Every year, the South By Southwest music, film and interactive festival gets larger, and navigating the blur of panels, parties and shows gets more daunting. The girth of it all is enough to keep many SXSW old-timers away from Austin this year.
A new study of Central African forest elephants has found their numbers down by 62 percent between 2002 and 2011. The study comes as governments and conservationists meet in Thailand to amend the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
This image represents a chunk, or "cube," of brain. Each different color represents a different neuron, and the goal of the EyeWire game is to figure out how these tangled neurons connect to each other. Players look at a slice from this cube and try to identify the boundaries of each cell. It isn't easy, and it takes practice. You can try it for yourself at eyewire.org.
An image from Foldit's Puzzle 48.
Daniel Berger, a researcher at MIT, traced these neurons using the EyeWire game.
In the EyeWire game, participants identify different neurons by coloring in their shapes using a Web-based 3-D interface.
People can get pretty addicted to computer games. By some estimates, residents of planet Earth spend 3 billion hours per week playing them. Now some scientists are hoping to make use of all that human capital and harness it for a good cause.
Right now I'm at the novice level of a game called EyeWire, trying to color in a nerve cell in a cartoon drawing of a slice of tissue. EyeWire is designed to solve a real science problem — it aims to chart the billions of nerve connections in the brain.
Bright lights are part of a city's ecosystem. Think of Times Square or the Las Vegas Strip or right outside your bedroom window.
Electric lighting is ubiquitous in most urban and suburban neighborhoods. It's something most people take for granted, but appreciate, since it feels like well-lit streets keep us safer. But what if all this wattage is actually causing harm?
"We're getting brighter and brighter and brighter," warns Paul Bogard, author of the upcoming book, End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 11:53 am
My pal Erik Olsen at The New York Times has just described an extraordinary new way to look at people. You point a camera at someone, record the image and then, using an "amplifier," you can discover things you've never seen before.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 9:38 am
The Fierce People. That's what anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon called the indigenous Ya̧nomamö Indians of Venezuela in his 1968 book Ya̧nomamö: The Fierce People. It's one of the best-selling anthropology texts of all time and is still in wide use.
Credit Left photo by Rufus Isaac/AAAS; Right photo courtesy of Daniel M.N. Turner
Wild bees, such as this Andrena bee visiting highbush blueberry flowers, play a key role in boosting crop yields.
Credit Dan Charles / NPR
Hired beekeepers work to pollinate an almond orchard near Snelling, Calif. Wild bees play a critical role in helping honeybees pollinate crops, but they often can't survive on modern monoculture farms.
Some of the most healthful foods you can think of — blueberries, cranberries, apples, almonds and squash — would never get to your plate without the help of insects. No insects, no pollination. No pollination, no fruit.
There are few things in life more joyful than discovering a giant oil or natural gas field in Texas. You're suddenly rich beyond your wildest dreams. When the scope and size of the natural gas reservoir in the Barnett Shale in North Texas first became apparent, there were predictions that the find would last 100 years.
Well, that was over the top. But University of Texas geology professor Scott Tinker, who designed and authored a new study of the Barnett Shale, says there's still a lot of gas down there, even after a decade of drilling.
The world's first space tourist is financing a project that aims to launch an American man and woman on a mission to fly by Mars in 2018.
Back in 2001, businessman Dennis Tito shelled out about $20 million to ride a Russian spaceship up to the International Space Station. Now he's unveiled a new nonprofit group called the Inspiration Mars Foundation.
Researchers who studied pieces of the meteor collected near Lake Cherbarkul say it was a common chondrite meteor. The largest of the 53 fragments was one centimeter in diameter. Photo provided by the Urals Federal University Press Service.
The meteor that caused at least 1,000 injuries in Russia after a startling and powerful daytime explosion one week ago has been identified as a chondrite. Russian scientists who analyzed fragments of the meteor, whose large size and well-documented impact made it a rarity, say that its composition makes it the most common type of meteor we encounter here on Earth.
Carnegie Lake, Australia, 1999 Carnegie Lake in Western Australia fills with water only during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it is reduced to a muddy marsh. Flooded areas appear dark blue or black, vegetation appears in shades of dark and light green, and sands, soils and minerals appear in a variety of colors.
Richat Structure, Mauritania, 2001
The 31-mile-wide bull's-eye in the western Sahara is a landmark for astronauts. The structure formed when a volcanic dome hardened and gradually eroded, exposing the onion-like layers of rock. Desert sands appear white and pale yellow at the corners; less sandy, rocky areas are green; and volcanic rocks are blue.
Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa, 2000
The large stretch of semiarid, sandy savanna covers part of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The desert has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. The red dot near the Nossob River in the center of this image represents a farm made possible by a center-pivot irrigation system.
Bombetoka Bay, Madagascar, 2000
Islands and sandbars have formed where the Betsiboka River flows into the Mozambique Channel. The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of sediment moved by the river and deposited in the estuary. Dense vegetation is deep green, and water is sapphire, tinged with pink where sediment is particularly thick.
Great Salt Desert, Iran, 2003
A mix of salt marshes, mud flats, wadis, steppes and desert plateaus color the landscape of Iran's Great Salt Desert, Dasht-e Kavir. The region covers an area of more than 29,000 square miles. Dramatic daily temperature swings and violent storms are the norm, and extreme heat leaves the marshes and mud grounds with crusts of salt.
