Eric Mack on Dreadnoughtus (great name), the largest dinosaur found yet:

To reach its gargantuan size, Dreadnoughtus would have had to have spent most of its time eating large amounts of plants. The dinosaur’s body was comparable to the size of a house, with a 37-foot-long neck balanced by a 30-foot-long tail. Lacovara says it likely would have spent hours just standing in one place and eating everything it could reach.

The one found in Argentina was 85 feet long and 65 tons — and not yet fully grown.

Aaron Goldfarb on a trick Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company taught him:

You see, what Owades knew was that active dry yeast has an enzyme in it called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). Roughly put, ADH is able to break alcohol molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Which is the same thing that happens when your body metabolizes alcohol in its liver. Owades realized if you also have that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream and, thus, your brain. 

“And it will mitigate – not eliminate – but mitigate the effects of alcohol!” Koch told me.

Just a spoonful of yeast, helps the beer go down. Also love the note about Koch, a billionaire, carrying his own glass around at all times.

Adam Frank:

For all the power of modern science, we are masters of only one of these forces: electromagnetism. Laptops, smartphones, wirelessly connected thermostats, Google Glass — all our high-tech miracles exist because we’ve learned to control the electromagnetic force at the subtlest of levels. We routinely nudge electrons around circuits with the precision of an atomic watchmaker and coerce light to do our bidding with the barest of whispers. When it comes to electromagnetism, we have powers that are almost godlike.

With the other three, we’re not even close. Consider nuclear power plants. Yes, they rely on our remarkable knowledge of the strong and weak nuclear forces. But when all is said and done they simply use the heat generated by splitting atomic nuclei to boil water, which then spins turbines, which then generate electricity. That’s not so different from a 19th-century steam engine. Compared with the precision of an electron microscope (or even a grocery-store laser scanner), our handling of nuclear forces is still at the level of slamming rocks together.

The same is true of gravity. Obviously, we can make a plane fly by forcing air to flow over a wing, which generates the pressure to lift it off the ground. But the interaction of those air molecules is a result of electromagnetic forces. And the fuel we use to power planes (and blow rockets off the planet) is a result of our understanding of chemistry, which again is a matter of electromagnetism.

It is sort of crazy that our mastery only extends to one of the four forces. Bring on anti-gravity already!

Dennis Overbye on the news that scientists have discovered the gravity waves that are likely a sign that the theory of early universe inflation is correct:

Under some circumstances, a glass of water can stay liquid as the temperature falls below 32 degrees, until it is disturbed, at which point it will rapidly freeze, releasing latent heat.

Similarly, the universe could “supercool” and stay in a unified state too long. In that case, space itself would become imbued with a mysterious latent energy.

Inserted into Einstein’s equations, the latent energy would act as a kind of antigravity, and the universe would blow itself up. Since it was space itself supplying the repulsive force, the more space was created, the harder it pushed apart.

What would become our observable universe mushroomed in size at least a trillion trillionfold — from a submicroscopic speck of primordial energy to the size of a grapefruit — in less than a cosmic eye-blink.

But things get really crazy when you consider that this could theoretically also be true for an infinite amount of universes beyond our own, the “multiverse”.

James Morgan:

Based on its huge thigh bones, it was 40m (130ft) long and 20m (65ft) tall.

Weighing in at 77 tonnes, it was as heavy as 14 African elephants, and seven tonnes heavier than the previous record holder, Argentinosaurus.

We keep creeping closer to real-life Godzilla. Isn’t it sort of strange that nothing even remotely close to this size roams the Earth today?

Maria Konnikova:

Rather than empathy, the contagious nature of yawning may be highlighting something very different. “We’re getting insight into the human herd: yawning as a primal form of sociality,” Provine says. Yawning may be, at its root, a mechanism of social signalling. When we yawn, we are communicating with one another. We are sending an external sign of something internal, be it our boredom or our anxiety, our fatigue or our hunger—all moments when we may need a helping hand. In fact, yawning may be the opposite of what we generally think. It’s less likely a signal that you’re tired than a signal that it’s time for everyone around you to act.

At its most fundamental, a yawn is a form of communication—one of the most basic mechanisms we have for making ourselves understood to others without words. “It’s often said that behavior doesn’t leave fossils,” Provine says. “But, with yawning, you are looking at a behavioral fossil. You’re getting an insight into how all of behavior once was.”

Fascinating. Not boring.


Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:
1. A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or 2. The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?
Applying the physicist rule of thumb suggests that the supernova is brighter.
And indeed, it is … by nine orders of magnitude.



Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:

1. A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or
2. The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?

Applying the physicist rule of thumb suggests that the supernova is brighter.

And indeed, it is … by nine orders of magnitude.


Raffi Khatchadourian on the race to make fusion power a reality:

Years from now—maybe in a decade, maybe sooner—if all goes according to plan, the most complex machine ever built will be switched on in an Alpine forest in the South of France. The machine, called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, will stand a hundred feet tall, and it will weigh twenty-three thousand tons—more than twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower. At its core, densely packed high-precision equipment will encase a cavernous vacuum chamber, in which a super-hot cloud of heavy hydrogen will rotate faster than the speed of sound, twisting like a strand of DNA as it circulates. The cloud will be scorched by electric current (a surge so forceful that it will make lightning seem like a tiny arc of static electricity), and bombarded by concentrated waves of radiation. Beams of uncharged particles—the energy in them so great it could vaporize a car in seconds—will pour into the chamber, adding tremendous heat. In this way, the circulating hydrogen will become ionized, and achieve temperatures exceeding two hundred million degrees Celsius—more than ten times as hot as the sun at its blazing core.

It will essentially be a miniature star. Yes, the kind found in space.

Well, at least theoretically:

What will happen when ITER is turned on? The answer, as with all experiments, is something of a mystery, since no one has yet produced a plasma that is hot and dense and durable enough to heat itself. Will such a thing be more difficult to contain, or will it possess an unforeseen equilibrium?

This reads like complete science fiction, but it’s very real. The billions spent — and the billions yet to be spent — by several governments will prove it.