Congress Has a $65 Million Proposal to Study Tech’s Effect on Kids

Like a lot of people, you probably spend a fair bit of time worrying about how much time you spend on your phone. Who doesn’t these days? But what really concerns you is the youth. What is all that swiping and snapping and gramming doing to their still-developing brains? Surely somebody’s studied this—the effect of all this screen time. So what have they found?

Well, to be honest: nothing conclusive. At least not yet.

On Thursday, Colorado senator Michael Bennet introduced legislation that would give the National Institutes of Health $65 million to investigate technology’s impact on infants, children, and adolescents. Called the Children and Media Research Advancement Act, or CAMRA for short, the bill would see that money distributed over the next five years, to researchers studying how things like mobile devices, social media, and virtual reality affect the way kids think, grow, and socialize.

The bill, which is cosponsored by Democratic and Republican read more

Why Do You Feel Lighter at the Top of a Ferris Wheel?

Here is what I like to do (for fun). Take a classic physics problem and go over the solution. After that, I take it just one step further to see what happens. Today, let’s start with this problem (you can find a version of this in just about every physics textbook).

You are riding a ferris wheel at the state fair. The wheel has a radius of 10 meters and takes 30 seconds to complete one revolution. What is your apparent weight at the top and bottom of the circular motion?

Of course the first thing to look at in this question is “apparent weight.” What does that even mean? If you want to understand apparent weight, you need to consider regular weight: the gravitational force between the Earth (usually) and an object. This weight depends on the mass of the Earth (fixed), the mass of the object, and the distance between the center of the Earth and the object (which is probably the radius of the Earth). Since the mass and radius of the Earth don’t really read more

How to Watch Friday’s Super-Long Lunar Eclipse Online

On Friday, Earth will engulf the moon in its shadow and create the longest total lunar eclipse in this century: a full 103 minutes. The next one that comes close won’t happen until 2029. And today’s running time won’t be matched until 2123.

In a nice little cosmic reminder that nobody is the center of the universe, this eclipse will be visible from every continent on earth except North America. If you want the best view and can’t catch a flight to Eastern Africa, India, or Southeast Asia—ideal viewing locations, according to NASA—you’ll have to live-stream the eclipse instead.

The Slooh community observatory, a telescope service for the public, will start airing the eclipse around 1:00 pm EDT. The eclipse will begin at 1:14 pm EDT and will end at 7:28 pm EDT.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the entire moon passes through the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, or umbra. Much more common are partial lunar eclipses, when part of the moon (but not all of it) passes read more

SpaceX Preps for Three Block 5 Launches in Just Two Weeks

This weekend, SpaceX began what is slated to be its busiest week ever by successfully launching its largest payload to date: a communications satellite dubbed TelStar 19V. Perched atop the company’s Cape Canaveral launch pad, a shiny new Falcon 9 rocket roared to life at 1:50 am Eastern on Sunday morning, lighting up the predawn sky. It was the 13th launch so far this year for SpaceX—and, notably, the first of three Falcon 9 Block 5 booster launches scheduled for the next 12 days.

SpaceX equipped the Block 5 booster with several upgrades designed to make it more capable than its predecessor, the Block 4. They include improved engines, a more durable interstage, titanium grid fins, and a new thermal protection system. Together they help the rocket pack a bigger punch, more safely, more often: On Sunday, the Block 5—known internally as B1047—not only delivered its hefty payload to orbit, it also landed aboard an autonomous drone ship waiting out in the Atlantic.

Sunday’s read more

Was It Ethical for Dropbox to Share Customer Data with Scientists?

For the past two years, researchers at Northwestern University have been analyzing the habits of tens of thousands of scientists—using Dropbox. Looking at data about academics’ folder-sharing habits, they found the most successful scientists share some collaboration behaviors in common. And on Friday, they published their results in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

The study quickly attracted the notice of academics—but not for the reason Dropbox and the researchers had hoped. One sentence in particular caught readers’ attention: “Dropbox gave us access to project-folder-related data, which we aggregated and anonymized, for all the scientists using its platform over the period from May 2015 to May 2017—a group that represented 1,000 universities.” Written by Northwestern University Institute on Complex Systems professors Adam Pah and Brian Uzzi and Dropbox Manager of Enterprise Insights Rebecca Hinds, that read more

A Major Victory for the Impossible Burger, the Veggie ‘Meat’ That Bleeds

The Impossible Burger seems too good to be true—an entirely plant-based “meat” that looks and smells and tastes like beef (at least, according to some folks). Hell, it even bleeds like meat. That’s thanks to a yeast modified to carry genes for the soy leghemoglobin protein, which you’d normally find in the roots of soy plants. The engineered yeast can then churn out a vegetarian version of heme, the metallic-tasting substance you also find in your blood and muscle.

