Science Feed

Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, whether you're at home with family and friends or are 249 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. Astronaut Shane Kimbrough shares what he and his colleagues will be eating aboard the International Space Station this Thanksgiving Day. Click image to watch the full NASA video on YouTube. Astronauts aboard the ISS will enjoy each other's company over a specially packaged turkey dinner with all the trimmings and NFL football. "It's going to be little bit different for us up here in space, but I'm going to try to make it as much like home as... Read more →


Did you catch the supermoon? 2016 is a great year for lunar gazing. The full moons of October, November and December all take place when the moon is at its closest point of approach in its orbit around Earth, creating the so-called supermoon. Click image to watch a NASA video about the phenomenon. (Photo courtesy NASA) The hubby and I were driving back earlier this evening from visiting my mom and we were treated to the supermoon peeking in and out of clouds. Luckily for us, by the time we got home the clouds had moved on, giving us a... Read more →


Everyone was reminded last week of Albert Einstein's brilliance. Almost exactly 100 years after the wild-haired physicist posited the existence of gravitational waves, scientists confirmed their existence. Tax folks, however, always acknowledged Einstein's genius. He did, after all, note that even he was baffled by the U.S. tax code. That's one of the biggest problems with taxes. They often make even the smartest among us feel like idiots. Tax software helps. The computer or online programs walk you through the filing process, tying your real-life experiences to the tax breaks that could save you some money. If you feel more... Read more →


Those of us who constructed nine-planet models of our solar system for grade school science projects have been in space geek heaven these last couple of weeks. Pluto, which was demoted from planet to dwarf planet status, has been the recent focus of scientists and the space-loving public. NASA's New Horizons probe flew past Pluto on July 14, completing a 3-billion-mile journey that started almost a decade ago. Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this sharper global view of Pluto. Image Credit/Courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. As... Read more →


Maybe it's just me, but I haven't heard much this year about the so-called war on Christmas. In case you've missed the battle because you're too busy every December, here's a quick refresher. This is the assertion that there's a consolidated, aggressive effort by governments, media, advertising, retailers and various other secular movements to strip Dec. 25 of its religious meaning. Basically, say pro-Merry Christmas/anti-Happy Holidays combatants, people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. Or maybe I haven't heard so much this year about the annual (traditional?) fight because, according to a recent survey, the war on Christmas... Read more →


Are you still finding timepieces that are wrong this morning? I always miss a clock or two every time we switch, as we did earlier today, from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time and vice versa. Like most folks, I prefer the return to Standard Time when we, as the mnemonic phrase reminds us, fall back and get (presumably) an extra hour of sleep. And like most folks, I credit (or blame, depending on how tired I am) Benjamin Franklin for coming up with the clock adjusting idea. The primary purpose of Daylight Saving Time (DST), or "Summer Time" in... Read more →


It's a miracle! The House and Senate have agreed on a piece of legislation. OK, it's not a major measure. But you've got to start somewhere, especially with this Congress. The bill that became the first one to pass both chambers in the 113th Congress, which convened on Jan. 3, is H.R. 475. It adds a 75-cent excise tax on each dose of quadrivalent (four-strain) flu vaccine. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) introduced the bill on Feb. 4. He and his House colleagues passed the bill by voice vote on Tuesday, June 18. The next day the Senate followed suit, also... Read more →


Tax Day is one of the most stressful times of the year. But it also might just give our brains a boost. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley say that acute short-lived stress primes the brain for improved performance. The findings of the seven-member team working at the university's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute were published April 16 in the open access online journal eLife. "You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it's not," according to Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. "Some amounts of stress are good to push you just... Read more →


Do taxes influence your behavior? If not, maybe it's because you just don't have the tax gene. Jason M. Fletcher, an associate professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health, examined data from a national survey on smoking habits. He also collected biological specimens from the study participants for genotyping. Fletcher found that around half of the folks studied had a variation in a gene in a brain receptor thought to control the amount of pleasure derived from nicotine consumption. He then tracked the statistical relationship between taxation, smoking and the nicotine gene. And he found that... Read more →


Now I understand why Amazon.com doesn't want to spend money to set up a sales tax collection system. The online retail giant's chief executive needs as much cash as he can get for his rocket program. Blue Origin, a space start-up founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, revealed on Friday that its experimental suborbital space vehicle was lost last week during a test flight outside of Van Horn, Texas. That's the vehicle pictured there at left before it encountered its fatal problems. "A flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the... Read more →


Happy St. Patrick's Day! On this day of celebrating all things Irish, NASA's Aqua satellite brings us this out-of-this-world view of the truly Emerald Isle. NASA image of Ireland courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center I'm a big space program fan. One of my early childhood dreams was to be an astronaut. But even after I grudgingly let go of that career goal, I've still followed NASA closely. Now I'm watching sadly as the space shuttle program winds down. I don't like the United State hitching rides from other countries to go into a realm... Read more →


'One small step ...'

