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2012

Calculations by Tetsuya Hara and his colleagues at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan show that a surprisingly large amount of life-bearing material ended up not on the Moon and Mars, as might be expected, but the Jovian moon Europa and the Saturnian moon Enceladus also received tons of life-bearing rock from earth. Even more amazingly, calculations suggest that most Earth ejecta ended up in interstellar space and some has probably already arrived at Earth-like exoplanets orbiting other stars. Hara estimates that about a thousand Earth-rocks from this event would have made the trip to Gliese 581, a red dwarf some 20 light years away that is thought to have a super-Earth orbiting at the edge of the habitable zone,

Fridge makers were required to do what they claimed was impossible: Create a refrigerator that does not kill children. They put their best minds to the task, because they had to, and came up with an incredible invention called a “magnet.” Turns out if you line the door with magnets, the door stays closed and dumb little kids can get out if they need to. Go fig. By the way, no child in the United States has died from suffocating in a fridge designed after the Refrigerator Safety Act was passed. Not bad for impossible.

2011

Scientists have trained monkeys to meditate with marshmallows. This is a gift from both the comedy and the alliteration gods, but it’s also a valuable medical technique. Every day monkeys show us new abilities and talents. Sometimes it’s stockpiling rocks to make arsenals, (as demonstrated by a macaque in captivity). Recently, it has been becoming one with the universe and achieving a new state of peace and satisfaction…but only if there are marshmallows in it for them.

Teco is different from his bonobo peers in ways that resemble autism in young children. He could not cling to his mother or nurse the way healthy young apes do instinctively, mimicking the aversion to physical contact seen in children with autism. Teco also tends to fixate on shiny objects and avoids eye contact, and he has trouble coordinating his four limbs. A genetic analysis of bonobos, already under way, may shed light on Teco’s condition and offer new perspectives on autism’s genetic roots in humans

Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of the last 150 years. They’ve all but eradicated deadly diseases like smallpox, polio, and measles from most of the world. The same vaccines that allowed civilization to flourish in the twentieth century, however, have become a political hot button in the twenty-first. What changed? It’s possible that a whole generation grew up without witnessing firsthand the horrors of deadly contagious disease on children, and so they never understood the value of vaccination. Let’s take a refresher course and look at what vaccines are, how they work, and several myths surrounding their use.

Frankenstein’s creation is not inherently evil. He is endowed with the spark of life, and becomes twisted into a dark and inhuman creature through mistreatment, abandonment, and neglect. The nuclear spark is similarly indifferent. Although it can have terrible consequences, it also offers the ability to power our civilization without warming our planet. The dangers attendant with nuclear power almost certainly pale in comparison with the dangers of global warming. The challenge is to learn to control our discovery, rather than become engulfed by it.

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