Nature Science Space

NASA and ESA capture closest images of the sun ever taken

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have snapped the closest pictures ever taken of the sun.

The images, taken nearly 48 million miles away from the sun’s surface by the Solar Orbiter probe (launched February 9), reveal countless tiny flares which scientists have called “campfires.”

Scientists hope that these never-before seen exterior shots will help explain why the sun’s solar corona or atmosphere (over 1 million °C) is 300x hotter than its actual surface.

Earlier this year, the National Solar Observatory (NSO) brought us the sharpest movie of the sun we’ve seen which revealed each plasma cell the size of Texas.

Animals Nature Science

Venice, Italy from space before and after coronavirus lockdown

Once the epicenter of the Coronavirus, Italy has seen its popular cities like Venice deserted.

Check out these before and after photos of Venice from space prior to the lockdown caused by the pandemic.

Venice, Italy from space before and after coronavirus lockdown
via twitter

The people’s pollution?

Human absence is having an environmental impact on the city.

Dolphins are purportedly swimming through the city’s canals and the swans have returned.

One can see also little fish swimming in clear waters, also an unexpected side effect of the pandemic.

Nature Science

Rare Hominin skull excavated in Ethiopia

Paleontologists have discovered a 3.8 million-year-old skull in Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia that reveals the face of a male Australopithecus anamensis.

Identified mainly by its projecting cheekbones and canine-esque teeth, the newfound hominin cranium provides new information about our earliest human ancestors.

Previously, the 3.2m-year-old iconic hominin bones of Australopithecus Afarensis, best known as before Lucy, served as the missing link in explaining the human evolutionary tree.

Rare Hominin skull excavated in Ethiopia
(© Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Natural History)
Rare Hominin skull excavated in Ethiopia
Dale Omori & Liz Russell, Courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Rare Hominin skull excavated in Ethiopia
What the individual Australopithecus anamensis could’ve looked like (Artist reconstruction by Matt Crow, Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

The Australopithecus Anamensis and Australopithecus Afarensis lived together for at least 100,000 years.

The leading scientist of the study, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, describes the unearthed skull a “game changer in our understanding of human evolution.”

The precious discovery of the Australopithecine as reported via Nature now represents the face of our oldest direct ancestor.

Rare Hominin skull excavated in Ethiopia
via @IFLScience/Facebook

However, when it comes to brains, it’s worth noting that humans evolved a unique and complex neocortex.

While the Neathanderals might have possessed bigger brains, it was the advancement of shared language and artistry that helped advance Homo Sapien’ cognitive and mental skills.

The superior cortex and hyper-connectedness of billions of neurons and synapses in the human brain also helped released humans from the prison of biology.

Photo: Frontiers in Neuroanatomy

Watch a soap bubble freeze

Did you know that you can blow up soap bubbles and instantly freeze them into ice orbs?

If you’re searching for a fun cold-weather activity, this is worth trying out.

Popular Science explains the science behind bubble freeze, in addition to instructions on how to make one.

There’s some interesting science at play here. Every bubble is made up of three individual layers: a thin layer of water molecules squished between two layers of soap. It might look like the entire surface of the bubble is freezing, but what you’re actually seeing is the innermost layer of water—which freezes at warmer temperatures than soapy water—turning to ice within the film.

As the soapy water turns into ice crystals, the inside of the bubble appears to swirl around to create a beautiful effect of a snowglobe — very photographic!

But the ice bubbles don’t last forever, notes bubble photographer Chris Ratzlaff: “Bubbles are such ephemeral things,” he says. “To be able to literally freeze them in time is such a rare experience.”

Enjoy some more bubble freezing videos below:

Watch a soap bubble freeze
via twitter
via Nan Walton/tw
Science Technology

MesoSPIMs: Custom-built microscopes that can scan individual neurons in the brain

MesoSPIMs are open-source light-sheet microscopes for imaging cleared tissue.

The custom-built microscopes enable scientists to look at individual neurons using sheets of light rather than cutting a brain into slices.

The mesoSPIM Initiative paves the way for the future discovery and understanding of the brain’s complex organization. The studies may one day reveal vital information on the neuronal networks that drive mental illnesses and addictions.

A chicken embryo captured under the mesoSPIM microscope
Nature Science

The race to save coffee

“Coffee is the common man’s gold…”

Sheik Abd-al-Kabir ‘In praise of coffee’ (1587)

We take coffee for granted.

