Science News Archives

Every week in his Just One Thing Newsletter, Rick Hanson shares a fascinating piece of science news – from the latest neuroscience study, to fascinating brain news, to awe-inspiring photos from space, to the latest updates in climate change.

Below you will find the archive of past Science News articles, with the most recent listed first.

Newly discovered moon cave could offer shelter for astronauts

The discovery of a substantial cave near the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon offers an exciting opportunity for shelter when NASA astronauts return later this decade.

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Revolutionary battery technology promises affordable, eco-friendly, and rapid-charging energy storage

Here’s some potentially good news for the planet: researchers have developed an innovative, eco-friendly, and cost-effective anode-free sodium solid-state battery that promises to revolutionize energy storage and accelerate our transition to a sustainable future.

Bionic leg moves like a natural limb — without conscious thought

This groundbreaking study demonstrates how a bionic leg, controlled by the user’s own thoughts and natural reflexes through an innovative neural interface, allows amputees to walk as fast as non-amputees, highlighting the remarkable plasticity of the brain and body in adapting to new technologies for improved quality of life.

A new glimpse into our cosmic origins

The James Webb Space Telescope has unveiled a remarkable glimpse into our cosmic origins, revealing star clusters within a galaxy that existed a mere 460 million years after the Big Bang, offering us a profound opportunity to deepen our understanding of the Universe’s early development.

How new research is changing our minds about animal consciousness

Accumulating scientific evidence​ suggests that not only higher animals like apes and dolphins, but even simpler creatures like bees, crabs, and possibly fruit flies possess a realistic possibility of consciousness and the capacity to think, feel, and experience sentience.

Elephants have names for each other like people do, new study shows

Wild African elephants have an amazing ability to address each other with name-like calls, which is quite rare in the animal kingdom. Researchers used cutting-edge machine learning techniques to confirm that elephant calls contain a name-like component that identifies the intended recipient, a behavior they suspected based on observing the elephants’ interactions.

Jaw-dropping views of the Milky Way and more

Nature’s Milky Way Photographer of the Year competition produced some stunning images this year. Check out some of them here.

Why this spring is a historic moment for cicada science

Central and Southeastern US residents in 17 states are experiencing an event that hasn’t occurred since Thomas Jefferson was President: the simultaneous emergence of 13- and 17-year periodical cicadas. Scientists are seizing the opportunity to study a bizarre fungal pathogen and how climate change may change these insects’ internal clocks.

Synchronous Firefly event underway at Congaree National Park

Only 3 of the 2000 known species of fireflies worldwide synchronize, or flash their lights at the same time, in North America. One of these species, Photirus frontalis, is currently on display​ at Congaree National Park.

More solar storms may bring additional dazzling auroras

If you weren’t able to see the fantastic auroras from last weekend’s solar storms, you may still a chance to see the dazzling lights later this year.

Venus has almost no water: A new study may reveal why

While we have a growing freshwater problem here on Earth, Venus has about 100,000 times less water, and until recently, scientists weren’t sure why.

Spiders on Mars?

This photo taken by the European Space Agency’s spacecraft, the Mars Express and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), will get your spidey senses tingling! Read on to untangle the mystery of these arachnid-like shapes.

Laser-treated cork absorbs oil for carbon-neutral ocean cleanup

Researchers have ingeniously transformed ordinary cork into a powerful tool to clean up oil spills through laser treatments that alter its nanoscopic structure. This eco-friendly approach not only allows the cork to absorb oil while repelling water, but also harnesses the sun’s energy to heat and collect the spilled oil efficiently.

Filling the gap for an extinct butterfly

The Xerces Blue butterfly was the first butterfly species driven to extinction in this country by our own relentless development. Recently, scientists have begun reintroducing the Silvery Blue, the closest kin to the long-lost Xerces, to the Presidio National Park Site’s dunes in San Francisco – a remarkable renewal of nature’s precious beauty.

Harnessing moisture in the air for power generation

Sunlight and wind are rapidly growing energy sources, but researchers like Jun Yao, an applied physicist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, are exploring the potential of harnessing moisture in the air for power generation through devices like hydrovoltaics.

Are you in the path of totality for the April 8th solar eclipse?

On April 8th, some of us in North America will have a chance to view a total solar eclipse, and I thought you might like to see if you’re in the path of totality (I’m not this time), just in case you’re not sure and would love to view this wonderful, rare event (with safe viewing glasses of course!).

Does a dog’s tail wagging really equal happiness?

Many of us associate a dog’s tail wagging as a sign that the dog is happy, but scientists aren’t so sure that’s always the case. Read on to learn more about what they do know about our furry friends’ tail-wagging ways.

A glimmer of hope for manatees

While manatees have been facing ongoing challenges to their survival, including watercraft collision and dwindling seagrass availability due to increasing algal blooms, there has been a glimmer of hope in the last few weeks with their largest recording gathering in Florida’s Blue Spring State Park.

Reducing your carbon footprint with a plant-based diet

While not for everyone, it’s worth considering a predominantly plant-based diet if you’re concerned about your impact on the planet’s resources. According to this study, transitioning to plant-based diets can potentially reduce diet-related land use by 76%, diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by 49%, eutrophication by 49%, and green and blue water use by 21% and 14%, respectively.

Kayaking in Death Valley National Park

Anyone who has been to Death Valley National Park knows there’s typically not a lot of water around, which is making this usually short-lived lake an anomaly for six months and counting – and it’s now a great place to kayak, too!

Solving the cosmic explosion mystery

Researchers claim to have unraveled the mystery surrounding the core of a renowned cosmic explosion that was first observed in February 1987. Read on to learn what they discovered.

Your pup knows you’re stressed

Most dog owners know the bond with their pooch is a special one, and it may be even more special than some of us realize. A recent study from Queen’s University Belfast found that dogs can actually sense when we’re stressed – with incredible accuracy – by detecting chemical changes in our breath and sweat.

Singing our way to better health

Recent research indicates that communal singing triggers the release of endorphins, promotes social bonding and provides mental and physical health benefits, including lower rates of depression and improved wellbeing.

The slime mold map to the universe

Slime mold, a brainless and single-celled organism, has astoundingly mapped the universe, continually prompting leading thinkers to reconsider the very nature of intelligence. Its remarkable ability not only challenges our understanding but also evokes a sense of awe that transcends human comprehension.

