Scientist reviews most painful insect stings he has ever received

tarantula-hawk‘Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt has written a book called The Sting of the Wild, about his mission to “compare the impacts of stinging insects on humans, mainly using himself as the gauge.” Here’s how he poetically describes a few bug stings, based on his own 4-point “Schmidt Pain Scale for Stinging Insects.”

Red fire ant (1): “Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.”Anthophorid bee (1): “Almost pleasant, a lover just bit your earlobe a little too hard.”

California carpenter bee (2): “Swift, sharp, and decisive. Your fingertip has been slammed by a car door.”

Western yellowjacket (2): “Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.”

Fierce black polybia wasp: (2.5): “A ritual gone wrong, satanic. The gas lamp in the old church explodes in your face when you light it.”

Velvet ant (3): “Explosive and long lasting, you sound insane as you scream. Hot oil from the deep frying spilling over your entire hand.”

Florida harvester ant (3): “Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a power drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.”

Tarantula hawk (4): “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has just been dropped into your bubble bath.”

Bullet ant (4): “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over a flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail embedded in your heel.”

Warrior (or armadillo) wasp: “Torture. You are chained in the flow of an active volcano. Why did I start this list?”

Source: Boing Boing


Alaska’s Creepy Bubbling Lakes

‘Every single month of 2016 has been the hottest on record, and this uptick in temperature is sure to have wide-ranging consequences around the world. One of the weirdest and least understood of these climate-related side effects is that Arctic boreal lakes are boiling over with methane bubbles. Indeed, some of these areas are such rich producers of methane that scientists can light plumes of the lake’s escaped gas on fire.

These gassy lakes are created by thawing permafrost, which is soil that normally remains frozen all year. But warmer temperatures have caused more permafrost to melt, causing the ground around it to collapse into water-filled sinkholes called thermokarst lakes.’

Source: Motherboard


Cole Slaw: It’s the Most Important Thing on Your Plate

‘…[R]eaders and eaters, for the love of God, support anywhere you eat that serves excellent cole slaw. If the next lunch you sit down to serves you good cole slaw, know you are eating somewhere run by people who give a damn. Reward them with repeat business and recommendations*, go back for brunch, bring work friends to their happy hour. Vote with your dollars and let them know you recognize their attempt to rise above the common, goopy masses…’

Source: Big Think


The bizarre true story behind the “this is a work of fiction” disclaimer.

‘Virtually every film in modern memory ends with some variation of the same disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.” The cut-and-paste legal rider must be the most boring thing in every movie that features it. Who knew its origins were so lurid?

For that bit of boilerplate, we can indirectly thank none other than Grigori Rasputin, the famously hard-to-assassinate Russian mystic and intimate of the last, doomed Romanovs. It all started when an exiled Russian prince sued MGM in 1933 over the studio’s Rasputin biopic, claiming that the American production did not accurately depict Rasputin’s murder. And the prince ought to have known, having murdered him…’

Source: Slate


Maine Gov. LePaige: people of color are the enemy

‘Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, told reporters that people of color are the enemy in his state.

“When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red, don’t you? You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can’t help that. I just can’t help it. Those are the facts.”

The remarks came after he left a voicemail on a state lawmaker’s phone after the Democrat, Drew Gattine, allegedly called him a racist. He also threatened to shoot Gattine…’

Source: Boing Boing


Cannabinoids remove plaque-forming Alzheimer’s proteins from brain cells


‘Salk Institute scientists have found preliminary evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. While these exploratory studies were conducted in neurons grown in the laboratory, they may offer insight into the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease and could provide clues to developing novel therapeutics for the disorder…’

Source: Neurosciencestuff Tumblr


This ‘Star in a Jar’ Could Produce a Nearly Unlimited Supply of Energy

‘Fusion energy has long been heralded as the power-supply of the future, but the sad joke is, it always will be. The experimental energy source is perennially 30 years away from being viable on a mass-scale. Still, fusion energy could provide us with a low-cost, sustainable energy resource—if only physicists could figure out how to harness the power of the Sun on Earth.

This dream of a sustainable “star in a jar” was brought one step closer to reality this month by physicists at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, who demonstrated how the design for a new type of “jar” could lead to the first commercially viable nuclear fusion power plant…’

Source: Motherboard


Our Galaxy Has a Twin, and It’s Made Almost Entirely of Dark Matter

‘There are billions of galaxies out there besides our own, so it’s something of a given that the Milky Way might have a few “twins,” roughly mirroring its mass and size. And now, scientists think they’ve found one, only it’s like nothing like what they expected.

