The science of expansion: Andromeda, gravity, and the ‘Big Rip’

If the universe is expanding in all directions, why is Andromeda hurtling toward the Milky Way?

  • The Andromeda Galaxy and our Milky Way are on a collision course that will obliterate life on Earth 4.5 billion years from now.
  • The universe is expanding in all directions, all at once – so why are Andromeda and the Milky Way drawing nearer? The gravity between them is a stronger force than expansion.
  • The rate of expansion is accelerating. If it continues to speed up, its force may become strong enough pull things apart that are currently held together by superior forces: Our galaxy, the solar system, and even the atoms in our bodies. That possible ending to the universe is known as the 'Big Rip'.

Black hole death: How extreme tidal forces turn humans into spaghetti

Getting to close to a black hole is a nightmare waiting to happen.

  • Like ocean tides caused by gravity, a nearby black hole would create a 'tide' inside your body, which is mostly water.
  • As your body drew nearer to the black hole, your head would be stretched away from your feet.
  • Scientists call this streching "spaghettification", from the word of spaghetti.
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Originally, Poe envisioned a parrot — not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Squawk! Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1949) is considered one of America's great writers.
  • Poe penned his most famous poem, The Raven, in his 30s.
  • Originally, the poem's feathered subject was a bit flamboyant.
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The dos and don’ts of helping a drug-addicted person recover

How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.

  • Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
  • Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
  • As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
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When should we stop trying to save the patient and focus on saving the organs?

A definition of death is surprisingly malleable, leading to complications when it comes to organ donation.

A doctor performing a kidney transplant. (Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
  • The latest Hastings Center Report is dedicated to the question of defining death.
  • Definitions of death are not only biological, but cultural, leading to important questions about organ donation.
  • The brain can continue to be electrically active for five minutes after cardiac death—valuable time for patients in need of transplants.
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