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For the first time in 152 years, a supermoon, blue moon, and total lunar eclipse will coincide

On Jan. 31, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing—you owe it to yourself to gaze at the darkened sky.

In the early morning hours of the Western Hemisphere and the evening in the Eastern, you will be treated to both a visible supermoon—what we call a full moon at its closest orbital point to Earth—and a total lunar eclipse. The celestial coincidence hasn’t happened in more than 150 years. That means there were people who lived and died on this Earth without ever having had a chance to see this phenomenon, which won’t reappear again for another decade.

This supermoon also happens to be the final one in a supermoon trilogy—the first two of which appeared on Dec. 3 and Jan. 1. As the second full moon of the month, it earns the title of a blue moon as well.

For the first time in 152 years, a supermoon, blue moon, and total lunar eclipse will coincide

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Posted by on January 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Tous victimes des pirates de l’attention

Cet article a été très compliqué à écrire. Pas seulement à cause des révélations retentissantes qu’il contient, mais parce que mon attention a sans cesse été détournée. Par mon chat Facebook qui clignote. Mon ­portable qui m’annonce un texto dont la lecture ne saurait souffrir un instant de plus. Ah tiens !, cette vidéo sur Twitter, il faut absolument que je la voie. Et que se passe-t-il sur Instagram en ce moment ? Vous-même, qui avez commencé à lire ce paragraphe, voyez déjà votre concentration se fragiliser. Accrochez-vous, nous sommes tous victimes des ­pirates de l’attention.

Des cœurs et des flammes

Ma quête a commencé par un rendez-vous avec Emma, 15 ans. Sur la ­table, posé à côté d’un Coca Light et à portée de ses mains ornées d’un vernis rose écaillé, son portable clignote comme un sapin de Noël perdu dans ce café du nord de ­Paris. Il n’arrête pas de nous interrompre, alors que je l’interroge justement à ce sujet. C’est surtout le petit fantôme jaune et blanc de Snapchat qui s’immisce dans notre conversation. « Tu vois, ça, ce sont des “streaks”, m’explique-t-elle, me donnant l’impression d’être une poule devant un couteau. Et si tu perds les streaks, tu perds tes amis… » Ces smileys permettent d’établir une ­typologie des relations comme les ados en raffolent. Cœur jaune pour meilleur ami, cœur rouge pour meilleur ami deux semaines de suite, double cœur rose pour deux mois, etc.

https://justpaste.it/1blrh

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2018 in Reportages

 

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When Humans War, Animals Die

In 1977, two years after declaring independence from Portugal, Mozambique erupted into civil war. Over the next 15 years, the violent conflict claimed at least a million lives—and that was just the humans.

Government troops and resistance fighters also slaughtered their way through the wildlife in the nation’s renowned Gorongosa National Park, once touted as a natural paradise. Thousands of elephants were hunted for their ivory, which was sold to buy arms and supplies. Zebras, wildebeest, and buffalo were killed for meat. Around 90 percent of the park’s large mammals were shot or died of starvation.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/when-humans-war-animals-die/549902/?utm_source=feed

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A different dimension of loss’: inside the great insect die-off

The Earth is ridiculously, burstingly full of life. Four billion years after the appearance of the first microbes, 400m years after the emergence of the first life on land, 200,000 years after humans arrived on this planet, 5,000 years (give or take) after God bid Noah to gather to himself two of every creeping thing, and 200 years after we started to systematically categorise all the world’s living things, still, new species are being discovered by the hundreds and thousands.