Seeing the world through another species’ eyes

How we see the world around us is not necessarily how other species see it. Thanks to open-source cameras, we can now see it how they do with over 90% accuracy.

100-year-old walks around garden 40,000 times to raise money for charity

A fellow World War II veteran inspired this 100-year-old man to walk over 41,000 times around his garden to raise money for those struggling with Motor Neuron Disease.

What are the remaining Apollo astronauts up to today?

Of the 24 Apollo astronauts that went to the Moon during the 1960s and 70s, only a handful are still alive. Here are their stories and what they’re up to today.

NASA’s Perservance rover reaches 1000th Martian day

Reaching its 1000th Martian day of the mission, NASA’s Perseverance rover has fulfilled its primary objective of exploring Mars, collecting diverse rock samples that suggest potential signs of past microbial life and now faces the challenge of returning to Earth with the samples.

How cool would it be to be able to eat and meet your sleep requirements at the same time?

Well, scientists are now finding that reindeer are able to do this during summer months to maximize feeding time in preparation for the winter ahead.

Chimps remember the faces of old friends and family for decades

Chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest primate relatives, can remember the faces of friends and family for years, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenging the belief that this ability is unique to humans and potentially indicating that other animals possess similar capabilities.

What happens in the brain while daydreaming?

This new study from researchers at Harvard Medical School points to some interesting possibilities about the role of daydreaming and how it may affect brain plasticity.

Ever wonder how big a snowflake can get?

The answer really depends on how you define a snowflake, as opposed to a snow crystal or another wintry concoction called a puffball.

Space Images: The Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster

The James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope have created one of the most detailed images of the universe — with a distinctively “christmasy” polychromatic appearance.

Can your Native language shape your musical ability?

Research suggests that people who speak tonal languages, where the pitch of a word can change its meaning, may have an enhanced ability to recognize musical pitches compared to those who speak non-tonal languages.

The James Webb Telescope

is capturing incredible images of space​, with some images showing galaxies as they were 40 million years ago.

Llamas Revitalize the Land

When glaciers melt, they often create desolate terrains that may require decades to become suitable for supporting flora and fauna. However, a recent study revealed that the action of llamas was able to rejuvenate these barren landscapes​ within a mere three-year period.

Where is the most intense sunlight on Earth?

The Atacama Desert has the most intense sunlight on Earth, comparable to the solar intensity on Venus.

Riding Light

This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the surface of the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system, from a human perspective.

What are these tiny flying saucers​?

New discoveries in the world of protists are highlighting the resilience of microbial communities and their potential implications for understanding life on Earth and beyond.

Ever wonder what Mars sounds like?

Now you can hear it for yourself in this incredible clip​ captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover.

Who says you can’t teach brainless jellyfish new tricks?

For Caribbean box jellyfish, learning is literally a no-brainer. In a new experiment, they learned to spot and avoid obstacles despite having no central brain.

What are the Longest Living Animals on Earth?

Impermanence affects all of life, even creatures that can potentially live forever. The longest-living animals can survive for centuries and millennia, even pausing the aging process altogether, but it still doesn’t protect them from predators.

Which Countries Are Responsible for the Most Space Debris?

Satellites and space junk are creating a blanket of potentially hazardous materials on a collision course. The 14,000 pieces of debris (not counting the millions of fragments too small to be tracked) orbiting above us are being tracked and rated on this illuminating website.

Is there literally a “sound of silence?”

A recent study at John Hopkins uses auditory illusions to demonstrate how moments of silence distort people’s perception of time—suggesting that auditory processing treats moments of silence the way it treats sounds. In other words, silence is truly perceived, not merely inferred.

Award-winning images capture colorful scenes from microscopic world

These sensational images from the Global Image of the Year Scientific Light Microscopy Award will change the way you see things, particularly marine invertebrates, with their dazzle of glowing colors.

How do beavers affect their environment?

Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, research shows that beavers provide a number of benefits to riparian environments, including greater biodiversity, more drought resilience, and greater water availability on land. Satellite images from Idaho now prove it.

The silent impact of underground climate change on civil infrastructure

Urban heat islands cause underground warming due to pressure and facilities that continuously emit heat. Research suggests global warming also contributes to “underground climate change,” posing threats to urban infrastructure.

How do humans spend their time? Researchers look at what the average global day looks like for the average person.

Understanding the dimensions of time and space can be difficult beyond what we normally see and experience. This video puts it in perspective.

Working off climate models, scientists estimate humans have pumped 2,150 gigatons of groundwater over a 20 year period, contributing 6mm rise to sea levels. It’s also tilted the Earth’s axis about 31.5 inches (80 cm) east.

This mesmerizing video, created by NASA, shows the movements of ocean currents around the globe over a period of two years. The computational model attempts to show how ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems transport heat and carbon in the oceans.

Turns out space travel can have a significant effect on your brain! A recent study of astronauts who’d been traveling in space for over six months suggests that their brains needed at least three years back on Earth to recover. Watch the video!

Surveys regularly show that, in general, people believe people are becoming less kind, respectful and trustworthy. Yet a recent PhD dissertation on the subject suggests that the perception of moral decline has not changed over time.

Archeologists have located seven new human footprints in the “South African Cluster,” one of which dates back to 153,000 years ago, the oldest fossil footprint yet discovered of our homo sapiens ancestors.

A new study shows how wild animals help store carbon, removing billions of tons of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere every year. Rewilding animals could play a crucial role in curbing global warming.

Advances in nutrition, hygiene and healthcare over the past century mean that living to 100 is no longer rare. This study suggests the cause is a unique immune cell composition and activity that gives centenarians a highly-functional immune system, allowing them to live longer.

Ocean temperatures are at their hottest ever. After three years of La Niña, the earth’s “air conditioner” is turned off as El Niño approaches. Climatologists estimate it could add an extra 0.2℃ to global temperatures.

Astronomers have witnessed a “planetary engulfment,” as depicted in this very cool animation of a 10 billion-year-old star swallowing up a gas giant planet as it spirals into the star.

