I’ll admit to having become a fairly recent Kindle convert, with one major caveat: I only use the Kindle when I’m traveling. I’ve been known to stuff my rucksack with at least a half-dozen books, and they do add an unwieldy heft. So when my mom gave me a Kindle a few years back, I resisted until July, when I downloaded a dozen books and set off for my travels with only a guidebook in the form of paperback reading. Nowadays, half of my students use Kindles or e-readers instead of actual paper books, which I tell them isn’t a great idea — annotations work differently (if at all with an e-reader), and when we’re talking about what happens on page 68 in class, they’ll have no idea where that is in their version. They don’t buy my argument that I think we read better and deeper from paper books. But maybe now they’ll consider it, given that a recent study found that those who read on a Kindle were far worse at remembering the timeline of events in the plot of a story.
You may already be aware of this, but Ebola is terrifying. With the current glut of zombie apocalypse narratives like The Walking Dead sweeping across popular culture, the Ebola virus is about the closest thing we have. Sure, it won’t make your loved ones hungry for brains or bring them back from the dead, but this particular hemorrhagic fever is a nasty piece of business. The disease has been all over the news lately, with outbreaks ravaging parts of Africa, but now it’s coming stateside, with a case confirmed in Dallas. If you’ve seen movies like Outbreak or Contagion, that’s exactly where our minds immediately went.
The patient, who is not being publicly identified, is being kept under “strict isolation” at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas while the CDC investigates the situation. This is the first substantiated case of this latest strain of Ebola on American soil. Others have been tested, but those came back negative.
We all know the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” Yes, beheaded chickens tend to flop around and generally spazz out for a while, but then they, y’know, die. They don’t actually run around like that for long. Except for Miracle Mike, who lived for a year and a half after being beheaded. The story is nearly 70 years old, but it’s one worth remembering, especially when we think about instances that seem to defy all possibility (i.e., most of the science stories you read on this site), and how almost nothing is truly impossible. As time passes, Mike becomes more and more of a legend, and has inspired a website and a festival. Of course, Mike’s story has also raised a bunch of questions. Among them: WTF?
A lot can be said about our life-giving water here on Earth. Still, I never imagined that one of those things would be: dang, you are OLD!
Scientists from Harvard, the University of Exeter, Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the University of Michigan (alma mater, woot!) recently published a study in Science confirming that the water we have here on Earth is older than the sun and the solar system. Science is amazing, isn’t it? The researchers examined the gases, ice, and dust that existed at the time the sun formed and identified how much of those elements existed in the earth. In so doing, they realized that Earth’s water had to come from someplace else — someplace that existed before the sun.
I first learned about the mantis shrimp on the Oatmeal, and have been a fan ever since. As noted in the comic, the mantis shrimp is a holy underwater terror. It shoots its front leg/claw thingies at prey with the force of a gunshot. If it misses its prey, the force of that explosive motion still kills them, as it boils the water around them (emitting light in the process). Seriously, check out the videos below. These things are no joke — they can even bust the glass of an aquarium if one’s foolish enough to try and contain them. One of the most impressive characteristics of the mantis shrimp is its ability to see colors we can’t even comprehend. It can also see ultraviolet light, which we can’t. New research reveals that the mantis shrimp can see polarized light too, which essentially means that they can see cancer — an ability scientists are harnessing in new detection technologies.
Unless you’re a die-hard NASA junkie, you might not know about the space agency’s tradition of getting a bit silly when it comes to the posters for their missions to the International Space Station. After all, astronauts are real-life heroes, so why not put that in perspective by letting them stand in for some fictional versions? So what movie would get the nod for ISS Expedition 42? Don’t panic — they’ve already got the perfect idea.