As a Vast Swath of Australia Burns, the View From Space is Truly Frightening

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Thick palls of smoke stream from Australia's sprawling bushfires in this view acquired by NASA's Aqua satellite on Nov. 11, 2019. The image consists of a natural-color view with an infrared overlay revealing areas of burning. (Source: NASA Worldview image processed by Pierre Markuse) So far, Australia's bushfires have scorched more than 4,000 square miles — an area greater than ten times the size of New York City. With hot and dry conditions predicted for weeks to come, there's not ...read more

Is the Human Olfactory Bulb Necessary?

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Many people may be living life without a particular brain region - and not suffering any ill-effects. In a new paper in Neuron, neuroscientists Tali Weiss and colleagues discuss five women who appear to completely lack olfactory bulbs (OB). According to most neuroscience textbooks, no OB should mean no sense of smell, because the OB is believed to be a key relay point for olfactory signals. As Wikipedia puts it: The olfactory bulb transmits smell information from the nose to the b ...read more

Black Holes Orbiting Even Bigger Black Holes Might Also Be Eating Each Other

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A simulation of an accretion disk surrounding a supermassive black hole. (Credit: Scott C. Noble) When the LIGO collaboration first detected the spacetime ripples of a gravitational wave it came from the merger of two black holes. To date, scientists have detected at least ten pairs of black holes spiraling into and combining with each other. But there's still an outstanding mystery about these singularities: why are some of them so big? Some have been far larger than scientists think po ...read more

NASA Instrument Spots Its Brightest X-Ray Burst Ever

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An illustration depicting a Type I X-ray burst. A similar supernova generated the extreme X-ray burst that NASA's NICER instrument recently recorded. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (USRA)) In late August, an instrument on the International Space Station, called NICER, spotted its brightest burst of X-ray radiation yet. NICER, or the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, studies X-rays that come from neutron stars, the super-dense remnants of some stars afte ...read more

A New, Prehistoric Bird Sheds Light on How They Took to the Skies

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An artist's reconstruction of what Fukuipteryx prima may have looked like. (Credit: Masanori Yoshida) It was a typical Japanese summer — hot, humid and cloudy — when archaeologists pulled a well-preserved, fossilized bird from the ground in 2013. Their find, announced this week in Nature Communications Biology, might change our idea of what adaptations were essential to the development of flight. Close to Flight Named Fukuipteryx prima, the archaeologists date the bird ...read more

Zoonoses: The Diseases Our Cats and Dogs Give Us

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(Credit: Gladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock) Some of the biggest public health crises of the last few years can be traced back to animals. HIV got its start as a virus in monkeys, and Ebola probably jumped to humans from other primates or fruit bats. And there’s no points for guessing the animals we got bird flu and swine flu from. But animal-borne diseases can start a lot closer to home. In fact, there are a number we can pick up from our dogs and cats. Our Pets, Their Diseases M ...read more

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