Called Dragonfly 44, it’s about 330 million light years away and it has almost the same mass as our Milky Way. For years, it eluded detection by scientists because it has so few stars. As a team of researchers reported last week in Astrophysical Journal Letters, a whopping 99.99 percent of Dragonfly 44 is made up of dark matter.

Dragonfly 44 might effectively match the Milky Way in mass, but unlike our own galaxy, it only has one star for every 100. That’s such a thin population, said the study’s author Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University in a statement to Yale News, that without the dark matter to hold it in place, Dragonfly 44 “would quickly be ripped apart unless something was holding it together.” It’s so faint, in fact, that if they hadn’t been using the ultra-powerful telescopes of the Keck and Gemini observatories in Hawaii, van Dokkum and his team may never have found it.

Technically, dark matter galaxies aren’t that unknown. The key difference, though, is that most of the other known examples are so small that they would be better described as clusters. Until now, none of them have been so incomprehensibly massive as Dragonfly 44.

But it’s a significant find, as it means we might be on our way to figuring out what dark matter is…’

Source: Motherboard


Newly Discovered Great White Nursery: ‘Holy Grail’ of Shark Research

‘For the first time, biologists have located a great white “nursery,” where mother sharks deliver pups, alive and fully formed. Researchers with OCEARCH, an ocean research nonprofit, identified the site this week in waters off Montauk, Long Island.This monumental finding is “probably the most significant discovery we’ve ever made on the ocean,” said Chris Fischer, the founding chairman of OCEARCH. In an interview with CBS News, Fischer noted that great white birthing sites are regarded as “the holy grail of research,” and are especially important in the Atlantic Ocean, where the sharks are vulnerable to bycatch and sport fishing…’

Source: Motherboard


Positive Thinking or Grumpy Thinking: Which Is Better?

‘,,,[H]ow about letting a little anger and grumpiness shine through? Turns out this might just yield the best results. Cranks may be superior negotiators, more discerning decision-makers and cut their risk of having a heart attack. Cynics can expect more stable marriages, higher earnings and longer lives – though, of course, they’ll anticipate the opposite.

The author cites potential pitfalls from excessive positivity: overeating, unsafe sex, binge drinking, gullibility, and selfishness. This is not to argue for baseline aggressiveness. A calm, measured resting face is probably beneficial. While seeing the bright side of things can be a good disposition, forceful reactivity has its place, one that should not be overlooked or disrespected…’

Source: Big Think

Big fan of grumpiness here.


Mystery object in weird orbit beyond Neptune cannot be explained

‘ “I hope everyone has buckled their seatbelts because the outer solar system just got a lot weirder.” That’s what Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queens University, Belfast tweeted on Monday. She was referring to the discovery of a TNO or trans-Neptunian object, something which sits beyond Neptune in the outer solar system. This one is 160,000 times fainter than Neptune, which means the icy world could be less than 200 kilometres in diameter. It’s currently above the plane of the solar system and with every passing day, it’s moving upwards – a fact that makes it an oddity.

The TNO orbits in a plane that’s tilted 110 degrees to the plane of the solar system. What’s more, it swings around the sun backwards unlike most of the other objects in the solar system. With this in mind, the team that discovered the TNO nicknamed it “Niku” after the Chinese adjective for rebellious. To grasp how truly rebellious it is, remember that a flat plane is the signature of a planetary system, as a star-forming gas cloud creates a flat disk of dust and gas around it. “Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way,” says Bannister. “It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.”

That means anything that doesn’t orbit within the plane of the solar system or spins in the opposite direction must have been knocked off course by something else. “It suggests that there’s more going on in the outer solar system than we’re fully aware of,” says Matthew Holman at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, part of the team that discovered Niku using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey (Pan-STARRS 1) on Haleakala, Maui…’

Source: New Scientist


Move over Perseid, This Is the Future of Space-Based Entertainment

‘The Perseid meteor shower is at its peak—a stellar show that occurs every August and can be seen by anyone living in the Northern Hemisphere. But what if we didn’t have to wait till August or the next meteor shower–what if we could create our own?

