METEORS FROM HALLEY'S COMET: Earth is entering a
stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual eta Aquariid
meteor shower. Although the shower does not peak until later this week,
a radar in Canada is already detecting strong echoes from the debris
zone. This bodes well for sky watchers who could see 30 or more meteors
per hour in the nights ahead. Visit http://spaceweather.com for updates and observing tips.
This sky map from the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar shows meteoroids from
Halley's Comet emerging from the constellation Aquarius (ETA).
NEGATIVE MAGNETIC FIELDS SPARK AURORAS: For the past
three days Earth has been passing through a region of interplanetary
space filled with negative-polarity magnetic fields. This has caused
intermittent geomagnetic storms and beautiful auroras around both poles.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for pictures and more information about this phenomenon.
"SPACE LIGHTNING" SIGHTED OVER THE CARIBBEAN: Sprite
season is definitely underway. Only a few days after a widespread
display appeared over Texas, more sprites have popped up near Puerto
Rico. This time the exotic forms of upper atmospheric electricity were
sighted dancing above the sea instead of land. Learn more about
land-vs-sea sprites at http://spaceweather.com.
Photo credit: Frankie Lucena and Space Weather News.
ENCORE: It’s the most dramatic technical development of recent times: Teams
of people working for decades to produce a slow-motion revolution we
call computing. As these devices become increasingly powerful, we
recall that a pioneer from the nineteenth century – Ada Lovelace, a
mathematician and Lord Byron’s daughter – said they would never surpass
human ability. Was she right?
We consider the near-term future of computing as the Internet of
Things is poised to link everything together, and biologists adopt the
techniques of information science to program living cells.
"SPACE LIGHTNING" OVER TEXAS: Last night, a
photographer in Texas captured a magnificent display of sprites dancing
atop a powerful thunderstorm near Dallas. Sprites are an exotic form of
lightning that shoot up from thunderstorms, reaching toward space. The
Texas display shows that sprite season is now underway in the northern
ENCORE: Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have a
science degree, yet he thinks rationally – like a scientist. You can too! Learn
the secrets of being irritatingly logical from the most famous sleuth on Baker
Street. Plus, discover why animal trackers 100,000 years ago may have been the
first scientists, and what we can learn from about deductive reasoning from
today’s African trackers.
Also, the author of a book on
teaching physics to your dog provides tips for unleashing your inner scientist,
even if you hated science in school.
And newly-minted scientists
imagine classes they wish were available to them as grad students, such as “You
Can’t Save the World 101.”
Louis Liebenberg - Co-founder and Executive
Director of Cybertracker Conservation, associate of human evolutionary biology,
LYRID METEORS VS. THE FULL MOON: Earth is passing
through a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual
Lyrid meteor shower. Unfortunately, the shower's peak coincides with
tonight's full Moon. Will we see any Lyrids through the glare? It's
possible. NASA cameras have captured a number of Lyrid fireballs over
the USA, easy to see in bright moonlight. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information.
BIG SUNSPOT ERUPTS: Surprise! Quiet sunspot AR2529
isn't so quiet, after all. The heart-shaped active region erupted on
April 18th (00:39 UT), producing a strong M6.7-class solar flare and
shortwave radio blackouts around the Pacific. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information.
EARTH ENTERS SOLAR WIND STREAM: A G1-class geomagnetic
storm is in progress on April 12th as Earth enters a stream of
fast-moving solar wind. NOAA forecasters estimate a 70% chance of
additional storming on April 13th as Earth moves deeper into the
stream. Also, a minor CME from big sunspot AR2529 could deliver a
glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on April 13th, further boosting
the odds of storminess.
SUNSPOT GETS BIGGER: The sun's headlong plunge into solar minimum has
been interrupted by the surprise emergence of a big sunspot. Wide
enough to swallow Earth with room to spare, AR2529 doubled in size over
the weekend. The behemoth is now being photographed by amateur
astronomers around the world and closely monitored by NASA spacecraft.
Big Picture Science - Surfeit of the Vitalest ENCORE: In the century and a half since Charles Darwin
wrote his seminal On the Origin of the Species, our understanding of
evolution has changed quite a bit. For one, we have not only identified the
inheritance molecule DNA, but have determined its sequence in many animals and
Evolution has evolved, and we take a look at some
of the recent developments.
A biologist describes the escalating horn-to-horn
and tusk-to-tusk arms race between animals, and a paleoanthropologist explains
why the lineage from chimp to human is no longer thought to be a straight line
but, instead, a bush. Also, New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer on
the diversity of bacteria living on you, and which evolutionary concepts he
finds the trickiest to explain to the public.
STORM: Earlier today, April 7th, Earth passed through a fold in the
heliospheric current sheet, plunging our planet into a region of
interplanetary space filled with negative polarity magnetic fields.
The result: a G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress. High-latitude
sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall on April 7-8.
ENCORE: We all have at least some musical talent. But
very few of us can play the piano like Vladimir Horowitz. His talent was
rarefied, and at the tail end of the bell curve of musical ability – that tiny
sliver of the distribution where you find the true outliers. Outliers also
exist with natural events: hurricane Katrina, for example, or the asteroid that
wiped out the dinosaurs. Such events are rare, but they often have outsized
In this hour we imagine the unimaginable –
including the unexpected events labeled “black swans” – and how we weigh the
risk for any of them. Also, how a supervolcano explosion at Yellowstone
National Park could obliterate the western U.S. but shouldn’t stop you from
putting the park on your vacation itinerary.
GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway on April
2nd as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind. The stream is
filled with "negative polarity" magnetic fields. Such fields can easily
link to Earth's own magnetic field, opening a crack in our planet's
defenses against solar wind. This is why NOAA forecasters offer good
odds of continued magnetic storming--a 60% chance on April 2nd followed
by a 55% chance on April 3rd. High-latitude sky watchers should be
alert for auroras this weekend.
Baby, it’s cold outside… but you
still might want to be there. Some people claim that chilly temperatures
are good for your health, and proponents of cryotherapy suggest you have a
blast – of sub-zero air – to stave off wrinkles and perhaps halt aging
Meanwhile the field of cryonics
offers the ultimate benefit by suggesting that you put future plans – and your
body – on ice when you die. That way you might be revived when the
technology to do so is developed.
So, will a chill wind blow you some
good? Possibly, as scientists are discovering that the body can endure
colder temperatures than previously thought. We examine the science of
extreme cold and claims of its salubrious benefits.
It’s our monthly look at critical
thinking, Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!