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A tidal dwarf galaxy has been the target of an international research team. Find out how their discoveries challenge what we thought we knew about how stars form.

Even though it’s bitterly cold here this time of year, January offers some advantages for stargazers like me. One is that it gets dark much earlier, which means I can revel in the beauty of the night sky without having to stay up half the night.

The other advantage is that the big, bright, beautiful constellation of Orion dominates the winter sky. It’s impossible to miss on a frigid January evening, and it offers something for amateur astronomers at every level.

One of the most exciting features of this quintessential winter constellation is the Orion Nebula. …


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Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide, mitigating climate change. Find out why a new study concludes that this C02 fertilization effect is getting weaker.

People who deny that climate change is happening, caused by humans, and a crisis are becoming few and far between. Even so, I do still run across members of this declining population now and then.

Against my better judgement, I continue to engage specimens of this disappearing breed in a debate when challenged. One of the climate myths they often resort to is that carbon dioxide (C02) can’t be bad for the environment because it’s “plant food.”

The notion here is that the more C02 there is in the air, the better it is for plants. …


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Radio signals from an exoplanet have been detected by a team of radio astronomers. Find out how this discovery contributes to the search for life beyond Earth.Not many scientific observations become known only as “Wow!” Yet, that was the name scientists gave to a radio signal detected back in 1977.

The robust, narrowband signal came from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Astronomer Gerry R. Ehman detected it using the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio State University.

Poring through recorded data, when he saw the anomaly, he wrote “Wow!” beside it on the computer printout. The name stuck, and the Wow! Signal became the subject of widespread speculation, including the idea that it came from a civilization on a distant planet.

The Wow! Signal Became the Subject of Speculation

Forty years later, Antonio Paris of the Center for Planetary Science offered up a more mundane explanation. …


International Human Rights Day is the perfect time to review a classic book. Find out why The Origins of Totalitarianism is rated one of the top non-fiction books of the 20th century.

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Let’s mark this year’s International Human Rights Day by revisiting one of the twentieth century’s top non-fiction books. It’s about the rise of Nazism and Stalinism during the era of the two World Wars.

We’re talking about political theorist Hannah Arendt’s first major work called The Origins of Totalitarianism. She first published it in 1951 and released major new versions of it in 1958 and 1968. She divided the book into three parts- Anti-Semitism, Imperialism and Totalitarianism. Human Rights Defenders recognize Arendt’s book as a classic because of its provocative observations.

Erendt argues that totalitarianism arose from three social movements. These are antisemitism, colonial imperialism and militant nationalism. Although her book is a product of the Cold War era, it seemed eerily relevant as I re-read it in these final weeks of 2020. …


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Patience seems to be universally valued as a virtue. Find out how a new study sheds light on how our brains regulate our capacity to delay instant gratification.

My doctor ordered some routine blood work for me and, because of COVID, I arranged to have it done today in a less swamped lab in a smaller neighbouring town. When I arrived at the unfamiliar facility, the reception desk was empty.

I waited for a few minutes, and nobody arrived to serve me. I grew more and more impatient, and finally, I decided to poke my head into the door of the examining area. …


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World Soil Day celebrates the value of healthy soil. Find out what a new soil biodiversity report found on soil’s place in a sustainable future.

I’m writing this story on the 5th of September, which happens to be World Soil Day. In 2014, the United Nations designated this day to remind us of the importance of healthy soil and encourage agriculture that manages our soil sustainably.

They chose December 5th because it was the birthday of the much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. He served as that country’s head of state for over 70 years.

The king was an enthusiastic sponsor of establishing a day to honour our soil. He learned about the idea from a proposal from the International Union of Soil Sciences in 2002. …


Fast radio bursts have puzzled astronomers since their discovery in 2007. Find out how scientists have revealed their origin and their variability.

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We’ve written about fast radio bursts before in these pages. At that point, these blink-of-an-eye flashes from deep space were still unexplained. Ironically, they were used to solve a different mystery-the quantity of conventional matter in the Universe.

A typical fast radio burst releases as much energy in a millisecond as our Sun does in three days. Yet, by the time they reach the Earth, their signal is about 1,000 times weaker than a cellphone transmission from the moon would be. That suggests that most of them must originate in galaxies billions of light-years away from us.

Now, a team of researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has explained the origin of these peculiar flashes. In the process, they’ve also revealed their remarkable variety in brightness. The journal Nature Astronomy published their findings last week. …


Net-Zero Emissions is the stated goal of a bill tabled this week in Ottawa. Find out why opposition parties are calling it an empty shell.

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We’ve written in these pages before about Canada’s Trudeau government and their hypocritical stance on the climate crisis. This government campaigns on the environment and governs on fostering fossil fuels.

Back in June 2019, the government passed a resolution declaring a national climate emergency. Then, less than a day later, that same government approved the Kinder Morgan Pipeline to carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific Ocean.

This week, the Trudeau Government has tabled a bill calling for Canada to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. …


Dogmatic people pose a problem. They resist ideas, and divide groups. Find out why eliminating dogmatism is more challenging than you might think.

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Growing up, my oldest brother had several silly signs posted in his bedroom. One of them read, “My mind’s made up. Don’t confuse me with facts.”

That saying has stuck with me over the years. Comedian Bill Maher uses a similar line in one of his bits that goes, “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know it’s true.”

Most of us try not to think like that. Experience teaches us that making up our minds and refusing to listen to new information causes costly mistakes.

Think They Already Know the Truth

Yet, we’ve probably all met someone who tends to think that they already know the truth and don’t want to hear any contrary evidence. …


The Arecibo Observatory was already damaged when a main cable snapped. Find out why this closed the facility for good and what the plan is now.

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In an earlier story in these pages back in August, we told you about the storm damage that had temporarily shut down the iconic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. At that time, Francisco Cordova, the observatory’s director, explained, “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible.”

We now know that the focus on safety has forced a change of plans. The structural damage is so severe that there’s no safe way to repair the observatory.

Instead, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the observatory’s owners, have decided to decommission it. “This decision is not an easy one to make, but safety is the number-one priority,” said Sean Jones, head of the NSF’s mathematical and physical sciences directorate. …

About

David Morton Rintoul

Enjoying my Freedom 55 while blogging about science and delivering selective business to business writing services.

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