The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year’s hole was 24.1 million square kilometers (9.3 million square miles) — an area roughly the size of North America.
ENCORE: We love our family and friends, but
sometimes their ideas about how the world works seem a little wacky. We
asked BiPiSci listeners to share examples of what they can’t believe
their loved-ones believe, no matter how much they hear rational
explanations to the contrary. Then we asked some scientists about those
beliefs, to get their take.
Discover whether newspaper ink causes cancer … if King Tut really
did add a curse to his sarcophagus … the efficacy of examining your
irises – iridology – to diagnose disease … and more!
Oh, and what about string theory? Is it falsifiable?
Solar activity continues to be at high levels this weekend as giant
sunspot AR2192 crackles with strong flares, including two X-class
explosions in less than 24 hours. The flares are causing intermittent HF
radio blackouts around the dayside of Earth. However, no major CMEs
are yet heading in our direction. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information and updates.
Solar activity is surging on the eve of Thursday's
solar eclipse. Giant sunspot AR2192 is crackling with M- and X-class
solar flares as the Moon approaches the sun for a partial eclipse that
will be visible across almost all of North America on Oct. 23rd. The eclipse will be particularly beautiful in the Central Time Zone where maximum coverage occurs at sunset. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information.
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
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.
X-FLARE: Solar activity increased sharply on Oct. 19th when huge sunspot
AR2192 unleashed an X1-class solar flare. The blast produced an HF
radio blackout on the dayside of Earth and it likely hurled a CME into
A large and active sunspot is emerging over the sun's southeastern limb.
Only two to three days ago, this active region unleashed multiple
flares and hurled a massive CME over the edge of the sun. If these
eruptions continue apace, solar activity could sharply increase in the
days ahead as the sunspot turns to face Earth.
MARS COMET: This weekend, Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will make a
historically close approach to Mars. Satellites and rovers will get an
eye-full as the green comet passes less than 140,000 km above the Red
Planet's surface. No one knows what will happen. Possible side-effects
of the flyby include a Martian meteor shower and auroras.
information and amateur images of the comet approaching Mars may be
found on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com .
As climate change continues to hammer Arctic sea ice, pushing back its
summertime boundaries to record-high latitudes, NASA is flying an
innovative airborne mission to find out how these developments will
affect worldwide weather.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has found strong evidence of
geologically young volcanic activity on the moon. Some deposits appear
to be less than 100 million years old, corresponding to Earth's
Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs.
A single ant isn’t very brainy. But a group of ants can do
remarkable things. Biological swarm behavior is one model for the next
generation of tiny robots. Of course, biology can get hijacked: a
fungus can seize control of an ant’s brain, for example. So will humans
always remain the boss of super-smart, swarming machines?
We discuss the biology of zombie ants and how to build robots that
self-assemble and work together. Also, how to guarantee the moral
behavior of future ‘bots.
And, do you crave cupcakes? Research suggests that gut bacteria control what we eat and how we feel.
David Hughes – Biologist, entomologist, Penn State University
Mike Rubenstein – Roboticist, Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, Harvard University
Wendell Wallach – Bioethicist, chair, Technology and Ethics Study Group, Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics
– Cooperation theorist, Arizona State University and director of Human
and Social Evolution, Center for Evolution and Cancer, University of
California, San Francisco
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has reached Mars and it is beaming back "First
Light" images of the Red Planet's upper atmosphere. The data could help
researchers understand what transformed Mars from a hospitable planet
billions of years ago into a desiccated wasteland today.
According to a new study of satellite data, the largest concentration of
methane over the USA is located in a single 'hot spot' near the Four
Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. As
revealed from Earth orbit, the concentration of this greenhouse gas more
than triples standard ground-based estimates.
TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON: The Moon is about to pass through the shadow
of Earth, producing a colorful lunar eclipse. Sky watchers in the
Americas, Australia, Pacific islands and parts of Asia can expect to see
the full Moon turn beautiful shades of red and turquoise for nearly an
hour on Wednesday morning, Oct. 8th.
We make split second decisions about others – someone is male or
female, black or white, us or them. But sometimes the degrees of
separation are incredibly few. A mere handful of genes determine skin
color, for example.
Find out why race is almost non-existent from a biological perspective, and how the snippet of DNA that is the Y chromosome came to separate male from female.
Plus, why we’re wired to categorize. And, a groundbreaking court
case proposes to erase the dividing line between species: lawyers argue
to grant personhood status to our chimpanzee cousins.
David Page – Biologist and geneticist, at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
STRATOSPHERIC RADIATION: Stratospheric radiation levels are returning to
normal, according to a Space Weather Buoy launched on Sept. 28th by
students in California. This follows a mid-September drop in ionizing
radiation caused, ironically, by a strong solar storm and CME strike.