Month: June, 2018

How Far Away Is A Lightning?

Next time you’re stuck in a thunderstorm, try this easy way to calculate how far away you are from lightning strikes.

Just count the number of seconds that pass between a flash of lightning and the crack of thunder that follows it, then divide that number by five.

The resulting number will tell you how many miles away you are from where lightning just struck.




Five seconds, for example, indicates the lightning struck 1 mile away, and a 10-second gap means the lightning was 2 miles away.

This technique is called the “flash-to-bang” method, and it can keep you safe during rainy summer weather.

The National Weather Service recommends taking cover if the time between the lightning flash and the rumble of thunder is 30 seconds or less, which indicates the lightning is about 6 miles away or closer.

This method is based on the fact that light travels much faster than sound through the atmosphere: Light travels at 186,291 miles per second (299,800 km/s), whereas the speed of sound is only about 1,088 feet per second (332 meters per second), depending on air temperature.

For metric-system conversions, follow this method: Sound travels at about 340 m/s, so multiply the number of seconds you counted by 340, and you’ll know how many meters away lightning struck.

A three-second count, then, would place the lightning strike about 1,020 m away, or roughly 1 km.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Honey Bees Can Understand Nothing

Zero, zilch, nothing, is a pretty hard concept to understand. Children generally can’t grasp it until kindergarten. And it’s a concept that may not be innate but rather learned through culture and education.

Throughout human history, civilizations have had varying representations for it. Yet our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, can understand it.

And now researchers in Australia writing in the journal Science say the humble honey bee can be taught to understand that zero is less than one.

The result is kind of astounding, considering how tiny bee brains are. Humans have around 100 billion neurons. The bee brain? Fewer than 1 million.

The findings suggest that the ability to fathom zero may be more widespread than previously thought in the animal kingdom — something that evolved long ago and in more branches of life.




It’s also possible that in deconstructing how the bees compute numbers, we could make better, more efficient computers one day.

Our computers are electricity-guzzling machines. The bee, however, “is doing fairly high-level cognitive tasks with a tiny drop of nectar,” says Adrian Dyer, a Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researcher and co-author on the study.

Their brains are probably processing information in a very clever [i.e., efficient] way.”

But before we can deconstruct the bee brain, we need to know that it can do the complex math in the first place.

How to teach a bee the concept of zero

Bees are fantastic learners. They spend hours foraging for nectar in among flowers, can remember where the juiciest flowers are, and even have a form of communication to inform their hive mates of where food is to be found.

Researchers train bees like they train many animals: with food. “You have a drop of sucrose associated with a color or a shape, and they will learn to reliably go back to” that color or shape, Dyer explains.

With this simple process, you can start teaching bees rules. In this case, the researchers wanted to teach 10 bees the basic rules of arithmetic.

So they put out a series of sheets of paper that had differing numbers of objects printed on them. Using sugar as a reward, the researchers taught the bees to always fly to the sheet that had the fewest objects printed on it.

Once the bees learned this rule, they could reliably figure out that two shapes are less than four shapes, that one shape is smaller than three. And they’d keep doing this even when a sugary reward was not waiting for them.

And then came the challenge: What happens when a sheet with no objects at all was presented to the bees? Would they understand that a blank sheet — which represented the concept of zero in this experiment — was less than three, less than one?

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Fusion Energy Is Coming. No, Really.

Get Brilliant at http://www.brilliant.org/answerswithjoe/
And the first 295 to sign up for a premium account get 20% off every month!

Fusion energy has been about 20 years away for over 60 years now. It’s become something of a running joke at this point. But new developments over the last 5-10 years suggest that this time, it could finally be within our reach.

Pamela Newenham Of GirlCrew On Actual Social Networking

Pamela Newenham is the co-founder of GirlCrew, a social media app designed to help women connect in the real world. Here we talk about how GirlCrew came to be (through Tinder of all places), the importance of connecting with people face-to-face, and the power and perils of being an entrepreneur.

Find more about GirlCrew here: https://www.girlcrew.com/

How Aliens We’ve Never Met Could Help Humanity Escape Self-Destruction

Humans have had such a dramatic impact on Earth that some scientists say we’ve kickstarted a new geological era known as the Anthropocene.

A fascinating new paper theorizes that alien civilizations could do the same thing, reshaping their homeworlds in predictable and potentially detectable ways.

The authors are proposing a new classification scheme that measures the degree to which planets been modified by intelligent hosts.

Whenever a distant exoplanet is discovered, astronomers categorize it according to its most obvious physical features and orbital characteristics.

Examples include hot-Jupiters, Earth-like terrestrial planets, and brown dwarfs.

With ongoing advances in telescope technology, the day is coming when astronomers will be able to expand on these simple characterizations, classifying a planet according to other features, including atmospheric or chemical composition.

But as a new study led by University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank points out, we may eventually be able to place exoplanets within an astrobiological context, too.




In addition to taking the usual physical measures into account, Frank and his colleagues are proposing that astronomers take the influence of a hypothetical planet’s biosphere into account—including the impacts of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.

Frank’s hypothetical planets, ranked from Class I through to Class V, range from dead, rocky worlds through to planets in which a host intelligence has solved the problems caused by its own existence, like excessive use of resources and climate change.

Moreover, as Frank explained, this paper presents more than just a planetary classification scheme—it’s a potential roadmap to an environmentally viable future.

If we discover signs of an advanced alien civilization—and that’s a big if—we may learn a thing or two about how we might be able to survive into the far future.

Indeed, we’re at a critical juncture in our history, one in which we’re crafting the planet according to our will—and so far, we’re not doing a very good job of it.