It’s a highly engineered food that Impossible Foods, which makes the burger, voluntarily submitted to the FDA in 2014 for what’s known as a GRAS review, or “generally recognized as safe.” Essentially, the submission said: for these reasons, we consider this novel food to be fit for human consumption. It didn’t get the response it wanted. In the summer of 2015, the FDA came back with questions—not necessarily calling soy leghemoglobin unsafe, but certainly looking for more safety information.

Impossible read more

That Purple Kush You’re Toking Might Be a Genetic Imposter

Cannabis strain names can get a bit … quirky (Lamb’s Bread, anyone?). But without them, patients that rely on marijuana to treat ailments like pain would be lost. If you want to treat seizures, you might want ACDC—a strain that expresses almost zero THC and very high CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid—and stay away from the potentially panic-inducing Ghost OG, which verges on 25 percent THC.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an official federal database with information about cannabis strains, for obvious reasons. After all, this hasn’t been a regulated industry—you’re not allowed to call a Gala apple a Red Delicious, but no one is stopping you from calling your crop ACDC when it is in fact Ghost OG. It’s a big problem examined in a new study, posted to the preprint site BioRxiv, from the University of Northern Colorado. Researchers there bought samples of 30 separate cannabis strains, several for each, from dispensaries and compared them genetically.

Almost read more

Next-Gen Nuclear Is Coming—If Society Wants It

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Back in 2009, Simon Irish, an investment manager in New York, found the kind of opportunity that he thought could transform the world while — in the process — transforming dollars into riches.

Irish saw that countries around the globe needed to build a boggling amount of clean-power projects to replace their fossil fuel infrastructure, while also providing enough energy for rising demand from China, India, and other rapidly growing countries. He realized that it would be very hard for renewables, which depend on the wind blowing and the sun shining, to do everything. And he knew that nuclear power, the only existing form of clean energy that could fill the gaps, was too expensive to compete with oil and gas.

But then, at a conference in 2011, he met an engineer with an innovative design for a nuclear reactor cooled by molten salt. If it worked, Irish figured, it could not only solve the problems with aging nuclear power, but also provide a realistic path to dropping fossil fuels.

“The read more

The Physics of Drafting in the Tour de France

Power is the most important thing in road bicycle racing like the Tour de France. If you want to move along on a bike at a constant speed, you have to use energy. There are no free rides. But there is one thing that can make a big difference in a rider’s energy use—and that’s another rider. By cycling very close behind another rider moving at the same speed, a human can get an advantage. We call this drafting. Now, to show how it works!

Here is a force diagram for a cyclist riding along at a constant speed on flat ground.


p class=”paywall”>For an object (any object) moving at a constant speed there must be zero total force—that’s just the way physics works. In this case there is the gravitational force pulling down on the bike (plus rider) along with the force of the road pushing up. These two forces have the same magnitude such that the bike doesn’t accelerate up or down (which is good, because a bike flying off the road would look odd). These read more

This Bomb-Simulating US Supercomputer Broke a World Record

Brad Settlemyer had a supercomputing solution in search of a problem. Los Alamos National Lab, where Settlemyer works as a research scientist, hosts the Trinity supercomputer—a machine that regularly makes the internet’s (ever-evolving) Top 10 Fastest lists. As large as a Midwestern McMansion, Trinity’s main job is to ensure that the cache of US nuclear weapons works when it’s supposed to, and doesn’t when it’s not.

The supercomputer doesn’t dedicate all its digital resources to stockpile stewardship, though. During its nuclear downtime, it also does fundamental research.

Settlemyer wanted to expand the machine’s scientific envelope. So he set out in search of a problem that even Trinity couldn’t currently solve. What he found was a physicist who wanted to follow only the most energetic particles through a trillion-particle simulation—a problem whose technological solutions have surprising implications for the bomb babysitters at Los Alamos.

Settlemyer read more