In the world of the systematic taxonomists – those scientists charged with documenting this ever-growing onrush of biological profligacy – the first week of November 2017 looked like any other. Which is to say, it was extraordinary. It began with 95 new types of beetle from Madagascar. But this was only the beginning. As the week progressed, it brought forth seven new varieties of micromoth from across South America, 10 minuscule spiders from Ecuador, and seven South African recluse spiders, all of them poisonous. A cave-loving crustacean from Brazil. Seven types of subterranean earwig. Four Chinese cockroaches. A nocturnal jellyfish from Japan. A blue-eyed damselfly from Cambodia. Thirteen bristle worms from the bottom of the ocean – some bulbous, some hairy, all hideous. Eight North American mites pulled from the feathers of Georgia roadkill. Three black corals from Bermuda. One Andean frog, whose bright orange eyes reminded its discoverers of the Incan sun god Inti.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/14/a-different-dimension-of-loss-great-insect-die-off-sixth-extinction

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Reportages

 

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Even if genes affect intelligence, we can’t engineer cleverness

First, let me tell you how smart I am. So smart. My fifth-grade teacher said I was gifted in mathematics and, looking back, I have to admit that she was right. I’ve properly grasped the character of metaphysics as trope nominalism, and I can tell you that time exists, but that it can’t be integrated into a fundamental equation. I’m also street-smart. Most of the things that other people say are only partially true. And I can tell.

A paper published in Nature Genetics in 2017 reported that, after analysing tens of thousands of genomes, scientists had tied 52 genes to human intelligence, though no single variant contributed more than a tiny fraction of a single percentage point to intelligence. As the senior author of the study Danielle Posthuma, a statistical geneticist at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam and VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, told The New York Times, ‘there’s a long way to go’ before scientists can actually predict intelligence using genetics. Even so, it is easy to imagine social impacts that are unsettling: students stapling their genome sequencing results to their college applications; potential employers mining genetic data for candidates; in-vitro fertilisation clinics promising IQ boosts using powerful new tools such as the genome-editing system CRISPR-Cas9.

https://aeon.co/ideas/even-if-genes-affect-intelligence-we-cant-engineer-cleverness

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Biodiversity isn’t just pretty: it future-proofs our world

A small boy hauls enthusiastically on his fishing rod. The line flies up and a needle-spined fish strikes him in the eye. Desperate to stay outdoors, he ignores the pain, but his sight deteriorates over the following months. He continues to pursue his love of nature but, now blind in one eye, he is confined to studying creatures that are easy to see: insects. He grows to become the global authority on ants, and in later life is given the moniker ‘the father of biodiversity’.

The man is E O Wilson, the eminent American biologist. In his book The Diversity of Life (1992), he described biodiversity as an assemblage that ‘has eaten the storms – folded them into its genes – and created the world that created us. It holds the world steady.’ We tend to think of biodiversity as a landscape of teeming jungles and coral reefs, its destruction manifesting as forest clearance and species extinction. However, these images don’t capture the full significance of the equilibrium that Wilson described. Biodiversity is not just the abundance of life on Earth. Rather, it is what maintains the resilience and flexibility of the environment as a whole, so that life can weather the inevitable ‘storms’.

 

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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‘We believe you harmed your child’: the war over shaken baby convictions

At first, Craig Stillwell and Carla Andrews only vaguely registered the change at the hospital; how the expressions of warm, calm concern in the doctors and nurses who had been helping them look after their sick baby had iced over. It was 15 August 2016, in the early hours of the morning, and their three-month-old daughter, Effie, was fighting for life.

Two hours earlier, Effie had woken up screaming. Her parents, both 23, had no permanent home and were staying at Craig’s father’s place in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. They had all been asleep on the floor in the lounge: Effie in the travel cot that detached from her pram, Craig still in the uniform he wore as a grass cutter. Carla thought the problem was acid reflux. She passed the baby to Craig and went to prepare a bottle of formula in the kitchen. As she worked, Effie screamed and screamed in the other room. Suddenly she fell silent. Carla heard Craig panic: “Effie! Effie!” She rushed in. Craig, terrified, was holding the child. Effie was white-faced, limbs floppy, eyes fixed, gasping weakly for air.

Paramedics arrived at 3.19am, by which time Effie appeared dead. They reached Stoke Mandeville hospital at 3.50am. She roused a little and was taken for a brain scan. Afterwards, in the resuscitation unit, a doctor told them what they had found. Effie had suffered a bleed on the brain, and it didn’t look like it had been the first. Carla and Craig both started crying.

