Last week, NASA announced that 97% of Greenland’s vast ice sheet had undergone at least some surface melting this summer, compared with a normal melt area of about 50%. The 2012 figure, said the headline on the space agency’s press release, was «unprecedented.»
That’s a powerful word in any context, but it’s especially so when you’re talking about the politically charged topic of climate change. If the melting was unprecedented, it would reinforce the idea that scientists are right about the dangers of human-generated greenhouse gases, and at the same time make it harder for skeptics to take potshots at the science.… Seguir leyendo »
An obese, middle-aged man is running to catch a bus. Suddenly, he clutches his chest, falls to the ground and dies of a massive heart attack. It turns out that he’s a smoker and a diabetic, has high blood pressure, eats a diet high in saturated fat and low in leafy green vegetables, pours salt on everything, drinks too much beer, avoids exercise at all costs and has a father, grandfather and two uncles who also died young of heart attacks.
So what killed him? Most people are savvy enough about health risks to know this is a trick question. You can’t pick out a single cause.… Seguir leyendo »
If you want to get your mind around the research that won three astronomers the Nobel Prize in physics last week, it helps to think of the universe as a lump of dough — raisin-bread dough, to be precise — mixed, kneaded and ready to rise. Hold that thought.
Now consider Albert Einstein — not the wild-haired, elderly, absent-minded professor he became in his later years but a young, dashing scientist in his 30s. It’s 1916, and he’s just published his revolutionary general theory of relativity. It’s not necessary to understand the theory (thank goodness). You just have to accept that it gave scientists the mathematical tools they needed to forge a better understanding of the cosmos than they’d ever had.… Seguir leyendo »