I can tell you exactly where I was at 3:17:40 p.m. Central Standard Time 40 years ago today. My brother and I had been called from our play outdoors to come inside and watch astronauts walk on the moon. Even as I have trouble some days remembering what I did a week earlier, that memory of the Apollo 11 lunar module landing will forever be vivid in my mind. As a kid, space travel fascinated me. My dad helped nurture it by spending summer evenings with us staring up at the vast West Texas skies. So I had no problem... Read more →


The science of debt denial

The lead story in today's New York Times' Science section is about denial (yeah, I'm a bit slow getting to the paper today). It's not a topic I would normally read, but the article begins with a look at a shopaholic who was in serious denial about her habit and its resulting debt. The rest of the article deals with the many other types of denial, which all of us engage in occasionally, for personal, work related and, yes, financial reasons. But, according to the article, "the ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important... Read more →


Taxes and Al Gore's Nobel Prize

Today's one of those good news, potential bad news days for Al Gore. More on the use of the qualifier "potential" in a minute. First, let's look at Al's decidedly good news. The former Veep got the news today that he and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He obviously is very gratified to have the Nobel Committee recognize his efforts to educate folks about global warming and work toward ways to stem environmental disaster. You can read the award announcement here. But Al is human, despite his dance moves to the contrary.... Read more →


To infinity and beyond!

Yesterday evening the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Cape Canaveral and is en route to the international space station. The photo below is one of the main reasons I've been enamored of the U.S. space program since I was a child. View of Earth, over the edge of the shuttle's payload bay, as captured by a video camera aboard Atlantis. Image courtesy of NASA TV. This most recent shot of our planet from space sort of reminds me of that great shot of Earthrise, photographed by Apollo 8 astronauts in December 1968. I had that as a poster in... Read more →


Astronomical alert

Tonight take a minute to check out the sky. You'll see a Blue Moon. By now, we all know that when a calendar month contains two full moons, the second one is the Blue Moon. But Sky & Telescope magazine says that's not necessarily correct. According to an article about the astronomical phenomenon, investigation of farmers' almanac items from 1819 to 1962 that refer to more than a dozen Blue Moons shows that not a single one was the second full moon in a month. Rather, there's a seasonal pattern. Full details can be found in What's a Blue Moon?... Read more →


Weighty and otherworldly issues, taxes included

Is it just me, or does this photo look like a collection of dishes filled with M&M candies? Artist’s conception of calcium ions traveling down the accelerator at a high velocity toward the rotating californium target. Photo courtesy of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Public Affairs office. Click here for a brief video of the process. That was my first thought when I flipped to the Science section of today's New York Times and saw the picture (and accompanying story; registration required). What, I wondered, was the scientific hook for those melt-in-your-mouth goodies this time? Something to do with the... Read more →


Dang! Pluto's been demoted

And I so liked that goofy dog! Sorry, couldn't resist. I'm just using a pitifully poor joke to temper my sadness that the International Astronomical Union, instead of going with the proposal that would have made our solar system larger by three orbs (mentioned earlier today in my post "Taxonia"), opted instead to deplanetize poor Pluto. Of course, the late change also creates similarity #4 between tax writers and astronomers: course reversals late in the deliberative process! But it's too bad Pluto lost its planetary status. The thing's so far out there anyway, and so cold. And I'm kind of... Read more →


Can we call it Taxonia?

Astronomers apparently are a lot like tax legislators. Similarity #1: The U.S. tax code often seems as complex as the science of astronomy and also requires specialized tools and experts to help explain its workings to regular citizens. Similarity #2: Like Members of Congress who are forever fighting over tax laws, astronomers also like to debate (and debate and debate) arcane issues in their specialized field. Witness the latest issue roiling skywatchers worldwide: Members of the International Astronomical Union have spent the past two years defining what exactly is a planet. A vote on the new designation guidelines is scheduled... Read more →


Money can't buy you ...

Love, according to the Beatles, or happiness either, according to professors from, in part, the University of Michigan. OK, so Blue researchers might not be as lyrical as John, Paul, George and Ringo. But they say the connection between how much green you have in the bank doesn't necessarily translate into seeing life through rose-colored glasses. In fact, the more money you earn generally means you are likely to spend more time commuting, working and doing other things you feel you just have to, rather than want to, do. And all these activities, say the professors, tend to provide us... Read more →