There’s ongoing debate as to whether or not our planet has crossed into the Anthropocene epoch, a new geologic chapter in which we’ve become the primary driver of planetary change.

Some scientists point to the fact that half of the planet’s land surface has been claimed for human use, or that Earth’s biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have been radically altered on account of agriculture and fertilizer use, as evidence that we have.

While the technical debate over what constitutes evidence of a geologic shift continues, it’s clear humanity is altering Earth in some rather profound ways.

So much so, says Frank, that we need to place our planet, and the Anthropocene itself, within an astrobiological context. What’s happening here on Earth, says Frank, is likely happening elsewhere in the Galaxy.

Though we may be inclined to think that our situation is somehow special or unique, we have no good reason to believe that’s really the case.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Chimpanzees Aren’t Super Strong But Their Muscles Are More Powerful Than A Human’s

Since the 1920’s, some researchers and studies have suggested that chimps are ‘super strong’ compared to humans. These past studies implied that chimps’ muscle fibers, the cells that make up muscles are superior to humans’.

But a new study has found that contrary to this belief, a chimp muscles’ power output is just about 1.35 times higher than human muscle of similar size.

A difference the researchers call ‘modest‘ compared with historical, popular accounts of chimp ‘super strength’ being many times stronger than humans.




chimp

If the long-standing, assumption about chimpanzee’s exceptional strength was true, it ‘would indicate a significant and previously unappreciated evolutionary shift in the force and/or power-producing capabilities of skeletal muscle’ in either chimps or humans, whose lines diverged about 7 or 8 million years ago.

The authors of the study concluded that, contrary to some long-standing hypotheses, evolution has not altered the basic force, velocity or power-producing capabilities of skeletal muscle cells to induce the marked differences between chimpanzees and humans in walking, running, climbing and throwing capabilities.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

This Mad Inventor Creates A Morning Breakfast Machine

sunday breakfast machine

This is the ‘Sunday Morning Breakfast Machine’ and it is, quite simply, the future of hangovers.

With just one push of a button it will toast your bread, make you the perfect cup of breakfast tea and then serve you a perfectly boiled egg.




Creative Peter Browne, 69, spent about 1,000 hours building the innovative contraption with pal Mervyn Huggett.  Retired airline pilot and silversmith Peter says he’s been coming up with inventions his entire life, but this is his pride and joy.

He said: “It took a total of 1,000 hours. It was hard work for three months but it was worth it.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Spontaneous Human Combustion – Could You Burst Into Flames?

Spontaneous human combustion – the act of a human being bursting into flames for no reason – has been a trope of the paranormal for hundreds of years. Explanations have been chalked up to demonic possession, alcoholism, and even ball lightning.

But how likely is it, really?

 

Check out AnomalyInfo’s page for a thorough history of Spontaneous Human Combustion:

http://anomalyinfo.com/Topics/spontan…

 

Special thanks to Nick Turnbow for his help editing this video!

This Mechanical Instructor Can Guide And Teach Anyone How To Dance

waltz robot

Researchers have developed a waltzing robot that can teach people how to dance. This robot can take the lead, allowing the robot to teach dance sequences.

While the system has been developed for dancing, it could also have other applications including physical rehabilitation and sports training.

The system adjusts its difficulty mode based on the user’s number of previous practices and performance history.




The bot, which stands 1.8 meters tall (5 feet 9 inches), was designed by researchers at Tohoku University in Japan.

According to the authors of the study, the bot its designed for contact with adults with heights ranging from 1.5 meters (4 feet 9 inches) to 1.9 meters (6 feet two inches) meters tall.

It has a force sensor and two laser rangefinders to track movements, which are compared against motion-capture data originally recorded from professional dancers.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Bad Language: Why Being Bilingual Makes Swearing Easier

Many bilinguals report “feeling less” in their second language; it does not bear the same emotional weight as your native language.

Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary, which is precisely what I was experiencing with my ease of swearing and talking about sensitive topics in English.

The scientific term for this is reduced emotional resonance of language. It is a fairly well-established phenomenon, but many specific questions still remain unanswered.

For example, what exactly makes one’s second language less emotional? How does this affect different immigrant communities?

This research project aims to address these questions by looking into the reasons and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language.




It is still unclear what exactly shapes emotional resonance of a language and in what way – results thus far have been inconclusive.

In the first part of my project, we are exploring which factors in a person’s language background contribute to reduced emotional resonance.

For example, is it influenced by the age at which you have learnt your second language? Does it matter how frequently and in which context you use the language?

Or is your emotional experience of a language predictable from whether you dream or can do maths in it?

To investigate these questions, my project uses eye-tracker technology in order to measure bilinguals’ pupil responses to emotional words in English.

Typically, when shown highly emotional words or pictures, people’s pupils dilate as a non-controllable, emotional reaction.

Previous research has shown the effect is smaller in bilinguals’ second language, which suggests reduced emotional resonance.

Understanding the reasons for why this happens can, in turn, help us explain how you experience a foreign language community, and how this could be taken into account in acculturation and adaptation.

However, not all the implications of reduced emotional resonance are negative – bilinguals can actually benefit from being able to approach things in a less emotionally involved way.

For example, bilinguals have been shown to be able to make more rational decisions in their second language.

Also, switching languages can be used as a tool in therapy when working through emotionally difficult or traumatising experiences.

Imagine how it would be if it were easier to talk about your emotions with your partner – maybe bilingual couples have a communicative advantage?

Ultimately, understanding the full scale of implications of reduced emotional resonance is a way to understand how bilinguals experience the world.

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Pass it on: Popular Science