Life expectancy in the USA has dropped and is currently 76.1 years. This interactive chart lets you determine life expectancy by a number of variables, including location, gender, and ethnicity.

Melting icecaps is contributing to the alarming rise in sea levels, but it also contributes to re-shaping the earth. Researchers found that the melting of Earth’s polar ice is warping the planet’s crust.

Volcanoes are one of the mightiest forces on any planet. This month, the European Space Agency released a video of thirteen of the most impressive ones on planet Earth.

A professor of philosophy in Canada discusses the possibility that the current obsession with AI technology could result in new religions, and their ethical implications.

If you’ve ever seen things glowing in the sea, you may be filled with fear – or wonder. Bioluminescence explains the living light show unique to some plants and animals.

Researchers are tracking carbon dioxide emissions around the world alongside carbon “sinks” (forests and other natural landmass that absorb carbon) to determine the collective progress toward limiting global warming. Check out the map here.

There are two times a year when the Earth’s axis is neither towards or away from the sun, known as the equinoxes. This results in equal amounts of daylight and darkness. If this is hard to visualize, check out this video, and the national weather service’s clear explanation.

With the disturbing increase in the “atmospheric river” phenomenon, a study examines a recently developed intensity scale to help communities prepare and answer questions about potential impact.

An Israeli researcher has added to the evidence that a positive mindset can lead to better health outcomes. Her research as shown how stimulating regions in the brain associated with positive emotions can trigger immune responses that lead to healing.

Research out of Belgium investigated how space travel can have significant effects on the brain. The study looks at fighter pilots but my also be applicable to astronauts.

Dr. James Kirby’s new research into the ability of children to show compassion suggests that children respond less compassionately to others when a personal reward is at stake.

“Neptune Balls” are nature’s contribution to cleaning up plastic debris in the ocean. This study shows how these natural bundles of fiber, derived from seagrass, play a vital role in improving water quality.

Development is consuming 6,000 acres a day, a loss of 2.2 million acres per year. This is devastating for the flora and fauna dependent on natural habitat. Here’s how it affects monarch butterflies, a critically threatened species, and what you can do to help.

With over 40% of the Earth’s land cultivated for human use, animals are finding more opportunities to encounter and interact with each other. According to a new study, it’s clear that animals who want to avoid human contact must make do with less elbow room.

While modern couples may agree to share household tasks, a new study suggests that women still shoulder a disproportionate amount of housekeeping, and the cause may come down to neural processing: a gender-based split in how we perceive things.

I love science fiction. But what about other science buffs? While there’s evidence that reading sci-fi helps to inspire interest in science, this fun article shows how sci-fi influenced over 80% of astronomers to take up their profession.

Do plants breath? New research showing a highly magnified image of plant stomata suggests they do, in eerily similar ways to mammals.

Images of Mars’ uncanny beauty – a Christmas present from the Curiosity Rover.

An astonishing 90% of U.S. counties have experienced a climate disaster in the last ten years. In 2021 the U.S. experienced 20 billion-dollar climate disasters with over 600 fatalities. See the maps here.

Researchers studying the retinal movements of spiders during sleep found they coincided with body movements associated with REM sleep in other animals – which begs the question of whether jumping spiders may be experiencing visual dreams.

Studies into the origins of life in our own galaxy conjecture that the reason we haven’t found intelligent civilizations is because these populations may not have survived the Great Filter – and that humanity may be facing its own Great Filter.

Planet Earth’s human population hit 7 billion in late 2011. According to United Nations projections, humanity hit 8 billion this week. This report estimates the Earth’s carrying capacity ranges from 500 million to 1 sextillion—and examines the impact of huge population growth on quality of life.

Out of the thousands of species that have been listed by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, only 54 have recovered to the point where they no longer need protection. A new study examines why the Act is “too little too late” in helping vulnerable species.

The nature of consciousness is one of science’s most perplexing mysteries. Where does it arise? What is its purpose? What are its full capacities? This study seeks to answer some of those persistent questions.

Climate spiral visualizations are widely used among scientists to  show monthly global temperature anomalies. This GISTEMP v4 version estimates global surface temperature change between the years 1880-2021.

The speed of Earth’s spin fluctuates, but over its long history, it’s slowing. Still, on June 29, Earth recorded its shortest day since scientists began using atomic clocks to measure its rotational speed.

The James Webb telescope is expanding our minds and our universe (or at least our understanding of it)! In this video, Bill Nye unpacks what astronomy is learning, including explaining images of the Carina Nebula, Southern Ring Nebula, Stephan’s Quintet and more.

If you think the pandemic is over, that any infection after vaccination will be mild, any reinfections asymptomatic or like a cold, or that variant-specific vaccines will deliver us from the pandemic – think again. This immunologist’s experience with Covid suggests otherwise.

The James Webb Space Telescope, launched on Christmas Day last year, is extending our reach into deep space beyond what its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, could see. Check out these first amazing images, which are updated regularly.

A research team used memory reconsolidation to neutralize an existing fear, with the aim to override or disrupt the fearful memory by activating a positive one. Learn about their success here.

The World Health Organization estimates that the true death toll of the Covid pandemic stands around 15 million, which takes into account excess deaths and under-reporting in some countries.

Fear is a major motivator in human action and fearful experiences can condition our responses for years. A team of neuroscientists have studied the formation of fear memories in the emotional hub of the brain – the amygdala — and think they have a mechanism.

The Chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine crunches the current data on the Covid pandemic to estimate your risk that the person breathing next to you in a restaurant is infectious with Covid – and what you can do to protect yourself.

Is it possible for 99% of the world’s population to be in sunlight at the same time? This was claimed to happen on July 8 and this article fact-checked that possibility.

The New Horizon spacecraft has brought distant worlds into sharp relief, including these awesome images of ice mountains on Pluto, explained further in this video.

Bruce Ecker’s new journal article addresses the bigger picture of what memory reconsolidation means for the psychotherapy field. His studies show that the same sequence of internal subjective experiences occurred, despite big differences in external procedures.

Cutting worldwide meat consumption by 20% in the next 30 years could halve deforestation and the carbon emissions associated with it, according to the findings in a recent study.

Tobias Esch’s latest paper summarizes over 20 years of work on the “roots” of happiness, and proposes a new model with the idea that happiness changes throughout life – from pleasure to relief to satisfaction.

