Tuesday, May 30, 2023

What is Carcinization?

 It sounds very fancy, or like it's a chemical reaction.

In fact, it's a word that is used to refer to the fact that crabs have evolved independently at least five times. Carcinization is "turning into a crab."

It's a classic example of convergent evolution, but it keeps happening...albeit only amongst the decapod crustaceans (which also contain lobsters and shrimp and are generally tasty).

King crabs, thus, aren't actually crabs, they're false crabs.

We don't fully understand why being a crab is such a huge advantage, but one theory is that the crab body allows more space for specialized limbs and thus increased versatility over other crustacean.

And decarcinization is stopping being a crab. There's a word for that too.

Crabs are weird.

Monday, May 29, 2023


 ...dinosaurs had telescopes, they would have seen a smaller ring system around Saturn than we do. That's because Saturn's iconic ring system formed only a few hundred million years ago, tops. It's far younger than the planet, which indicates it was probably formed by some kind of disaster out among Saturn's moons.

And in a few million more years, the rings will be mostly gone. It's a cosmic snapshot and we're lucky as a species to get to see it.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Spiny Mice are Weird

 Let's check out the ways:

1. They have remarkable regeneration abilities, and never scar. Like lizards,

2. They have bony plates on their tails. Like...lizards.

3. One species menstruates. Like us. (The list of mammals that menstruate is thin, and other than apes and old world monkeys, it includes elephant shrews and some species of bat).

3. They can shed their skin when grabbed...and then regrow it.

They are strange...although they are definitely rodents! This may indicate that some very strange genes are dormant in a variety of mammals. They're being studied to see if we can use their regenerative capabilities to help humans heal without scarring.

What they are not, however, is mice. They look like mice, but genetics place them in the same group as gerbils.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

What's Worse Than a Coronal Mass Ejection?

 A: A coronal mass ejection plus a volcano.

Tonga interrupted satellite communications on the far side of the planet by producing "bubbles" in the atmosphere called equatorial plasma bubbles (EPBs).

Modeling shows that the combination of a large eruption and a CME could really mess up communications, including GPS (learn to read a map people. You never know) and have significant economic impacts.

So let's hope that doesn't happen. Or rather that we can develop forecasts to predict it, as there's no way of preventing it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Wooden spaceships?

 They aren't just fantasy, they're also...possible.

Japanese scientists are studying the use of magnolia wood as a housing/casing for satellites. It's more flexible than metal and lighter. It may also generate less space debris when the satellite eventually burns up at end of life.

Why magnolia? They've done testing, and it holds up well in space, although not fantastically better than others. But it's flexible and strong.

Magnolia wood, eh?

Monday, May 22, 2023

Get your telescope...

 ...and point it at Ursa Major. Because there's...a supernova in the neighborhood.

It's actually 21 million miles away, but supernovas are so bright a standard commercial backyard telescope can see it...and some people have even got photographs.

Unless, of course, you live in the city *glares at the light pollution*.

We're going to get some decent data from it, though.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Rocks fall, everyone...

 ...actually, it's okay. Barring some kind of gravitational perturbation, Earth is safe from planet killing asteroids for at least 1,000 years.

This is good news...we're testing systems that should protect us from smaller rocks.

Yeah, we did the math, and the big rocks, which are the easiest to track, are most likely not a threat. We still have to worry about a city killer, though...

...let's hope we can scale up DART.