New timeline of dino extinction day, 66m years ago

Scientists drilled into the Chixclub crater in the Gulf of Mexico to learn more about the end of the mesozoic era. They learned more than they expected, reports Katherine Kornei in The New York Times.

The first day of the Cenozoic was peppered with cataclysms. When the asteroid struck, it temporarily carved a hole 60 miles across and 20 miles deep. The impact triggered a tsunami moving away from the crater. It also catapulted rock into the upper atmosphere and beyond.

“Almost certainly some of the material would have reached the Moon,” Dr. Gulick said.

The largest pieces of debris rained back down to Earth within minutes, Dr. Gulick and his team say, pelting the scarred landscape with solidifying rock. Smaller particles lingered for longer periods, and glassy blobs known as tektites, formed when falling, molten rock cools, have been found across North America and dated to the Chicxulub impact. Within about 30 minutes, ocean water began to flood back into the crater through a gap in its northeastern rim, the researchers suggest.

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Study finds that texting while walking is fine

Get over it! Despite the mockers and complainers, and even attempts to make it illegal to perambulate while looking at your own damned phone, science concludes that the risks of it are negligible.

As part of the mandated study, the DOT conducted an in-depth review of written crash narratives in the city between 2014 and 2017. They found just .2 percent of reports made any mention of pedestrians using electronic devices. In one of those cases, the victim was actually reaching to pick up a dropped cell phone when they were fatally struck by a driver.

Those numbers bore out at the national level as well. According to the last six years of available federal data, fatalities involving the use of portable electronic devices by pedestrians represented between 0 and .2 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Phones are to cars as video games are to guns. Read the rest

Gorgeous photos of undersea life, in black and white

Black and white photo of jellyfish, by Christian Vizl

Typically, marine photography is done in rich, saturated color -- the better to show off the riot of life beneath the waves.

But the photographer Christian Vizl has done it in high-contrast black and white, producing eerily intense ways of re-seeing marine life. You can see the work on his site, and in his new book Silent Kingdom.

From his interview with My Modern Met:

Any particular favorite images from the book or a story behind a particularly interesting photo you’d like to share?

It’s hard for me to choose only one because I have so many memorable encounters with marine life, but one would be two giant mantas touching each other’s tips. I observed this behavior for the first time during the first dive we did in a very remote and special dive area in Mexico called Revillagigedo Islands. The two mantas were swimming directly towards each other when, at the last second before colliding, they would move upwards, positioning themselves slightly to one opposite side so they could touch each other’s tip of their wings. I was so amazed by this behavior that I wanted to capture it. I tried many times and finally the last day of diving in the last minute before having to go for the surface I managed to take this picture in the exact time. I felt so happy!

Some of the images are incredibly striking; in black and white, this school of fish looks like the hull of a ship ... Read the rest

My Life on the Road: Accidental Rocket Sighting

In April, my wife and I returned from a few months in Mexico, to Texas. We were planning on hanging around until the end of the month before driving back up to Canada. On a particularly hot day, we thought it'd be nice to take our pooch to the beach so that she could cool off. Landlocked as we were, in Mission, we opted to drive east, to the coast. We considered South Padre Island, but seeing the traffic thicken the closer we got, we opted out at the last minute. Instead, on the advice of a fella we met while pulled over for a few licks of an ice cream, we set our Garmin to direct us to Boca Chica. The beach was beautiful, we were told, and no one cares if your dog plays the goof, provided she doesn't bother anyone else.

We were sold.

It wasn't a long drive, but it was a damn flat one. When we arrive in south Texas each year, I'm always thrilled to see the scrub brush, flatlands and palm trees. It's a completely alien world compared to what I grew up with in Canada. By the time we're getting ready to head north, I long for mountains. As the miles down the lone road to Boca Chica clicked by, I starting to whine that I knew what would be around the next corner... it would be flat and dry, with just a hint of dust, just as with the last corner we'd whipped around. Read the rest

The Milky Way from Anza Borrego desert, a sky-stabilized timelapse

A moment of peace. Read the rest

Apple tech, jewelry, guns: Dataviz of what Americans pawn

Dataviz of which items are disproportionately likely to be pawned, state by state in the US

I'm coming late to this one, because it was posted last year -- but hey, better late than never: Behold this fascinating set of Pricenomics graphics about what types of objects Americans pawn.

One thing that jumps out in the data? Apple products dominate the realm of pawning. Here's the chart:

Basically, Apple products are amazingly good at holding their value. Electronics are the single biggest category of what Americans pawn overall, but even within that valuable vertical, Steve Jobs has created a storehouse of capital value for everyday Americans: "Apple’s products retain value far longer than its competitors in both personal computing and smartphones. They’re the Honda of electronics– or maybe the Volvo." Jewelry and guns are the only other things in the top 5. "It turns out that weapons serve as a remarkably durable store of value."

Speaking of jewelry and guns, they are, perhaps unsurprisingly, super gendered in their empawnment. Fully 76% of guns are pawned by men, and 69% of jewelry is pawned by women.

Also interesting is the geographic distribution of pawning, as rendered in the state-by-state dataviz of which items are disproportionately likely to be pawned; that's the chart at the top of this entry. As the Pricenomics folks note ...

Perhaps most notable in the above analysis is the category of guns. In American pawn shops, there are “gun states” and “everything” else states. In Southern states and ones with larger rural populations, like the Mountain West, people pawn guns at a much higher rate than the national average.

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Optimists live longer

According to data from two large studies spanning thirty years, optimistic people live considerably longer than pessimists. Read the rest

Mysterious rolling balls of poop alarm authorities in Great Smoky Mountains

In an extremely weird National Park Service notice, tourists are advised that these poop-y looking brown balls of mystery crap that have been observed rolling over trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are indeed critter poop, and nothing is wrong. Read the rest

The easy way to season cast iron

I have offered plenty of advice on caring for your cast iron cookware. Stop seasoning it in the house, use your BBQ.