“But how could this happen?” asked Craig.

“We’re going to look into it,” the doctor replied.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/08/shaken-baby-syndrome-war-over-convictions

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2018 in Reportages

 

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Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?

It was bedtime for Krista and Tatiana Hogan, and the 4-year-old twin girls were doing what 4-year-olds everywhere do at bedtime. They were stalling, angling for more time awake. Their grandmother, Louise McKay, who lives with the girls and their parents in Vernon, a small city in British Columbia, was speaking to them in soothing tones, but the girls resorted to sleep-deferring classics of the toddler repertory. “I want one more hug!” Krista said to their grandmother, and then a few minutes later, they both called out to her, in unison, “I miss you!”

But in the dim light of their room, a night light casting faint, glowing stars and a moon on the ceiling, the girls also showed bedtime behavior that seemed distinctly theirs. The twins, who sleep in one specially built, oversize crib, lay on their stomachs, their bottoms in the air, looking at an open picture book on the mattress. Slowly and silently, in one synchronized movement, they pushed it under a blanket, then pulled it out again, then back under, over and over, seeming to mesmerize each other with the rhythm.

Suddenly the girls sat up again, with renewed energy, and Krista reached for a cup with a straw in the corner of the crib. “I am drinking really, really, really, really fast,” she announced and started to power-slurp her juice, her face screwed up with the effort. Tatiana was, as always, sitting beside her but not looking at her, and suddenly her eyes went wide. She put her hand right below her sternum, and then she uttered one small word that suggested a world of possibility: “Whoa!”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/magazine/could-conjoined-twins-share-a-mind.html

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Reportages

 

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China’s Race to Find Aliens First

Last January, the Chinese Academy of Sciences invited Liu Cixin, China’s preeminent science-fiction writer, to visit its new state-of-the-art radio dish in the country’s southwest. Almost twice as wide as the dish at America’s Arecibo Observatory, in the Puerto Rican jungle, the new Chinese dish is the largest in the world, if not the universe. Though it is sensitive enough to detect spy satellites even when they’re not broadcasting, its main uses will be scientific, including an unusual one: The dish is Earth’s first flagship observatory custom-built to listen for a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence. If such a sign comes down from the heavens during the next decade, China may well hear it first.

In some ways, it’s no surprise that Liu was invited to see the dish. He has an outsize voice on cosmic affairs in China, and the government’s aerospace agency sometimes asks him to consult on science missions. Liu is the patriarch of the country’s science-fiction scene. Other Chinese writers I met attached the honorific Da, meaning “Big,” to his surname. In years past, the academy’s engineers sent Liu illustrated updates on the dish’s construction, along with notes saying how he’d inspired their work.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/12/what-happens-if-china-makes-first-contact/544131/

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Reportages, Uncategorized

 

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Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking: Julian Jaynes’ Famous 1970s Theory

Julian Jaynes was living out of a couple of suitcases in a Princeton dorm in the early 1970s. He must have been an odd sight there among the undergraduates, some of whom knew him as a lecturer who taught psychology, holding forth in a deep baritone voice. He was in his early 50s, a fairly heavy drinker, untenured, and apparently uninterested in tenure. His position was marginal. “I don’t think the university was paying him on a regular basis,” recalls Roy Baumeister, then a student at Princeton and today a professor of psychology at Florida State University. But among the youthful inhabitants of the dorm, Jaynes was working on his masterpiece, and had been for years.

From the age of 6, Jaynes had been transfixed by the singularity of conscious experience. Gazing at a yellow forsythia flower, he’d wondered how he could be sure that others saw the same yellow as he did. As a young man, serving three years in a Pennsylvania prison for declining to support the war effort, he watched a worm in the grass of the prison yard one spring, wondering what separated the unthinking earth from the worm and the worm from himself. It was the kind of question that dogged him for the rest of his life, and the book he was working on would grip a generation beginning to ask themselves similar questions.

http://nautil.us/issue/54/the-unspoken/consciousness-began-when-the-gods-stopped-speaking-rp

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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