TIME climate change

The Antarctic’s Floating Ice Shelves Are Melting At an Alarming Rate

AUSTRALIA-ANTARCTICA-ENVIROMENT
Australian Antarctic Division—AFP/Getty Images The Totten Glacier, pictured here, is the most rapidly thinning glacier in East Antarctica.

The rate is also accelerating over time

Some of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves are up to 18% thinner than they were two decades ago, according to a new study shedding light on climate change.

Science Daily reports that researchers at the UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography examined satellite data from the past two decades and discovered that ice shelves are thinning at precipitous rates, which are accelerating over time.

In 1994 to 2003, Antarctica’s total ice shelf volume – the ice shelf area multiplied by thickness – underwent minimal change. Then thinning began, with the last few years pointing to the highest rate of change.

“Eighteen percent over the course of eighteen years is really a substantial change,” researcher Fernando Paolo told Science Daily. “Overall, we show not only the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.”

The ice shelf shrinkage is indirectly linked to rising sea levels, and current volume reduction rates have scientists projecting that half the volume of ice shelves in western Antarctica may be lost in 200 years.

[Science Daily]

TIME Science

Watch Two Students Extinguish Fire Using Sound

George Mason University engineers use low-frequency sound waves to put out a blaze

A pair of engineering students at George Mason University in Virginia managed to create a fire extinguisher that operates using sound waves.

This started as an idea for a senior research project, and after a year’s worth of tinkering (and spending $600 of their own money), Seth Robertson and Viet Tran created something fully functional, the Washington Post reports. As you’ll see in the clip above, the portable device puts out a blaze in mere seconds.

Sound waves are also “pressure waves, and they displace some of the oxygen,” Tran told the Washington Post, explaining how the apparatus works. At the right frequency, the sound waves “separate the oxygen [in the fire] from the fuel,” he said. “The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting.”

After quite a bit of trial and error, Tran and Robertson found the frequency that worked. Before applying for a patent, though, the engineers plan to do a lot more testing. Stay tuned for the day when you’ll be able to use this in your kitchen.

Read next: Multiple Injuries in Manhattan Building Collapse

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TIME Education

Education Does Not Make You a Happier Person

Silhouetted profile of woman wearing graduation cap
Getty Images

A new study finds that the chance of happiness is the same, whether you went to college or not

There is no link between your education level and your personal happiness, says a new mental-health research study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

According to a press release, researchers from Warwick Medical School were inspired by the strong association between poor education and mental illness and wanted to investigate if the opposite was true: Does being educated lead to happiness?

The team discovered that the odds of happiness were equivalent throughout all levels of educational attainment.

“These findings are quite controversial because we expected to find the socioeconomic factors that are associated with mental illness would also be correlated with mental well being,” said Sarah Stewart-Brown, the lead author on the study. “But that is not the case.”

Researchers defined happiness as a state of high mental well-being in which people “feel good and function well.” They applied this to data from the Health Survey for England, which was administered to 17,030 people in 2010 and 2011.

Stewart-Brown said that her discovery means that socioeconomic factors may not be applicable to programs aimed at boosting mental well-being.

TIME Research

Here’s Why Drug-Resistant Bacteria Could Spread Globally

Escherichia coli bacteria by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
Scimat Scimat—Photo Researchers RM/Getty Images Escherichia coli bacteria by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Two genes responsible for building up drug-resistance can easily be shared between a family of bacteria

Common bacteria could be on the verge of becoming antibiotic-resistant super bugs, according to a new study.

Resistance to antibiotics is in danger of spreading globally among the type of bacteria that’s associated with causing infections in hospitals, reports the Science Daily.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that two genes that help build up this resistance to a particularly strong class of antibiotics called carbapenems can be shared fairly easily between a family of bacteria.

“Carbapenems are one of our last resorts for treating bacterial infections, what we use when nothing else works,” said senior author Gautam Dantas.

