Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

Do you know your rights? Hit refresh on your constitutional knowledge!


The 2nd Amendment: How the gun control debate went crazy

The gun control debate has been at fever pitch for several years now, and as things fail to change the stats get grimmer. The New York Times reports that there have been 239 school shootings nationwide since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. Six years later, 438 more people have been shot in schools, and for 138 of them it was fatal. Here, journalist and author Kurt Andersen reads the Second Amendment, and explains its history from 1791 all the way to now. "What people need to know is that the Second Amendment only recently became such a salient amendment," says Andersen. It's only in the last 50 years that the gun debate has gone haywire, and it was the moment the NRA went from reasonable to absolutist. So what does the "right to bear arms" really mean? What was a firearm in the 1790s, and what is a firearm now? "Compared to [the] many, many, many rounds-per-second firearms that we have today, it's the same word but virtually a different machine." Kurt Andersen is the author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.

The 5th Amendment: Do not break in case of emergency

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is often talked about but rarely read in full. The reason? Counterterrorism expert Amaryllis Fox explains that it has, these days, simply become shorthand for not saying anything in court to incriminate yourself. But the full text states how important the due process of law is to every American. So perhaps learning the full text, not just the shorthand, is an important step to being an American citizen. You can find out more about Amaryllis Fox here.

The 13th Amendment: The unjust prison to profit pipeline

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery—but it still remains legal under one condition. The amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Today in America, big corporations profit of cheap prison labor in both privatized and state-run prisons. Shaka Senghor knows this second wave of slavery well—he spent 19 years in jail, working for a starting wage of 17 cents per hour, in a prison where a 15-minute phone call costs between $3-$15. In this video, he shares the exploitation that goes on in American prisons, and how the 13th Amendment allows slavery to continue. He also questions the profit incentive to incarcerate in this country: why does America represent less than 5% of the world's population, but almost 25% of the world's prisoners? Shaka Senghor's latest venture is Mind Blown Media.

The 14th Amendment: History's most radical idea?

In 1868, three years after slavery was abolished, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting equal protection under the law to every born and naturalized U.S. citizen. For CNN news commentator Van Jones this amendment is, in his words, the "whole enchilada." It's not the most popular amendment—it doesn't get name-dropped in TV courtroom dramas, or fiercely debated before elections—but to Jones it is a weighty principle that was far ahead of its time. "It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're a lesbian. That's not what it says. It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're African American. That's not what it says. It says if you're in the jurisdiction you get equal protection under the law. That's radical. In 10,000 years of human history, that's radical." Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.

The 26th Amendment: The act of voting should empower people

Is a 55.7% voter turnout really enough? Bryan Cranston was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election, not for the outcome but for the process. According to Census Bureau figures it was a bumper year for voter engagement with 137.5 million total ballots cast—but is just over half of the eligible voters really that impressive? The Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. still trails behind most developed nations in voter registration and turnout. "I think we've devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we've become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities," says Cranston. The good news? Millennials and Gen Xers are on an upward trend in civic engagement, casting more votes than Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election. Cranston reminds us of how empowering the 26th Amendment is in granting voting rights to Americans over the age of 18. "We can't take that lightly," says Cranston. It's a timely reminder too, as 40 million people are expected to drop off that 55.7% figure for the midterm elections, mostly from the millennial, unmarried women and people of color demographics. Bryan Cranston's new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.

More playlists
  • July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing — Apollo 11.
  • Today, we have a strong scientific case for returning to the moon: the original rock samples that we took from the moon revolutionized our view of how Earth and the solar system formed. We could now glean even more insights with fresh, nonchemically-altered samples.
  • NASA plans to send humans to a crater in the South Pole of the moon because it's safer there, and would allow for better communications with people back on Earth.
  • Facebook joke event to "raid Area 51" has already gained 1,000,000 "going" attendees.
  • The U.S. Air Force has issued an official warning to potential "raiders."
  • If anyone actually tries to storm an American military base, the use of deadly force is authorized.

Conspiracy theorists, Ufologists, and, more importantly, internet satirists' most favorite target of scorn and alien memes, Area 51, has garnered a lot of attention as of late. Recently, a Facebook event called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us" riled up over 1,000,000 users who declared they were "going" — with another roughly 900,000 saying they are "interested."

Obviously created as a joke, the event's description reads:

"We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens."

A pinned post from one of the organizers of the event, Jackson Barnes, also reiterates the fact that this upcoming shindig is all in jest.

But as the event has gone viral and inspired countless jokes and memes, the United States Air Force released a statement about the potential military base raid.

It seems like the comedy of this convoluted, self-referential and juvenile "meme culture" might be lost on both the military and some unsuspecting UFO enthusiasts, who might take the opportunity to turn this thin line of shoddy internet satire into reality.

Storm Area 51 raid

A majority of news organizations reporting on this situation are taking it with a hefty grain of salt and some light-hearted jokes. No doubt the creators of this event are reveling in the extended coverage, as the "event" isn't meant to go live until September 20th.

