Tag: science

Yes, You Can Actually Work Yourself To Death. But Is That A Surprise?

A recent study found that the less control you have over your job, the more likely you are to drop dead.

Researchers studied 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s for seven years, and found that “those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.

They also found that people with less control in demanding jobs were 15.4% more likely to die than those with more liberty to structure their own timelines and goals.

They recommend that employers ease up a bit, for the good of all and suggest “job crafting,” which involves employees to redesign their jobs to make them more meaningful.

The more freedom employees in stressful jobs have, in other words, the more they flourish.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a Twinkie factory or managing a hedge fund – if you get to choose when you have your coffee break and what you want to get done before that, you’re more likely to be productive, and to live to work another day.




If the boss lays off trying to control you all the time, you also get better at your job.

These research subjects were a bunch of 60-year-olds, but the principles easily transfer to managing, say, 6-year-olds.

We parents know this – give ‘em freedom (or the illusion of freedom) and they’ll grow in confidence and become more competent human beings.

Job angst is very real. In Japan, there is a word for dropping dead from work stress: karoshi. However, let us remember the word for dropping dead from no work and no possibility of work: starvation.

Sure, spending your days feeling seasick in a Twinkie factory is awful. But spending your days wondering how you’re going to feed your children has to be worse.

We don’t all have control of our work circumstances, our bosses or too many other factors that box us in to the lives we’ve (sort of) chosen. But sometimes there are choices even within tight constraints.

Herman Melville’s character Bartleby, who had a drab office job, one day simply said: “I would prefer not to.” He got away with it.

Perhaps, armed with scientific proof that the alternative might be a shorter life on this marvelous earth, we can all find some courage and fight to have more autonomy at our jobs.

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Space Crew Survives Plunge To Earth After Russian Rocket Fails

A Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut were safe on Thursday after a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan, leading to a dramatic emergency landing.

The two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as rescue crews raced to reach them, according to the U.S. space agency NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.




The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian booster rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

The Soyuz capsule carrying Ovchinin and Hague separated from the malfunctioning Russian rocket and plunged 31 miles (50 km) down to the surface, with parachutes helping to slow its speed, NASA said.

A cloud of sand billowed up as the capsule landed after what NASA called a 34-minute steep ballistic descent.

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing. Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

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Why Is Pluto No Longer A Planet?

In 2006, Pluto was voted out of the planetary club by members of the International Astronomical Union

But in 2006, it was relegated to the status of dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). So why was Pluto demoted?

Where did the controversy start?

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who was using the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Textbooks were swiftly updated to list this ninth member in the club. But over subsequent decades, astronomers began to wonder whether Pluto might simply be the first of a population of small, icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

This region would become known as the Kuiper Belt, but it took until 1992 for the first “resident” to be discovered.

The candidate Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 1992 QBI was detected by David Jewitt and colleagues using the University of Hawaii’s 2.24m telescope at Mauna Kea.




How did this change things?

Confirmation of the first KBO invigorated the existing debate. And in 2000, the Hayden Planetarium in New York became a focus for controversy when it unveiled an exhibit featuring only eight planets.

The planetarium’s director Neil deGrasse Tyson would later become a vocal figure in public discussions of Pluto’s status.

But it was discoveries of Kuiper Belt Objects with masses roughly comparable to Pluto, such as Quaoar (announced in 2002), Sedna (2003) and Eris (2005), that pushed the issue to a tipping point.

Eris, in particular, appeared to be larger than Pluto – giving rise to its informal designation as the Solar System’s “tenth planet“.

The discovery of other icy objects similar in size to Pluto forced a re-think by the IAU

Prof Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who led the team that found Eris, would later style himself as the “man who killed Pluto”, while deGrasse Tyson would later jokingly quip that he had “driven the getaway car”.

The finds spurred the International Astronomical Union to set up a committee tasked with defining just what constituted a planet, with the aim of putting a final draft proposal before members at the IAU’s 2006 General Assembly in Prague.

Under a radical early plan, the number of planets would have increased from nine to 12, seeing Pluto and its moon Charon recognised as a twin planet, and Ceres and Eris granted entry to the exclusive club. But the idea met with opposition.

