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Liv Boeree
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Adult-made neurons mature longer, have unique functions

Unraveling the mysteries of adult neurogenesis may have clinical applications.

  • Neuroscientists don't know the degree to which adult human brains generate new neurons.
  • A new study found that adult-born neurons in lab rats continued to grow and mature long after infant-born ones stopped.
  • Understanding the process of neuron birth and death can help scientists understand the causes of neurological disorders.

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How COVID-19 will destroy and rebirth education

The importance of finding and shaping learning communities.

  • When considering what the future of learning post-COVID-19 will look like, you have to start with a strong foundation. Daniel Kinzer, educator and founder of Pacific Blue Studios, looks at it like a seed that has to be grown.
  • Informed by the culture and geology of Hawaii, Kinzer explains the concept of kipuka: a patch of land, untouched by flowing lava, that provides the DNA to restore life to the landscape.
  • Applying that idea to the reshaping of education, he says that we must identify those kipuka, find our teachers, and find and shape our own learning tribes that are better suited for what we deem important moving forward.
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The great white shark has surprising dining habits

Scientists are befuddled by where the shark gets most of its food.

Photo by Gerald Schömbs / Unsplash
  • A University of Sydney research team found that the great white shark spends an unexpectedly large amount of time feeding close to the sea bed.
  • The group examined the contents in the stomachs of 40 juvenile white sharks and found the remains of a variety of fish species that typically inhabit the sea floor or are buried in the sand.
  • The scientists hope that the information gained from this research will assist conservation and management efforts for the species.
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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

You’re not going far from home – and neither are the animals you spy out your window

Maybe you've been wondering if you're seeing one persistent squirrel or a rotating cast of characters.

Photo by Toimetaja tõlkebüroo on Unsplash

Watching the wildlife outside your window can boost your mental well-being, and it's something lots of people have been doing a lot more of lately.

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