• A couple sits on the sand of Sydney's Manly Beach as they watch blue bioluminescent waves. (Reuters)A couple sits on the sand of Sydney's Manly Beach as they watch blue bioluminescent waves. (Reuters)

    This week as night fell on southern Tasmanian seashores they appeared to light up the waters with a bizarre glowing sea of blue stars.

    While glowing, rolling waves around Hobart made it look like scenes straight out of the alien Avatar movie, the jaw-dropping phenomena is in fact a natural light show sparked by billions of tiny marine organisms.

    Fluorescent plankton known as dinoflagellates are sea creatures that are barely visible to the naked eye and are commonly referred to as algae. Whip-like projections called flagella allow them to swim fast while internally they produce their own form of bioluminescence. And when they occur in great numbers, they can form intense and spectacular phosphorescent blooms around beach areas as they become agitated by the turbulent surf.

    They can become extremely common, up to a million critters per milliliter during blooms like you have with the fabulous spectacle happening in Tasmania, said bioluminescence expert Thomas E. DeCoursey from Rush

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  • I’ve been a boy/dude/guy/man for over half a century. Many times I’ve heard my gender dismissed as macho, chauvinistic, uncaring, insensitive and militaristic.

    But never before have I been told that all males – of all species – might be biologically redundant.

    “Obviously, to reproduce sexually, you need males,” Prof. Matthew Gage of the University of East Anglia in England told Yahoo Canada. “And of the eight million or so multi-cellular species on planet Earth, nearly all use sex to reproduce.”

    But there’s an efficiency problem, he said.

    “Half of the individuals in most species contribute almost nothing to offspring production – they don’t lay eggs or have babies or anything like that. In most of those species, males do nothing apart from supply sperm to the female for fertilization.”

    Gage and his colleagues set out to unravel the riddle: why do males actually exist?

    “As an evolutionary biologist, I wanted to understand why there is sexual reproduction, when there are all these

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  • Sunrise (Thinkstock)Sunrise (Thinkstock)

    While summer officially kicks off in just over a month’s time, many Canadians have already enjoyed some beautiful weather, but weather forecasters are keeping their eye on El Niño conditions currently brewing in the Pacific and what it may have in store for us.

    When the surface of the equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm due to prevailing winds, El Niño-meaning ‘little boy’ in Spanish- develops, frequently impacting weather patterns across the entire North American continent.

    The brunt of its effects are usually felt across western and southern regions, particularly pronounced during winter. However, if El Niño packs a larger punch then it can even lead to noticeable dampening of tropical storm and hurricane activity in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean during the season due to increasing westerly wind shear.

    The current El Niño was officially declared by the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in March. And just this past week the

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  • (Jared Tarbell on Flickr)(Jared Tarbell on Flickr)

    Scientists appear to have discovered a new, exotic state of matter and hopes are high that it may one day help revolutionize superconductor technology.

    The Japanese-led international team of researchers came up with the new-found matter, which they are calling a Jahn-Teller metal, that surprisingly simultaneously shows characteristics of a magnet, insulator and a superconductor that works at relatively high temperatures.

    While we may be familiar with states of matter all around us like solid, liquid and gas (and even plasma) there are a whole slew of weird man-made alternatives that have been discovered in recent decades like supercritical fluids, condensates and degenerate matter, just to name a few. All of these are defined by changes in their temperature, heat capacity and pressure and are not found normally in nature but instead made in the laboratory.

    This latest discovery, recently published in the online journal Science Advances, involves something called buckyballs, a pure

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  • Astronomers announced this week that they have discovered a galaxy lying more than 13 billion light years from Earth, breaking the record for the most distant of these giant islands of stars ever glimpsed by human eyes.  While its portrait is not much to look at, the feeble, infrared light from this baby galaxy left on its journey when the universe was only 5 percent of its present day age.

    Using the keen vision of the Hubble Space Telescope in combination with the 10 meter-wide mirrors of the twin Keck Observatory in Hawaii, astronomers were able to hunt down and identify the galaxy, dubbed EGS-z8-1, as one of the brightest and most massive objects known in the early Universe. The science team’s measurements also show that the young galaxy is furiously forming new generations of stars - at rates estimated to be at least 80 times that of what we see in today’s galaxies like our own Milky Way.