But that hasn't stopped the United States Airforce from issuing a very stern warning.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews informed the news agency that officials knew about the event. Although she didn't give any specifics on what would happen to any would-be trespassers, she stated:

"Area 51 is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces. The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets."

The facility was officially acknowledged by the U.S. Government in 2013 when the CIA confirmed its existence through public record. Additionally, other reports have been released about that nature of Area 51 as just an aircraft testing facility. But no amount of publicly-released data will ever quell conspiratorial theorists — or, by extension, good-natured humorists.

A number of celebrities have RSVP'd to the event or referenced the joke, among them are singer Kevin Jonas, Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham, and Jeffree Star. Expect more celebrities and "social media stars," to start cashing in on the memes in the coming months.

Alert! Turn back, Area 51 raiders

Toward the end of Jackson Barnes' Facebook post is the message:

"P.S. Hello U.S. government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet. I'm not responsible if people decide to actually storm area 51."

Out of the millions who've either signed up or interacted with this internet joke, in some way or another, it's inevitable that some stooges will take this event seriously.

For instance, a hotel in Rachel, Nevada, called the Little A'Le'Inn, which has glommed onto the Area 51 hype throughout the years has just recently received an unusually high number of reservations for September 20th.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Connie West, a co-owner of the establishment stated that, "My poor bartender today walked past me and said, 'I hate to tell you, but every phone call I've had is about Sept. 20," she then added, "They're pretty serious; they're coming. People are coming."

Many people that called had mentioned the Facebook post when reserving the rooms. The Facebook post had invited people to Amargosa Valley, which is actually a few hours away from Little A'Le'Inn and further from Area 51 on the opposite side.

There are multiple signs surrounding the Area 51 perimeter and border which state that not only "photography is prohibited," but the "use of deadly force is authorized."

But hey, the fool who persists in his folly will become wise. After all, who's to say the Ufologist persisting in his alien search won't find some. Maybe our Naruto running raiders can use this show of force as a bargaining chip with the officials for a tour of the facility. . . if the government officials really have nothing to hide that is.

  • The photo shows the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth, as it does every 90 minutes.
  • The photo is remarkable because it offers a glimpse of the star at a time when there were no sunspots.
  • In November, astronauts aboard the ISS plan to grow Española chili pepper plants.


NASA published a stunning photo showing the International Space Station cross in front of the sun. Regarding the picture, which was captured by Rainee Colacurcio, NASA officials wrote:

"Transiting the sun is not very unusual for the ISS, which orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes, but getting one's timing and equipment just right for a great image is rare. Strangely, besides that fake spot, in this recent two-image composite, the sun lacked any real sunspots. The featured picture combines two images — one capturing the space station transiting the sun — and another taken consecutively capturing details of the sun's surface."

The photo is remarkable because it offers a glimpse of the star at a moment when it was devoid of sunspots. As NASA further described:

"Sunspots have been rare on the sun since the dawn of the current Solar Minimum, a period of low solar activity. For reasons not yet fully understood, the number of sunspots occurring during both the previous and current solar minima have been unusually low."

Rainee Colacurcio

The solar minimum is the lowest point of activity during the solar cycle — the 11-year period during which our sun's activity fluctuates. During its highest point of solar activity, the sun can bring about observable changes on Earth.

Image source: NASA

Illustration of a solar cycle

"Giant eruptions on the Sun, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, also increase during the solar cycle," NASA officials wrote. "These eruptions send powerful bursts of energy and material into space. This activity can have effects on Earth. For example, eruptions can cause lights in the sky, called aurora, or impact radio communications. Extreme eruptions can even affect electricity grids on Earth."

An image of a coronal mass ejection observed by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, satellite in 2001. Image source: ESA/NASA/SOHO

Because of these effects, scientists do their best to forecast solar activity:

"Some cycles have maximums with lots of sunspots and activity. Other cycles can have very few sunspots and little activity. Scientists work hard to improve our ability to predict the strength and duration of solar cycles. These predictions can help them forecast these solar conditions, called space weather. Forecasting of the solar cycle can help scientists protect our radio communications on Earth, and help keep NASA satellites and astronauts safe, too."

The ISS and its astronauts won't be hurt by increased solar activity, but they will likely have a better chance of seeing auroras — commonly known as the northern lights.

NASA

In November, NASA astronauts aboard the ISS plan to grow Española chili pepper plants. If successful, it will be the first fruit grown in space by the space agency. The ability to grow nutritional food in space would be a necessity for long-distance space missions.

"We were also looking for varieties that don't grow too tall, and yet are very productive in the controlled environments that we would be using in space," NASA plant physiologist Ray Wheeler told Dylan Bida at the Rio Grande Sun. "The astronauts have often expressed a desire for more spicy and flavorful foods, and so having a bit of hot flavor also seemed to be a good thing. Plus, many peppers are very high in vitamin C, which is important for space diets."

