Scary Asteroid Will Be Back; The Early Spring Is Killing Butterflies

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Discovered: That scary asteroid that came close to Earth last fall is coming back, this year's early spring is bad news for flowers and thus butterflies, multitasking is still real, more evidence against faster than the speed of light neutrinos and how fruit flies are like humans. 

  • That scary asteroid is coming back. Remember that asteroid that almost hit the Earth, but didn't last fall? It's coming back in February 2013. And this time, it will get even closer to our planet. Current predictions have coming within 24,000 km of Earth, which is closer than any satellites. That sounds scary to us. And, that simulation to the right makes this all look very much too close for comfort. But, researchers assure everything will be ok. "This is a safe distance,"  says researcher Detlef Koschny. "But it is still close enough to make the asteroid visible in normal binoculars." So a near miss! That's a relief. Unless science is pulling a Melancholia on us and telling us everything's fine, when really the world is ending. [European Space Agency]
  • Early spring is killing the butterflies. While we're all enjoying this lovely weather, the butterfly population is not. The unseasonable warmth we've had these last two winters explains four-fifths of the decrease in population of the Mormon Fritillary butterfly. And it's not just the heat that's doing it -- a pretty remarkable and unpredictable chain of events is hurting our winged friends. "The very low snowpack in the mountains this winter makes it likely that there will be significant frost damage," explains researcher Carol Boggs. Frost kills flowers for butterflies to feed on and also reduces availability of nectar the animal needs to produce eggs. "We can already predict that this coming summer will be a difficult one for the butterflies," continues Boggs. [National Science Foundation]
  • Again, multitasking is real. Science once again has proven that our brains can multitask just fine. Lots of research has suggested that maybe our productivity or work suffers as a result. But that's not true, says this science at least. A wandering mind is just prioritizing, explains researcher Daniel Levinson. And, better minds wander more. "People with higher working memory capacity reported more mind wandering during these simple tasks," says  Levinson. And, these people did not compromise test performance. So, no need to feel guilty about all those Gchat windows open over there. [Psychological Science
  • More evidence against the faster than light neutrino. Following all that controversy surrounding the CERN discovery that the sub-atomic particles clocked faster than science thought anything could travel, we get another test debunking the CERN theory. A seven particle test found the particles traveled at the speed of light -- not faster. This isn't the final, final word, however. The researchers will run more tests to triple, quadruple check. But we have a feeling how they'll go. [Bloomberg]
  • How fruit flies are just like humans. Sexually deprived fruit flies resort to excessive drinking. We've all been there.  When the lady fly rejects the man fly, the man fly's brain pushes it off the fly-sized equivalent of "the wagon." They don't want to mate, they just want to booze. It has something to do with what rejection triggers in one's mind. "It’s a switch that represents the level of reward in the brain and translates it into reward-seeking behavior,” said Galit Shohat-Ophir. [UCSF]


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