The study was based on incidents at two Los Angeles hospitals where several patients became infected with drug-resistant bacteria that had contaminated medical equipment.

Researchers studied a family of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae. While not all of these bacteria cause illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae as one of the three most urgent threats among emerging forms of antibiotic-resistant disease.

The team compared the genomes of carbapenems-resistant bacteria that had been isolated in the U.S. to those from bacteria isolated in Pakistan, expecting them to be genetically different. But what they found was the two resistant genes could be shared easily between bacteria from the two geographic regions.

“Our findings also suggest it’s going to get easier for strains of these bacteria that are not yet resistant to pick up a gene that lets them survive carbapenem treatment,” Dantas said.

As drug-resistant forms of Enterobacteriaceae become more widespread, he adds, “the odds will increase that we’ll pass one of these superbugs on to a friend with a weakened immune system who can really be hurt by them.”

[Science Daily]

Read next: Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance

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TIME Education

This Is How Long Your Teen Needs to Spend on Homework to Be Better at Math and Science

It's not that long, but long enough

How much time to spend on homework has always been a major sticking point between teenagers and their teachers and parents. And many teenagers will agree that spending time on math and science is the worst.

But a group of researchers in Spain has arrived at an optimum time that should be spent on that kind of homework — an hour a day.

The researchers, from the University of Oviedo, analyzed the academic performance of 7,725 students for their paper, which was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Educational Psychology. The students answered questions on how often they did homework and what the distribution of subjects within that time was, following which they were given a standardized test for math and science performance.

“The data suggests that spending 60 minutes a day doing homework is a reasonable and effective time,” said the study’s author Javier Suárez-Álvarez.

Suárez-Álvarez and his co-lead author Rubén Fernández-Alonso found that the average amount of homework assigned is about 70 minutes a day, while some teachers raised that duration to 90 to 100 minutes. However, the researchers found that students’ math and science scores decline with a greater amount of homework.

“Assigning more than 70 minutes of homework a day does not seem very efficient,” Suárez-Álvarez added.

So teens can take heart from the fact that they don’t have to spend more than an hour on math and science homework. As for parents, well, even getting them to spend that much time will be a win.

[Science Daily]

TIME Science

Here’s How the Newly Patented Sneeze Catcher Works—And a Drawing

man-sneezing
Getty Images

The invention is formally named ‘sneeze catching method and apparatus’

It’s a given that all manner of unwelcome microbial and viral particles can be exhaled by a person during a sneeze or a cough. Prompting inventor Joseph Apisa of Colts Neck, NJ, US, to create a ‘Sneeze catching method and apparatus’ It’s just received a US patent (Dec. 16, 2014). It can be, and indeed is, described in one sentence:

Sneeze-catcher
Joseph S. Apisa

“An apparatus for catching bodily fluids ejected during a sneeze or cough, said apparatus comprising: a sleeve having a first open end, a second open end and a perimeter wall being attached to and extending between said first and second open ends; a frame being pivotally coupled to said perimeter wall, said frame having an exterior edge, an interior edge, an upper surface and a lower surface, said frame having an attached edge and a free edge positioned opposite of each other, said attached edge being attached to said perimeter wall, said frame being positioned in an open position having said free edge spaced from said sleeve or in a closed position having said free edge secured to said sleeve, said frame bounding a receiving space when said frame is in said closed position; a covering being attached to and being coextensive with said interior edge, said covering extending over said receiving space, said covering being comprised of an air and fluid permeable material; a closure being mounted on said sleeve and releasably retaining said frame in said closed position; a pad being removably positioned in said receiving space, said pad having anti-bacterial properties; and wherein said sleeve is configured to be worn on an arm of a person such that the person may sneeze or cough into said pad and that said pad captures and destroys bacteria exhaled by the person.”