Recent NOAA research warns that a 10-fold increase in hydrocarbon fueled space craft launches would damage the ozone layer, and change atmospheric circulation patterns.

A team of investigative journalists uncovered the history of Haiti’s “double debt” — where the descendants of enslaved people were forced to pay reparations to the descendants of their French masters, plus the loan to pay for it.

The brain’s flexibility allows us to learn new tasks, and to learn from our mistakes. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai are studying the activity of neurons to better understand performance monitoring, an executive function used to manage daily life.

A new study reveals the most intense heatwaves ever across the world went almost unnoticed decades ago. It also found that extreme heat events are likely to increase in magnitude over the coming century.

A new study uses nighttime satellite images to estimate global economic well-being by comparing lit and un-lit areas of the planet.

Previous research has shown that meditation affects mothers’ levels of stress, depression, activity level, and glucose tolerance. A new study shows the positive effect on infants of mothers who meditate.

If you are forgetful or make mistakes when in a hurry, a new study found that meditation could help you to become less error-prone.

Sleeping in a dark room is good for your health! A new study shows that even moderate light exposure during sleep harms heart health and increases insulin resistance.

A team of scientists studying Earth’s biodiversity have concluded that we’re on the trajectory for an ongoing, human-caused sixth mass extinction event.

A new mosaic image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy from the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory reveals stunning strands inexplicably dangling in space. What are they?

Research shows how even a little exercise can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage. Now you just need to remember to exercise!

Satellite data indicate that land is sinking faster than sea level is rising in many coastal cities throughout the world. Groundwater extraction is likely the main cause.

Researchers have shown that some fish (cichlids and stingrays) are good at math. These species were able to perform simple addition and subtraction of the number 1, in the range up to 5.

A single Homo Sapiens tooth found in a cave in southern France pushes back the earliest date of humans in Europe by 10,000 years (to 52,000 BCE), suggesting they lived there at the same time as Neanderthals.

New research shows how a temporary increase in dopamine levels in the basolateral amygdala, a brain region associated with emotion, initiates the transition from REM sleep to another non-REM sleep.

Biologists have discovered the largest bacterium ever found living in Caribbean mangroves, with a single cell measuring 2 cm long and a huge genome encased inside a membrane, like in the human body.

Over 100 children were recruited in a study that revealed how they viewed behaviors appropriate in their most bonded relationships. It turns out that infants commonly use saliva sharing as a cue that two people are not just cooperative, but that their relationship is intimate.

‘Telepresence robots’ are being trialed by a research team at University of California, Davis to provide classroom access to children with serious medical conditions who can’t attend school.

Neurologists use brain-mapping studies to examine the links between seizures and memory loss. Because learning and seizures activate the same brain circuits in the hippocampus and cortex, seizures can disrupt the memory consolidation process by taking over the circuit.

A new comparison of direct measurements of sea level rise shows that global mean sea level has risen by more than an inch (3 cm) per decade since precise satellite measurements began in the 1990s.

Scientists announced new findings about the “Great Oxidation Event” – when Earth’s oxygen first increased in the atmosphere that became the precursor to complex life. The results will help scientists search for evidence of life on other worlds.

A recent study demonstrates how the brain has neurons that fire specifically during certain mathematical operations, some for addition and others for subtraction.

A discovery of the oldest hominin fossil suggests that when humans ventured out of Africa over 1 million years ago, they did so in waves of slow-moving migration, expanding into new territory each season.

Changing climate is impacting annual bird migrations as winter habitats move further north each year, according to ninety years of Audubon annual bird count data.

Newly detected fissures in Antactica’s Thwaites glacier could likely break apart in five year, increasing the glacier’s contribution to global sea level in the short term to 5%.

The recent Tongan volcano staggered volcanologists with its force and complexity. These images provide a 3D view of what happened.

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the world’s largest and a major driver of climate. The upwelling of ancient deep waters due to our warming planet are a concern for researchers as these hold massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

Like our own heart and lungs, our planet has a pulse that mimics respiration as it passes through the various seasons. Check out these mesmerizing images of a breathing planet Earth.

Weather plays an increasingly prominent role as our world reels from the effects of climate change. Outer space has its own weather patterns that can effect life on Earth, through its impacts on radio communications, satellites, and hazards for astronauts.

The James Webb telescope, Hubble’s replacement, successfully launched on Christmas Day and is hurtling towards its position in the 2nd Lagrange point or L2, 1.5 million kms from Earth. What is L2?

Astronomers were amazed to find that dark matter, the elusive invisible matter that keeps galaxies together, was missing in six galaxies they’ve studied over the past three years.

As our science and technology expand out beyond Earth’s atmosphere, new biosecurity risks are threatening our earthly life. Scientists are preparing for an alien invasion of the microbial kind.

Summertime arctic sea ice is less than half what it was in the 1980s. Recent studies suggest a daunting future for the region, with the possibility that summertime sea ice could disappear by 2100, along with the animals that depend on it, including seals and polar bears.

Scientists measure earthshine – the faint glow on the darkened portion of a crescent moon – to learn that Earth is dimming, caused by fewer bright clouds, due to warming temperatures.

Using advanced climate and agricultural models, scientists have found that climate change will impact crop yields as early as 2030.

A recently discovered set of fossil footprints in New Mexico suggests humans crossed the Bering Strait into North America 6.5 thousand years earlier than previously thought – at the peak of the last ice age.

Stars or satellites? With thousands of satellites currently occupying our skies (and 10s of thousands set to be launched in the near future), it can be hard to tell what’s what in the night sky. This paper explores the effects of satellite megaconstellations on our night sky, and this tool helps you predict the number of visible satellites.

Can we replicate dinosaurs from their DNA? A paleontologist explains the ABCs of DNA and why dino-DNA makes recreating the mammoth species a challenge.

The ability to harness fusion – the energy source of the sun – would be a game-changer in our quest for clean energy. A recent experiment triggered nuclear fusion ignition in a lab for the first time. It could lead the way to clean energy and insights into the Big Bang.

To understand how the brain works, neuroscientists map how each of the roughly 1,000 types of cells thought to exist in the brain speak to each other in their different electrical dialects.

