conditions and winds gusting to more than 40 miles per hour yesterday have fanned Utah’s Brian Head wildfire, reportedly sending flames shooting 100 feet into the air.

Those flames lofted giant plumes of smoke that were easily seen by the GOES-West weather satellite. You can see it happening in the animation above, which I created using imagery acquired by the satellit

What Are “Hard” and “Soft” Drugs?

Posted: June 27, 2017, 7:35 pm |
A new study examines the blurry distinction between “hard” and “soft” drugs.

The “hardness” of drugs is a concept that makes intuitive sense, but is difficult to put into precise terms. “Hard” drugs are those which are viewed as more addictive, more potent and more toxic than the comparatively benign “soft” variety. The concept has a normative aspect: “hard” drugs are bad, and you should avoid them, even if you use soft drugs.

In the new paper, Slovakian researchers Peter Janik et al.

Dogs Notice When People (or Other Dogs) Sound Sad

Posted: June 27, 2017, 7:11 pm |
Your dog may act like a good listener—but does she really notice when you’re feeling down? Or does she just know how to deploy a wet nose and a tail-wag to earn treats? A new study says negative emotions are contagious for dogs. They’ll pick up a companion’s bad feelings just by sound, whether that companion is human or canine.

“Emotional contagion” is the most basic form of empathy, write Annika Huber of the University of Vienna’s Clever Dog Lab and her colleagues. We’re not talking

Solving the Centuries-old Mystery of Rare ‘Bright Nights’

Posted: June 27, 2017, 7:05 pm |
On rare occasions throughout history, the darkness of night fails to materialize. Even with the moon darkened, the sky fills with a diffuse glow that seems to filter out of the very air itself. Such “bright nights” have been recorded back to the days of Pliny the Elder around 132 B.C., although explanations for the phenomenon have been lacking.

Using a special interferometer and data from the 1990s, two Canadian researchers say that they can explain why the sky seems so much brighter

Fishing Fleets Threw Away 10 Percent of Their Catch Over the Past Decade

Posted: June 27, 2017, 4:09 pm |
“Waste not, want not.”

The origin of this proverb traces back centuries, but time has hardly tarnished its relevance. It’s a warning every generation would do well to heed: Mismanaging precious commodities today will lead to an impoverished future. It’s so simple. It’s so true. It’s so often ignored.

Case-in-point: global industrial fishing operations. Over the past decade, fishing fleets simply threw away more than 10 percent—enough to fill 4,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools—of the wo

A dramatically detailed animation from the new GOES-16 satellite shows Hurricane Dora swirling in the Pacific

Posted: June 27, 2017, 2:09 am |
Dora is the Western Hemisphere’s 1st hurricane-strength storm of 2017

Click on the screenshot above and say hello to Dora, the first storm of 2017 in the Western Hemisphere to reach hurricane strength.

The imagery that went into the animation comes from NOAA’s new GOES-16 weather satellite. This is the first hurricane that the satellite has tracked since it was launched in November of 2016.

As I’m writing this late on the afternoon of Monday, June 26th, Dora is a Category 1 hurricane

Another stunner from the Juno spacecraft: Jupiter’s giant cloud bands and ‘String of Pearls’

Posted: June 27, 2017, 12:49 am |
After a bit of an absence for vacation, and to finish work on a feature article on Arctic climate change and geopolitics for bioGraphic magazine, I’m back to blogging here at ImaGeo. And when I spotted this arresting image of Jupiter from the Juno spacecraft, I knew this had to be my first post since returning.

Before I get into the details, you might be wondering how images of far away planets fit in a blog dedicated in large measure to the science of our planet. That word, ‘planet,’ get

Thoughts on Essays

Posted: June 26, 2017, 7:39 pm |
I’ve recently been doing some of every academic’s favorite activity – marking student essays (papers).

Here’s a few observations on essays and on marking them.

1. Marking Essays is Subjective

This is a bit of a truism: it’s fairly obvious that not everyone will agree on how to grade an essay down to the exact mark. Unlike with, say, a multiple-choice exam, marking an essay is not a mechanical process. But it’s easy to forget this when the marks are there in black and white (or r

Music: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted: June 26, 2017, 5:12 pm |
Our lives are awash in tunes. Songs are blasted through the radio, piped into supermarkets, they waft through the air at public gatherings and soundtracks can make or break a blockbuster movie.

Humans seem obsessed with melody and rhythm. But when did it begin in hominin history? What purpose does it fulfill? And does music have a dark side?

The first bands started gigging at least tens of thousands of years. Archaeologists have found 40,000-year-old flutes carved from bird bones. The

Sex Sells? No, It Doesn’t

Posted: June 23, 2017, 6:41 pm |
Chiseled abs and bikinis can sell just about anything, right? According to the minds behind those Carl’s Jr. ads—and countless others—you’d think that’d be true.

