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When We Discovered Pluto, It Changed How We Saw The Solar System

On the 23rd and 24th of January, 1930, a young astronomer working in Flagstaff, Arizona, scanned a small patch of the night sky. He was taking pictures of star positions, looking for anomalies that would signal movement somewhere at the edge of the solar system. He took the pictures then set them aside, not realizing… » 7/12/15 4:25pm 7/12/15 4:25pm

The Power of Symbols: Why People Still Defend The Confederate Flag

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham joined Governor Nikki Haley Monday in calling for the removal of the state capitol’s Confederate flag. They join the growing throng of voices demanding the flag be taken down in the wake of last week’s killings in Charleston. The cases that these voices have presented are… » 6/23/15 4:54pm 6/23/15 4:54pm

Rain Jackets, Explained

For an incredibly simple concept — keeping you dry — rain jackets have evolved into awfully complicated products. Air flow rates, water pressure resistance, durable water repellent coatings, hard shells, soft shells…the list of technical terms goes on. Here’s what they all mean and how you can use them to find the… » 6/16/15 10:15am 6/16/15 10:15am

How The New Cold War Is Improving Your Navigation

Ever contemplated going to war with America, but been thwarted when the Great Satan switched off your access to its navigation satellites? That’s potentially a real problem for China and Russia, but the real victor in this navigational arms race might be you; it’s improving the quality of location data on your phone… » 4/29/15 6:50pm 4/29/15 6:50pm

Could Humble Milkweed Replace Down Feathers In Your Outdoor Gear?

Down is the most effective commonly-available insulator for outdoors apparel. But, it's also expensive, loses its ability to insulate when wet (if untreated) and — there's no way around this — is horribly cruel to most of the ducks and geese who donate their underfeathers. Now, there may be a real alternative:… » 4/16/15 5:00pm 4/16/15 5:00pm

What's the Blockchain, and Why Does Bitcoin Depend On It?

It’s going to unshackle us from the oppressive dungeon of fiat currency! But also criminals and rogue cops use it to do nefarious drug stuff! Digital currency is often defined by its volatile hype cycle. And yet its most promising feature is incredibly mundane-sounding: a bookkeeping system called “the blockchain.” » 4/15/15 4:44pm 4/15/15 4:44pm

Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Rabies

So far as awful ways to die go, being attacked by a rabid animal then dying a slow, painful death must rank near the top. And exactly that happens to 55,000 people every year. Here's how you (or your dog) can get rabies, what it does to your body as it kills you and what you can do to ensure neither of you gets it. » 3/19/15 6:24pm 3/19/15 6:24pm

How Nanoscale Optics Create Nature's Most Dazzling Colors

What do a butterfly's shimmering wings, a fish's opalescent scales, and a peacock's brilliant feathers have in common? Yes, their colors are beautifully iridescent. But they are also produced by the physical interaction of light with sophisticated nanoscale architecture that we are only just beginning to understand. » 2/19/15 2:00pm 2/19/15 2:00pm