The six-sided weather pattern currently sitting atop the planet’s north pole, which contains a gigantic hurricane - has been raging since 1981.
Lisa Nilsson is making bodies. In her latest show, “Connective Tissue,” the artist takes the increasingly common image of an MRI-like cross-section of a human body and recreates it with swirls of tightly wound paper under glass. Most of the images come from the Visible Human project, a research database maintained by the National Library of Medicine, along with some 19th century medical texts — so everything you see here is anatomically accurate, and each body once belonged to a living person.
For your super-freaky-Saturday-science reading pleasure.
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This amazing reentry fireworks was observed from the International Space Station on 2 November at 12:04 GMT. We can see European Space Agency’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, Albert Einstein, disintegrating and burning up in the atmosphere over an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean, in the most spectacular way, after it left the International Space Station a week earlier with 1.6 tonnes of waste.
Source of gif: ESA/NASA
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Solar flare marathon may continue
Over the last week, 28 solar flares have exploded on the sun, a quick turn of events from the star, which has been relatively quiet during this period of the sun’s activity cycle.
But there’s little cause for concern, as reporter Deborah Netburn assures:
The good news is that none of the rapid-fire solar flares of the last week have had much effect on life on Earth. Our atmosphere protects us from the sun’s occasional powerful bursts of light and radiation, but solar flares do occasionally interact with our communications systems. The radiation can mess with an upper layer in our atmosphere called the ionosphere and cause radio signals to act funky.
But that doesn’t stop the flares from looking pretty awesome, as you can see above.
As ridiculous as it seems, the U.S. military wants an Iron Man
The metal suit the Pentagon wants would be all but impervious to bullets and shrapnel, and be able to continuously download and display live video feeds from overhead drones. Relying on tiny motors, the exoskeleton would enable a soldier to run and jump without strain while carrying 100 or more pounds.
Happy birthday to the Internet!
You know, that thing that brings us cats and stuff. Forty-four years ago today, a message moved between two computers connected through a network designed to enable the sharing of information between various government funded science projects.
Columnist Michael Hilzik looks back at the web’s infancy, including a forward-looking 1968 paper titled “The Computer as a Communication Device,” co-written by Robert W. Taylor, one of the lead officers at the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency.
"In a few years," the paper began, "men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face."
Communicating online, he concluded, “will be as natural an extension of individual work as face-to-face communication is now.”
Read more on the Internet’s origins here, or just click around pretty much anywhere else on this page because, amazingly, you’re on the Internet right now!
The hot new trend in prehistoric study: Microfossils
They may not be quite as camera-ready as a huge saber-toothed cat skeleton or a gigantic sloth skull, but attention has recently shifted away from the larger fossil bounty from the La Brea tar pits and moved toward its smaller offerings.
Said Luis Chiappe, vice president of research and collections at the Natural History museum of Los Angeles County:
"These tiny bits and pieces may not look exciting, but they have become the coolest things on this planet. The menageries of insects, lizards and snakes emerging from our excavations are telling stories you can’t get from a mammoth skeleton alone."
And not to mention, it’s the 100th anniversary of the tar pits’ discovery.
Photos: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press, Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
Meet the family behind prosthetic eyeballs
Ever wonder where prosthetic eyes come from? Some pharmaceutical giant? A loud, whirring assembly line in a far-flung country? Try a few small families, who keep their craft close to their heart…and their bloodlines.
Universities don’t offer course work in ocularistry, with its odd blend of art and science. The only real way to learn the trade is to apprentice yourself to another ocularist, if you can find one willing to train you. Most opt to keep their secrets within their families.
"I equate it to being a blacksmith in the old days," ocularist David Gougelmann says. "Children followed in the footsteps of the father."
But like all families, the ties that bind can also eventually snap:
"Most families in the field of ocularistry have some kind of conflict," Gougelmann says. The son of a father who worked until he was 78 — "I don’t know many ocularists who’ve ever retired" — he chalks it up to a tension that exists in family businesses of all kinds.