A classic Physics class experiment looks at how fast objects fall to the earth due to gravity. This animation looks at how fast a ball would drop on other bodies in our solar system, including the sun.

Is there an end? That question has perplexed astronomers for many generations. This article takes us on a journey through the far reaches of the universe to explore possible answers to what lies at the edge.

Following the devastating impact of hurricane Ida, meteorologists and atmospheric scientists offer some insight into what climate change has to do with these powerful storms.

Galactic cannibalism is a common feature of our universe, where galaxies get caught in a gravitational struggle for survival. Check out this image of interacting galaxies in the constellation Eridanus.

Dr. J. Stacey Klutts of Pathology and Lab Medicine at Veterans Affairs gives the science behind why the Delta variant of COVID is so dangerous and why vaccines are so important to counteract it.

Neurograins  tiny chips implanted in the brain  are being researched to record and stimulate brain activity that could lead to new insights into how the brain works and new therapies for people with brain or spinal injuries.

Research in the 1990s led to our current understanding that dinosaurs were wiped out by the impact of a huge asteroid some 66 million years ago. This latest study shows some species were in steep decline 10 million years before the asteroid hit.

Humans have a “wet bulb” limit of 35°C, the point when our physiological cooling system can’t cope with humid heat. This study suggests that extreme humid heat events have more than doubled in frequency since 1979 – and, like the sea level, will continue to rise.

Research shows increasing evidence that climate driven indicators, such as heat and humidity, sea level rise, crop yield, and economic damage, will profoundly change agriculture and habitable zones in the USA over the next 50 years.

Because of Earth’s elliptical orbit, our distance from the sun varies. The three percent difference in size (barely noticeable!) is documented in this photo comparing the perihelion to aphelion.

While science debates about our status in the sixth mass extinction event, it’s interesting to learn the causes of the first five, when more than 75% of the earth’s species disappeared.

As airline travel resumes for many, it’s worth considering studies done on the microbiome of airplane cabins. This study showed there is no more risk from time spent in an airplane cabin than the same time spent in any other built environment, such as an office.

Artists and scientists share a curiosity for the unknown, an appreciation for beauty, and an interest in creating something new. Watch UCLA researchers discuss the sometimes unexpected intersections between the two pursuits.

Thirty years ago, a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians worked to raise the alarm and stave off the threatening catastrophes of climate change. Here’s their story – and how it’s turned out.

Anthropologists uncovered the nearly intact braincase of a dinosaur who roamed the southern hemisphere 66-100 million years ago.

According to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), light pollution is increasing at a rate two times that of population growth, and 83% of the global population lives under a light-polluted sky. Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) offers a database that lists scientific papers on all aspects of artificial light at night research.

On the face of it, we don’t have much in common with fish – for one thing, we have facial expressions and they don’t. In fact, fish may have more in common with humans than we might like to admit.

A new study suggests that the Gulf Stream – the Atlantic Ocean current that plays a large role in shaping Earth’s weather patterns – is weaker now than it’s been at any time in the last 1,000 years.

Most people don’t have memories before the age of three, what science has deemed “infantile amnesia.” Research at Yale suggests that the brain of infants do in fact record memories. Even if we can’t remember them later in life, they allow us to learn new things.

Studies on compassion from Professor Paul Gilbert and others have addressed the effects of caring (broadly) on a personal level (psychotherapy) and at the social level. These findings suggest that a more compassionate society would benefit our physical and mental health, social justice, productivity, and pro-social behavior.

Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic people (dubbed “WEIRDos”) misrepresent our fundamental understanding of what it means to be human, a recent study has found.

Timelapse images from Google Earth taken over the past 40 years provides visual evidence of the daunting impact of climate change, as well as the growth of human civilization, on the natural environment.

Anti-racism protests in America in the past several years have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Researchers collected data from over 7,000 protests and found that that 96.3% of them involved no damage to property or injuries to people.

Despite the anthropause that swept the planet during COVID lockdowns in 2020, levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane in the atmosphere continued to rise, with CO2 levels reaching their highest point in 3.6 million years.

Did a lightning bolt start life on our planet? Recent research suggests that lightning strikes, a quintillion over a billion years, could have unlocked the phosphorus necessary for the creation of biomolecules that were the basis of life on Earth.

While we mourn the loss of many earthly creatures through extinction, it’s good to welcome new ones, recently discovered by science. The World Register for Marine Species (WoRMS) just released ten remarkable new marine species from 2020.

In a recent study, scientists concluded that a seemingly small half-a-degree temperature rise can make a big difference for wildfires, their frequency and intensity. The report made it clear that the goal of controlling the rise in climate should be aimed at 1.5°C rather than the 2° proposed by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Like the Baboushka nesting dolls, rockets destined for Mars continuously shed their layers until the smallest rover emerges to start its exploratory mission. This animation shows how it works.

“Data sonification” is the technical turn for making music from astronomical images  and it’s pretty cool! Check out NASA’s soundscape from the center of our Milky Way, as observed in X-ray, optical, and infrared light.

To mask or not to mask? Strong scientific evidence shows that wearing masks reduces the transmission of Covid-19 in both laboratory and real-world settings. This study explains how.

NASA’s recent touchdown of the Perseverance Rover on Mars is an awesome testament to human ingenuity and technology. Watch the high definition video of the landing here.

This video graph shows how much global ice has been lost over the last quarter of a century  28 trillion metric tons of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, equivalent to a sheet of ice 330 feet thick covering the whole of the U.K.

Human-generated noise often drowns out the natural soundscapes in underwater environments, putting marine life under immense stress. This study encourages refining policies that regulate technological solutions to mitigate marine noise, thereby improving human stewardship of ocean soundscapes to maintain a healthy ocean.

Monarch butterflies are among the most beautiful, delicate and threatened of species. A recent study showed a 99.9% decrease, with only 2000 left, along the California coast. But there is something you can do.

Microplastics, ubiquitous in ocean waters around the world, were recently studied in Arctic seawater between Canada and Norway: 92% were found to be fibers from clothing, the majority polyester.

A new study has found that human population, already falling in parts of Asia and Europe, is set to peak in 2064. The effects are already apparent, including “ghost villages” where wildlife is starting to return and forests to regrow.

