You can find hexagonally-patterned rocks in Petoskey, MI, that are actually fossilized corallites. Petoskey stones were formed during a prehistoric ice age that scattered them to the shores of Lake Michigan. The dark spots were the coral’s mouths, and the tiny lines were tentacles that reached out for food. Source Source 2 Source 3


Pachypodium brevicaule x densiflorum is in the milkweed family Apocynaceae. This species is a stem succulent native to the island of Madagascar, and has a growth habit that is atypical for the rest of the genus. The enlarged stem serves as a means of water storage in the hot, arid environment it is found in. The stem is also covered in spines to deter any predators from eating this species. Because of its unique morphology, this species is sought after by horticulturalists and plant collectors. Pictured above is an award winning specimen on display at a state cactus and succulent show.


Climate change was never fully addressed at the 2016 debates

The three presidential debates are officially over, and not one question was asked of the two major party presidential candidates about climate change. Needless to say, climate activists are frustrated and believe it would have come up with different moderators.

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What would it take to survive in space?

Prolonged space travel takes a severe toll on the human body. As we seriously consider the human species becoming space-faring, a big question stands. Even if we break free from Earth’s orbit and embark on long-duration journeys among the stars, can we adapt to the extreme environments of space?

Without an atmospheric barrier and a magnetic field like Earth’s, most planets and moons are bombarded with dangerous subatomic particles, like ionizing radiation. 

These particles can pass through nearly anything and would cause potentially cancerous DNA damage to space explorers. So, to survive as a species during space travel, we’d have to develop methods to quickly program protective abilities into ourselves. A beta version of these methods is gene therapy, which we can currently use to correct genetic diseases.

Now, what if we could turn the tables on radiation? Human skin produces a pigment called melanin that protects us from the filtered radiation on Earth.

Melanin exists in many forms across species, and some melanin-expressing fungi use the pigment to convert radiation into chemical energy. Instead of trying to shield the human body, or rapidly repair damage, we could potentially engineer humans to adopt and express these fungal, melanin-based energy-harvesting systems. They’d then convert radiation into useful energy while protecting our DNA. This sounds pretty sci-fi, but may actually be achievable with current technology.

Check out what else scientists have up their sleeves in the TED-Ed Lesson Could we survive prolonged space travel? - Lisa Nip

Animation by Bassam Kurdali


Bermuda Triangle hexagonal cloud theory gains steam

Has the Bermuda Triangle mystery finally been solved? Several meteorologists seem to think so. The Science Channel recently aired a clip from its television series What on Earth? examining a pattern of hexagonal clouds hovering over the infamous region. According to their findings, the bizarre cloud formation could explain why numerous ships and planes have vanished in the area.

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Plesiosaurs are marine reptiles that thrived during the Jurassic period and went extinct some 66 million years ago. Since the first discoveries of plesiosaur fossils centuries ago, scientists have debated how the four-limbed creature would have swam. One approach to answering this question is to examine the efficiency of different strokes. Researchers have done this computationally by building a digital plesiosaur with biologically realistic joint motions. They then couple the model plesiosaur’s body motions with the movement of fluid around the body. With this computational model, they then simulate many different methods for moving the plesiosaur’s limbs and search for the most efficient one.

What they found is that the plesiosaur’s propulsion is dominated by its forelimbs, which likely moved with a flight stroke similar to that of a penguin or sea turtle. Despite their size, the hindlimbs were able to produce very little thrust, suggesting that they were primarily used for stability and maneuverability. (Image credits: S. Liu et al., GIF source)

No, science wasn’t wrong. Science isn’t a belief system. Science is a method of discovery. Science can’t be wrong. Humans can be wrong and misinterpret data, but science itself, when done correctly, cannot be wrong. Science didn’t come out and say “THERE ARE 200 BILLION GALAXIES IN THE UNIVERSE AND THAT IS FINAL.” It was probably inevitable, actually, that more galaxies were going to be found, because we have better instruments to measure/detect the deep fields. Hubble is powerful, yes, but it’s been improved upon and there are even better telescopes succeeding it (namely, James Webb, being launched in 2018, which will actually be able to detect, in detail, the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets).

Science can’t be wrong. Science is not a belief system. Science is NOT a belief system. Science is a method. Thus, science can only be improved upon.

There’s More To Uranus Than We Thought

Uranus May Have Two Undiscovered Moons 

by Tara Roberts

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus 30 years ago, but researchers are still making discoveries from the data it gathered then. A new study led by University of Idaho researchers suggests there could be two tiny, previously undiscovered moonlets orbiting near two of the planet’s rings.

Rob Chancia, a University of Idaho doctoral student, spotted key patterns in the rings while examining decades-old images of Uranus’ icy rings taken by Voyager 2 in 1986. He noticed the amount of ring material on the edge of the alpha ring – one of the brightest of Uranus’ multiple rings – varied periodically. A similar, even more promising pattern occurred in the same part of the neighboring beta ring.

“When you look at this pattern in different places around the ring, the wavelength is different – that points to something changing as you go around the ring. There’s something breaking the symmetry,” said Matt Hedman, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Idaho, who worked with Chancia to investigate the finding. Their results will be published in The Astronomical Journal and have been posted to the pre-press site arXiv...

(read more: JPL-CalTech)

image of Uranus: NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona)