TIME space

See Highlights From The ‘Supermoon’

The "supermoon" is the first of this year’s three largest apparent full moons

The so-called “supermoon,” one of the three largest apparent full moons of this year, rose in the sky last night.

Time readers can watch highlights from a live stream of the moonrise hosted by the Slooh observatory. The broadcast was guided by the observatory’s expert Paul Cox, and explains the the difference between the “supermoon” and a “mega moon,” and how much larger tonight’s moon appears compared to the “mini moon” in March, along with other details and insights.

TIME

Tropical Storm Erika Weakens

Dominica goverment orders suspencion of activities due to tropical Storm Erika
Robert Tomge—EPA General view after the passage of Tropical Storm Erika in the Eastern Caribbean in Roseau, Dominica on Aug. 28, 2015.

Tropical Storm Erika dissipated after killing at least 20 people on the Caribbean island of Dominica

(HAVANA) — Tropical Storm Erika dissipated early Saturday, even as its remnants began drenching parts of eastern Cuba. But it left devastation in its path, killing at least 20 people and leaving nearly 50 missing on the small eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, authorities said.

In Haiti, one person died in a mudslide just north of Port-au-Prince, and at least four others were killed in a traffic accident that apparently occurred in the rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm had degenerated into a trough of low pressure by early Saturday after mountains and an unfavorable environment in Hispaniola knocked Erika below tropical storm force.

The eastern Cuban city of Santiago was hit by about two hours of heavy rain as the storm was falling apart Saturday morning. Residents reported no flooding or other damage, saying they wished it would rain more to help alleviate a months-long drought that has hit eastern Cuba particularly hard.

“It’s a little cloudy, there’s some wind, but not very strong. But I wish it would keep raining to fill up the reservoirs, because we really need it,” said Jorge Barrera, a 56-year-old mechanical engineer.

Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a televised address late Friday that damage inflicted by the storm set that island back 20 years. Some 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain fell on the mountainous island.

“The extent of the devastation is monumental. It is far worse than expected,” he said, adding that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads have been destroyed. “We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica.”

Nearly 50 people have been reported missing in Dominica, and that number is expected to rise, opposition leader Lennox Linton said after leaving a meeting with the prime minister and other politicians. The island’s airports remained closed, and some communities were still isolated by flooding and landslides.

On Friday evening, Skerrit asked people to share their resources with each other as foreign aid trickled in.

“This is a period of national tragedy,” he said. “Floods swamped villages, destroyed homes and wiped out roads. Some communities are no longer recognizable.”

Before dissipating, Erika also knocked out power to more than 200,000 people in Puerto Rico and caused more than $16 million in damage to crops there, including plantains, bananas and coffee.

In Haiti, authorities evacuated 254 prisoners in Gonaives to other locations because of flooding, and two people were hospitalized after their home in Port-au-Prince collapsed in heavy rains.

Four people died and another 11 were hospitalized in Leogane, just west of the Haitian capital, when a truck carrying a liquor known locally as clairin crashed into a bus and exploded. Authorities said it apparently was raining when the accident occurred.

While the storm was stumbling over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, John Cagialosi, a hurricane specialist at the center, warned that people in Florida should still brace for heavy rain, said “This is a potentially heavy rain event for a large part of the state,” he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott earlier declared a state of emergency for the entire state and officials urged residents to fill gas tanks and stockpile food and water.

Erika was a particularly wet storm, and moved across a region that has been struggling with drought.

Given how dry Puerto Rico and parts of Florida have been, “it could be a net benefit, this thing,” said MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel.

At 9:30 EDT Saturday, the remnants of Erika were located about 130 miles (205 kilometers) east of Camaguey, Cuba, and were moving west-northwest near 22 mph (35 kph) in a general motion expected to continue into the evening, the Hurricane Center said. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph (55 kph).

The Hurricane Center said Erika’s remnants were expected to move near the coast of eastern and central Cuba on Saturday and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. It cancelled future public advisories.

Still, the remnants of Erika were expected to produce rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2 centimeters) with maximum amounts of 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) possible across parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and eastern and central Cuba through Sundays, the Hurricane Center said.

It added that the rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. It starting on Sunday, rainfall of 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters), with locally heavier amounts, is possible across southern and central Florida. Gusty winds could occur over southern Florida beginning Sunday.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Jimena turned into a powerful Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 150 mph (240 kph). The Hurricane Center said it was expected to remain a major hurricane through Monday, though it did not pose an immediate threat to land.