2020 tied with 2016 as Earth’s hottest year  in millions of years. Our planet’s average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. Unless we take major steps immediately, in just 30 years from now, American cities such as St. Paul or Chicago, will likely have average summer temperatures 6 degrees hotter than they were in 2000. (Here you can see how the place where you live will likely fare.) This video shows our warming world in vivid color.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania shows how young people are more likely to engage with news and politics if they’re delivered with a sense of humor, increasing their democratic right to stay informed.

Researchers working on the biological basis of human consciousness have discovered the neural mechanisms underlying consciousness and its disconnection from behavioral responsiveness, during anesthesia and normal sleep.

NOAA’s 15th annual Arctic Report Card catalogs the many ways climate change has continued to disrupt the polar region this year, including the 2nd-highest air temperatures and 2nd-lowest summer sea ice, the loss of snow and extraordinary wildfires in northern Russia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has new guidance clarifying what “close contact” means when it comes to transmitting the Covid-19 virus. An epidemiologist explains.

Researchers predict that more epidemics resulting from animal hosts are inevitable unless urgent action is taken, including effective legislation addressing wildlife trade, protection of habitats, and reduction of interaction between people, wildlife and livestock.

Since the first genome sequence of Sars-CoV-2 was released in January, a further 100,000 coronavirus genomes sampled from Covid-19 patients in over 100 countries have been added. Here’s what science has learned so far about these mutations.

Darkness is important for our overall health, including sleepour biologyour ecosystemsour creativity, and our souls and spirits. Paul Bogard has researched the importance of darkness in his book The End of Night, and this video.

Using the power of computers, scientists have re-created the building blocks of life on earth, from early pre-biotics to the complex biomolecules that gave rise to the planet’s teeming life today.

Scientists are hoping for a resurgence of support in their efforts to research critical issues and inform people with their evidence-based outcomes following the recent American election.

In this video, NASA astronauts leaving earth to reside on the International Space Station describe the radical, multi-dimensional shifts in perspective they experience, including a sense of complete oneness.

An activity close to my heart: climbing! Research now shows that the vertical sport holds therapeutic promise by strengthening in-the-moment mindfulness, alleviating depression, and building resilience and self-esteem.

As social distancing becomes the order of the day, researchers are studying how social isolation in extreme environments, such as the Antarctic, changes the structure of the brain, and can result in disorientation and post traumatic stress disorders.

Research on birds show their sensitivity to noise. While birdsong tends to get louder in noisy environment, during the pandemic global shutdown, when the world suddenly went quiet, the volume of birdsongs also decreased, with bandwidths typical of birds recorded in the 1970s.

Understanding the origins of life on our planet is an ongoing debate among scientists; it could also assist the search for life on other planets. Current research has consistently uncovered evidence of early life in hot and inhospitable places.

Need a larger view when things on planet Earth seem increasingly tense? Get a big picture view with NASA’s Live Space Station Tracking Map, or listen to one of their Curious Universe podcasts to reinspire a sense of awe and wonder for the world.

Recent studies depict alarming signs that current global ice melt is matching previously determined worst case scenarios. Many glaciers in Antarctica are tearing loose and in danger of quick destruction.

Studies of forams, fossilized tiny undersea amoebas that hold climate records for hundreds of millions of years, reveal that the current pace of anthropogenic global warming far exceeds the natural climate fluctuations seen at any other point in the past 66-million years.

The expertise of scientists, whose research relies on a standardized methodology and consensus, helps guide the path towards truth and away from mere opinions, speculation, and theorizing. This article explores why it’s important to listen to science, particularly on the critical issues of our time.

Forty years of climate research has resulted in a better understanding of “climate sensitivity” in making more accurate predictions. Current research shows an increase in warming of between 2.6°C and 3.9°C.

While the coronavirus may last for weeks in the system, lingering symptoms can extend up to months, or even years. Medical experts continue to study long-term conditions that result from COVID-19.

Getting the coronavirus under control is a necessary condition for safely sending children to schools and opening up many businesses. In public health, the three keys to that control are testing, tracing, and isolation-plus-treatment. From Mongolia to the European Union, the countries that have followed this strategy have reduced deaths-per-capita to a tiny fraction of what is happening in America, and they are now reopening their economies.

This comprehensive, first-ever model of climate refugees looks into what the future might hold for global migration as the climate crisis intensifies.

The drop in human-caused seismic noise from March to May 2020 is unprecedented, according to a London research group, who said it is the longest and most pronounced quiet period of seismic noise in recorded history.

A Recent study suggests the genetic make-up of the COVID19 virus has mutated across the world, a possible explanation for the second wave we’re now experiencing. The mutation suggests the virus may be more contagious, but won’t necessarily make people sicker.

The world population growth has fallen since the 1960s and while this may be good news for some, this article explains the potential problems, socially and economically, this could cause  including the disparity between youth and the over-80s  by the year 2100.

Other than its size, the human brain has a few idiosyncracies that set it apart from other mammals, including “connectomes,” the unique pattern of connectivity that helps the brain process information.

Prehistoric humans built sacred spaces on the land, including Neolithic henges. Archeologists have recently discovered a massive ring of trenches near Stonehenge that may have guided people toward religious sites in the area.

From pestilence to plagues to pandemics, the history of global outbreaks spans over 2 millennia of recorded history, offering insights into the similarities and uniqueness of our current epidemic.

This summary article refers to a study documenting how, 40 and 30 million years ago, rodents and monkeys migrated from Africa to South America, lived, evolved and spread. I like to imagine the consciousness of these ancient animals, their experiences as they left one home in Africa, clung to another one in the Atlantic Ocean, and found a new home in the Americas.

An epidemiologist study has determined that national shut-downs in the USA prevented over 60 million infections, due to the coronavirus, and over 295 million in China.

This article provides important data on the genome of viruses like COVID-19, how it changes over time, and how such information needs to inform our public response to the pandemic.

While our focus during the pandemic is on saving lives, it’s important to remember the devastating impact the virus has on the organs of survivors, from brains to blood vessels.

This article looks at zoonotic diseases, infectious diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 that are naturally transmitted between animals and humans, and how we can prevent them.