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‘First Man’ Star Ryan Gosling Doesn’t Want to Go to the Moon

Ryan Gosling may play a pretty convincing Neil Armstrong in the new biopic “First Man,” but that iconic role as the famed Apollo 11 moonwalker didn’t inspire the movie star to dream of taking such a “giant leap” in real life.

In an interview with Space.com at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Gosling said that if he were given the opportunity to blast off on a mission to the moon, he would pass.

I had a great experience pretending to go there, and I’m happy with that,” he said.

Meanwhile, his co-star Claire Foy (who plays Neil Armstrong’s wife, Janet) seemed a bit more open to the idea of going to the moon, but “not right now,” she said.




Once they’ve done, you know, at least 4,000 trips, I’ll get on one.” Considering that no one has set foot on the moon in nearly 46 years — and that no human missions to the lunar surface are currently in the works — Foy may never make it to the moon at this rate.

Gosling may have no desire to walk on the moon, but his experience on the set of “First Man” brought him closer to a real moonwalking experience than most Earthlings will ever get.

All the things that we shot on the moon were very surreal,” he said.

They did such a good job of sculpting that lunar surface, and I think the only time I was completely in the Apollo 11 suit I was listening to comms from the original recording, so I could hear Buzz, I could hear mission control.

I felt very selfish in a way, because I was having this really special experience, but I think the beauty of the way Damien shot it is that the audience gets to experience it the same way I did,” he said, referring to the director, Damien Chazelle.

All of the moon scenes were filmed with IMAX cameras to provide an “immersive experience” for viewers, Chazelle said.

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Scientists Are Tracing the Source of One of the Most Mysterious Signals in Space

Over the past decade, we’ve found out a great deal about what fast radio bursts (FRBs) are — millisecond-long blips of intense radio emissions from deep space — but their origins remain a mystery.

Now, astronomers have tracked a repeating FRB to a dwarf galaxy nearly three billion lightyears from Earth, according to a report.

The international team, which presented its work at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting last January 2018, observed that the radio beam was being contorted by a magnetic field within a cloud of ionized gas, telling us more about the conditions these bursts take place in.




The study detailing the team’s results was recently published in Nature.

We see a sort of ‘twisting’ of the radio bursts caused by an effect known as Faraday rotation,” Jason Hessels, one of the co-authors of the study from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, told Futurism.

We hypothesize that the source of the bursts could be a neutron star in the proximity of a massive black hole that is accreting material from its surroundings, or maybe that it is a very young neutron star embedded in a nebula (a sort of cocoon around the source).

We are basically pushing forward and zooming in even further on where these fast radio bursts are coming from,” co-author Shami Chatterjee, a senior research associate from the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science said.

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5 Ways You Can Prove The Earth Is NOT Flat

Pretty much everyone knows the Earth is a globe. But a very, very small minority of us cling inexplicably to the idea of a Flat Earth.

So, we thought it was the perfect time to compile the ways you can prove that the Earth most definitely a globe.

1. Look upwards

Yep, this one’s pretty simple. When you look up at the night sky, you can only see certain constellations from certain points on Earth.

Someone in Australia will see a different sky to someone in England at night – for example, you can’t see Polaris, the North Star, from the southern hemisphere.

If the Earth was flat, everyone would be able to see the same constellations.




2. Look down

An equally straightforward way to prove the Earth is not flat is to simply measure your shadow.

If you get two people at different distances from the equator, and they measure their shadows at the same time, their shadows will be different lengths. But if the Earth was flat, their shadows would be the same.

Eratosthenes, who conducted a version of this experiment, knew this 3,000 years ago

3. Weigh yourself

Gravity, which pulls everyone towards the centre of our planet’s mass, means we weigh the same wherever we are in the world.

But a flat Earth would mean that those at the edge of the disk would be pulled sideways, while those at the centre would be pulled down.

To iron out this problem, Flat Earthers have concluded there is no such thing as gravity – you know, that force that pretty much holds the entire Universe together.

But if they were correct, you would not be able to weigh yourself at all. You would also be dead.

4. Take a trip to Antarctica

Flat Earthers argue that Antarctica is actually a massive ice wall around a flat Earth.

But, if that were true, the countless planes that fly over Antarctica would surely have just… fallen off?