Judging by the ubiquity of Starbucks stores, you’d think that coffee was abundant. But the coffee we like to drink, the fruity-tasting coffee arabica, is projected to decline given the dual pressures of climate change which reduces suitable land to grow coffee and the ever-growing human demand for a “cup of joe.”

So how do we grow more coffee?

We breed new varieties. Right now, there are over 3,000 distinct varieties of watermelon and only 36 breeds of coffee.

Organizations like World Coffee Research have begun a version of plant sex (i.e., swapping pollen) to bloom a new type of arabica coffee that can resist drought and high temperatures.

Through a process called molecular breeding (non-GMO), the team will spend a decade screening baby plants trying to nail down the right formula of seeds it can distribute to the world’s farmers.

The life cycle of coffee
via twitter
Animals Health Science

Coronavirus face masks for dogs and cats

Some pet owners in China are going out of their way to protect their animals from the coronavirus by supplying them with masks.

Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that pets can’t get infected with the virus, dog face masks are flying off the shelves.

But the masks — originally meant to protect against air pollution — aren’t the only devices making their way around the country.

Other owners are sharing their own surgical-based masks with their furry friends, even going so far as to make their own.

This cat owner in Xiaobian, Guangdong Province custom-made a mask for her cat, even poking holes in the mask so the animal could see.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to protecting our little loved ones.

Nature Science

Watch stunning ground-to-cloud lightning in Australia

While we perceive lightning from cloud to ground or cloud to cloud, the majority of lightning one sees occurs from ground to cloud.

In this video captured by Hayden Milne in Burleigh Heads, Australia, we see ground-to-cloud lightning in its most epic display.

Doesn’t lightning always work upside down?

Mother Nature can be scary at times until you realize that most visible lightning strikes work on the way back up. Electricity disperses out from the clouds in search of a return ground strike to meet.

Lightning is a fascinating optical illusion. PS: Visit to view a live map of lightning strikes around the world in real-time.

Science Space

See the sharpest movie of the sun ever made, with each plasma cell the size of Texas

The sun is about 93,000,000 miles away from Earth. The sun’s light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, in total taking just 8 minutes to reach us.

The National Solar Observatory (NSO) has brought us the sharpest view of the sun we’ve seen yet using the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. Each plasma cell is about the size of Texas.

This is how NSO describes capturing the footage:

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope has produced the highest resolution observations of the Sun’s surface ever taken. In this movie, taken at a wavelength of 705nm over a period of 10 minutes, we can see features as small as 30km (18 miles) in size for the first time ever. The movie shows the turbulent, “boiling” gas that covers the entire sun.

The cell-like structures – each about the size of Texas – are the signature of violent motions that transport heat from the inside of the sun to its surface. Hot solar material (plasma) rises in the bright centers of “cells,” cools off and then sinks below the surface in dark lanes in a process known as convection. In these dark lanes we can also see the tiny, bright markers of magnetic fields. Never before seen to this clarity, these bright specks are thought to channel energy up into the outer layers of the solar atmosphere called the corona. These bright spots may be at the core of why the solar corona is more than a million degrees!

Architecture & Design Nature Science

How the Netherlands use agricultural density through “architecture“ to feed the world

The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products despite being 237 times smaller in land area than the world’s export leader, the United States.

That’s according to a fascinating article on Netherlands agriculture density through “architecture“ (ie., extensive use of greenhouses) as examined by Arch Daily:

“Dutch agriculture is defined by vast landscapes of greenhouses, some covering 175 acres, which dominate the architectural landscape of South Holland. In total, the country contains 36 square miles of greenhouses, an area 56% larger than the island of Manhattan.”

Photographer Tom Hegen has captured these sprawling greenhouses from above in a mesmerizing series entitled “The Greenhouse Series.”

Researchers in the Netherlands are experimenting with one way to feed more people with using less land, by growing crops indoors. At inside temperatures above 20 degrees, constant humidity of around 80 percent and the use of LED lighting to permit precisely cultivation, in order to produce year-round. The indoor gardens provide growing conditions for plants like tomatoes, peppers or strawberries around the clock and in every kind of weather, which doubles the average yield of an outdoor farm.

How a country so small and very dense — 507 people per square kilometer — can also produce heaps of crop indoors to become a world-leading agricultural exporter is astonishing.

Netherlands use agricultural density through “architecture“ to feed the world
Netherlands use agricultural density through “architecture“ to feed the world
Netherlands use agricultural density through “architecture“ to feed the world
Netherlands use agricultural density through “architecture“ to feed the world
Netherlands use agricultural density through “architecture“ to feed the world