…Japanese company ALE says it’s working on creating the future of entertainment in space as part of it’s project Sky Canvas. Yup, artificial “meteor” showers. The company says it has plans to release a satellite capable of mimicking these stellar shows into orbit within the next two years…’

Source: Big Think


Army Veteran Creates a Cyborg Stingray Guided by Lasers, Powered by a Rat’s Heart

‘This is a cyborg stingray. It’s as big as a penny, guided by a laser, and moves on its own when exposed to blue light. And it’s the brainchild of Kevin Kit Parker…

“I had this whole idea of a laser-guided, tissue-engineered stingray made out of rat,” Parker told Phys.org. As he described the idea to mechanical engineer Sung-Jin Park, he had a less than enthusiastic response. “He looked at me like a hog staring at a wristwatch,” Parker continued. “He was like, ‘Have I trusted my career to this yahoo’? I think he thought I was unglued.” …’

Source: Big Think


Study: Greenland shark could be 400 years old

‘At four to five meters in length, the Greenland shark (Squaliformes, Somniosus microcephalus) is the largest fish native to the Arctic waters. Getting that big must take a while, and scientists have long known that these sharks grow less than one cm per year. So these sharks probably live a very long time, but little was known about their longevity and maturation.

In an investigation recently published in Science, a team of researchers used radiocarbon dating to put together a timeline of the Greenland shark’s lifespan.Because Greenland sharks lack bones—they’re cartilaginous fish—conventional methods of tracking growth, like carbon dating of bones, won’t work. Instead, the team used a modified radiocarbon dating technique that has worked before on other boneless animals: tracking the chronology of the eye lens. The eye lens nucleus is composed of inert proteins. The central portion of the lens is formed during prenatal development, and during growth, the tissue retains the original proteins, which were largely made before birth.

As a result, carbon-dating these proteins can help determine how long ago the shark was born. For this work, researchers performed radiocarbon dating on the eyes of 28 female sharks that were collected in Greenland during scientific surveys that took place between 2010 and 2013. According to the radiocarbon dating, these sharks live at least 272 years…’

Source: Ars Technica


Meet the worst ants in the world

‘L. humile isn’t your stereotypical ant, with one queen and many workers laboring in a single nest. Argentine ants have multiple queens per colony, and there can be as many as 300 queens for every 1,000 workers. This makes them virtually impossible to kill with poison bait traps, which work on the principle that workers bring the tasty toxins back to the queen, whose death destroys the colony. When you have a lot of queens, that’s not an effective strategy.

Argentine ants are unusual in another way, too. They don’t build one large nest with lots of tunnels and rooms. Instead, they live in constantly shifting networks of temporary, shallow nests that change from day to day. .. Queens and workers are used to transiting from nest to nest, rarely staying put for long.

Despite their name, Argentine ants have now lived in the United States for more than 120 ant generations, which are roughly a year long due to their short lifespans. It’s been a struggle. The environment in North America is dramatically different from the tropical ecosystems where the ants originally evolved. These ants had to become an urban species to survive, living almost exclusively in cities and agricultural areas where plumbing and irrigation provide the water they desperately need. Entirely thanks to humans, Argentine ants have now become the dominant ant species in California cities, driving out dozens of native species. Today they’ve actually invaded most major landmasses in the world, including North America, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia, and quite a few islands…’

Source: Ars Technica


Proton Radius Puzzle Deepens With New Measurement

‘The puzzle is that the proton — the positively charged particle found in atomic nuclei, which is actually a fuzzy ball of quarks and gluons — is measured to be ever so slightly larger when it is orbited by an electron than when it is orbited by a muon, a sibling of the electron that’s 207 times as heavy but otherwise identical. It’s as if the proton tightens its belt in the muon’s presence. And yet, according to the reigning theory of particle physics, the proton should interact with the muon and the electron in exactly the same way. As hundreds of papers have pointed out since the proton radius puzzle was born in 2010, a shrinking of the proton in the presence of a muon would most likely signify the existence of a previously unknown fundamental force — one that acts between protons and muons, but not between protons and electrons…’

Source: Quanta Magazine


If You’ve Ever Wanted to Watch a Meteor Shower, Tonight May Be the Night

‘Every year, the Perseids are a spectacular show. But this year, they’re something even more special than usual, and you shouldn’t miss it. Here’s how, when, and where to watch the Perseid meteor shower—and what you should be looking for when you do.

