Month: July, 2018

The Weirdest Weather Events of 2018 So Far

 

We’ve already seen our share of winter storms, severe weather, cold outbreaks, flooding and droughts so far in 2018. But there are some weather events every year that are downright strange, and this year is no exception.

The events we consider strange are weather phenomena happening repeatedly in one place, in a place where you wouldn’t think they would occur or during an unusual time of year.

Some are phenomena you may not find in a Weather 101 textbook.




Freezing Rain in Florida

Just after New Year’s Day, Winter Storm Grayson blanketed Tallahassee, Florida, with its first measurable snow since 1989, and the first January such occurrence, there, in records dating to 1885.

That’s eye-catching enough.  What was even more bizarre was seeing an ice accumulation map involving the Sunshine State.

Up to a quarter inch of ice accumulation was measured in Lake City, and light icing on elevated surfaces was reported as far south as Levy County.

A Horseshoe Cloud

A horseshoe cloud was captured over Battle Mountain, Nevada on Mar. 8, 2018.

While the nor’easter parade was hammering the East Coast, a bizarre cloud was captured in video over Nevada in early March.

As meteorologist Jonathan Belles explained, this rare horseshoe vortex is fleeting, lasting only minutes, when a relatively flat cloud moves over a column of rising air, which also gives the cloud some spin.

A State Record Hailstone

The hailstone that was saved from a March 19, 2018, hailstorm near Cullman, Alabama, later to be found to set a state record.

Alabama’s notorious history of severe weather, particularly tornadoes, is well documented.  On March 19, however, it was a hailstone that captured meteorologists’ attention.

One softball-size hailstone near Cullman, Alabama, was found to set a new state record, more than 5 inches in diameter.

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What Is The Science of Superstition?

A visitor once asked the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Niels Bohr whether he really believed that the horseshoe he’d hung at his country home was lucky.

Of course not,” Bohr said. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”

If Bohr couldn’t resist magical thinking, can anyone? One recent study found that even physicists, chemists, and geologists at MIT and other elite schools were instinctively inclined to attach a purpose to natural events.

When the researchers subjected the scientists to time pressure, they were twice as likely to approve of statements such as “Trees produce oxygen so that animals can breathe” than they were when they had time to respond more deliberately.




Such bias may well be deep-seated: another recent study found that, regardless of their parents’ religiosity, 5-to-7-year-old children preferred explanations of events that involved lessons—like “Maggie’s house burned down to teach her not to play with fire anymore”.

Even atheists seem to fear a higher power. A study published last year found that self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things.

Not only that, they stressed out just as much as believers did. Belief in the soul also appears widespread.

One psychologist found that among people who said that consciousness ends at death, a third nonetheless attributed ongoing thoughts and feelings to characters in a fictional story after those characters had died.

Expressions of subconscious religious belief seem to increase when we are reminded of our own mortality—as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes.

Black cats are less likely to be adopted. Does superstition play a part?

In one study, writing about death increased subjects’ implicit associations between words for supernatural entities (God, soul, hell) and synonyms for real (true, factual).

The effect was equally strong in Christians and in people who described themselves as nonreligious.

Fear is another driver of irrationality. In a British study, students imagined an encounter with a self-professed witch who offered to cast an evil spell on them.

About half said a scientist should accept the hex without concern. Yet each of them said that, personally, they’d decline the offer.

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Water Resistant Gadgets Aren’t Waterproof

The terms water-resistant and waterproof get bandied around quite a bit in the gadget market, but that doesn’t mean you chuck your gadgets into the nearest pool with impudence.

Water-resistance is most definitely not waterproof by any measure.

Last week we dove deep into the nomenclature and standards surrounding the testing and production of water-resistant gadgets.

This week we’re back with a lighter overview that’s perfect for people looking for a broad overview of water-resistant gadgets without so many tables and technical specifications.

Let’s take a look at the most important things you need to know about water-resistance and your gadgets.




What’s the Difference?

Every year thousands upon thousands of consumers fry their supposedly “waterproof” gadgets because of a poor understanding and poor marketing.

