TIME climate change

Senator Throws Snowball on Senate Floor to Disprove Climate Change

Sen. James Inhofe has a way with visual metaphors

Sen. James Inhofe tossed a snowball in the Senate chamber Thursday, using the stunt to emphasize his long-held belief that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

The Oklahoma Republican is the chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. After a blizzard blew through the southern states in recent days, reaching Washington D.C., Inhofe took advantage of the snow to make his symbolic point that extreme winter weather disproves global warming.

This isn’t the first time he’s done so. After a winter storm in 2010, Inhofe and his family built an igloo and named it after noted environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore.

TIME animals

Quiz: Is Your Dog Crazy?

Take this quiz and find out

A dog’s brain and your brain have very similar chemistry and many similar structures. It stands to reason they work in more or less the same way—and break down the same way too. More and more, behavioral veterinarians are diagnosing problems as diverse as depression, anger, dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder in dogs. As with humans, treatment involves behavioral therapy and sometimes even drugs. But first you have to know if a problem exists at all. Here are some of the symptoms veterinarians consider in making a diagnosis.

 

TIME Innovation

Watch How Dust Makes an Amazing Journey From Africa to South America

This NASA footage shows show dust from the Sahara winds up in the Amazon rainforest

The Amazon rainforest might be a little less green if not for a massive plume of Saharan dust that drifts across the Atlantic Ocean each year, according to a new, multi-year study by NASA scientists.

NASA used light pulses from its CALIPSO satellite to measure the transatlantic dust cloud in three dimensions. They found that wind carries roughly 182 million tons of Saharan dust out to sea each year. The cloud sheds roughly 50 million en route to South America, but the remainder fans out over the Amazonian basin and the Caribbean Sea, dusting the soil with 22,000 tons of phosphorus, a nutrient commonly found in commercial grade fertilizer.

Amazingly, the special delivery of plant food almost perfectly matches the amount of phosphorous the Amazonian jungle loses through heavy rains and run-off water.

“This is a small world,” said study author Hongbin Yu, “and we’re all connected together.”

 

TIME climate

These Maps Show How Much Trouble We’d Be in if the Sea Level Rises

New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle and London are all in trouble

At some point in the future, your favorite city might be a patch of sea floor.

Spatialities, a site devoted to spatial information and visualizations, has unveiled a series of maps that show how several urban cities and coastal regions would be impacted by various rises in sea level. And it’s bad news all around for cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle, London, among others, which are prone to flooding—and total submersion.

All the depicted sea levels are possible scenarios: They’re all less than the maximum rise in sea level calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, which estimates that if all the planet’s glaciers melted, then the potential sea rise is about 80 m., or 262 ft.

But the good news is that you won’t see a sea level this high in your lifetime — according to one study, it would take about 1,000 to 10,000 years.

 

TIME medicine

First Human Head Transplant Could Happen Within Two Years

Sergio Canavero, a doctor in Italy, has drawn up the plans for a human head transplant

A surgeon says the first human head transplant could take place within the next two years.

Sergio Canavero, a doctor in Turin, Italy, has drawn up the plans for the radical surgery and hopes to begin assembling a team this June, the Guardian reports.

“If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it, in the U.S. or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else,” he said. “I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”

Although Canavero says the technology isn’t far off from making this surgery possible, he could confront a range of ethical issues. “The real stumbling block is the ethics,” Canavero told New Scientist magazine. “Should this surgery be done at all? There are obviously going to be many people who disagree with it.”

The first successful head transplant was completed in 1970 on a monkey. The monkey couldn’t move its body and died after nine days.

Read next: Scientists Find a Black Hole 12 Billion Times More Massive Than the Sun

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME space

See The 10 Best Space Selfies Ever Taken

The space selfie phenomenon is not new, astronauts have been turning the camera on themselves since 1966

TIME astronomy

Scientists Find a Black Hole 12 Billion Times More Massive Than the Sun

An artist's illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun at the center released by NASA on February 27, 2013.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout/Reuters An artist's illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun at the center released by NASA on February 27, 2013.

It's discovery appears to confound current theories about how black holes are created

A team of international astronomers has discovered a black hole of almost unimaginable proportions.

At 12 billion times more massive than the sun, it challenges current cosmological thinking, reports Reuters.

“Our discovery presents a serious challenge to theories about the black hole growth in the early universe,” lead researcher Xue-Bing Wu for Peking University, China told the news agency.

The enormous object was formed 900 million years after the Big Bang, and scientists are stumped as to how a black hole of that size could have grown in such a relatively short time.

“Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory,” said fellow researcher Dr. Fuyan Bian, of Australian National University.

Not only is the black hole the biggest ever seen but also it’s at the center of the largest quasar ever discovered. (Quasars are the brightest and most powerful objects in the universe, with this one emitting huge amounts of energy and light as matter is ripped apart by the black hole at its core.)

For comparison, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, has only about four to five million times the mass of the Sun.

The black hole was discovered by a team of global scientists at Peking University, China, tasked with mapping the northern sky, and their findings were published in the journal Nature.

[Reuters]

Read next: This Is How Incredible (and Terrifying) Space Looks in Virtual Reality

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Video Games

This Computer Learned How to Totally Devastate You at Pong

Iowa Town Plans To Launch Video Game Hall of Fame And Museum
David Greedy—Getty Images A version of Pong is played on the orignial Magnovox Odyssey 200 during the launch party for the International Video Game Hall of Fame and Museum on August 13, 2009 in Ottumwa, Iowa.

And that's a huge development for artificial intelligence

Need a new gaming buddy? Just call DeepMind.

The artificial intelligence company, owned by Google, has developed an algorithm that can learn how to play almost 50 classic arcade games nearly from scratch, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The system can learn titles from Pong to Space Invaders after getting the same instructions no matter which game it’s about to learn, a big improvement from computers programmed from the get-go to master single games like chess.

While this research sounds like it’s all fun and games, it has big implications for artificial intelligence. According to Nature, DeepMind uses a combination of AI technologies based on the human brain that let it learn from experience as well as respond to rewards—in this case, high scores in video games—much like people respond to a jolt of dopamine. That means DeepMind could give researchers new insight in how to replicate human brain functions in digital code.

Still, DeepMind’s software isn’t about to destroy all your high scores. Nature points out it has trouble with maze games because it “struggles to link actions with distant consequences,” not unlike most of your buddies in high school. And for now, it can’t take what it learns from one game and apply it to another similar title.

Google bought DeepMind in January of last year for a reported $650 million.

[Nature]

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