Sometimes, science is all about not having the foggiest idea about how something happens, but trying really hard to find out the truth. It also means not being afraid to go in potentially weird directions.
Jason Wright, Penn State associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, is doing just that. He’s one of the astronomers trying to find out if — set the synthesizer on spooky and cue the weird music — a giant alien structure is causing the weird dimming of a star called KIC 8462852, better known as Tabby’s Star.
Located about 1,500 light-years from Earth, Tabby’s Star has undergone rapid and erratic dimming that typical cosmic phenomena — a rotating planet, for example, or comets — may not explain. While not proven or even likely, Wright suggests that an alien megastructure cannot be taken off the table as a possibility.
In this chat at the SETI Institute, (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute), Wright offers more information about Tabby’s Star and what it might — and might not — mean for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Members of the news media interested in talking to Wright should contact Barbara Kennedy at 814-863-4682 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Political conventions focus attention on strong partisans. But not all Americans call themselves Democrats or Republicans, or for that matter Libertarians or Greens. Many prefer to think of themselves as Independents.
With the McCourtney “Mood of the Nation Poll,” we can look at these Independents in a unique way. The poll is a scientific survey that allows ordinary citizens to tell us what is on their minds, without being restricted to a small number of predetermined answers. It also includes standard polling questions such as party identification, allowing us to see who these independents are and what they are thinking about this campaign. The most recent poll posed a series of open-ended questions to a representative sample of 1,000 Americans between June 15-22.
Determining who is an Independent is not straightforward. CNN, in its post-convention survey, reports that “28 percent described themselves as Democrats, 24 percent described themselves as Republicans, and 48 percent described themselves as independents or members of another party.” This is not far from our survey. Our breakdown shows a greater number of Independents (35 percent) than Republicans or Democrats.
Somewhere along our evolutionary path, humans developed the ability to tolerate smoke — which can be full of toxic chemicals.
This genetic mutation may have given early humans a few advantages for survival, says Gary Perdew, the John T. and Paige S. Smith Professor in Agricultural Sciences. Cooking food on a campfire in a cave or heating a shelter with fire could have been fatal without this adaptation, for instance.
On a recent episode of the Naked Scientists (listen to the excerpt above), Perdew discussed this genetic change, as well as how he and his team found that Neandertals didn’t have similar protection. Perdew suggests that this could be one reason that human civilization flourished and the Neandertals, well… went up in smoke.
What do the Rio Olympics, the United States Marine Corps, and Amazon.com have in common? All need an efficient and effective infrastructure in order to accomplish their objectives.
This infrastructure includes buildings, transportation, inventory, and all related services needed to sustain and/or serve thousands of “customers” in a timely manner.
Reports coming out of Rio suggest that parts of this infrastructure were not well executed. One report cited the lack of electrical outlets in the living quarters for some of the athletes.
Recent news stories also have cited the lack of sewage treatment capacity, allowing thousands of gallons of raw sewage to pour into the waters used by the athletes. Rio did not develop the pipeline infrastructure to divert the sewage to sewage treatment facilities, despite receiving funds to build them.
These are infrastructure issues. Are these instances an oversight or poor execution? In my opinion, they are both.
Imagine you dedicate your whole life to becoming the best in your chosen sport. You put in the work, make big sacrifices, and finally make the Olympic team. You have a shot at a medal — and all the money, fame, and influence that comes with it.
Then, someone offers you a magic pill with two guarantees — that you won’t get caught and that you’ll win everything. There’s just one catch: you’ll be dead within five years from the pill’s side effects.