Understanding the basics of water-resistance is key to keeping your gadgets safe as well as purchasing the right gadgets for your outdoor and sport needs.

The most important thing you need to understand about the entire concept of “waterproof” is that it isn’t a real thing outside of very misleading marketing material.

There is no waterproof gadget on the market.

Every single phone, watch, sport band, GPS device, portable speaker, or the like that bills itself as “waterproof” should really bill itself as “Water-resistant within the parameters specified by the manufacturer.”

Think of it like “earthquake proof.” It is impossible to build a structure that is completely impervious to earthquakes.

No matter how well-built and over-engineered a structure may be there is always a combination of earthquake intensity and duration that will bring it to the ground.

Water-resistance is exactly the same. Every “waterproof” gadget has a point where the it has been submerged too long, too deep, or in water too hot or too cold, and the seals on the device fail allowing water inside.

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Jaguar Unveils Its First All-Electric Vehicle, Designed To Take On Tesla Model X

Jaguar revealed its first battery electric vehicle Thursday, and it appears to be a direct competitor to the Tesla Model X sport utility vehicle.

During the reveal Thursday, Jaguar even staged races between the two vehicles.

Like the Tesla Model X and Model S, the I-PACE is powered by two electric motors. Like a Tesla it has a trunk where the engine would otherwise be.

Notably, the car is available now.

As of this moment, it is available to own,” said presenter Jack Whitehall, at the unveiling event held at the Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing facility in Graz, Austria.




The car has a single-speed automatic transmission, common in electric vehicles. Jaguar estimates the I-PACE has 240 miles of range on a single charge. It goes 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

Jaguar designed the battery to last 10 years, said Ian Callum, director of design.

The car is also loaded with tech inside, like a navigation system that suggests nearby charging stations, and the ability to learn and adjust settings inside the vehicle to match a driver’s preferences.

The I-PACE also has an Amazon skill that works with its affiliated mobile app.

The I-PACE first debuted as a concept vehicle in 2016. Thousands of customers have already expressed interest in the I-PACE, Jaguar said.

The I-PACE’s battery will be capable of reaching an 80 percent charge in just 40 minutes, Jaguar said, and the vehicle has been tested in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 104 degrees.

The official public debut of I-PACE will be at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday. Jaguar Land Rover is a unit of India’s Tata Motors.

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Why Are We Attracted To Fireworks?

Why are fireworks so mesmerising? The sudden, bright, moving sparks they emit are compelling to watch and seem mysterious because we’re so unused to light of that type travelling directly into our eyes.

In general, the colours we see are created by light bouncing off the reflective surfaces of objects around us.

As we encounter this reflected light all the time, we’ve become very good at unscrambling the colours in our brain and, as a result, anything different can seem otherworldly.




This could be why other sources of moving light, like shooting stars and fireflies, are also thought of as magical.

Another reason we look forward to bonfire night is because fireworks scare us. Unlike dogs and young children, who are simply overwhelmed by the noise, adults are spooked by the unpredictable gap between the flash and the bang.

It’s been proven that anticipation makes pain or shock worse, which is why doctors have now been advised not to warn patients a blood test may be painful.

The suspense created in the gap between expectation and event frightens us, which is fun, but only when we’re in control.

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Why Are 2″ x 4″s Not Two Inches by Four Inches?

Many do-it-yourselfers have discovered that the two by fours (or 2 x 4s) they bring home from the lumber supply store are not actually 2 inches (5.08 cm) thick or 4 inches (10.16 cm) wide.

The actual dimensions of this lumber can vary somewhat, but a true measurement of 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) by 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) is not unusual. Still, the designation is not necessarily a misnomer.

The lumber industry is nothing if not consistent with its measuring system. When harvested trees are brought to commercial sawmills for processing, the first cuts can be rough.




Many of the irregular outer planks are discarded immediately. The usable lumber is often cut into easily divisible multiples of two, such as 24-foot (7.3-m), 12-foot (3.6-m), and 6-foot (1.8-m) lengths.

Indeed, at one point in the milling process, two by fours actually do measure 2 inches by 4 inches. This is the measurement of the planks just before they are run through a machine called a planer.

