Science news

Confronting the new geopolitics of ‘net-states’

Nov 23, 2017
<a href="">Pixelkult</a>/<a href="">CC0</a>. Image cropped.

Earlier this year, Facebook topped 2 billion monthly users — more people than live in the United States, China, Russia and Japan combined.

According to Alexis Wichowski, an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, there’s a name for what Facebook and other tech titans are now: net-states.

Lawmakers Focus On STEM Education For 2018

Nov 22, 2017

Science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, has received a lot of attention at the statehouse lately, and that means the 2018 legislative session could bring major shifts for STEM education throughout the state.

House Education Committee chair Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) says he plans to push for more math and science professionals teaching at the elementary school level.

Will Steger plans wilderness education center

Nov 22, 2017

Will Steger likes to challenge himself.

In 1986, he led the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply. He's led long expeditions across Greenland and Antarctica.

For the last 30 years, he's been working on a different kind of challenge: building the Steger Wilderness Center in a remote setting north of Ely on the edge of the Boundary Waters.

Until now it's been used primarily as a convening center where small groups of influential people gather to make important decisions.


On Oct. 19, researchers at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy spotted a strange guest in the night sky: a quarter-mile-wide hunk of space rock hurtling through our solar system, the first “interstellar visitor” ever observed by scientists.

“Spacecraft, like Stardust, have captured interstellar dust,” says Meenakshi Wadhwa, director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University. “And there’s actually interstellar dust in meteorites, too. But this is the first object that’s macro in size.”

What’s the best way to test for partisan gerrymandering?

Nov 19, 2017

In October, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford, a landmark case about gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Democratic plaintiffs proposed an easy formula — called the efficiency gap — to determine whether an electoral district is fairly drawn.

A scientist who finds pharmaceutical promise in the venom of cone snails

Nov 18, 2017

Nestled inside its bright, patterned shell, the cone snail cuts a familiar figure in tropical waters — you may have even collected its shell on a walk along the beach. But watch your touch — every species of cone snail is venomous, and some, like Conus geographus, can even kill humans.

<a href="">Adam Gerard</a>/<a href="">CC BY NC-SA 2.0</a>

CAPTCHAs — think those little forms with jumbles of letters and numbers — have long been the Web’s gatekeepers between humans and robots. Short for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” the tests are meant to be too complex for computers to solve.

Green Living Techniques To Save You Money

Nov 16, 2017

When Peter Kalmus was in graduate school for physics, James Hansen, known as the father of climate change awareness, spoke to his class.

Atmospheric scientist Peter Kalmus has reduced his carbon footprint to one-tenth of the average person’s. Photo courtesy of Peter Kalmus.

Hansen told the students that the earth was going to keep warming until an energy imbalance was rectified. That was when the seriousness of climate change hit Kalmus, he said. Before that, “it felt like science fiction; it felt like something that wasn’t real, that I wouldn’t have to worry about.”

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

ISIS has suffered losses in recent months as large swathes of their territory in Iraq and Syria have been retaken.

And it’s not just on the ground — ISIS’s once robust online presence and propaganda efforts have also slowed dramatically.

That may be due a growing number of cyberattacks on its “virtual caliphate.”

South Carolina Focus logo
Alfred Turner

People picture coral reefs as bursting with color and teeming with a variety of undersea life, which many are. But their number is shrinking, says College of Charleston biologist Phil Dustan, because they are hyper-sensitive to temperature changes, and climate change is warming the ocean to intolerable levels for many reefs. In his 40-plus years of studying reefs, Dustan said, the Florida Keys, for example, have probably lost 90 to 95 percent of their living coral reefs.

Two arachnid experts share their four favorite spider facts

Nov 13, 2017
<a href="">Jean and Fred</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

If you’re afraid of spiders, join the club: Catherine Scott and Eleanor Spicer Rice have been right there with you.

“I used to be terrified of spiders until I was about 25 years old and started studying them,” Scott says. These days, she’s an arachnologist and Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto. Rice, for her part, is now an entomologist with a book, “Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Spiders,” due out this winter. 

So, what changed?

What can fly, swim and dive? This tiny robotic insect.

Nov 12, 2017

Imagine going to the beach and catching sight of a bee buzzing past you, then watching as it dives into the water, swims below the surface and shoots back into the air a few seconds later.

<a href="">Bradley Weber</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

You may know Leonardo da Vinci best for masterpieces like the “Mona Lisa” or his oft-reproduced “Vitruvian Man” drawing, but the famous artist’s interests didn’t end with art. A true Renaissance man, da Vinci studied engineering, science and just about anything that caught his eye — filling more than 7,000 notebook pages with lists and observations over the course of his life. “Leonardo was curious to know everything there was to know about everything you could know about creation, including how we fit into it,” says biographer Walter Isaacson.

Best Shopping Decision This Year? Buying an Electric Car

Nov 10, 2017

Lately there’s been an update every day about the pace of global warming—the worst part? It’s clear that humans are causing the problem.