The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that shows up right at the height of summer in August. Usually, the shower comes to an impressive peak of almost 100 meteors per hour. That number is already enough to tie it with the Geminids for the most prolific shower of the year, but this year we should see rates of almost double the normal amount, with 160-200 meteors each hour. It’s called an outburst—and this is the first one we’ve seen in the Perseids since 2009. The already considerably thick blanket of meteors we see during the Perseids is due to the trail of dust and debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. This year, however, the comet’s trail is pulled a little closer to us by Jupiter’s gravity—and that means that instead of skirting the trail’s edges, our planet passes straight through the thick of it, doubling the amount of debris we see burn up beautifully in our atmosphere as meteors…’

Source: Gizmodo


I’ll be out there… Will you?


Trump’s 2nd Amendment comment wasn’t a joke. It was “stochastic terrorism.”

‘The explicit-sounding call to violence is bad enough. But even worse is that, intentionally or not, Trump has been laying the groundwork for this idea for a while. From his talk of “rigged elections” to his suggestion that we need Russia to hack Clinton’s emails if the Justice Department won’t indict her, Trump’s message is clear: Clinton is so corrupt, and the system that favors her is so broken, that our ordinary democratic and legal processes aren’t equipped to handle it. She should be thrown in jail, but she probably won’t be.It’s a pretty short step from that idea to violent fantasies of going outside the law for real justice — even from official sources like the Republican Party of Riverside County, California, which recently tweeted a picture of a hangman captioned “Ready For Hillary.”

And there’s an unsettling parallel for this kind of rhetoric and what it can lead to, as law professor David S. Cohen pointed out Wednesday in a Rolling Stone op-ed: anti-abortion terrorism. Cohen, who has studied and written about violence and intimidation against abortion providers, points out that while anti-abortion violence is usually carried out by a “lone wolf” — like the Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado Springs — it’s also incited, quite predictably, by the inflammatory rhetoric of prominent groups or officials. Cohen says that this phenomenon is called “stochastic terrorism”: using language and other forms of communication to incite random acts of violence that are “statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” It’s not a legal term, but it can help us understand just how dangerous Trump’s statements are…’

Source: Vox


At Campaign Rally, Donald Trump Suggests Hillary Clinton Be Shot To Death

‘In a video clip circulating today from a campaign event in Wilmington, NC, Trump jokes that the “Second Amendment, people” might be the only thing that could stop a President Clinton from selecting Supreme Court justices during her term. This appears to be a fancy Trump way of saying to his “base” that she should totally be assassinated, and specifically, shot to death with a gun…’

Source: Boing Boing

Is there really another way to interpret this statement?


Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!

‘Members of the press, in their misguided attempt to be “balanced”, love to point out that we face a presidential contest between the two least-popular candidates ever. What they fail to do is analyze their own complicity in blindly adhering to the cartoon version of Hillary Clinton. Trump is unpopular — even with many Republicans who weakly support him — because of his stated positions. Secretary Clinton is unpopular largely because of an aggressive campaign of fictions and slander. That campaign has succeeded largely because of systemic misogyny…’

Source: Social Justice For All


Watch a Keralan Dancer’s Impressively Intricate Facial Twitches

‘Dressed in a long white tunic decorated with beads and glass, and gold headgear covered in a patchwork of brightly colored stones, the Ottamthullal dancer is almost ready to take the stage. Just time to practice some of the quivering facial expressions that form a vital part of the act. As this video shows, the Ottamthullal performer is able to contort his face muscles with incredible elasticity, variety and speed…’

Source: Atlas Obscura


The Linguistic Turf Wars Over the Singular ‘They’

‘Of all the turf wars that have complicated the landscape of grammar over the past few hundred years, the most complicated and frustrating may be that of the singular they.It may be the most controversial word use in the English language—because it highlights a hole where a better-fitting word should go.

It creates a conflict between writers and editors who want things to follow the natural symmetry of Latin, and people who find they the only logical option for referring to a single person without a gender attached.

And there has been a lot written about it—it’s something of a hot topic this year, thanks to a vote by the American Dialect Society to name they its word of the year for 2015. “In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a deal of discussion, and singular they has become a particularly significant element of that conversation,” Ben Zimmer, the chairman of ADS’ New Words Committee, explained back in January. “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language.” …’

Source: Atlas Obscura


I am a firm believer in and a strong user of the singluar ‘they’. How about you?