This idea that “sex sells” has hung around for more than a century, and by this point it’s almost accepted as a doctrine. And those are exactly the types of claims researchers love putting to the test.

John Wirtz, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois, conducted a meta-analysis of 78 peer-reviewed studies that

Forget The Sharks: How 47 Meters Down Fails Dive Science

Posted: June 23, 2017, 5:12 pm |
This is a guest post by Jake Buehler, who just so happens to be an AAUS certified scientific diver as well as a science writer based in the Seattle area. He blogs over at Sh*t You Didn’t Know About Biology, which is full of his “unrepentantly celebratory insights into life on Earth’s under-appreciated, under-acknowledged, and utterly amazing stories.”

Summer is finally here in the Northern Hemisphere. The days are long, the weather is warm, and the water is inviting. It’s also time for o

Massive, ‘Dead’ Galaxy Puzzles Astronomers

Posted: June 23, 2017, 3:38 pm |
Objects in the distant universe appear small and difficult to see – unless they’re sitting behind a cosmic magnifying glass.

That’s exactly the case for MACS 2129-1, a galaxy lensed by a massive foreground galaxy cluster. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have managed to catch a glimpse of this unusual object, which appears to be an old, “dead” galaxy that’s already stopped making new stars just a few billion years after the Big Bang. Not only is this galaxy finished with its

Why Do Bird Eggs Come in So Many Shapes?

Posted: June 22, 2017, 9:18 pm |
When something is described as egg-shaped, the ubiquitous hen’s egg typically comes to mind. But for birds, eggs come in myriad shapes: owl eggs look like ping-pong balls, hummingbird eggs are shaped like jelly beans, swift eggs are pointed at one end like a pear.

So what’s the reason?

Biologists have been asking that question for quite some time, and their hypotheses are perhaps just as varied as the eggs themselves. Scientists in the past have concluded that cliff-dwelling birds lay

A Better Touch Screen, Inspired by Moth Eyes

Posted: June 22, 2017, 6:47 pm |
Moth eyes and lotus leaves may be important to the future of touch screens.

Researchers from the University of Central Florida and National Taiwan University designed an anti-reflective coating that was inspired by moth eyes. The coating reflects about 10 times less light than the best anti-glare technique in commercial use.
Optical Properties
The ability to see your phone’s display is a competition between display brightness and reflected ambient light. Relying on extra bright screens

Physicists Tackle the Wobbly Suitcase Problem

Posted: June 21, 2017, 5:11 pm |
Rolling luggage is both a blessing and a curse for hurried travelers. While we no longer need gym-toned biceps to heft our sundries through the airport, the slightest misstep can send a two-wheeled suitcase rocking and spinning into an uncontrollable disaster. Now, scientists think they know why rolling suitcases are so annoyingly unsteady at exactly the wrong times.

French researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, say that the problem comes down to simple physics. A

Persistent, Deadly Heat at the Equator Could Be the Norm by 2100

Posted: June 20, 2017, 8:09 pm |
Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, the temperature kept some planes grounded.

Phoenix was projected to reach of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a near-record for the desert city, and hot enough that small planes cannot generate enough lift to fly. Phoenix and other cities have experienced similar conditions before, but only rarely—for now. The grounded passengers got to sit inside an air-conditioned terminal, at least. But in other parts of the world where temperatures are set to soar regularly above 1

Meet What’s-His-Name, the Apollo Astronaut You’ve Never Heard Of

Posted: June 20, 2017, 7:33 pm |
There are some astronauts we know a lot about, or at least whose names are familiar, like Neil or Buzz (as in Armstrong and Aldrin, the first men on the Moon). More nerdy space fans will also recognize the names Gene and Pete (as is Cernan and Conrad). But what about Donn, is Eisele? Donn Eisele — whose last name is pronounced Eyes-lee, not Eye-zell — is a fascinating character who flew on the first Apollo mission but most people have never heard of him.
Like all his peers, because NASA’s ast

When Did People Start Using Money?

Posted: June 20, 2017, 6:49 pm |
Sometimes you run across a grimy, tattered dollar bill that seems like it’s been around since the beginning of time. Assuredly it hasn’t, but the history of human beings using cash currency does go back a long time – 40,000 years.

Scientists have tracked exchange and trade through the archaeological record, starting in Upper Paleolithic when groups of hunters traded for the best flint weapons and other tools. First, people bartered, making direct deals between two parties of desirable obj

Everything Worth Knowing About … Auroras

Posted: June 12, 2017, 10:00 am |
Colorful shape-shifters of the heavens.

The New Science of Daydreaming

Posted: May 9, 2017, 10:00 am |
Daydreams seem like a waste of time, something to avoid. But they actually can lead to creative ideas.