By Leah Crane The sun could be one of our biggest threats in the next 100 years. If an enormous solar flare like the one that hit Earth 150 years ago struck us today, it could knock out our electrical grids, satellite communications and the internet. A new study finds that such an event is likely within the next century. “The sun is usually thought of as a friend and the source of life, but it could also be the opposite,” says Avi Loeb at Harvard University. “It just depends on circumstances.” Loeb and Manasvi Lingam, also at Harvard, examined data on other sun-like stars to see how likely solar “superflares” are and how they might affect us. They found that the most extreme superflares are likely to occur on a star like our sun about every 20 million years. The worst of these energetic bursts of ultraviolet radiation and high-energy charged particles could destroy our ozone layer, cause DNA mutations and disrupt ecosystems. But in the shorter term, the researchers say that less intense superflares of a type we know can happen on our sun could still cause problems. In 1859, a powerful solar storm sent enormous flares towards Earth in the first recorded event of its kind. Telegraph systems across the Western world failed, with some reports of operators receiving shocks from the huge amounts of electrical current forced through the wires. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.
By Alexandra Witze NASA’s Cassini spacecraft continues to yield surprising discoveries, more than a month after it burned up on its mission-ending dive into Saturn. New data from the probe suggest that Saturn’s majestic rings are showering tiny dust particles into the planet’s upper atmosphere, where they form a complicated and unexpected chemical mix. A mass spectrometer aboard Cassini detected the strange chemistry as the probe spent its final five months looping between Saturn and its rings. “We really hit the jackpot,” said Mark Perry, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. He reported the findings on 17 October at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Provo, Utah. Mission scientists had expected Cassini’s mass spectrometer to spot the signature of water molecules as the spacecraft slipped between the planet and its rings. In the 1970s and 1980s, NASA’s Pioneer and Voyager missions found fewer charged particles than expected in Saturn’s uppermost atmosphere. Based on that data, researchers proposed in 1984 that water molecules coming off the rings — mostly in the form of ice — acted as a catalyst to strip charged particles from the atmosphere1. Cassini’s final months gave scientists their first opportunity to test this idea directly. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.
By KRQE News 13 and Jackie Kent SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – People have passionate feelings about the Public Education Department’s proposal to change the way science is taught in the state. Many at a heated public forum in Santa Fe Monday said they worry this is an attack on teaching evolution and climate change while the PED maintained the move is about giving teachers more flexibility. “This is about an assault on the law between church and state,” one man said during the forum. More than 100 people had no hesitation laying into the PED’s proposed STEM-Ready Standards, which challenge evolution, climate change and questions the age of the earth. Educators, students and others expressed concern over what they described as a politically driven, flawed curriculum from an economical and educational standpoint. “Companies would be unwilling to relocate here,” Los Alamos Public School Board Secretary Ellen Ben-Naim said. “And Los Alamos — we have the National Lab, of course — and I’m worried about scientists even wanting to relocate here and to raise their families.” Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.
By Hemant Mehta The Pew Research Center has found that more Americans than ever before believe that you don’t need to believe in God to be moral and have good values. In 2011, only 49% of Americans believed you could be good without God. That number has since risen to 56%. More than half. That’s not insignificant. And while you’d expect the number to rise as we witness the growth of the “Nones,” these numbers also reflect the changing opinions of religious people who are having a harder time maintaining the lie that religion is what makes somebody moral. In fact, says Pew, with one (very slight and statistically meaningless) exception, every single religious demographic is more likely today to say you don’t need God to be good than they did six years ago. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.
By Elizabeth Pennisi Dogs may be social butterflies, but wolves are top dog when it comes to working together as a team. That’s because unlike dogs, wolves haven’t evolved to avoid conflict; instead, members of a pack “sort things out” as they forage together, according to a new study. The work calls into question a long-held assumption that domestication fostered more cooperative individuals. “This study is a fabulous first go at experimentally comparing the ability of wolves and dogs to cooperate with their groupmates,” says Brian Hare, a dog cognition expert at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved with the work. “Wolves run circles around dogs.” We tend to think of dogs as team players because they work with us to hunt, rescue trapped people, herd livestock, and play. But though dogs can be easily trained to work with people, it’s much harder to get them to work with fellow dogs. That’s especially true of village dogs, free-ranging canines with no owners or training that make up some 80% of the world’s pooches. They hang out in loose packs, surviving primarily on garbage and scraps. And there’s very little study of them, says Clive Wynne, a comparative psychologist at Arizona State University in Tempe. Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.