A planer uses sharp blades to shave off all of the imperfect edges left behind by the rough sawing process.

Commercial lumber mills may have to plane off as much as 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) of length and width from two by fours to provide a quality product for carpenters, roofers, and homeowners.

Older boards recovered from 100-year-old homes and other buildings may actually be true two by fours, however. Carpenters routinely planed their own lumber onsite to create a better fit between individual boards.

Sawmills did not always use planers to create perfect boards — framers and carpenters were accustomed to working with rough-sawn planks of variable thickness and appearance.

Planks were generally cut to standard measurements such as eight by eights, two by eights, and one by twos. The measuring terms still remain a popular reference, even if the actual dimensions are not entirely accurate.

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Nerf’s New Laser Tag Guns Hook Up To Your Smartphone

If the only thing missing from your summer is the ability to play laser tag at home without a vest, then Hasbro has got you covered.

Today, the company announced its Nerf Laser Ops Pro blaster line, which shoot IR bursts and allow you to keep track of ammo, health and how your team is doing right from the device. Batteries are, of course, not included.

Each blaster comes with an armband that can hold a smartphone, which signals that this product isn’t aimed at children.

Using an app, players can customize their Nerf blaster, track performance, access real-time battle stats, get power-ups and locate opponents.




But there’s more! If your friends are too busy to come over to play, the Alphapoint version of the blaster allows you to play in solo mode using the app.

All you have to do is take advantage of the solo attachment, which comes with the Alphapoint blaster.

There will be two different types of blasters available. The Pro Deltaburst model fires a three-shot AR burst with an included LCD screen to keep track of how you’re doing.

The Laser Pro Ops blasters will be available starting in August 2018 at most major retailers and HasbroToyShop.com.

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Google’s AI Sounds Like A Human On The Phone

It came as a total surprise: the most impressive demonstration at Google’s I/O conference yesterday was a phone call to book a haircut. Of course, this was a phone call with a difference.

It wasn’t made by a human, but by the Google Assistant, which did an uncannily good job of asking the right questions, pausing in the right places, and even throwing in the odd “mmhmm” for realism.

The crowd was shocked, but the most impressive thing was that the person on the receiving end of the call didn’t seem to suspect they were talking to an AI.

It’s a huge technological achievement for Google, but it also opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and social challenges.




For example, does Google have an obligation to tell people they’re talking to a machine? Does technology that mimics humans erode our trust in what we see and hear?

And is this another example of tech privilege, where those in the know can offload boring conversations they don’t want to have to a machine, while those receiving the calls have to deal with some idiot robot?

In other words, it was a typical Google demo: equal parts wonder and worry.

Many experts working in this area agree, although how exactly you would tell someone they’re speaking to an AI is a tricky question.

If the Assistant starts its calls by saying “hello, I’m a robot” then the receiver is likely to hang up. More subtle indicators could mean limiting the realism of the AI’s voice or including a special tone during calls.

Google tells The Verge it hopes a set of social norms will organically evolve that make it clear when the caller is an AI.

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A Brief History Of The Future

The history of the universe is mind-blowing. But the future of the universe – and how it ends – is even more so.

From the end of the human race to the fate of planet Earth, the solar system, the Milky Way, and beyond, in today’s video, we talk about the far, far future and what it holds for everything.

Meteor, Comet Or Asteroid? How To Tell Them Apart.

Here’s how to tell a meteor from an asteroid from a comet.

Meteoroid: A small rocky or metal object, usually between the size of a grain of sand or a boulder, that orbits the sun. It originates from a comet or asteroid.

Meteor: A meteoroid that enters the earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes. Also called a “shooting star.”




Meteorite: A meteor that hits earth without burning up in the atmosphere.

Meteor shower: A collection of meteors visible when earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet.

Asteroid: An object larger than a meteoroid that orbits the sun and is made of rock or metal. Historically, objects larger than 10 meters across have been called asteroids; smaller than that they’ve been called meteoroids.

Comet: A body of ice, rock and dust that can be several miles in diameter and orbits the sun. Debris from comets is the source of many meteoroids.

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