‘It is entirely uncontroversial to state that the national media have consistently treated Hillary with profound contempt. We need to understand why #HillaryCoverageIsCrap — and we need to fight back against the ritual humiliation of the first woman with a viable shot at the presidency…’

Source: Melissa McEwan, Blue Nation Review


“Monkey Selfie” case headed to U.S. Court of Appeals

‘In 2011 a crested macaque in Indonesia took a selfie using photographer David J. Slater’s camera. After Slater claimed copyright of the photo, PETA sued on behalf of the monkey, claiming it was the copyright holder. But in January a federal judge tossed out the lawsuit, ruling that non-human animals are not allowed to own a copyright. Earlier this week PETA filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit…’

Source: Boing Boing


This Man Will Get the World’s First Human Head Transplant Procedure

‘Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is planning to perform the first-ever head transplant in December 2017. He will put the head of a terminally ill, wheelchair-bound Russian citizen Valery Spiridonov (31) on an entirely new body.  Spiridonov, a computer scientist, has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a rare and incurable spinal muscular atrophy. As the disease is sure to kill him, Spiridonov sees the head transplant as his one shot to have a new body.

The controversial surgeon Canavero, dubbed by some “Dr. Frankenstein,” has been criticized for intending to do a possibly unethical and certainly dangerous operation. There are numerous things that could go wrong in such a medical feat that’s never been successfully carried out on humans. The main difficulty is seen in the fusion of the spinal cords. One positive precedent has been set earlier this year by a team of Chinese surgeons, who successfully transplanted a monkey’s head…’

Source: Big Think


We Need To Save Large Mammals From Extinction Before It’s Too Late

‘The species identified include elephants, gorillas, rhinoceroses, lions, tigers, bears (oh my), wolves, and other large mammals. And it’s a serious problem. According to the paper, 59 percent of the world’s largest carnivores and 60 percent of the largest herbivores are facing extinction, particularly in Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where they are prey to illegal hunting, deforestation, human population growth and expansion, and other factors that we can control to an extent…’

Source: Gizmodo


The Arcane Rules That Would Kick In If Trump Drops Out

‘A presidential or vice-presidential candidate had never quit a race in modern history before the Eagleton affair, but this year might offer an even grander political spectacle, thanks to Donald Trump. In recent days, Republicans have been expressing increasing nervousness about Donald Trump’s candidacy, with many urging him to quit. Trump might also quit on his own volition, having done the math and decided that bowing out now is better than losing by a landslide in November.

Would Trump actually quit,,,[W]e’ve never seen a candidate like him, and for someone who seemingly entered the race on a whim it wouldn’t be outrageous to see him exit in a similar fashion. And from the standpoint of Republican Party rules, Trump quitting, while unprecedented, would, in fact be a reasonably easy problem to solve. That’s mostly because the party’s rules lay out pretty clearly what would happen next… The rules …define a simple process of replacement: another vote by members of the RNC that could happen at a second national convention or remotely. Whichever candidate gets a majority of the votes, wins the nomination. (The candidates, in this scenario, could come from anywhere—not just those candidates that ran in the primaries and caucuses, which is why some Republicans see House Speaker Paul Ryan getting the nod.)

A far trickier problem, however, are the actual ballots. And it’s that process, separate from the nominating process, that could be a bit messier, and is also where timing becomes important. In the U.S., each individual state controls the election process, from making and printing ballots, to counting votes on Election Day, to certifying election results.Election law in the U.S. is a 50-state patchwork. From voting machines to filing deadlines, each state has different rules. And it’s the deadlines in particular that might concern party officials should Trump quit. That’s because the closer it gets to the November election, the harder and harder it will get to keep Trump’s name from appearing on state ballots, as state deadlines for certifying nominees’ names come and go.

It’s already impossible, in fact, to keep Trump off all 50: according to the Daily Beast, Delaware’s deadline to certify names for the ballot has already passed, meaning that even if Trump quits today you’ll still be able to vote for him in Delaware in three months. Even so, most of these deadlines aren’t until September or October, meaning that, for the next few weeks at least, Republicans could likely still get another name on the ballot in most states by November.