This cool clip gives us a view into what a fly-by of Earth might look like if we were fast-moving aliens. The short shows a nearly 10-hour  time lapse of photos taken by ESA’s BepiColombo spacecraft.

The graphs on this website show which countries are doing best at beating Covid-19 and what actions must be taken to turn a critical situation into a winning one. One virologist who narrowly escaped death from the virus reflects on his experience, and the troubling after-effects, including organ dysfunction.

The National Academy of Science presented a panel of experts to provide an update on the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s technical but a fascinating overview from outstanding people. The section starting at 55:00 is compelling as is the summary in the last ten minutes.

A team of Australian and U.S. scientists drill in Antarctica to discover atoms that could reveal how well the chemistry of the atmosphere has been removing problem greenhouse gases like methane.

The climate crisis may be taking a back seat in the news these days, but it has relevance to the health crisis we’re currently experiencing. To update, March was the 2nd hottest month on planet Earth in 141 years of climate records.

When we talk, cough, or even just breathe, how far can tiny droplets spread – which might contain viruses that can infect other people? This three-dimensional simulation from researchers in Kyoto, Japan is fascinating and informative.

With the “infodemic” of news related to COVID-19, it’s important to evaluate information carefully, with a measured sense of skepticism and evaluation that can help you avoid taking in sensationalized information.

The European Space Agency has posted some compelling maps, tracking pollution levels around the world before and after the current pandemic.

We don’t yet have a vaccine for COVID-19, yet something as simple as common soap works well to break down the virus. This article explains the science behind why we should keep washing our hands.

Some of the worst viral disease outbreaks in recent years  SARS, MERS, Ebola, Marburg and now COVID-19 – originated in bats. This study shows how bats’ fierce immune systems drive viruses to higher virulence, making them deadlier in humans.

recent archeological discovery in an Iraqi cave unearthed the bones of ten Neanderthal men, women, and children surrounded by ancient pollen, suggesting the intriguing “flower burial” rights of our hominid cousins.

Long-term meditators have been routinely studied for their ability to manage emotions, depression, and chronic pain. A new study reveals that those with only a brief introduction to mindfulness can achieve similar results.

Ice cores from melting glaciers are preserving history, including global impact of the Industrial Revolution, as found in this study of the Dasuopu glacier in the Himalayas, the highest-altitude site in the world where scientists have obtained a climate record from an ice core.

A team of scientists have repurposed living tissue from frogs to create AI, tiny bots that could be used to search for radioactive contamination, clean up the oceans, and help doctors manage disease.

A thousand years ago, astronomers recorded seeing an extremely bright star lasting for two years, what modern day science now knows was a supernova explosion. Here’s what the remnants of that star look like today.

Like many areas in science, the pace of change in archeology has grown dramatically in the last two decades. Recent fossil discoveries now show that hominins existed 5-7 million years ago and homo sapiens 300,000 years ago.

The United States’ leading role in global research and development of science and technology is slipping, as the data in this article explains.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is often viewed through the lens of medical science. Here’s a moving memoir of a journalist who experienced it first hand.

Nature photographs inspire us to the beauty and wonder of nature, all the more important as we face global extinction of many critical species. Check out the winners of the 2019 National Wildlife’s Photo Contest.

The European Space Agency has been investigating how human hibernation might impact space travelmaking long-duration exploration missions more feasible.

Get acquainted with the future! Scientific American teamed up with the World Economic Forum to examine the Top Ten Emerging Technologies of 2019 that will be sure to change our lives significantly in the coming years.

When Earth gets hit by a solar storm it creates an eerie symphony of sound, the result of waves that are generated in the Earth’s magnetic field. A team of scientists used 18 years of data from ESA’s Cluster mission to produce the first recording of this Earth song.

fascinating study sheds light on the unusual nature of the world’s oldest river: the Nile hasn’t changed course in its 30-million-year lifetime.

I’ve put together a long list of key scientific papers which are worth exploring. Visit Wisebrain.org to learn more!

Read the World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, a document signed by 11,000 scientists who regard it as their moral obligation to warn humanity of the catastrophic threats to planet Earth.

Astronomers recently found 20 new moons circling Saturn, all with a diameter of around 5 kms. With 82 known moons, the ringed planet surpasses Jupiter (with 79 moons) as the new Moon King.

Mindfulness training can enhance a person’s capacity to “unlearn fear”  to become less anxious about things you’ve been anxious about  in part through structural and functional changes involving the hippocampus.

Ancient reptilian hand muscles, thought to have disappeared from our human ancestors for 250 million years, were recently discovered in the first formations of a human embryo, which then get deleted before birth.

Climate change that caused a prolong drought in Europe has resurfaced a 7,000-year-old “Stonehenge” that disappeared 50 years ago with the damming of the Tagus River in Spain.

The awesome power of ocean waves is magnified in this short film by Chris Bryon, using state-of-the art camera work, and an artist’s eye for beauty.

It looks like some kind of weird white chocolate, but the European Space Agency took this composite photo of defrosting sand dunes on the Martian North Pole, shaped by the frosty Martian winds.

Archeologists have studied the impacts of human habitation on the earth and concluded that significant changes to the environment started nearly 10,000 years ago. This map shows how intensive agriculture developed in that time.​

There are so many reasons to take action now for our world, including recent headlines that the Amazon Rainforest could self-destruct, the climate crisis is making people sicker, and that more than half of Greenland’s ice sheet’s surface started melting for the first time since 2012.

The Skyglow Project just put out an awesome new video, using the backdrop of a changing sky to tour North America’s indigenous petroglyphs and ruins.

This video shows how our knowledge of known exoplanets has grown exponentially in the last 30 years, from 2 in 1992 to 4,003 today!

Can plants think? One neuroscientist hooked up a Venus Flytrap to an EKG to show how plants can use electrical signals to process information, stimulate movement, and even compute time. Our kinship with all living things seems clearer than ever.

Cannonballs of the cosmos? This pulsar is spinning 8.7 times per second and hurtling through space at 2.5 million miles an hour. Astronomers say it’s traveling 5x faster than other pulsars and will eventually get propelled out of our galaxy.

A vast void in our cosmic neighborhood. Astronomers have discovered that our local Milky Way galaxy lies in the boundary between the Virgo cluster and a vast void of emptiness. A new study investigates how this Local Void influences the movement of our galaxy.

