Uranus Smells Exactly How You Think It Does

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The planet Uranus. It smells bad here. (Credit: NASA) Scientists confirm that Uranus’ atmosphere contains hydrogen sulfide, a compound long suspected to be swirling about in the planet’s clouds. Using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, researchers from the United Kingdom analyzed Uranus using a technique known as spectroscopy to identify the elements contained within. They relied on the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS) at Gemini for the task, which invo ...read more

Scientists CT Scan An Entire Whale to Study Its Ears

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A minke whale surfacing. (Credit: Graeme Snow/Shutterstock) How do you get inside a whale’s head? With a CT-scanner made for rocket bodies, that’s how. Researchers from San Diego State University stuck an entire juvenile minke whale inside a computed tomography (CT) scanning machine to virtually slice and dice its anatomy with X-rays. Their goal was to get a look at the structures that allow whales to hear underwater and better understand a sense that’s vital for these underw ...read more

Is It Time For A New Astronomical Yardstick?

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An illustration of the scale of our solar system. Distances here are measured in astronomical units (AU). (Credit: NASA) Click on an article about space on Discover, and you’ll likely run into a measurement in terms of light-years, solar masses, astronomical units, or arcminutes. These units are unique to astronomy, and all can be expressed in terms of other, more fundamental units, such as meters, grams, and degrees. In a paper published April 1 in Astronomy & Geophysics, Keit ...read more

Just in time for Earth Day! Announcing Earth Challenge 2020, a global citizen science initiative.

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Earth Day Network, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and U.S. Department of State, Announces Earth Challenge 2020 — A Citizen Science Initiative. In anticipation of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, Earth Day Network, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the U.S. Department of State, through the Eco-Capitals Forum, announce Earth Challenge 2020, a Citizen Science Initiative. This initiative is in collaboration with Conne ...read more

We're Good At Recognizing Distorted Faces

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A new paper from MIT neuroscientists Sharon Gilad-Gutnick and colleagues reveals that we are remarkably good at recognizing faces even if they are highly distorted. Not only is this scientifically interesting, the deformed images used in this study are rather hilarious. Here’s an example of a face being distorted by horizontal and vertical compression (also known as thinning and flattening). The unfortunate victim of these distortions is Bill Clinton: Gilad-Gutnick et al. found that peop ...read more

Why Apollo Flew in a Figure 8

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If you’ve ever looked at a schematic for an Apollo flight like the one on the left, you’ll notice right away that it traces out a figure 8, which leads many to wonder why? Surely it’s easier to go in a straight line, right? Turns out, it was the safest way to travel. There are a few things at play here that come together to make it a figure 8, so let’s start with a quick video explainer that has some visuals that will help. And then we can jump into the mission in more de ...read more

Your Weekly Attenborough: Sirdavidia solannona

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Sirdavidia solannona. (Credit: Thomas L.P. Couvreur (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement , Montpellier, France) – Couvreur TLP, Niangadouma R, Sonké B, Sauquet H (2015) Sirdavidia, an extraordinary new genus of Annonaceae from Gabon. PhytoKeys 46: 1-19) Gabon’s hottest nightclub is Sirdavidia solannona. Located on the side of a mountain in this coastal African country, the genus of flowering plants has pulled out all stops. It’s got everything: ...read more

Researchers Find New Species of 'Exploding Ants'

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Step back, or I’ll explode! (Alexey Kopchinskiy/Pensoft Publishers) Ants, social insects that live in structured communities and work around the clock to keep the colony running, really take one for the team. Elderly and terminally ill ants leave their nests to die, while others purposefully explode. Scientists recently discovered a new species of exploding ants, which kill themselves to save their colony as a defensive behavior. Worker ants can choose to rupture their abdominal wall ...read more

Look Out! New Eruption Might be Starting in Hawai'i

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USGS geoscientist looks out over the Pu’u O’o lava lake on April 18, 2018. USGS/HVO. Kilauea! What’s not to love? The Hawaiian volcano has been constantly erupting over over 37 years and has not one but two active lava lakes. Lava flows are regular features on the volcano’s broad slopes and every once in a while, the summit lava lake has a small explosion when pieces of the walls fall into the fiery pit. Not only that, but you can watch it all happening! The USGS Ha ...read more

Hans Asperger and the Nazis

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Big news this week as Hans Asperger, autism pioneer and namesake of Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of having collaborated in the murder of children during the Nazi rule in Austria. The accusations come in the form of a long paper by historian Herwig Czech in the journal Molecular Autism. Czech presents an analysis of Asperger’s activities as head of the Heilpädagogik Ward of the Pediatric Clinic at the University of Vienna, from 1935 to 1943. Here, Asperger was responsible for ...read more

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