1. Contrary to what you might have learned from Star Trek and Star Wars, planets do not have a single climate. So it's not really reasonable to say "Winnipeg is as cold as the surface of Mars", unless you're going to specify where on Mars you are talking about. And when in the Martian year you are talking about it. Geekquinox, the blog that first started the current trend of comparing Canada to the Red Planet, was looking at the afternoon temperature (sans wind chill) in Winnipeg on December 31st (-31 degrees Celsius) and daily temperatures collected in November and December by the Curiosity Rover, at Gale Crater, Mars (lowest afternoon high: -31 degrees Celsius). This comparison leaves out the fact that Gale Crater is in the Martian tropics. In the mid-latitudes, however, the average temperature is closer to -50 degrees Celsius. Also, Mars has huge temperature swings from day to night. On the same day that Geekquinox reported a monthly average high at Gale Crater of -31 C (Sol 486) the monthly average low was -110 C. Read the rest
Jeremie from La Quadrature du Net writes, "Yesterday the 2014-2019 defense bill passed first reading in the French National Assembly. It marks a strong shift towards total online surveillance. If passed, the bill will not only allow live monitoring of everyone's personal and private data but also do so without judicial oversight, as the surveillance will be enabled through administrative request. The bill also turns permanent measures that were only temporary." Read the rest
A few years ago, Harriet Hall googled "The One True Cause of all disease", just to see what the Internet would come up with. She counted 67 One True Causes before she got bored (52 of them made it into the handy chart above).
Besides making for an amusing anecdote, this little exercise also helps illustrate why there's a problem with ideologically driven medical treatments — the sort that comes from people who are pushing a lifestyle or a philosophy along with ostensible healthcare. It's both intriguing and convenient to think that, if we just open the right secret door, we can find the thing that's actually causing all our problems. The truth, unfortunately, seems to be that our bodies and the world they inhabit are complicated and messy and that lots of of things can lead to disease (doctors typically learn to divide these things into nine different categories, Hall says). In fact, a disease we think of as a single entity can have its roots in more than one thing. All of this is pretty obvious but it's the kind of obvious that's worth rubbing our noses in on occasion. If somebody tells you that everything from obesity to bipolar disorder to allergies to cancer all stem from the same root and can be treated or prevented with the exact same treatment, there's probably good reason to question what they're telling you. Read the rest
Here we have the common Internet blobfish, recently voted World's Ugliest Animal.
But wait! At Smithsonian, Colin Schultz has made a very good case for why the blobfish doesn't deserve its unattractive reputation. This isn't about beauty being subjective (although some might find the above picture more cute than ugly). Instead, it's about atmospheric pressure, and what happens to a fish removed from its natural, deep-sea, high-pressure habitat.
Here is what the blobfish really looks like, before somebody took him to the surface and snapped an embarrassing photo: Read the rest
I've gotten a few questions about the Drunk Science video that I posted here yesterday. The two most common: "Will there be another Drunk Science?" And, "Jeezus, didn't science journalist Charles Q. Choi drink a bit too much for this?"
The answers to those questions are, respectively, "No" and "Yes". Choi is probably the best person to explain both answers, which he does in a blog post that discusses the science of an alcohol-induced blackout, and why — despite the fact that everybody involved with Drunk Science thinks the final result is pretty damn funny and generally good Internet — we won't ever be doing anything like that again. Read the rest
"Born in the caul" is a phrase that's connected with a lot of cross-cultural myths and superstitions — babies born in the caul are supposed to be destined for lives of fame and fortune (or, possibly, misfortune and grisly death, depending on which legends you're listening to). Biologically, though, it refers to a baby that's born with part of the amniotic sac — the bubble of fluid a fetus grows in inside the uterus — still attached. Usually, a piece of the sac is draped over the baby's head or face. These are called caul births, and they're rare. But, about once in every 80,000 births, you'll get something truly extraordinary — "en-caul", a baby born inside a completely intact amniotic sac, fluid and all.
There's a photo of a recent en-caul birth making the rounds online. The photo is being attributed to Greek obstetrician Aris Tsigris. It's fascinating. But it's also pretty graphic, so fair warning on that. (If the sight of newborn infants and blood gives you the vapors, you might also want to avoid most of the links in this post, as well.) Read the rest