  • A new study suggests that the moons of gas-giant exoplanets may break away into their own orbits, called "ploonets."
  • Planet + moon = ploonet.
  • As the gas giants move inward toward their suns, the orbits of their moons are often disrupted, according to new computer models.

While exoplanets appear to be plentiful outside our solar system, the moons that we might expect to be orbiting them are another story. Indeed, last spring it looked like astronomers had finally found one — it was dubbed Neptmoon because of its great size — but that finding now appears less certain.

In light of this quandary, a new paper, published on June 27, looks at what might be happening to "exomoons" that orbit large gas-giant planets migrating inward toward their stars, such as our own Jupiter seems to have done.

The researchers — astrophysicist Mario Sucerquia and colleagues — hypothesize that these satellites break free of their tidal connection to their "parent" planets as they move nearer to their sun. The paper suggests that, at this point, they're not quite moons anymore — or planets — but "ploonets."

What's more, our own moon, the researchers say, may meet a similar fate one day, even though Earth isn't a gas giant. Warns Sucerquia:

"Earth's tidal strength is gradually pushing the moon away from us at a rate of about 3 centimeters a year. Therefore, the moon is indeed a potential ploonet once it reaches an unstable orbit."

Image source: JPL/BigThink

The research in the new paper is grounded on the manner in which large gas giants have been observed to slowly move inward through their solar systems toward their respective suns. It suggests that, as such a body draws close to the star, its moon's orbit — affected at that juncture by both the gravitational pull of the planet and the host star — experiences an increase in energy, which becomes unstable. This, eventually, releases the moon from the gravitational bonds of its parent parent.

Further, the paper's conclusions are based on a series of computer simulations that researchers conducted regarding what would happen to a moon orbiting a migrating gas giant. What was discovered?

The models found that 44 percent of the moons would meet their demise by being pulled into their planets (this could explain some of the planetary rings that have been observed). The system's star would seize and destroy another 6 percent. Significant amount of exomoons, however, — about 48 percent of them — would split off from their planets and begin orbiting their star as "ploonets." Around 2 percent would be blown out of their solar system altogether.

This would certainly explain why we haven't definitively found any evidence of exomoons yet.

  • The late British mathematician and theoretical computer scientist Alan Turing will appear on Britain's 50-pound note starting in 2021.
  • Turing is best known for helping to crack the Nazis' Enigma machine, a feat that's estimated to have cut World War II short by two years.
  • The British government, which chemically castrated Turing in 1952 for "homosexual acts," officially apologized to Turing in 2009.


The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing — the late British codebreaker who helped end World War II — will be the new face of the 50-pound note starting in 2021.

"Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," said Bank of England governor Mark Carney. "As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing's contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand."

As a mathematician, logician and early computer scientist, Turing helped crack the Nazis' Enigma machine while working at Britain's Bletchley Park as part of the Ultra intelligence outfit. The breakthrough is estimated to have cut the war short by two years. Turing is also often called the Father of Artificial Intelligence, and his Turing machine can be considered an early example of a general-purpose computer.

"His genius lay in a unique ability to link the philosophical and the abstract with the practical and the concrete," Carney said. "All around us his legacy continues to build."

But despite his contributions to society, British authorities, in 1952, prosecuted Turing, who was gay, for homosexual acts under a Victorian-era law commonly known as the Labouchere Amendment. Turing was forced to choose between prison or chemical castration by the injection of female hormones. He chose the latter. Two years later, Turing killed himself at the age of 41 by consuming cyanide.

"It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society, but perhaps the most poignant example is that his work is estimated to have shortened the war by four years and saved up to 21 million lives," John Leech, a former Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, told The Guardian. "And yet the way he was treated afterwards remains a national embarrassment and an example of society at its absolute worst."

In 2009, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a national apology to Turing.

"Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted, as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly," Brown said. "Over the years, millions more lived in fear in conviction. I am proud that those days are gone and that in the past 12 years this Government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality, and long overdue."

In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II officially pardoned Alan Turing, marking the nation's fourth royal pardon granted since World War II.

Turing wasn't the only British scientist considered for the 50-pound note. Among the shortlist of candidates, as The Guardian reports, were Mary Anning, Paul Dirac, Rosalind Franklin, William Herschel and Caroline Herschel, Dorothy Hodgkin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, James Clerk Maxwell, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Ernest Rutherford, and Frederick Sanger.

Campaigners and some British lawmakers had signed a 150,000-strong petition to honor a scientist of color on the 50-pound note, warning that selecting a white scientist risks sending a "damaging message that ethnic minorities are invisible." However, Carney said the Bank intended to celebrate "all aspects of diversity."

"We want to represent as best as possible all aspects of diversity within the country, from race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, disability and beyond," Carney told The Guardian. "What we have today is a celebration of one of the greatest mathematicians and scientists in the United Kingdom and not just this country's history but world history."

In the U.K., cashless transactions are becoming increasingly common, though Carney noted that paper notes will still be around "for a very long period of time." It's also worth noting that, while Turing might've appreciated being honored on fiat currency, his contributions undoubtedly helped pave the way for cryptocurrency.