Source: National Geographic

China Daily/Reuters

Take George Orwell’s "1984." Now sprinkle in that episode of "Black Mirror" where characters live in a world in which every aspect of their lives is dominated by ratings.

That’s one way to think about the Social Credit System, a plan that the Chinese government will make mandatory for all its citizens by 2020.

A lot of people seek out city life because of the diversity of cultures and people represented in the country’s population hubs. But, even in 2017, the most diverse cities in the U.S. continue to be the most segregated.

How does fake news spread?

Nov 8, 2017
Max Massey/ KSAT 12/via Reuters

He has been misidentified as the lone gunman in the shootings in San Bernardino, in Kalamazoo, in Baton Rouge, in Orlando and, now, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

His name is Sam Hyde. And he's actually a comedian.

But somehow, his name has become an internet meme, resurfacing after nearly every mass shooting in the past few years.

5 Things We Learned from Beyond A Year In Space

Nov 7, 2017

Many think that because the Space Shuttle isn’t running anymore, there’s no hope for future human space travel. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Astronaut Class 21 is currently training for space flights and, just as NASA once had its eyes on the moon, it now has its eyes on that red-orange glow among the stars, Mars.

However, there’s a long way to go before a human sets foot on that rusty planet.

Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook have been testifying before Congress over the past few weeks about how their platforms were used by Russian agents to interfere in the 2016 US election.

Can You Make Your Own Happiness?

Nov 6, 2017

With many millennials abandoning the “traditional,” idealized life path of college, job, marriage, kids, retirement, traditional measures of what it means to be successful have been abandoned, too. For lots of us, the goal isn’t to work our way up the ladder at work.

In a long-ago neutron star collision, scientists find a cosmic goldmine

Nov 6, 2017

Around 130 million years ago, two neutron stars — those strange, compacted cores of dead stars — smashed into one another. The resulting “kilonova” explosion sent ripples through space-time and hurtled heavy metals like platinum and gold into space. Now, astronomers have detected the signals from that long-ago collision, in the form of gravitational waves and electromagnetic signals. 

The Trump administration wants to put Americans back on the moon

Nov 5, 2017
<a href="">Emmett Tullos</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

The United States’ newly revived National Space Council recently met for the first time, and in a speech before the council — tasked with setting the country’s space agenda — Vice President Mike Pence called for a return to the moon and the development of a base there.

Denis Balibouse/Reuters

What does it mean to grant citizenship to a robot?

That's the question many have been asking since last week, when a robot was granted Saudi citizenship at an economic and financial summit in Riyadh.

The robot in question is Sophia — the product of a Hong Kong-based company called Hanson Robotics.

According to its makers, Sophia was designed to look like Audrey Hepburn. (Although the author finds it hard to see the resemblance.)

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

It’s been more than 50 years since Dr. Jane Goodall first traveled to Gombe, Tanzania, as an amateur scientist and began amassing observations that would change the way we understand chimpanzees and even humans. Now a new documentary, “JANE,” reconstructs Goodall’s time in the Gombe forest, drawing on a trove of recently discovered archival footage.

Adnan Abidi/REUTERS

When lawyers from Google, Facebook and Twitter gathered on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon for oversight hearings, most of the questions were about the Russian use of misinformation to influence the 2016 presidential elections in the United States.

But misinformation can cost more than votes. It can cost lives.

Related: Watch: Facebook, Twitter and Google testify in Russia hearings

The internet is blowing up with news about the iPhone X. Preorders for the pricey smartphone started this week. If you know somebody who put their name on the list, are you judging them for being slavishly committed to the Apple brand?

Maybe not. Though we assume that other people are judging us for the brands of our electronics (there’s certainly a friendly iPhone/Android rivalry) and our clothes and the makes of our cars, not everybody makes assumptions about someone’s character because of these material things.

World Meteorological Organization

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2016. The concentration of the heat-trapping gas is higher than it’s been in at least 800,000 years, including all of human history.

That's the word from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.

The WMO says last year's CO2 spike was 50 percent greater than the average increase over the past decade, which Petteri Taalas, the organization’s secretary-general, says is very bad news.

Here are some of the stories RT says it promoted on Twitter

Oct 30, 2017
Regis Duvignau/Reuters&nbsp;

Days after being banned from advertising on Twitter, Kremlin-backed media outlet RT has shared details about the content of its advertisements in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

Listen to This Famous Song For a Creativity Boost

Oct 30, 2017

When you’re writing on a deadline—either for work or school or when applying for jobs—writer’s block can be a killer. If the stakes are high, interruption of your creative flow can cause you to miss deadlines and opportunities.

There’s long been a debate of what exactly exactly cures writer’s block. In fact, your solution is likely different from mine.  

New security measures have gone into effect for all flights traveling to the US.

Airlines will be interviewing passengers at check-in and boarding gates all over the world to comply with new government requirements from the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA.

The new rules are expected to affect about 180 different airline companies — and the approximately 325,000 passengers that arrive in the US each day.