    With the Big Bang estimated to have occurred approximately 13.7 billion years ago, this newfound

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  • A Buddhist monk salvages a statue of a Buddhist deity from a monastery damaged by the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)A Buddhist monk salvages a statue of a Buddhist deity from a monastery damaged by the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

    As the death toll from the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal this past weekend continues to climb, naturally many inevitably ask where’s the next big one is going to hit? After all, the Himalayan region is only one of many tremor hotspots scattered around the globe.

    While scientists are still not able to predict timing of when large tremors will happen next, they do know that they will occur where tectonic plates are under strain.  A 2012 study found that of the 15 most massive earthquakes of the 20th century,  87 percent of the them occurred along what are known as fracture and subduction zones,  where one tectonic plate slides underneath another.

    Some of the most high risk countries where this can occur include Chile, Japan, New Zealand and Turkey. The larger cities have taken steps in having building codes to mitigate effects of earthquakes.  However since we contract models and risk assessments based on data that covers only a little over century, scientists figure there are

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  • Scientists have discovered a new, deeper reservoir of magma beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano (AP)Scientists have discovered a new, deeper reservoir of magma beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano (AP)

    One of the most dangerous volcanoes in South America blew its top for the first time in nearly half a century this week in Chile when Mount Calbuco began spewing a giant ash cloud more than 15 kilometres into the atmosphere, rattling the residents in the region.

    While Calbuco is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in South America, it is small potatoes compared to what a potential eruption might occur if Yellowstone Park’s super volcano in the western United States ever erupted.  

    And now, geologists have made an unsettling discovery of a giant reservoir of magma underneath the 40 mile-wide crater basin that covers most to he national park that no one new ever existed before.

    The discovery announced in the journal Science Express last week describes the newly imaged hidden chamber that has an unbelievable size of 46,000 cubic kilometers, containing enough hot lava to fill the Grand Canyon eleven times over and has the same volume as New York’s Long Island.

    The reservoir is

    Read More »from Yellowstone super volcano just got scary large, but what danger does it pose?
  • Just in time for Earth Day, sky-watchers get a treat as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks late night on Wed. Apr. 22 into the following morning.

    And with the moon setting mid-evening and leaving behind perfectly dark skies, this annual celestial fireworks show promises to put on a great performance and generate as many as 15 to 20 shooting stars per hour.

    As with most other annual meteor showers, the Lyrids are produced by a cloud of tiny particles, each being no bigger than a grain of sand. Streams of this stuff float in space and are debris that has been shed from a passing comet.
    Each time a comet makes a close flyby of the Sun, its ice begins to melt, releasing trapped grains and even rocks that settle into the same orbit as the parent comet has around the sun.

    In the case of the Lyrids this week, the meteors all once called comet Thatcher their home. This dirty snowball loops around the sun every 415 years, last appearing in our neighbourhood back in 1861. The egg-shaped orbit of the

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  • Photo: Yahoo7 News/SuppliedPhoto: Yahoo7 News/Supplied

    Aliens, cosmic phenomena or humans? Astronomers are puzzled as to what the true origins are of a series of so-called Fast Radio Bursts (FSBs) detected eleven separate times over the past decade.

    While media reports this month have focused on how radio astronomers have pinned down the source of one type of radio signal known as perytons emanating from lowly microwave ovens right here on Earth, the mystery and excitement over FRBs has only deepened.

    “People are now largely convinced that perytons are local signals. Yet the microwave oven does not explain all,” said co-author of the new study and astronomer John Learned from the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

    “This is why we put our hypothesis out there… to test it in a scientific manner.  When we see new data we will know better.”

    Since 2001 radio telescopes have been picking up these rare bursts that last only a few milliseconds but are thought to be generated by some kind of source that releases as much energy as the sun and is no

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  • Cosmic Nebula (Thinkstock)Cosmic Nebula (Thinkstock)

    It seems that glitter is not just for disco balls and crafts anymore but may in fact could be the next big thing in our exploration of the universe.  NASA announced this week that it is funding an innovative research project, dubbed Orbiting Rainbows, that is looking into using clouds of these shiny beads as a mirror for future space telescopes.

    The big issue with today’s space telescopes is that they weigh tons and it is extremely expensive to launch them. Current costs of placing an asset into orbit is running at about $10,000 per pound, meaning that just to have a larger telescope mission lift off the Earth could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  

    While the Hubble space telescope got a convenient ride into orbit tucked away in the school bus sized cargo hold of the now retired space shuttles, engineers have to come up with innovative ways of packing up large telescopes. A great example of this is the James Webb Space Telescope that is currently under final preparations for a 2018

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