Science + Technology

In the biggest find yet in a project to map the landscape near Stonehenge, researchers have found a row of up to 90 standing stones — some of them nearly 15 feet tall. The huge stone assembly is less than 2 miles from Stonehenge; scientists say it could be as old or older than the famous monument.



The Multiverse Of Perception

Sep 6, 2015

Today, we at 13.7 are honored to host as a guest blogger Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, one of the world's leading theoretical physicists. Wilczek won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to our understanding of how quarks behave inside particles called hadrons, of which protons and neutrons are the most familiar. But Wilczek's talents go well beyond that of an amazingly creative physicist.

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The greater sage grouse is a peculiar and distinctly Western bird. It's about the size of a chicken and about as adaptable as the dodo bird, which is to say it's not very adaptable at all — at least not in a human-driven time scale.

In biological terms, the greater sage grouse is perfectly adapted for its habitat: the rolling hills of knee-high silver scrub that's sometimes called the sagebrush sea. It's the oft-forgotten parts of the fast-changing West — The Big Empty, as settlers used to call it.

President Obama arrived in Alaska on Monday afternoon and spoke of renewed commitment to mitigating the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, the Associated Press reported.

"On this issue — of all issues — there is such a thing as being too late," Obama said. "And that moment is almost upon us."

News about the stock market's ups and downs hardly comes as music to the ears — unless you happen to be experimental musician Jace Clayton.

Clayton, who also performs and records as DJ /rupture, is working on a new composition called Gbadu And The Moirai Index, which uses an algorithm to translate the market's movements into a piece for four voices. Each singer plays a mythological character — the Moirai are the three Greek goddesses of fate, and Gbadu is a dual-gendered West African fate deity.

If you've ever visited the Fells Point neighborhood on the Baltimore waterfront, you may have noticed an older man standing on the street corner, telescope in hand. Herman Heyn, self-proclaimed "star hustler," has been setting up in the same place almost every night, offering passersby glimpses of the galaxy for close to three decades.

He knows, because he's been keeping count.

"I just finished my 27th year. I've been out on the street 2,637 times," he says. "It's like being on a Broadway show that has a long run."

An 11-question quiz that tests science literacy — some would say very basic science literacy — is on my mind this week.

Here's an experience some of us have had. The phone rings. You pick it up and say "Hello. Hello. Helloooo." But nobody answers.

It turns out there could be someone on the other end of the line: an automated computer system that's calling your number — and tens of thousands of others — to build a list of humans to target for theft.

Build A List

Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop Security, a company in Atlanta that detects phone fraud, says that in any number of ways, the criminal ring gets your 10 digits and loads them into an automated system.

When I was pregnant with my first child, friends and family inevitably asked about my diet.

"Are you sticking to vegan food?" they wondered, with variable admiration or anxiety.

For some, the curiosity was about cravings. One mother told me she was irresistibly (and unexpectedly) drawn to hot dogs her third trimester; another confessed her sudden fascination with red meat. Surely, I'd crave things beyond the vegan sections of Whole Foods? (I didn't. Mostly.)

This time last year, what became known as #Gamergate rocked the Internet and the world of video games.

The stated purpose of the hashtag movement, according to those who supported it, was that it was about corruption and ethical malfeasance in video game journalism, but the debate — played out largely on Twitter, Reddit and other discussion websites — highlighted rampant sexism and harassment in video game culture.

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Many illnesses are contagious. You'd do well to avoid your neighbor's sneeze, for example, and to wash your hands after tending to your sick child.

But what about mental illness?

The idea that anxiety, autism or major depression could be transmitted through contact may sound crazy — and it probably is. There's a lot we don't know about the origins of mental illness, but the mechanisms identified so far point in other directions.

The giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America's treasures, but for the first time in Sequoia National Park's history, the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought.

On a hike last summer, a scientist noticed that the needles of the giant sequoias were browning and more sparse than usual. This finding got ecologists thinking: Did the drought cause this?

Learning to make sounds by listening to others is a skill that helps make us human.

But research now suggests a species of monkey may have evolved similar abilities.

Marmosets have the capacity to learn calls from their parents, according to research published Thursday in the journal Science. The results mean that studying marmosets might provide insights into developmental disorders found in humans. It also suggests that vocal learning may be more widespread than many researchers thought.

Scientists have just sequenced the first genome of an octopus, and it was no trivial task.

"The octopus has a very large genome. It's nearly the size of the human genome," says Carrie Albertin, a biologist at the University of Chicago.

As technology to sequence DNA has gotten faster and cheaper, scientists have unraveled the genes of all kinds of creatures. But until now, no one had done an octopus — despite its obvious appeal as one of the weirdest animals on Earth.

In the history of life on Earth, evolutionary forces have pushed some species to become incredibly large. After most dinosaurs died off 66 million years ago, some mammals and marsupials grew bigger and bigger, taking the dinos' place.

LA Rolls Out Water-Saving 'Shade Balls'

Aug 11, 2015

Today, "shade balls" got their moment in the sun.

On Monday afternoon, the 20,000 black plastic balls tumbled down the slopes of Los Angeles Reservoir, joining 95,980,000 of their brethren already covering the surface of the water.

The final deployment of these shade balls was the last step in a $34.5 million water quality protection project aimed at preventing evaporation and algae growth in the reservoir.

As I write this, California remains deep in its fourth year of drought.

One hundred percent of the state of Nevada is in drought — with 40 percent in the extreme drought category. Over to the southeast, 93 percent of Arizona's territory is in some form of drought. Even Washington state, far to the north, finds all of its territory in drought and 32 percent of its land in extreme doubt.