Carnegie Lake, Australia, 1999
Carnegie Lake in Western Australia fills with water only during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it is reduced to a muddy marsh. Flooded areas appear dark blue or black, vegetation appears in shades of dark and light green, and sands, soils and minerals appear in a variety of colors.
Ice Waves, Greenland, 2001
The undulating swirls shown here along the eastern coast of Greenland are slurries of sea ice, newly calved icebergs, and older weathered bergs. During the summer melting season, the southward-flowing East Greenland Current twirls these mixtures into stunning shapes. The exposed rock of mountain peaks are tinted red.
Lena River Delta, Russia, 2000
The Delta extends 62 miles into the Laptev Sea and Arctic Ocean, and includes a protected wilderness area and wildlife refuge. The delta is frozen tundra for about seven months of the year, and spring transforms it into a lush wetland. Vegetation appears as shades of green, sandy areas as shades of red, and water as purples and blues.
Nazca Lines, Peru, 2000
The ancient geoglyphs, located in southern Peru, are estimated to be created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 A.D. The Nazca Lines were made by removing reddish iron-oxide pebbles that cover the surface of the desert. When the gravel is removed, the lines contrast with the light color underneath.
Meandering Mississippi, U.S., 2003
Graceful swirls and whorls of the Mississippi River encircle fields and pastures on the border between Arkansas and Mississippi. The Mississippi is the largest river system in North America and forms the second largest watershed in the world.
Garden City, Kan., U.S., 2000
Garden City, Kan., has a semi-arid steppe climate with hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters. Center-pivot irrigation systems created the circular patterns. The red circles indicate irrigated crops of healthy vegetation, and the light-colored circles denote harvested crops.
Mayn River, Russia, 2000
The Mayn River is a tributary of the larger Anadyr River, which flows through the far northeastern corner of Siberia. While these rivers are frozen for about eight to nine months in a year, they are home to chum and sockeye salmon during the summer months.
Von Kármán Vortices, Southern Pacific Ocean, 1999
Swirling clouds line up in a formation known as a von Kármán street. They appear when wind-driven clouds encounter an obstacle, in this instance Alexander Selkirk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean.
Terkezi Oasis, Chad, 2000
A series of rocky outcroppings emerge from the sand in the Sahara Desert near the Terkezi Oasis. Stretching across the immense desert are vast plains of sand and gravel; seas of sand dunes; and barren, rocky mountains. Only 10,000 years ago, grasses covered the region, and mammals such as lions and elephants roamed the land.
Himalayas, Central Asia, 2001
The soaring, snow-capped peaks and ridges of the eastern Himalaya Mountains create an irregular patchwork between major rivers in Tibet and southwestern China. Covered by snow and glaciers, the mountains here rise to altitudes of more than 16,000 feet. Vegetation at lower elevations is colored red.
Phytoplankton Bloom, Baltic Sea, 2005 Massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants that form the first link in nearly all ocean food chains. Blooms of phytoplankton, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 1:04 pm
Satellites are powerful tools. They beam our TV signals, phone calls and data around the planet. They help us spy, they track storms, they power the GPS signals in our cars and on our phones. But they also send back striking, totally disarming images of planet Earth.
This set of images is all about showing off the "beauty of the Earth," says Lawrence Friedl, the director of NASA's Applied Sciences Program and the editor of a project called Earth as Art. "We want people to look at these images and say, 'How did nature do that?' "
Ultraviolet (false color). Bees and other pollinators can see the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. They are guided by patterns on flowers that are invisible to humans.
Credit Adam Cole / NPR
Fragrance plume (artist's depiction). Bees follow specific odors to locate flowers and, once they arrive, use scent maps to move toward the center of the flower. Fragrance that clings to a bee provides information for other bees back at the hive.
Credit Adam Cole / NPR
Electric field (artist's depiction). Flowers have a weak negative electric charge relative to the air around them. Different flowers have different electric fields, often with charge concentrated at the tips of the petals.
Credit Kevin Collins
Visible spectrum. Certain bright colors and petal shapes attract certain pollinators.
Flowers are nature's ad men. They'll do anything to attract the attention of the pollinators that help them reproduce. That means spending precious energy on bright pigments, enticing fragrances and dazzling patterns.
Now, scientists have found another element that contributes to flowers' brand: their distinct electric field.
Anne Leonard, who studies bees at the University of Nevada, says our understanding of pollinator-flower communication has been expanding for decades.
Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 10:08 am
Bees are democrats. They vote. When a community of bees has to make a choice, like where to build a new hive, they meet, debate and decide. But here's what they don't do: they don't filibuster. No single bee (or small band of bees) will stand against the majority, insisting and insisting for hours. They can't.
An undated handout graphic distributed on July 4, 2012 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva shows a representation of traces of traces of a proton-proton collision measured in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experience in the search for the Higgs boson.
The HeLa cell line — one of the most revolutionary tools of biomedical research — has played a part in some of the world's most important medical advances, from the polio vaccine to in vitro fertilization.
Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 10:36 am
If you've ever played around with one of those carbon or water footprint calculators, you probably know that meat production demands a lot from the environment — a lot of oil, water and land. (Check out the infographic we did on what goes into a hamburger last year for Meat Week.)
But have you thought about your meat's phosphorus footprint? Probably not.