___

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP writers Carlisle Jno Baptiste in Roseau, Dominica, Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Ben Fox in Miami and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida contributed to this report.

TIME animals

Study Shows How Even Frogs Make Irrational Mating Choices

frogs mating
Getty Images

"In some in cases irrational decisions can be looked at as the better way to have gone"

Give a female frog two potential mating options—an attractive frog and an unattractive frog—and she’ll pick the attractive frog nearly every time. But all bets are off if you throw in a third, less attractive frog, new research shows.

Researchers evaluated mating calls from male túngara frog for the new study, published this week in the journal Science. The finding adds to a growing body of research suggesting that mating choices don’t follow rational expectations.

Male frogs produce a sound to advertise themselves to potential mates. Female frogs typically responded best to longer calls made at a lower frequency when choosing between two male options. But when researchers added a third option to the mix that performed worse on both metrics, the female frog would often choose the intermediate option.

Study author Amanda Lea, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, likened the scenario, known as the “decoy effect,” to the way in which a consumer might behave when purchasing a new car. A customer may opt to buy a cheap car with poor fuel efficiency instead of a more expensive car with good fuel efficiency. But the costumer might reconsider when a salesmen presents a third option that is the most expensive and also has good fuel efficiency. The customer won’t choose the third option, but he might instead choose the second most expensive.

Read more Bees Are Losing Their Habitat Because of Climate Change

“Whatever you choose as the most important trait to begin with should also be the most important trait if you introduce a third option,” Lea said. “For some reason, adding a third option leads you to evaluate the first two and reverse your preferences.”

But the unexpected result doesn’t necessarily mean that the frogs made the wrong choice. Additional analysis might reveal why picking the third option may in fact be better for a frog, according to Lea.

“In some in cases irrational decisions can be looked at as the better way to have gone,” Lea said. “Going with your intuition is often better. It just depends on how you weigh your costs and benefits.”

TIME climate change

The Green Rebuilding of Post-Katrina New Orleans

Katrina Changing City New Orleans
Gerald Herbert—AP Empty lots and new buildings dot the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans on July 29, 2015.

'Green building means lower bills, fewer trips to the hospital for children with asthma'

When Hurricane Katrina rocked the Gulf Coast in 2005, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents, many wondered what shape a rebuilt city would take—or whether restoring the city would be possible at all. But some experts saw an opportunity in the catastrophe of New Orleans. In the aftermath of the storm, a slew of nonprofits committed millions of dollars to support the construction of green homes in the city, which in turn prompted a green building trend in the city. Now, 10 years late, green building experts say the work rebuilding there can serve as a model for other communities.

The Make it Right Foundation, founded by the actor Brad Pitt, has built more than 100 homes in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward for local residents. The residences built by the foundation included solar panels that reduce energy use from external sources and countertops made from recycled materials. All the homes were built to LEED Platinum certification standards, the highest-level designation for sustainable building offered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Green building offers low-income homeowners an opportunity to cut energy costs, says Make it Right senior advisor Taylor Royle. Green homes in New Orleans tend to have energy bills of around $30 per month, including gas and electricity, compared to more than $100 in conventional homes. Green building materials, which often replace materials that exacerbate respiratory disease, can also improve environmental health, especially in low-income communities where asthma is particularly prevalent.

“It’s not just because someone in the environmental community believes in green building,” said Royle. “Green building means lower bills, fewer trips to the hospital for children with asthma.”

The green building group Global Green has become a lasting presence in local New Orleans communities, offering workshops on green building and inspecting homes to help identify cost-effective improvements, says Michelle Pyne, a senior staffer in New Orleans for Global Green.

Global Green has also moved beyond building green homes to advocate for public policy that encourages green building in the public sector and other solutions to make building in the region more sustainable. New Orleans public schools—110 of which were severely damaged—now have sustainability programs and any new schools must be built to at least LEED Silver standards, Pyne said.

In addition to offering cost-saving and environmental benefits, green homes in the city have been built to better withstand hurricanes. Make it Right, for instance, builds homes elevated 5 or 8 feet off the ground. All homes include roof access to ensure that residents aren’t trapped in the attic during a flooding situation—as happened during Katrina.

New Orleans has done much to prepare the city itself for the next hurricane, with a $14.5 billion, but homes that are themselves equipped to withstand storms and flooding is also a key element in preparation. Indeed, Louisiana’s master plan, which provides guidelines for how to protect the city from future natural disasters, includes provisions to help fund elevated homes for homeowners who may not be able to afford the expense.

“Every dollar up front is more effective than five spent after the fact,” said Mike Foley, CEO of insurance company Zurich North America Commercial. “We need to shift the conversation from one of recovery to one of resilience.”

Read next: New Orleans, Here & Now

TIME space

Buzz Aldrin Wants to Colonize Mars Before 2040

To Phobos and beyond

By 2039 humans will be calling Mars home, if things go according to Buzz Aldrin’s plan.

The second man on the moon is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop a master plan to colonize the red planet in less than 25 years. Aldrin chose 2039 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which first allowed man to walk on the moon.

Aldrin’s plan involves using Mars’ moons as pit-stops for astronauts on the way to the planet. People who arrive on Mars would stay there for at least a decade. He is seeking input from NASA on the plan, though the space agency already has its own initiative to put astronauts on Mars in the mid-2030s.

At the Florida Institute of Technology, Aldrin will be a faculty adviser and research professor for aeronautics. He will also lead the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, set to open this fall.

[The Guardian]

TIME climate change

Why Climate Change Could Make Hurricane Impact Worse

Victims of Hurricane Katrina stay at the Astrodome stadium in Houston.
Carlos Barria—Reuters Victims of Hurricane Katrina stay at the Astrodome stadium where 16,000 evacuees were receiving food and shelter in Houston on Sept. 4, 2005.

Sea level rise plays a key role

Hurricane Katrina surprised disaster preparedness authorities when it made landfall 10 years ago, leveling entire communities and killing more than 1,800 people. The storm caused more than $100 billion in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. But for all the damage the storm caused in New Orleans, Katrina was a relatively weak hurricane when it hit the city.

In the academic community, the unexpected disaster prompted climate scientists to consider the link between climate change and storms. Since then, research has shown that climate change will increase the devastation caused by hurricanes as sea levels rise due to global warming. Some research has also suggested that climate change has increased the intensity and frequency of storms.

The phenomenon of storm surge plays an essential role in the worsening effect of hurricanes. Storm surge occurs when waters rise above their normal level during a storm and wind and weather conditions push that water onto shore. Thanks to global warming and rising sea levels, the potential for ocean water to be washed ashore by a storm surge has risen as well.

Read More: These Are the Cities Most Vulnerable to the Next Katrina

During Katrina, storm surge pushed ashore the water, causing levees to fail. The storm was recorded as a hurricane of category 1 or category 2 strength when it hit New Orleans, relatively weak for such a devastating hurricane. But the storm surge reached as high as 12 feet in some places, creating flood conditions across the city and wreaking havoc with the city’s levee system. Hurricane Sandy, which hit the New York City in 2012, cost $2 billion more due to sea level rise than it would have otherwise, according to a RAND report.

“The strong winds in Katrina essentially blew water from the gulf up across southern Louisiana,” said Hugh Roberts, associate vice president at ARCADIS, a firm that has consulted on Louisiana’s rebuilding efforts. “Once it hits land, it begins to build up.”

In the future, rising sea levels will only exacerbate the storm surge problem. Around the globe, sea levels are estimated to rise 1 to 3 feet by 2100 due to climate change, and researchers say that in places like New Orleans 1 foot of sea level rise may lead to a 3 or 4 foot storm surge rise.

While scientists have come to a consensus about how storm surge will affect cities, research on how climate change affects hurricane strength and intensity remains unclear, and no findings have been positive. Many peer-reviewed studies suggest that warmer weather in tropical oceans has increased the frequency of tropical storm activity, though not necessarily the intensity. Others suggest that climate change has made storms more intense. Still other research has suggested that future storms will be both more frequent and more intense.

The projection of more frequent and more intense hurricanes might surprise even the causal weather observer. Indeed, a major hurricane of category 3 or higher hasn’t hit U.S. soil since 2005, according to a study from earlier this year. But the so-called hurricane drought shouldn’t be viewed as an indication of what’s to come. This year’s strong El Niño will likely reduce the chance of powerful hurricanes.

Increased hurricane risk due to climate change presents a unique challenge for policy makers. While the federal government has promoted cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of slowing climate change, preparing for more dramatic storms requires local solutions. Even if countries around the world stem global warming, sea level rise will occur.

“There is not uncertainty about sea level rise,” said RAND researcher Jordan Fischbach, who led a Louisiana flood risk assessment team. “As we get more sea level rise, these large storm events will with certainty damage to assets and people.”

 

TIME A Year In Space

How Astronauts Dock at the Space Station

Need a lift? A Souyz spacecraft after undocking from the space station on June 11, 2015
NASA Need a lift? A Souyz spacecraft after undocking from the space station on June 11, 2015

A wee-hours maneuver of a Soyuz spacecraft is critical for keeping things safe

One of the trickiest questions for a Soyuz spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (ISS) is where to park. The ISS may be larger than a football field, but it’s got only so many ways to get inside, and with crewed spacecraft and uncrewed cargo ships regularly shuttling up and down, docking ports—or at least the right docking port—can be at a premium.

In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 28, space station astronaut Scott Kelly, along with cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, will be required to do a bit of delicate flying to sort just that kind of problem out.

The three crewmen arrived at the station on March 29, with Padalka slated to spend six months aloft, and Kelly and Kornienko scheduled for a marathon one year in space. They docked their Soyuz spacecraft at the station’s Poisk module—a 16-ft. (4.8 m) Russian node that was added to the ISS in 2009 as a science lab, observation point and egress compartment for astronauts embarking on spacewalks. It’s remained there ever since, and that’s a concern.

The five-plus months the ship has been hanging off the station in the alternating searing heat and deep freeze of orbital space can take its toll on the hardware, and since the crews rely on the ships as their way back to Earth, NASA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, instituted a rule: 180 days is the maximum amount of time a Soyuz can remain aloft before detaching and returning to Earth. But Kelly and Kornienko are set to stay for 365 days—which complicates their ride home.

MORE: TIME is producing a series of documentary films about the record-breaking mission to space. Watch them here.

Their Soyuz is not the only one that’s on hand. There’s another one for the other three crewmembers who are currently aboard. (Another NASA-Roscosmos rule: there must always be enough seats for everyone to be able to bail out immediately in the event of an emergency.) And on September 2, a third ship, carrying three more crew members, is set to arrive for a changeover of personnel. Not all docking nodes are equal—the Poisk is a better target since it faces Earth—and that requires a little juggling. Mission rules—to say nothing of basic physics—make the job a delicate one.

At 3:09 AM EDT, the complete Padalka-Kornienko-Kelly team will climb fully suited into their Soyuz. Technically, it does not take all three men to do the job. Padalka, who is one of the most experienced Soyuz pilots extant, has joked that he could fly the thing with two cabbages in the other seats. But in the event of Soyuz emergency requiring an immediate reentry, all three men must be aboard—lest a solitary pilot come home, leaving five people aboard the ISS and only three seats on the remaining Soyuz.

The crew will then undock from the Poisk and re-dock to the nearby Zvezda module, or service module—a straight distance of only a few dozen yards. But these kinds of orbital maneuvers require care, with both the station and the Soyuz orbiting the Earth at 17,133 mph (27,572 k/h) but moving just a few feet or inches at a time relative to each other.

“They’ll undock, then back out 200 meters or so,” says NASA TV commentator and overall space station authority Rob Navias. “Then they’ll fly around to the back end of the service module, do a lateral translation, fly retrograde, then move in for a docking at the aft end of the module.” If that sounds like an awfully complicated way to say, essentially, that they’ll back up, turn around and pull in at another door, it’s less techno-babble than it is a reflection of the complexity of even the most straightforward maneuvers in space.

Two of the newly arriving crew members will be only short-timers, staying on the station for just 10 days. They’ll then fly home with Padalka in the older ship, leaving the fresh one for Kelly, Kornienko and another crew member six months later.

The ISS may be the most complicated job site on—or off—the planet, but it’s one that could proudly display a sign reading “14 years without an accident.” Playing by all the workplace safety rules will help keep that record going.

TIME A Year In Space

See the Best Photos From an Astronaut’s Fifth Month in Space

Astronaut Scott Kelly just passed the five-month mark in his yearlong stay aboard the Space Station. Here is a collection of the best photos he's snapped so far

TIME is following Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the first two episodes here.

MORE: See more photographs from Scott Kelly’s yearlong mission in space here.

TIME psychology

Most Psychological Studies Can’t Be Replicated, Research Shows

179202129
Getty Images

The effort focused on 100 experiments reported during 2008 in any of 3 major psychology journals

(NEW YORK) — A large group of researchers set out to repeat 100 experiments published by leading psychology journals to see how often they would get the same results.

The answer: Less than half the time.

That doesn’t mean all those unconfirmed studies were wrong. But it’s a stark reminder that a single study rarely provides definitive answers and why scientists often greet new findings by saying, “More research is needed.”

