What you need to know about CRISPR

October 21, 2016

Should we bring back the wooly mammoth? Or edit a human embryo? Or wipe out an entire species that we consider harmful? The genome-editing technology CRISPR has made extraordinary questions like these legitimate — but how does it work? Scientist and community lab advocate Ellen Jorgensen is on a mission to explain the myths and realities of CRISPR, hype-free, to the non-scientists among us.

Ten times more galaxies in the universe than previously estimated

October 15, 2016

Since the mid-1990s, the working estimate for the number of galaxies in the Universe has been around 120 billion. That number was based largely on a 1996 study called Hubble Deep Field … Researchers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at a small region of space for a total of ten days. Astrophysicists then counted the galaxies within that narrow field of view and extrapolated the number to the full sky to get to the 120 billion figure.


The Hubble Deep Field

More recent deep-field studies conducted using Hubble and other telescopes means we now know that the observable Universe contains about two trillion galaxies — more than ten times as many as previously estimated.

Considering that the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way, contains around 100 billion or more stars we can safely assume that the number of stars in the entire universe is a very large number indeed!

Learn more here or here.

Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores

September 11, 2016

Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not. Why, then, do we rush students through education when they haven’t always grasped the basics? Yes, it’s complicated, but educator Sal Khan shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.

Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever

August 27, 2016

The future is going to be genetically modified!

That means the future could be disease-free with babies being designed in labs by parents who live in a world where ageing has stopped all thanks to genetic engineering. Or the future might be something else entirely with state-mandated genetic engineering to turn citizens into super soldiers. Who knows.

Jupiter does not orbit the sun

August 27, 2016

If we picture the solar system, we often picture our dominant star at the center of things, static and immobile as planets orbit circles around it. That picture makes things simple to understand, but technically it’s inaccurate. Take our largest planet Jupiter, for instance. It doesn’t orbit the sun’s center — it orbits a spot in empty space between it and the sun called the barycenter. This is because the sun doesn’t just exert gravity on Jupiter — Jupiter’s so big that its own pull affects how the sun moves, too.

Learn more here.

What a planet needs to sustain life

August 14, 2016

“Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold, and Earth is just right,” says planetary scientist Dave Brain. But why?

Earth Just Experienced The Hottest June Ever Recorded

July 21, 2016

Two key climate change indicators have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016, according to NASA analyses of ground-based observations and satellite data. Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880. Meanwhile, five of the first six months set records for the smallest monthly Arctic sea ice extent since consistent satellite records began in 1979.

Learn more here.

A planet with three suns

July 9, 2016

Researchers have spotted a super-Jupiter orbiting a star in a three-sun system at a distance twice as far as Pluto is from our own sun.

Preliminary data suggest that the gas giant—about four times the mass of Jupiter—orbits the largest and brightest of the three stars (which has about 1.8 times the mass of our sun) once every 550 years or so. The other two suns in the system, smaller stars that orbit each other relatively tightly and quickly, lie somewhere between 45 billion and 60 billion kilometers away. The intricate dance of the planet and these stars is taking place about 320 light-years from us. Measurements at near-infrared wavelengths suggest that HD 131399Ab’s atmosphere contains water vapor and methane, and that the planet’s cloud tops are about 850 K (577°C). Check it out below or learn more here.

Rat vs Snake

July 3, 2016

In the tradition of ‘Killer Whale vs Seal‘, ‘Lion vs Buffalo vs Crocodile‘, ‘Shark vs Octopus‘, ’Leopard vs Porcupine‘, ‘Hornets vs Honey bees‘, ’Salmon vs Grizzly Bear‘, ‘Hippopotamus vs Crocodile’, ‘Polar Bear vs Walrus Colony’, ‘Giraffe vs Giraffe‘, ‘Caterpillar vs Frog‘, ‘Frog vs Poison Newt’, ‘Rubber bands vs Water Melon’,  ‘Sarcastic fringehead vs Sarcastic fringehead’, ‘Jaguar vs Crocodile‘, ‘Snake vs Crocodile‘, ‘Centipede vs Snake‘, ‘Moray Eel vs White Tip Reef Shark‘, ‘Rabbit vs Snake‘ and ‘Octopus vs Octopus‘ here is ‘Rat vs Snake’:

Winners of Best Illusion of 2016 Contest

July 2, 2016

I really like optical illusions. And the first and second place getter of Best Illusion of the Year Contest are no exceptions.

1st prize is – Motion Integration Unleashed: New Tricks for an Old Dog.

Little black and white dots that are stationary can give rise to dramatic global motion perceptions: a rotating square, oscillating chopsticks and rolling waves. Although the dots themselves are not changing position, the drifting motion within them causes the illusion that the entire configuration is moving!


They look like vertical cylinders, but their sections appear to be different; in one view they appear to be rectangles, while in the other view they appear to be circles. We cannot correct our interpretations although we logically know that they come from the same objects. Even if the object is rotated in front of a viewer, it is difficult to understand the true shape of the object, and thus the illusion does not disappear.