In 1924, Mae Keane got fired from a job painting watch dials. Failing at the job may have seriously altered her fate. The paint was full of radium. While many of her more "successful" co-workers died young and horribly, Keane lived to the age of 107
— though not without some serious health problems that could have been linked to her short stint as a Radium Girl. — Maggie
The Intergalactic Travel Bureau is a cool combination of science education outreach and performance art that gives people a chance to interact with real scientists. All you have to do is just walk into an ITB office and start asking questions about space, planetary travel, and astrophysics. The ITB has set up shop before in New York and London. Now they're trying to raise money to take the show on a larger tour of the US and UK. When you donate you get a chance to help decide where the tour will go and you can earn some great rewards, including custom, vintage-travel inspired postcards. There's more details and a video on Kickstarter.
"Albedo" is derived from the Latin word for "white". Scientists use it to describe the reflectivity of a surface — how what a surface is made of changes the amount of light it reflects. The melting of snow, ice, and permafrost in the Arctic changes the albedo of the Earth and that process inspired the gauzy, fabric art pictured above. It's part of a whole show of pieces inspired by the effects of climate change on the Arctic. Created by artists Michele Banks, Jessica Beels, and Ellyn Weiss, the show can be seen in person in Washington D.C. though May 31. But you can also check out photos and video of the art online.
Despite its reputation for sending hundreds of cruise ship vacationers to the bathroom en masse, norovirus isn't nearly as big a problem on naval vessels. Unfortunately, how the Navy prevents norovirus from spreading
isn't really applicable to civilian ships — it involves a lot of discipline with cleaning, strict rules about quarantine, and a lack of places to just hang out and socialize around food and drink. — Maggie
The good news: Otters in Alaska's Prince William Sound seem to have finally rebounded
to population levels and life cycles similar to those they enjoyed before the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in 1989. The bad news: The fact that it took this long is just another example of how the impact of oil spills should be measured in decades, not days. Another example: There is still oil from the Exxon Valdez on beaches near the site of the wreck
. The oil exists in little pockets protected by boulders and it's still getting into food webs, at least in very small amounts. — Maggie
Every year, five companies capture thousands of horseshoe crabs, drain the animals of up to 30% of their blood, and release them back into the wild. It's the first step in the production of a chemical used to make sure any injection you've ever received (from vaccines to pain killers) is free of potentially life-threatening bacteria. At The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal looks at the impact the harvest has on horseshoe crabs
and what might happen to the crabs if and when we come up with a synthetic substitute. — Maggie
Need a place to urinate at Mardi Gras? Check out AirPnP
— a "bathroom rental" service that matches people who need to pee with people willing to open their bathroom up to pee-ers. Looking at the map of options, the fee for use seems to run between "free and we will even give you a beer" up to $5, depending on the bathroom. — Maggie
The Exosuit allows humans to move like scuba divers at depths that would make scuba wildly impractical
. It's got all the benefits of a small submarine, but with more flexibility and freedom of movement. — Maggie
is a site that collects science career origin stories, including the tale of a man who started college at age 40, a woman whose CV includes both scientific publications and video game experience, and a woman who went to work at the Large Hadron Collider. — Maggie
This is Narcissus assoanus, a common flower found in France, Spain, and Portugal, and one of many snicker-worthy taxonomic names included on a list put together by journalist Joe Rojas-Burke.
Image: Wikimedia user Ghislain118, used via CC
When a tree falls in a forest, it becomes an ecosystem — a source of food and habitation for a diverse array of animals. The same thing is true when a tree falls into the ocean. Or when a wooden boat sinks. Bits of wood that reach the deep sea floor become colonized with all kinds of life. Now, Craig McClain, one of the intrepid minds behind the excellent blog Deep Sea News, is studying those communities, using them to learn more about food webs, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration. And you can help.
McClain and his team have been intentionally dropping pieces of wood into the ocean, and then going back later to collect those wood falls and study the things that have grown on them. One of the ways they do that is by documenting the stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur present in the animals. Different combinations and concentrations of isotopes can tell you a lot about what different animals are eating — who is predator, who is prey, and the role the wood fall plays in those relationships. They need help paying for that stable isotope analysis. For the next nine days, you can donate toward their research at Experiment.com.
Scallops are pretty much the best. Definitely one of my all-time top favorite foods. Unfortunately, besides being delicious, scallops are also heavily impacted by ocean acidification
. As much as 40% of the carbon dioxide emissions humans produce end up absorbed by the oceans, which raises the acidity of those waters, which is bad for animals like scallops. A Vancouver seafood company recently lost 10 million scallops
— three years' worth of scallop seedlings — to rising ocean acidity. — Maggie
My last year of journalism school, just weeks before graduation, one of my classmates came down with meningitis. Andy Marso nearly died
. He lost all but one finger and all of his toes. Today, he's a reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal
and he just published a memoir about surviving an infection that is both relatively rare and relatively devastating to the people it does affect. — Maggie
These images were taken yesterday at around 7:25 pm EST by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite pointed at the Sun. What you're looking at are the first moments of a massive solar flare — an explosive force more powerful than all the firepower humans have created, combined. The different colors in the image are from the shots being filtered for different wavelengths of light.
While solar flares, in general, release mindbogglingly huge amounts of energy, this one was large and powerful even in relation to its brethren. The most intense solar flares are classified as "X" flares. Then, scientists add a number after the X to tell you how powerful the flare was. These images show the beginning of an X4.9 flare — big enough to make even the people who study massive solar eruptions sit up and go, "WOAH."