Seasoning this stuff in the oven (my favorite old way,) or on the stove smokes your house up. Just throw the shit on the grill.

Super thinly put a coat of oil on your cast iron piece.

Put the cast iron piece on the grill.

Heat the grill up, let it run until the cast iron piece has stopped smoking.

Turn off grill and let cool down.

Repeat.

I was able to perfectly season a set of cast iron Pie Irons with no problem. Read the rest

Adding pink seaweed to cow feed eliminates their methane emissions

One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions. Read the rest

A deep dive into how parasites hijack our behavior and how we evolved to resist them

On Slate Star Codex (previously), Scott Alexander breaks down Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, Marco Del Giudice's Quarterly Review of Biology paper that examines the measures that parasites take to influence their hosts' behaviors, and the countermeasures that hosts evolve to combat them. Read the rest

NASA is going to Europa

NASA announced today that the agency is moving ahead with a planned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. In this next phase, engineers will complete the final design, construction, and testing of the Europa Clipper spacecraft for a launch as soon as 2023. Why the icy moon Europa? From NASA:

NASA's Europa Clipper mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa to see whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. The mission will carry a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft that will perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon from a long, looping orbit around Jupiter.

The payload of selected science instruments includes cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of Europa's surface and determine its composition. An ice penetrating radar will determine the thickness of the moon's icy shell and search for subsurface lakes similar to those beneath Antarctica. The mission also will carry a magnetometer to measure strength and direction of the moon's magnetic field, which will allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean.

"This is a giant step in our search for oases that could support life in our own celestial backyard," says Europa program scientist Curt Niebur.

That's all well and good, assuming we attempt no landing there.

image: NASA/JPL-Caltech Read the rest

Canada's election watchdog: ads saying climate change is real may break law

The BBC reports that Canada's election watchdog claims that advertisements saying climate change is real may break the law, because it is a political opinion and "issue" advertising is partisan political activity.

Canada has strict regulations on partisan advertising during the election period, whether they be from candidates, parties or third-party organisations. ... Keith Brooks, programme director for advocacy group Environmental Defence, says Elections Canada told him that because one candidate denies that climate change is an issue, any ad urging action on climate change, or calling climate change an emergency, could be considered partisan. ... Mr Cornish says it is "absolutely ludicrous" that charities are barred from advocacy work on climate change during the election just because one of the party's platforms denies it is an issue.

"We're talking here about someone's opinion overruling scientific consensus around the need to adapt to climate change," he said.

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1000fps video reveals the underlying action of a stinging ant's venom injection for the very first time

Ant Lab's Adrian Smith (previously) writes, "No one had ever filmed how ants inject venom when they sting something. I study ants and I make videos, so I went to work on getting that footage. It involved filming something smaller than a human hair moving faster than the blink of an eye. But, I got the footage. In the video I explain what is happening and why I think its cool and an important scientific observation. Plus there's a little ant rodeo scene that people seem to like." Read the rest

Animated comparison of tree sizes

Just for your information, there are some very teeny and some quite enormous trees.

keshitsubo grass, wheat sunflower, Apple tree Rocky Mountain Juniper, Socotra Dragon tree olive, Salix Babylonica Common Hawthorn, Southern Live oak Mediterranean cypress, Stone Pine Limber Pine, Palm tree Baldcypress, Sycamore Araucaria Araucana, Common Oak Brazil Nut, Kauri Eucalyptus, Patagonian cypress Noble fir, Giant Sequoia Coast Douglas fir, Yellow Meranti Sequoia sempervirens

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Find awe in the biology of these incredible leaping maggots

Above is a three-millimeter long maggot launching itself into the air for a distance of up to 36 times its body length. Researchers from Duke University and their colleagues studied how these larvae of gall midges leap between plants with the greatest of ease, even rivaling some jumping insects with legs. Their research could have applications in soft robotics and adhesives. From the Journal of Experimental Biology:

They store elastic energy by forming their body into a loop and pressurizing part of their body to form a transient ‘leg’. They prevent movement during elastic loading by placing two regions covered with microstructures against each other, which likely serve as a newly described adhesive latch. Once the latch releases, the transient ‘leg’ launches the body into the air. These discoveries integrate three vibrant areas in engineering and biology – soft robotics, small, high-acceleration systems, and adhesive systems – and point toward a rich, and as-yet untapped area of biological diversity of worm-like, small, legless jumpers.

(via Scientific American)

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See the Perseids meteor shower through August 24

The Perseid meteor shower peaked last night (8/13) but you'll still be able to spot them streaking across the sky through August 24. The meteors are particles left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. From NASA's Perseids page:

How to Observe Perseids

If it’s not cloudy, pick an observing spot away from bright lights, lay on your back, and look up! You don’t need any special equipment to view the Perseids – just your eyes. (Note that telescopes or binoculars are not recommended.) Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky so don’t worry about looking in any particular direction.

While observing this month, not all of the meteors you’ll see belong to the Perseid meteor shower. Some are sporadic background meteors. And some are from other weaker showers also active right now, including the Alpha Capricornids, the Southern Delta Aquariids, and the Kappa Cygnids. How can you tell if you’ve seen a Perseid? If you see a meteor try to trace it backwards. If you end up in the constellation Perseus, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Perseid. If finding constellations isn’t your forte, then note that Perseids are some of the fastest meteors you’ll see!

Pro tip: Remember to let your eyes become adjusted to the dark (it takes about 30 minutes) – you’ll see more meteors that way. Try to stay off of your phone too, as looking at devices with bright screens will negatively affect your night vision and hence reduce the number of meteors you see!

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