Oct 19, 2020

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Rogue Rocky Planet Found Adrift in the Milky Way

Not all planets orbit stars. Some are instead “free-floating” rogues adrift in interstellar space after being ejected from their home systems. For decades astronomers have sought to study such elusive outcasts, hoping to find patterns in their size and number that could reveal otherwise hidden details of how planetary systems emerge and evolve. Of the handful known so far, most free floaters have been massive gas giants, but now researchers may have found one small enough to be rocky—smaller even than Earth. If its rogue status is confirmed, the roughly Mars-to-Earth-mass object would be the most diminutive free-floating […]Read full article >
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3000-Year-Old Orbs Provide A Glimpse of Ancient Sport

Ballgames are a big source of modern amusement, even amid the pandemic. But they’re nothing new. Consider for instance a 4,500-year-old linen ball found in a child’s tomb in Egypt. Or 3,600-year-old rubber balls, from Central America—where the contest called for players to slam the ball with their hips. Now, researchers have pinned a date on what they say are the oldest sporting balls in Europe or Asia—three spheres, dug up from the tombs of horsemen in the deserts of northwestern China, and crafted three millennia ago. “We are quite sure they were used in some sort of bat and ball game.” Patrick Wertmann […]Read full article >
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50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: October 2020

1970 Sweet Suburbia “Massive movement from central cities to their suburbs, a population boom in the West and Southwest, and a lower rate of population growth in the 1960’s than in the 1950’s are the findings that stand out in the preliminary results of the 1970 Census as issued by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The movement to the suburbs was pervasive. Its extent is indicated by the fact that 13 of the 25 largest cities lost population, whereas 24 of the 25 largest metropolitan areas gained. Washington, D.C., was characteristic: the population of the city changed little between 1960 and 1970, but the metropolitan area […]Read full article >
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Melting Candy Gives Mathematicians Insight into How Some Landscapes Form

In this time-lapse video, mathematicians at New York University immersed a block of blue candy in water and filmed it as it dissolved. The candy surface sunk unevenly as some areas melted faster than others, creating ever sharper and longer shards. Eventually the forest of candy spikes toppled as each “tree” fell. The researchers were aiming to mimic the natural processes that form stone forests—stunning rocky pinnacles of limestone—such as the famous Stone Forestin Kunming, China. The formation processes behind these “tall, slender, and sharply tipped” rock spires “remain unclear,” the […]Read full article >
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Humans Make Wild Animals Less Wary

Wild animals are equipped with a variety of techniques to avoid becoming lunch for a bigger, toothier animal. The most well-known methods include the classic “fight” and “flight,” as well as “freeze”. A team of researchers wondered how proximity to people might impact those survival strategies. “We often see that animals are more tolerant around us in urban areas but we don’t really know why.” UCLA evolutionary biologist Dan Blumstein. “Is it a filtering process where only the tolerant animals are there? Is it individual plasticity, meaning individuals change their fear of us, and […]Read full article >
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When Scientists Become Political Dissenters

Science advances by the free exchange of ideas. New ones are put forward and pitted against existing ones, and fights are fought with rationalarguments. Scientists tend to take this freedom for granted, and carry it over to other fields, such as politics, where challenging prevailing opiniongoes under the name of dissent, and may be much less welcome. Scientists make tough dissenters for the powers that be. They cannot be dismissed offhand as incompetent, and they bring to the discussion professional standards that are hard to match. They cannot be quietly put away for their opinions, for they belong to an international communitythat […]Read full article >