This article originally appeared on Improbable Research.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

Pollutants Created by Climate Change Are Making Airborne Allergens More Potent

Smog arrives at the banks of Songhua River on January 22, 2015 in Jilin, Jilin province of China.
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images Smog arrives at the banks of Songhua River on Jan. 22, 2015, in Jilin, China

It could explain why more people are suffering from year to year

If you think your seasonal sneezing, wheezing and sniffling is getting worse, you aren’t simply imagining it.

Currently, some 50 million or so Americans suffer from nasal allergies, but the number is going up, and researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany say a pair of pollutants linked to climate change could be to blame. That’s according to a report in Science Daily.

The two gases are nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, which appear to set off chemical changes in some airborne allergens, increasing their potency.

“Scientists have long suspected that air pollution and climate change are involved in the increasing prevalence of allergies worldwide,” said the institute’s Ulrich Pöschl. “Our research is just a starting point, but it does begin to suggest how chemical modifications in allergenic proteins occur and how they may affect allergenicity.”

Pöschl’s team found that ozone (a major component of smog) oxidizes an amino acid that sets off chemical reactions that ultimately alter an allergenic protein’s structure. Meanwhile, nitrogen dioxide (found in car exhausts) appears to alter the separation and binding capabilities of certain allergens.

Researchers believe that together, the two gases make allergens more likely to trigger the body’s immune response, especially in wet, humid and smoggy conditions.

The team hopes to identify other allergenic proteins that are modified in the environment and examine how these affect the human immune system.

[Science Daily]

MONEY Entrepreneurs

Here’s a New Theory About Why People Become Entrepreneurs

mother and daughter shopkeepers
Ariel Skelley—Getty Images

Nurture beats nature when it comes to small business ambitions, according to a new study.

It’s long been known that children with entrepreneurial parents are more likely to become entrepreneurs themselves. But new research quantifies that effect—and goes a step further by suggesting why exactly that might be.

The study, published in the latest Journal of Labor Economics, found that upbringing, rather than genetics, seems to have the biggest effect on the offspring of self-started business owners. The researchers did something prior studies (which mainly focused on twins) hadn’t: They examined the career choices of thousands of Swedish children raised by either adoptive or biological parents to compare the relative effects of nature and nurture on the entrepreneurial impulse.

Adopted children, they found, were 20% more likely to become entrepreneurs if their biological parents were also entrepreneurs. But if it was their adoptive parents who were entrepreneurs, it was 45% more likely children would follow suit.

“The importance of adoptive parents is twice as large as the influence of biological parents,” wrote authors Joeri Sol and Mirjam Van Praag of the University of Amsterdam, and Matthew Lindquist of Stockholm University.

The authors controlled for the possibility that kids might just be inheriting the family business (or money to start a new business) and continued to find the same effect—which suggests that kids were simply seeing their parents as role models. That would also explain why gender had a big impact on children: Daughters in the study were most likely to become entrepreneurs if their mothers were—and sons if their fathers were.

These findings may also have implications for educators and policymakers who care about growing small businesses. The greater the effect of nurture on career choices, the authors wrote, “the larger the potential benefit of programs aimed at fostering entrepreneurship.”

The biggest takeaway for parents? If you want your kids to become start-up success stories, you should first try to become one yourself.

TIME space

Watch the Total Solar Eclipse in 5 Seconds

ESA/SDO/dpa/Corbis (6); GIF by Mia Tramz for TIME

If you weren't in the Faroe Islands to see it, catch the time lapse here

People in a small swath of Europe were treated to a total solar eclipse early Friday morning as the moon aligned to fully block the sun from their vantage point on Earth.

The European Space Agency published images of the eclipse recorded by a small Proba-2 satellite.

Americans haven’t seen a total solar eclipse since 1979, and certain states will see the next one on Aug. 21, 2017.

TIME space

See the Best Solar Eclipse Pictures

Friday's total solar eclipse plunged parts of the world into darkness, as many marveled at the rare sight

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