Last Tuesday’s debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, president of the Creation Museum, whipped up a Sharknado-like frenzy online. Five hundred thousand viewers and seemingly all of Twitter followed the event live, which pitted evolution against creationism. Some called it a modern-day Scopes “monkey” trial, others a waste of time. The video has more than a million views on YouTube.
Epidemiology: A Deadlier Bird Flu in China
A new and more lethal strain of avian influenza is surging through China, experts say. Known as H7N9, the strain first emerged last March, and has already infected at least 300 people; about a quarter have died. By contrast, the H5N1 strain that jumped from birds to people in 2003 took five years to reach the 300-case mark. “H7N9 is blowing right by H5N1,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. A newer strain, H10N8, has infected two people in China and killed one. Neither strain sickens the birds that carry it.
Agriculture:‘Climate Hubs’ to Aid Farmers
The Obama administration will create seven regional “climate hubs” to help rural communities and farmers adapt to the risks of climate change, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced. In 2012, record drought took a toll on farmers, and the economy lost $50 billion to drought from 2011 to 2013, according to government estimates. The White House hopes the new hubs will also help make the case for broader climate regulations.
Obstetrics: Long Childbirths, Misplaced Fears
For women who have had epidural anesthesia, a normal second stage of labor — in which the mother pushes — can last as long as 5.6 hours during a first birth, a new study said. For second births, a normal second stage can last 3.3 hours. Those are each more than an hour longer than generally recognized, suggesting that some women are being subjected to unnecessary interventions, such as cesarean sections. The researchers said current guidelines should be revised.
Conservation: Fish Wriggles Off Endangered List
The Oregon chub, a tiny minnow found only in the Willamette River Basin, is poised to become the first fish ever removed from the list of endangered and threatened species as a result of recovery, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced. The fish was listed in 1993 because of loss of habitat and predation by nonnative species. At the time, fewer than 1,000 of the fish existed, but thanks to a recovery plan that included habitat restoration, that number now exceeds 150,000.
Space: A Wobbly Planet
NASA’s Kepler telescope has discovered a planet so wobbly that its seasons must fluctuate wildly, The Los Angeles Times reported. About 2,300 light-years away, in the constellation Cygnus, the planet — Kepler-413b — spins on an axis that could vary as much as 30 degrees over 11 years. By comparison, Earth’s rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Astronomers suspect that other planetary bodies have tilted its orbit, or that a star is exerting a gravitational pull.
Physics: Brookhaven’s Primordial Soup
Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory began pumping liquid helium into 1,740 superconducting magnets last week as they prepared to recreate the primordial soup that emerged after the Big Bang, The Huffington Post reported. Once the magnets chill to absolute zero (or close), they will be used to smash gold ions at near-light speed, creating temperatures of 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit. That should melt the protons and neutrons, mimicking the plasma that existed in the moments after the universe was born. The experiment aims to explain how the universe evolved.
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