“Any one study is not going to be the last word,” said Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.

“Each individual study has some evidence. It contributes some information toward a conclusion. But the real conclusion, when you can say confidently that something is true or false, is based on an accumulation of evidence over many studies,” said Nosek, who led the project.

And yes, he said at a press conference, “even this project itself is not … a definitive word about reproducibility.”

The work was carried out by an international team of more than 300 people and released Thursday by the journal Science. The project focused on psychology because its organizers came from that field. Researchers worked with the authors of the original studies in setting up the replication attempts.

Only about 40 percent of those attempts produced the original results.

The effort focused on 100 experiments reported during 2008 in any of three major psychology journals: Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

None of these experiments tested any treatments. They focused on basic research into how people think, remember, perceive their world, and interact with others. One explored why people are reluctant to tempt fate, for example.

Studies with stronger statistical evidence for their conclusions were more likely to be replicated than others, as were those with findings that were judged to be less surprising.

When a study’s results were not replicated, there could be several explanations, Nosek said. The original study could be wrong. Or it could be right, and the repeat study overlooked a real effect just by chance. Or both studies could be correct, with conflicting conclusions because of differences in how they were carried out.

Project workers tried to minimize such differences, but matching an original study could be tricky. E.J. Masicampo of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a co-author of the new study, said one of his own experiments was not confirmed by the project.

The study required participants to make decisions that required significant mental effort. To create that situation, researchers asked undergrads to choose between off-campus apartments. That task wasn’t as mentally challenging when it was tried again at a different campus, which evidently threw off the results of the experiment, he said.

Duane Wegener, a psychologist at Ohio State University who was not among the new study’s authors, said a similar problem in reproducing the psychological setting for an experiment apparently explains why the project could not confirm one of his results.

Wegener said that the message of the new project’s results for psychological researchers is unclear because the reasons for the various failures to confirm are not known.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

A New Theory of Why Neurotics Are Creative

A wandering mind might explain why creative leaders tend to be neurotic.

Adam Perkins is a psychologist and a self-proclaimed neurotic, contemplating things to the point of obsession. He can get anxious about things that might seem mundane to another person. And he’s admittedly quite sensitive.

Perkins also has a new theory, described in a piece published Thursday in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, about why he and many others like him channel their neuroticism into creativity and problem solving. He argues it comes from how certain people daydream.

Neuroticism and creative thinking have long been correlated: some of history’s more exciting minds, from Isaac Asimov to Winston Churchill to Woody Allen, have been famously anxious with a tendency to brood. The trait is also often associated with being risk-averse; neurotic people are often considered “threat sensitive,” a classification that the psychologist Jeffrey Gray first pinpointed while developing a test that predicted a person’s tendency to be neurotic. Gray’s test showed that high scorers on the neuroticism test tended to avoid “dangerous” jobs, preferring occupations that kept them out of harm’s way—hence the association with more analytical jobs, which require creative problem solving, as opposed to physical ones.

But Gray’s analysis seemed simplistic, Perkins says. “Why should having a magnified view of threat make you good at coming up with solutions to difficult problems?” he tells TIME. “It doesn’t add up. On one hand, it’s a clever theory—it shows the difficulty of holding down a dangerous job, for example—but on the other hand, it doesn’t explain why [neurotic people] tend to feel unhappy or why they’re more creative.”

Perkins had an epiphany when he attended co-author Jonathan Smallwood’s lecture on mind wandering. Smallwood, an expert who studies the neuroscience of daydreaming, was describing self-generated thought and its origins in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that has been linked with memories and recall.

“He started describing how people whose minds wander are better at things like creativity, delaying gratification and planning. He also talked about the way that daydreamers’ minds wander when they’re feeling kind of blue,” Perkins says. “And my ears perked up.”

Smallwood had run a series of tests on volunteers, where he’d put them through an MRI scanner with no instructions. Naturally, the volunteers began daydreaming. Those with negative thoughts would display greater activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. “If you have a high level of activity in this particular brain area, then your mind wandering tends to be threat-related,” he says.

That’s what happens in the brains of neurotic people when their minds wander.

And of course, no surprise, the longer one dwells on a problem, unwilling to let it go, the more likely they are to come up with a solution—making that a potential upside to neurotic daydreaming.

“There’s costs and benefits to being a neurotic,” Perkins says. “What’s interesting is that you can be neurotic and have a creative benefit, but we still don’t understand it.”

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