5. Check your watch

To explain seasons, Flat Earthers argue that the sun orbits in a circle above us.

But that doesn’t explain time zones, though this is their attempt, which shows the sun as some kind of spotlight,

Everyone whose ever used a torch at night knows you can see its beam from the side – and that would apply to a flat Earth too.

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Scientists Produce Healthy Mice Born To Same-Sex Parents Using Stem Cells And Gene Editing

Scientists have been able to breed mice with same-sex parents using a breakthrough technique involving stem cells and gene editing.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have produced healthy mice with two mothers, who were then able to go on to reproduce themselves.

Mice with two fathers were also born during the study, but only survived for a matter of hours.

Using female same-sex parents, the scientists were able to produce a total of 29 live mice from 210 embryos.

All these offspring were normal, lived to adulthood, and were able to give birth to offspring of their own.

The study, published in scientific journal Cell Stem Cell, examined why same-sex mammals are not typically able to reproduce, suggesting stem cells and targeted gene editing can make the process easier.

We were interested in the question of why mammals can only undergo sexual reproduction,” the study’s co-senior author Dr Qi Zhou said.

We have made several findings in the past by combining reproduction and regeneration, so we tried to find out whether more normal mice with two female parents, or even mice with two male parents, could be produced using haploid embryonic stem cells with gene deletions.




While some species of reptiles, amphibians and fish can change gender in order to reproduce or exist as both male and female at the same time, same-sex reproduction for mammals is a more difficult proposition, Dr Zhou said.

He said in mammals, certain maternal or paternal genes are shut off during the development of sperm and egg cells, meaning offspring that do not receive genetic material from both a mother and father might experience developmental abnormalities.

By deleting imprinted genes from immature eggs, researchers have in the past been able to produce mice with two mothers, although most still displayed genetic defects.

To produce healthy bi-maternal mice, Dr Zhou, his co-senior authors Dr Baoyang Hu and Dr Wei Li, and their colleagues used haploid embryonic stem cells (ESCs), containing half the normal number of chromosomes and DNA from each parent.

We found in this study that haploid ESCs were more similar to primordial germ cells, the precursors of eggs and sperm,” Dr Hu said. “The genomic imprinting that’s found in gametes was ‘erased’.

Alongside the 29 healthy mice produced by same-sex female parents, a dozen mice were also born to two male parents during the course of the study.

However, the process of creating mice from same-sex male parents, which involves modifying a larger amounts of genes and inserting fertilised embryos into surrogate mothers, is more complicated.

All offspring from two males born during the study died after less than 48 hours, although scientists believe they can improve the process in future tests.

This research shows us what’s possible,” Dr Li said. “We saw that the defects in bi-maternal mice can be eliminated and that bi-paternal reproduction barriers in mammals can also be crossed through imprinting modification.

We also revealed some of the most important imprinted regions that hinder the development of mice with same-sex parents, which are also interesting for studying genomic imprinting and animal cloning.

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3,700-Year-Old Babylonian Tablet Rewrites The History Of Math

A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has proven that the Babylonians developed trigonometry 1,500 years before the Greeks and were using a sophisticated method of mathematics which could change how we calculate today.

The tablet, known as Plimpton 332, was discovered in the early 1900s in Southern Iraq by the American archaeologist and diplomat Edgar Banks, who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

The true meaning of the tablet has eluded experts until now but new research by the University of New South Wales, Australia, has shown it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, which was probably used by ancient architects to construct temples, palaces and canals.




However unlike today’s trigonometry, Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today.

Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate.

Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles,” said Dr Daniel Mansfield of the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the UNSW Faculty of Science.

It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius. The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry.”

This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education.

The Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived around 120BC, has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry, with his ‘table of chords’ on a circle considered the oldest trigonometric table.

A trigonometric table allows a user to determine two unknown ratios of a right-angled triangle using just one known ratio.

But the tablet is far older than Hipparchus, demonstrating that the Babylonians were already well advanced in complex mathematics far earlier.

The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC. It is now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University in New York.

Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1000 years,” says Dr Wildberger.

It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own.”

A treasure-trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”

The 15 rows on the tablet describe a sequence of 15 right-angle triangles, which are steadily decreasing in inclination.

