You’d be hard pressed to find a big enough scale, but it’s basically the same idea

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Photo: Denis Degioanni

By Charlie Wood

With a long enough lever and a place to stand, Archimedes knew he could move the Earth. …

Many people turn to companies like 23andMe to learn about ancestry and ethnicity. But the genetic connection is far more complicated than the industry lets on.

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Photo: Paula May

By Jack Herrera

It’s always a mess when Latinx folks take DNA tests. Things go alright, until we get to the “ancestry” portion, which some commercial genetic tests label as “ethnicity.”

People who identify as Latinx claim ancestry from all over: indigenous Americans, Spanish colonists, enslaved Africans, Middle Eastern people, miscellaneous Europeans, and even Asians.

This can lead to unexpected DNA results. My grandfather is Mexican, but fair-haired and blue-eyed (we sometimes call people who look like him bolillo, which means “white bread”). When he got his report back from FamilyTreeDNA, he found out he had more North American ancestry than expected.

The night sky is changing, and we can’t figure out why

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Photo: Marc Schulte

By Charlie Wood

History would have us believe that the night sky is permanent and unchanging. After all, navigators have steered their ships using fixed stellar patterns for centuries, and our eyes still trace the same outlines of the same heroes and villains that star gazers have identified for millennia. But what if we just haven’t been watching closely enough? What if our night sky is changing?

A group of astronomers aims to shake that assumption of stability with the Vanishing and Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations (VASCO) Project, by comparing 70-year-old surveys with recent images of the night sky to see what might have gone missing. After years of painstaking work, they recently announced their first results in the Astronomical Journal: at least 100 pinpricks of light that appeared in mid-20th century skies may have gone dark today. The vanished light sources could represent short-lived flashes in the night or, possibly, the disappearance of a lasting heavenly body, if researchers can indeed confirm what they’re seeing. The study authors stress that while their preliminary findings almost certainly represent natural and well-understood events, they hope that future results will be relevant to astronomy and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). …

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