State control of elections provides for other sources of potential mayhem, however, because of the Electoral College…’

Source: Atlas Obscura


Stop Trying to Psychoanalyze Donald Trump

‘ “It’s kind of an armchair sport to diagnose public figures, especially politicians,” says Stephen Hinshaw, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. Cathartic? Sure. But psychologists say it is almost impossible to gain any real insight into a person’s mind and behavior based on such an analysis. Not only is it wrong, it is a perversion of what psychological diagnoses are meant to do: help people work through mental illness. Casually assigning medical jargon to an erratic politician’s baffling ideologies may actually add to the stigma surrounding mental illness. And that is bad for America…’

Source: WIRED


17 signs you’re smart — even if it doesn’t feel like it

‘As Shakespeare put it in “As You Like It”: “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”That conventional wisdom is backed up by a Cornell University study conducted by David Dunning and Justin Kruger. The phenomenon is now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. So, if you’re not too sure about your own intellect, it actually might be a indication that you’re pretty intelligent — thoughtful enough to realize your limitations, at least.Here are some subtle signs that you are considerably smarter than you think…’

Source: Business Insider


Uh oh. The fact that I’m confident of my own intelligence, thus, is an indication that I’m not really so smart (although I do know my limitations, I think). And I only scored 11 out of 17 of the above factors…


A new reason we haven’t found alien life in the universe


‘Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once famously exclaimed “Where is everybody?” We have been trying to answer his paradox — we exist, so aliens should exist, too — ever since. According to one new solution, we have not seen or heard from any galactic neighbors because we are still waiting for them to be born…

So says a team of astronomers in a new study, to be published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. The researchers calculated the probability that life as we know it should exist at any given point in the universe. Based on their assumptions, Earthly life is quite likely premature…’

Source: The Washington Post

Essentially, the argument proceeds from the fact that the conditions for life depend on the stellar environment. The star is the source of radiant energy, the furnace in which the heavier elements on which life is based are created, and creates a habitable temperature zone in which liquid water can exist.  The new study suggests that our stellar environment is an anomaly, centered on a yellow dwarf far less long-lived and less prevalent than the less massive, longer-lived and far more prevalent red dwarf stars that make up the bulk of the galaxy. If such low-mass starts are able to support life, then we are the rarity because of how early in the  life of the universe, and how transient by comparison, Sun-like conditions are.

“Many more stars that all last much longer than our Sun ensures there’s simply more opportunity for life to arise in the future on a small dwarf star than in the last 13 billion years of cosmic time,” as Alan Duffy, an Australian astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology, who was not involved in the study, commented.


Siberian heat wave unleashes deadly ‘zombie anthrax’ outbreak

‘At least 90 people have been hospitalized from an anthrax outbreak in Russia, including 50 children. Eight are confirmed as infected with anthrax. Doctors believe at least 6 patients have the more virulent intestinal form of the disease, which killed one boy, age 12. Authorities say it’s the first fatal anthrax outbreak in Russia in more than 75 years.

The outbreak originated in a Siberian community after a heat wave melted the permafrost where spores of anthrax remained alive inside the frozen carcass of an infected reindeer. Animals fed on that thawed carcass, which may have been up to a hundred years old, then transmitted it to reindeer that nomadic herders killed and ate…’

Source: Boing Boing


Meg Whitman, Calling Donald Trump a ‘Demagogue,’ Will Support Hillary Clinton for President

Via The New York Times:

‘Meg Whitman, a Hewlett Packard executive and Republican fund-raiser, said Tuesday that she would support Hillary Clinton for president and give a “substantial” contribution to her campaign in order to stop Donald J. Trump, whom she berated as a threat to American democracy.

“I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her,” Ms. Whitman said in a telephone interview.

She revealed that Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, had reached out to her in a phone call about a month ago, one of the first indications that Mrs. Clinton is aggressively courting Republican leaders. While acknowledging she diverged from Mrs. Clinton on many policy issues, Ms. Whitman said it was time for Republicans “to put country first before party.” …’


David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness

Source: WIRED

The acclaimed chef has struggled to distill the principles accounting for the ecstatic gustatory experiences he inspires at Momofuku, early on apparently as surprising to him as to his patrons. What may result, he suggests, is a more comprehensible and systematic process for culinary innovation. Or maybe it is so much smoke, mirrors and hand waving, justifying serendipity after the fact. Read it, napkin at hand for the mouthwatering, and see what you think.


August 3: Call for Global Solidarity With and for Yazidi Women

Source: One Billion Rising

August 3rd marks the two-year anniversary of the brutal attack on the Yazidi people in Sinjar Province in the Northern region of Iraq in which ISIS forces stormed towns and villages in the historic homeland of the ethno-religious group, killing over 5,000 men and elders, enslaving over 7,000 women and children and displacing over 400,000 more, desecrating homes and holy sites. Thousands of internally displaced Yazidis surrounded by ISIS forces were trapped on Sinjar Mountain, dying of exposure and dehydration.