The left-hand edge of the tablet is broken but the researchers believe t there were originally six columns and that the tablet was meant to be completed with 38 rows.

Plimpton 322 was a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or making architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids,” added Dr Mansfield.

The new study is published in Historia Mathematica, the official journal of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics.

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You’ve Just Thrown Away The Healthiest Part Of Your Avocado

If you’re like the rest of the avocado-eaters of the world, you approach your avocado like so: Cut around the avocado length-wise with a knife, then twist the two halves to separate them.

In a slightly unsafe fashion, you aim your sharp knife for the seed, hacking away until you get a firm grip, twist again to dislodge the seed. And then, you throw the seed away.

Well, according to Scientists of the American Chemical Society, you’ve just thrown away the healthiest part of your Avocado On Toast breakfast. Here’s a hint: It’s in the seed.




Scientists gathered 200 dried avocados and pulverized the seeds down to a powder.

After close examination, they discovered the avocado seed husk carries a “gold mine of medicinal compounds” capable of treating “a whole host of debilitating diseases.”

Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, explains “it could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

Researchers found dodecanoic acid in the husk powder, said to increase high density lipoprotein (known as HDL), which in turn, can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Docosanol, a crucial component in antiviral medications and treatment to cold sores and blisters, was also found in the husks. Dr. Bandyopadhyay and his colleagues hope to modify these compounds to develop medications with fewer side effects.

Diving for treasure” really takes on a whole new meaning with this discovery. The discarded avocado seeds from breakfast is not trash, it’s a nutrient-packed, heart-protecting gold mine.

But, you need not dip your hands into the trash to fetch this valuable stone seed. At least, not yet. In light of the research findings, experts believe this could one day lead to a new wave of supplements containing the healthy compounds contained in avocado husks.

For now, the jury is still out on the safety of consuming raw avocado husk powder.

Just to be clear: you cannot eat the pit or the husk. Repeat: DO NOT EAT AN AVOCADO PIT.

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This Wild Fruit Could Be The Next Strawberry

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and … groundcherries? A little-known fruit about the size of a marble could become agriculture’s next big berry crop.

To prepare the groundcherry (Physalis pruinosa) for mainstream farming, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Zachary Lippman, Joyce Van Eck at the Boyce Thompson Institute, and colleagues combined genomics and gene editing to rapidly improve traits such as fruit size, plant shape, and flower production.

Their results show that it’s possible to take a plant that’s practically wild and bring it close to domestication in a matter of years.

The team describes their work, a shortcut around traditional breeding techniques, October 1, 2018, in the journal Nature Plants.

I firmly believe that with the right approach, the groundcherry could become a major berry crop,” says Lippman, a plant scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Some scientists might consider the idea a reach, he adds. “But I think we’re now at a place where the technology allows us to reach.”




New tastes

For growers, new crops mean a chance to diversify and offer more options to consumers. The next major berry has eluded food producers for years, Lippman says.

Groundcherries are appealing candidates because they are drought tolerant and have an enticing flavor.

You have to taste the fruit to fully grasp its complexity, says Lippman, who describes it as tropical yet sour, sometimes with hints of vanilla.

Groundcherries (also called “husk cherries” and “strawberry tomatoes”) are native to Central and South America and belong to a group of plants known as orphan crops.

They’re grown as small-scale crops, regionally, or for subsistence. Orphan crops rarely make it into mainstream agriculture because of limitations such as poor shelf life or low productivity.

Improving these plants for large-scale production through breeding is a huge investment of time and money, Lippman says.

It can take anywhere from a decade to thousands of years to domesticate a crop from the wild. Researchers and growers need to figure out the plant’s genetics, adaptations, and how to cultivate it.

That’s why few orphan crops become household names.

Quinoa, the fluffy, high-protein grain that’s now standard in supermarkets, has risen through the agricultural ranks, but other orphan crops like groundnut, teff, and cowpea remain relatively unheard of outside their home regions.

Some consumers may be already be familiar with the groundcherry — like its relative, the tomatillo, the orange fruits are covered in thin, papery husks. They occasionally show up in U.S. farmers markets where “they sell like hotcakes,” Lippman says.

But groundcherries are not easy to grow. Now, Lippman thinks that the traits he and Van Eck have introduced may position the fruit for large-scale production.

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