For a hundred years, humans have been broadcasting radio waves into the cosmos  and the bubble of reach has expanded to 200 light years distance today. But how big is that really? This image provides some insight.

A team of scientists examined 4 million years of our ancestry for clues to why our modern human faces evolved to look as they do today. Diet and climate were two major influences – and both may continue to reshape our appearance as earth’s climate warms.

Where were you 50 years ago when earthlings first stepped onto their moon? Last week was the half century milestone for this amazing event and it’s worth watching this video to reflect on how precarious the landing actually was.

Despite whatever woes currently avail us, the facts do show that humanity has made significant progress. This amazing video graph shows changes over the past 150 years in reducing child mortality worldwide.

This stunning image of Saturn  58,232 km  (36,184 miles) away and 945% the size of Earth  shows a view of the gas giant not seen from our planet, with its eerie shadow slicing through its spectacular rings.

Science rests on the view that objective facts exist. But in a recent experiment with entangled photons, researchers have concluded that two people can observe existing but contradictory facts at the quantum level. Yikes! Of course, at the level of atoms and molecules, let alone mice and moons, reality seems more reassuringly knowable.

Ever seen two galaxies dancing? Check out this cool image of two mighty galaxies currently pulling each other apart after passing through each other.

In their matriarchal society, bonobo moms help their sons meet and mate with eligible females to ensure their male offspring don’t get overlooked in the intensely competitive social order. Their success rate is three times higher due to this maternal support.

Researchers have determined that trauma in childhood (including poverty and stressful events) accelerates puberty and brain maturation, with potentially greater mental health disorders into adulthood.

Some in the animal kingdom prove that art is greater than smart! This puffer fish, though dull in appearance, creates beautiful mandalas to attract his mate.

The vastness of the universe is incomprehensible to the human mind, yet that doesn’t stop astronomers from trying. This video uses a grain of sand as a measurement unit for imagining the relative size of our cosmos.

Why do days – and years – seem shorter as we get older? Research suggests this phenomenon occurs in aging human brains, which process information at a slower rate. Because older brians view fewer new images in the same amount of actual time as younger ones, time seems to pass more quickly.

This very cool virtual flyby of the Whirlpool galaxy uses data and images from the Hubble Space Telescope. It helps us visualize what a galaxy very similar to ours might look like if we could fly at the speed of light!

A team at John Hopkins have come up with a new theory to help answer one of astromony’s more puzzling questions: why the universe seems to be expanding faster than it should be. Could an early form of dark energy cause the universe to speed up from time to time? And why?

When China stopped importing trash last year, much of what used to get recycled now ends up in landfills. Until the current “recycling crisis” gets resolved, there are resources to help continue your efforts to recycle and reduce waste.

The U.S. ranking at #19 in the 2019 World Happiness Report could be related to income inequality, technology and other addictions, as well as ineffective government. Another study found that countries low on the happiness scale tend to vote against incumbent leaders, and that election results can make a nation happier.

After nearly two years and hundreds of intertwining stories, the Special Counsel’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections will be released this week. Here’s a guide to unravel the tangle of stories and subplots.

In 1925, Werner Heisenberg developed a new formulation for classical quantum physics. Fifty years later, Fritjof Capra expanded on Heisenberg’s Matrix Mechanics in The Tao of Physics, which helped to establish a profound shift in our understanding of the material world: “not a collection of separate objects, but rather appears as a network of relations between the various parts of a unified whole.” Thanks to Dale Medearis for this entry!

In a joint American/Dutch project, The Ocean Cleanup was launched in September 2018 to rid the ocean of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 1,200 nautical miles offshore. An update report from last week recounts both its successes and failures in the first months of operation.

One of the most mind-blowing theories in theoretical physics is the holographic principle, which posits that the universe is actually a hologram. If researchers can prove the theory, it may lead to a grand unified theory that explains all the laws and principles governing reality.

Researchers in Denmark are finding that “forest bathing”, immersing children in natural spaces, has a beneficial effect for lowering risk of mental health disorders as adults.

The 4th National Climate Assessment details not only how climate change will impact our future, but the damage already inflicted on the environment and the economy, including disproportionately negative effects on disadvantaged communities.

Neuroscience studies on attention in both birds and humans reveal a remarkable natural rhythm in which a central focus is highlighted alternating with a wider view. In effect, the brain zooms in and zooms out several times a second. While this has benefits (including for survival in Jurassic Park), it also makes us vulnerable to distractions when the brain zooms out – another good reason to develop mindfulness.

The continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. Seas at the coasts are nine inches higher. Like a frog in a slowly heating pot, sometimes it’s hard to see the changes around us. This sobering article provides graphic evidence of how climate change is disrupting our lives.

The value of pets is well-known in helping people cope with loneliness and depression. One man has given this idea a new twist, with his “emotional support alligator.”

Many past estimates of the number of neurons in the human brain have been wildly inaccurate. The current findings are that we have about 80 billion neurons – and most of them are in the cerebellum, not the cerebral cortex. There are also another 80 billion non-neuronal “glial” cells. We keep most of these 160 billion cells over the entire lifespan: there’s hope!

You may have heard this before or something like it: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Have you ever wondered where it comes from? It is based on the pioneering work of the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb in the middle of the 20th century, who explored how the brain can be changed by our experiences: the fundamental physical basis of learning, healing, and growth. Then in a research paper in 1992, Siegrid Lowel and Wolf Singer offered this summary –  “neurons wire together if they fire together” – which became the basis for this increasingly popular saying.

While getting enough sleep is important for our overall health and well-being, a new study shows that getting too much sleep can increase your risk to experience a cardiovascular disease or death.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 recently crossed the edge of the heliosphere—11 billion miles from Earth—and will provide the first-ever observations of interstellar space, using 40-year-old technology that has less data capacity than your smart phone.

The USA has the largest rate of incarceration of any OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country, over twice the rate of the second largest, Turkey, though the rate has steadily decreased since 2008.

Out past the orbit of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has recently flown by Ultima Thule, a small planetoid. This object is the farthest from our planet that has been surveyed by a human device – so far away that it takes six hours for its radio signals traveling 186,000 miles a second to reach Earth.