"There’s this difficulty letting go," Gougelmann says. "You brought somebody into the business. At what point do you treat him as a peer? At what point do you relinquish the reins?"
Read more in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles’ multitude of buildings at risk during an earthquake
A number of older buildings in Los Angeles, despite the dangers being well-known to officials and builders alike, don’t meet current earthquake safety standards.
By the most conservative estimate, as many as 50 of these buildings in the city alone would be destroyed, exposing thousands to injury or death.
A cross-section of the city lives and works in them: seamstresses in downtown factories, white-collar workers in Ventura Boulevard high-rises and condo dwellers on Millionaires’ Mile in Westwood.
Despite their sturdy appearance, many older concrete buildings are vulnerable to the sideways movement of a major earthquake because they don’t have enough steel reinforcing bars to hold columns in place.
Photos: Los Angeles Times Archives
Meet a lonely, drifting planet
An enigmatic planet has been discovered wandering the vast cosmos by University of Hawaii scientists, notable not just for its free-floating nature, but for being the first planet not in orbit of a star.
"This thing is floating in space like our sun floats in space," said Eugene Magnier of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, coauthor of a study about the lonely planet. "It is drifting around through the galaxy."
Astronomers are not yet sure how this rogue planet came to be out there in space, all by itself. One theory is that it formed from a clump of hydrogen gas that condensed. Another, less likely thought is that it started its life in the vicinity of a star and got bumped out of its orbit.
So what the heck is a Higgs boson again?
After the two brains behind the theory that paved the way for study of the Higgs particle, the Large Hadron Collider and more won the Nobel Prize in physics today, a simple question lingers: What exactly did they win the prize for?
Karen Kaplan over at Science Now has highlighted some great primers for those of us who are less scientifically inclined. Courtesy of Ian Sample, an expert on the topic who was written a book about Higgs boson, the video linked here explains the importance of the Higgs field in transmitting mass to every single thing in the universe.
And above, the comic strip “Piled Higher and Deeper” explains some details about the search for proof of the Higgs boson (particles tied to the Higgs field).
Or, check out some of our coverage on the theorizing about, and search for the so-called “God Particle” and rest easy in the fact that the Hadron Collider didn’t create a black hole and ruin everything.
- by Rowan Hooper
“According to Dante, the Styx is not just a river but a vast, deathly swamp filling the entire fifth circle of hell. Perhaps the staff of New Scientist will see it when our time comes but, until then, Lake Natron in northern Tanzania does a pretty good job of illustrating Dante’s vision.
Unless you are an alkaline tilapia (Alcolapia alcalica) – an extremophile fish adapted to the harsh conditions – it is not the best place to live. Temperatures in the lake can reach 60 °C, and its alkalinity is between pH 9 and pH 10.5.
The lake takes its name from natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate, with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) thrown in. Here, this has come from volcanic ash, accumulated from the Great Rift valley. Animals that become immersed in the water die and are calcified.
Photographer Nick Brandt, who has a long association with east Africa – he directed the video for Michael Jackson’s Earth Song there in 1995 – took a detour from his usual work when he discovered perfectly preserved birds and bats on the shoreline. “I could not help but photograph them,” he says. “No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake.”
When salt islands form in the lake, lesser flamingos take the opportunity to nest – but it is a risky business, as this calcified bird (top) illustrates. The animals are all arranged in poses by the photographer. Above, on the right we have a sea eagle and on the left a dove, in what is surely the most horrific depiction of the “bird of peace” since Picasso’s Guernica.
Brandt’s new collection of photos featuring animals in east Africa, Across the Ravaged Land, is published by Abrams Books.”
(Source: New Scientist)
And kinda terrifying.
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Meet your three new favorite sea sponges.
The “Cookie Monster of the sea,” who’s about three feet tall and squishy, may be our favorite undersea creature (well, creatures) since this piglet squid who was found a few years ago in California’s San Pedro Channel.