The displaced Yazidi community continues to face a humanitarian crisis; tens of thousands are homeless and unsupported and many, especially children, suffer from malnutrition and health issues. Since the beginning of this crisis, ISIS has sold thousands of Yazidi women into sexual slavery and committed crimes of rape and sexual violence against thousands of Yazidi women and children in captivity. The group abducted at least 5000 Yazidis during their assault on Sinjar, mostly women and children and has relocated abductees to different regions where they are offered for sale as sexual slaves. To date, dozens of women have been killed in captivity while many others have committed suicide. New York Times reporter Rukmina Calimachi has written extensively about the crisis, for instance breaking the story about Isis forcing birth control pills on their captive sexual slaves.

A UN report notes:

“ISIS has committed the crime of genocide as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis, thousands of whom are held captive in the Syrian Arab Republic where they are subjected to almost unimaginable horrors.ISIS has sought to destroy the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer. The public statements and conduct of ISIS and its fighters clearly demonstrate that ISIS intended to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, composing the majority of the world’s Yazidi population, in whole or in part.”

My wife, a specialist in psychological trauma and refugee crises, and other colleagues at the Victims of Violence Program in Cambridge MA, have been consuting and assisting in the development of the Psychosocial Treatment and Trauma Support Center in Kurdish-controlled Dohuk, northern Iraq, to address the abuse and sexual violence suffered by Yazidi women and girls in ISIS captivity by:

– ensuring urgent medical care and hospital treatment for the aftermath of sexual and physical violence endured;
– ensuring counseling and trauma support for every victim through the center directly or through referral to a specialist organization;

– facilitating pilgrimages for survivors to the holy temple of Lalish to meet with Yazidi religious leaders;

– providing education and training in marketable skills to help victims reclaim their lives and assist them in moving towards self-sufficiency and independence;

– partnering with other local and international organizations and surrounding communities to work to facilitate survivors’ reintegration into society.

The center is being developed under the aegis of YAZDA, a global Yazidi organization established after the genocide against them in northern Iraq. The mission of YAZDA is to support the surviving victims of genocide and to ensure the future safety of the Yazidi ethnoreligious minority group. Know more about their work and ways to help and show solidarity by visiting their website or making a donation.


Citizen Science Takes on Japan’s Nuclear Establishment

Source: LA Times via Sean Bonner’s newsletter Just Another Crowd

Safecast is a movement started within days of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and arising out of conversations among the chief technology officer of a large securities firm Pieter Franken, LA tech entrepreneur Sean Bonner and Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. Local volunteers with self-built radiation monitoring equipment are making a continuous crowd-sourced dump of radiation levels around the region — now 50 million readings and counting, all logged and mapped on a website anyone can see. As The Japanese government continues with its extensive effort to decontaminate areas around Fukushima Daiichi and reopen evacuated towns and villages, potential returnees say they want a way to verify official numbers that indicate radiation really has dropped to safe levels.

Funded by grants, foundation support and individual donation, the group holds regular sessions to teach people to assemble their own devices and also posts instructions online, on the principle that people who build their own equipment are more likely to use it. Even Japan’s postal service has cooperated with Safecast, putting its monitors on carriers’ motorbikes in some towns and gathering data.

“Safecast is an interesting social experiment, in a fairly anarchistic kind of way,” says Franken. “It taps into trends including maker-spaces, the Internet of things and even artists. We attract people who want to break out of the traditional way of solving problems.”

The group’s approach has expanded to include radiation monitoring activities elsewhere around the globe and other citizen-based environmental monitoring such as examining air quality around LA and methane readings around Porter Ranch, CA during the recent disastrous gas leak there. Advocates point to incidents such as the recent scandal over the lead-tainted water supply in Flint, Mich., as an example of where deeper community-based scientific knowledge could have improved debate and policymaking.

Franken describes Safecast’s goal now as, essentially,

“base-lining the world,” crowdsourcing environmental data from every corner of the Earth. “We should start with measuring our environments. Then we can talk about things like global warming and air pollution; from there, activism can start. Once you know, for example, that your street is polluted, you can start to make a change. That’s where we can make a difference.”