Month: September, 2017

1,000-Year-Old Texas Oak Tree Survives Deadly Storm

A 1,000-year-old oak tree has been found still standing in a Texas state park after Hurricane Harvey caused devastation in the area.

At least 30 people have died since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday. More than 30 inches of rainfall has caused severe flooding and forced thousands of people out of their homes, seeking shelter in relief centres and local churches.




The Texas Parks and Wildlife department has been conducting search and rescue efforts with other first responders throughout the weekend as the dangerous flooding continues.

In just the first 24 hours, the department’s staff had already performed over 1,000 water rescues while more than 3,000 hurricane survivors are staying in Texas State Parks, the department said.

A total of 27 state parks have been closed due to the hurricane, including one houses the 1,000-year-old oak, which staff found was unharmed by the storm.

Goose Island State Park’s is one of the biggest living oak trees in America.

Known as the Big Tree, it has a circumference of 35 feet and 1.75 inches and an average trunk diameter of 11 feet and 2.25 inches. It is 44 feet high and has a crown spread of 89 feet.

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Astronomers Detect 15 Signals From Mysterious Object In Distant Galaxy

While looking for signs of intelligent life in the universe, astronomers have detected 15 fast radio bursts from a distant galaxy.

These poorly understood phenomena are short pulses of radio emission, just milliseconds long, believed to be coming from rapidly spinning neutron stars or black holes in distant galaxies.

A less popular theory is that they’re signs of extremely powerful spacecraft from alien civilizations.

This particular fast radio burst (FRB), called FRB 121102, is of particular interest as it is the only known one to be repeating, something that astronomers can’t yet explain.




Earlier this month, astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia not only found 15 more bursts, but found them at a higher radio frequency than was ever observed before, the astronomers said in their findings published in The Astronomer’s Telegram.

It’s not surprising that we’ve found 15 more from this source; we’ve been detecting many of them over the past few years,” Paul Scholz, an astronomer who studies FRBs with the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, B.C., said.

The one thing that’s unique about these [new ones] is that they are at a higher frequency than we’ve ever seen before.

Scholz, who was not involved with the new discovery, was with McGill University when he and a team of astronomers discovered FRB 121102 to be a repeater. In 2016, a McGill team was able to locate the source of the strange FRB.

At the time the signals left its host galaxy, Earth would have been two billion years old, less than half its current age. The only living things on the planet would have been single-celled organisms.

SOLVING THE MYSTERY

As though the object wasn’t strange enough, it also behaves like no other FRB. Typically, objects that emit similar signals, such as pulsars, do so in a smooth fashion across many frequencies. But that’s not the case with FRB 121102.

So it’s kind of perplexing,” Scholz said.

Scholz said that there could be reasons such as the signal being distorted between its source galaxy and Earth.

In the coming months, a new telescope in B.C. called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is expected to begin its research into FRBs, with the possibility of discovering several a day, something that Scholz is looking forward to seeing.

It’s a mystery that needs to be solved,” Scholz said.

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A Really, Really Big Asteroid Is Going To Fly Past Earth Today!

Today, a three-mile-wide asteroid is going to fly past Earth – the biggest space rock to pass our planet this close in a century.

Asteroid 1981 ET3 – also known as 3122 Florence – will fly past safely today, September 1, 18 times further away than the moon.

While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.




Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.

The asteroid, named for Florence Nightingale, was first spotted in 1981, and the flyby in September will be the closest it’s come to Earth since 1890.

Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981.

It is named in honor of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing.

The 2017 encounter is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.

This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid up close.

Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations – and will also be visible to amateur astronomers via telescopes.

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Why Is Yawning So Contagious?

If looking at the image above makes you yawn, you’ve just experience contagious yawning.

What is yawning? And why do we do so much of it? Neuroscientist and yawn expert Robert Provine says it’s “ancient and autonomic.” It stems from early evolution and is common to many creatures—even fish do it.

It’s autonomic in the sense that it roots in the brainstem, way down in the basement level of the brain, where certain responses are so built-in they don’t even qualify as reflexes.

Yawning has many triggers, including boredom, sleepiness, and temperature.




A 2014 study suggested that there’s a “thermal window” (at around 68°F) for human yawning; as ambient temperature approaches body temperature or goes down near freezing, we yawn less.

According to the paper, we may yawn to regulate the temperature of our brains. This isn’t the same as saying we yawn to take in extra oxygen, as evidence to date says we don’t.

It means that yawning might act to draw brain-soothing ambient air in through the nose and mouth.

COPYCAT YAWNING?

Over the years, scientists have observed “contagious yawning” in chimpanzees, humans, baboons, bonobos, wolves, and, to a certain extent, dogs. Yawning feels good, so why not join in when someone else yawns?

Well, you’re not really “joining in,” because you aren’t copying the yawn on any conscious level. It happens because you just can’t help it. If you become self-conscious about a yawn, it stops.

While many past studies have documented the phenomenon, a more recent study, published in the journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, contends that yawns may not be contagious after all—or at least that we have not yet proven it.

Experimental psychologist Rohan Kapitány of the University of Oxford conducted a review of the scientific literature on contagious yawns and found very little conclusive evidence to back up our long-held assumption that yawns are contagious.

The belief that yawns are contagious seems self-evident,” Kapitány said, “but there are some very basic reasons for why we might be mistaken in this.”

“If we fail to dissect that which we think we know, we might end up with conclusions that do not reflect reality.”

“In this instance, the literature hasn’t questioned the basic features of contagious yawning, and ended up with a wide range of unstandardized methodologies and conclusions.

Still, because Kapitány’s study was small and extremely limited, he and his fellow authors urge other scientists to challenge their findings with experiments of their own.

I may be wrong!” Kapitány said. “Maybe yawns are contagious!” Kapitány says he’d like to see “more robust” attempts to falsify the claim that yawns are contagious rather than “simply demonstrating it over and over [in] slightly different contexts with richer and richer explanations.

WHO DOESN’T CATCH YAWNS?

Some people with autism or schizophrenia don’t exhibit a yawn-contagion response. The same is true of children under the age of four years. This has led to a variety of theories about yawning’s relationship to empathy and the brain’s mirror-neuron system (MNS).

The idea here is that MNS deficits might lead to missing hidden empathetic cues that trigger contagious yawning. The MNS seems to be involved in the process to some extent.

fMRI scans on a range of people have shown that other parts of the brain also “light up” in response to images of yawning, perhaps more so than the areas normally associated with empathy.

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