Salt. It shows up in our idioms about as often as our food. Even the word salary is derived from salarium, the term for a Roman soldier’s earned ration of salt. But one of the most ridiculous lies perpetuated about this humble mineral is that in ye olden days, salt was more valuable than gold due to its function in…
So you’re watching sportsball, and your team wins. The stadium fills with confetti, and the broadcast starts to look like total crap. Why does confetti make the players on your expensive TV look like Minecraft character? The answer lies in the nature of digital video compression.
Any number of forces can mess up a spacecraft’s flight path on its way to where it needs to go—but spinning helps average those torques to add stability to the trajectory. But when a satellite does successfully reaches orbit, how does it stop spinning?
Navigating in deep space is tricky, particularly when you need to keep up interplanetary synchronized clocks. NASA is convinced we can do better with a new atomic clock they’re testing in orbit this year. Here’s how it works, as illustrated by an adorably consternated second hand.
It was a day for quake, rattle, and roll on the west coast when small earthquakes hit both Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday. While the pair shared common characteristics, the stories behind why they happened reveal dramatically different Worst Case Scenarios for future earthquakes.
From powering airplanes to replacing nuclear energy, algae has been touted as a green energy miracle. So if our waterways are already filled with the stuff, why isn’t it filling the world’s skies with biofueled planes? Algae is a tricky creature that presents a lot of challenges and misconceptions. Here’s why it’s…
The corals of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are having their annual orgy. Although some corals brood their eggs in their bodies, or bud off clones, most of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals–140 species worth–release clouds of eggs and sperm into the water en masse.
There are many possible explanations for hauntings, not least that humans are highly suggestible creatures, especially when we want to believe. But some ghost sightings might actually be the result of sounds — sound waves that vibrate just below our range of hearing, dubbed the “fear frequency.”
You may have heard that Deadspin’s GIFs disappeared from Twitter. And then Deadspin disappeared from Twitter. And then Deadspin reappeared on Twitter. It all seems completely ridiculous, except all of it was a pretty standard blunt-force application of copyright law on the internet. The only unusual part was that…
Devices like laser-guided bombs and nonlethal weapons have the potential to reduce civilian casualties and wanton suffering. But as these new technologies emerge, are humans actually becoming more ethical about waging war, or is killing just becoming easier?
What’s better than a stop motion explainer on asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteorites? Nothing. Nothing is better.
Do you think you know what a cornfield looks like? You don’t know what a cornfield looks like.
The 2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine just went to three scientists who found parasite-killing chemicals that are now important tools for fighting human diseases. But the chemicals in question weren’t created in a lab: one is produced naturally by a bacterium, the other by a plant used in a traditional…
Lots of human cells are specialized, but I can’t think of any that are as stripped down to a single purpose as spermatozoa. Sperm have just one job, and they’ll die doing it.
Countdown to Life: The Extraordinary Making of You, a new BBC series focused on how our prenatal development shapes our lives, has brought new attention to a group of seemingly sex-swapping people in the Dominican Republic.
The inexorable, rapidly-rising wall of water of a tsunami is a terrifying, deadly sight. This is the disaster demystified, with all the science to help you survive.
A massive earthquake just hit off the coast of Chile. At magnitude of 8.3 and a tsunami warning in effect, this could have been ugly. Here’s the science behind the earthquake, how Chile’s preparations are paying off, and what we can expect for the shaken country.
Game of Thrones has put direwolves back on the map—but they really existed. If you’d been walking through a glade 15,000 years ago, and noticed a really big wolf coming out of the forest, followed by more really big wolves, you’d need to run fast. Because dire wolves were real.
Like most awful poisons, strychnine got its reputation early. Unlike most awful poisons, it was rarely mistaken for anything else. Here’s why strychnine is one of the world’s most common, but least subtle, poisons.