TIME A Year In Space

Watch This Stunning Video of Astronauts Docking at the Space Station

It took six hours and 100,000 miles to get there

Commuting to work isn’t easy in space. After Scott Kelly, Gennady Padalka and Misha Kornienko blasted off from Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz spacecraft in the early morning hours of March 29, it took them six hours to reach the International Space Station.

Six hours doesn’t seem like much—barely a flight from New York to London. But New York to London is a trip of only 3,459 miles (5,567 km). The Soyuz crew had to make four complete revolutions of the Earth–putting a cool 100,000 miles (161,000 km) on the odometer, in a high-speed chase that, at the end, turned into a delicate pas de deux.

NASA has now released the video footage of the final 15 minutes of that approach, shot from the cockpit of the Soyuz. The clip has been sped up here to just two and a half minutes, but even at that rate, it reveals what a precision job a rendezvous and docking is.

The spinning object in the foreground of the image is the Soyuz’s docking radar. The red light that flashes in the window midway through the clip is a reflection from the camera that is recording the approach. What you can’t see are the crewmembers, both in the Soyuz and aboard the station, who were responsible for the cosmic choreography. Their work has to speak for itself—and that work was remarkable.

TIME Research

This Is Why Long Commutes Can Actually Be Good for Your Mood

The 605 freeway is jammed with cars on a day when the mountains are visible in the distance, on November 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Melanie Stetson Freeman—AP The 605 freeway is jammed with cars on a day when the mountains are visible in the distance, on November 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Some people get wound up but others relish the space to think

While saddling people with a long commute is quite likely to put them in a cantankerous mood, a new study out of Australia has also found that some people actually look forward to their daily transit because it provides a bit of much-craved alone time.

Additionally, commuting can be a positive social experience; even though people generally don’t talk with each other, subtle body cues like smiles, frowns and glances help people feel more connected.

“Public transport can be an especially valuable space for being with other people. It can help prevent social isolation,” project author Dr. David Bissell told Australia National University.

But there is a flip side.

Long hours commuting can also cause distrust and depression, even altering how people interact with friends, family and colleagues, says the study.

A key takeaway from Bissell’s research is that stressful commutes directly, and negatively, impact people’s lives. The study cites examples like “tipping points where people change their route or mode of travel, or even move house.”

For the study, Dr. Bissell interviewed 53 commuters for whom commuting was a significant part of their life. He also interviewed 26 “stakeholders” like policymakers and transport advocates. He then went through two “week in the life” experiments in Australia.

“Hopefully it will be a bit of a wakeup call to employers in terms of managing this situation,” he said.

TIME human behavior

Researchers Unlock the Secret Behind Successful Hitmen

They all share a very particular personality trait

Successful contract killers are people who are able to see what they do purely as a job, according to a new study published by researchers at England’s Birmingham City University.

According to the study’s findings, hitmen tend to operate best when they’re able to compartmentalize and detach themselves from their victims’ humanity, regarding killing as simply a means to a profitable end.

The researchers behind the study, leading criminologists Professor David Wilson and Mohammed Rahman, point to the Irish Republican Army’s infamous hired gun Jimmy Moody as a paragon of the profession.

Moody, despite having no political affiliation to the militant group, succeeded in large part, Rahman argues, because he was able to separate his grisly work from other aspects of his life.

“Moody reframed his victims as targets, seeing getting the job done as a normal business activity,” said Rahman. “These sorts of killers are akin to ‘criminal undertakers’, who have given themselves ‘special liberty’ to get things done in the name of business.”

TIME Education

John Glenn Says Evolution Should Be Taught in Schools

Former senator and astronaut John Glenn speaks in Columbus, Ohio on May 14, 2015 photo.
Paul Vernon—AP Former Senator and astronaut John Glenn speaks in Columbus, Ohio, on May 14, 2015

John Glenn says facts about scientific discovery should be taught in schools — and that includes evolution

(COLUMBUS) — John Glenn, who declared as a 77-year-old in a news conference from space that “to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible,” says facts about scientific discovery should be taught in schools — and that includes evolution.

The astronaut, now 93 with fading eyesight and hearing, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he sees no contradiction between believing in God and believing in evolution.

“I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” said Glenn, a Presbyterian. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.”

Glenn — the first American to orbit the Earth, a former U.S. senator, a onetime Democratic presidential candidate, flier of combat planes in two wars, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom — ruminated on many other topics in the interview last week with the AP, including:

— Possible reasons why he never got assigned to another space flight after orbiting Earth in Friendship 7 in 1962 (until his 1998 trip into space, that is).

Glenn said he was eager to get back into space after his 1962 flight and pestered Bob Gilruth, the director of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, every few weeks for a year and a half.

He didn’t learn until decades later — from reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President John F. Kennedy — that he had been intentionally grounded by NASA after his orbital flight, an event that generated intense excitement and public attention.

“Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight,” Glenn said. “Now, whether it was because of the impact if I got killed on the second flight would that reflect politically, I never knew. I never discussed that with anybody. All I knew was I didn’t get reassigned to another flight.”

He doesn’t plan to stump for or endorse any candidates in 2016, despite past backing that has been pivotal to Democrats’ efforts in Ohio. “That’s in the past,” said Glenn, who has weathered a year of health difficulties, including a small stroke after a 2014 heart-valve operation, and has lost half his vision and some hearing.

He and his wife, Annie, 95, will devote their energies to ramping up the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University. The growing college announced last week that it will manage Ohio’s first-in-the-nation, state-specific social studies content for the website iCivics.

“This is not going to be a Republican college or a Democratic college. Quite the opposite of that,” Glenn said. “It’s going to be what we hope will be the best college of studies of government and policy of any place in the country.”

He still disagrees strongly with the decision to dismantle the space shuttle program but is optimistic that humans will return to space through technology currently in development.

Of all his experiences, his military service in World War II and Korea stands out, including his plane being hit by fire. “Nothing compares to actual combat,” he said.

His age: “I need all the godspeed I can get,” Glenn joked about the famous line from 1962, spoken by fellow Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter. With Carpenter’s death in 2013, Glenn became the last survivor of the famous team. He last saw Carpenter about a year before he died.

TIME animals

Panda Poop Suggests They Shouldn’t Eat Their Favorite Food of Bamboo

A photo taken on April 1, 2014 shows the giant panda Hao Hao eating bamboo at Pairi Daiza animal park in Brugelette, Belgium.
Virginie Lefour—AFP/Getty Images A photo taken on April 1, 2014 shows the giant panda Hao Hao eating bamboo at Pairi Daiza animal park in Brugelette, Belgium.

After 14 hours of eating bamboo, only 17% is digested

Giant pandas may be reliant on a highly specialized diet of bamboo, but new research suggests they are not actually very good at digesting their favorite meal.

Scientists in China discovered that, unlike most herbivores, a panda’s gut bacteria has not evolved to match its diet and remains more akin its omnivorous bear cousins.

The team took 121 fecal samples from 45 giant pandas — 24 adults, 16 juveniles and five cubs — and compared these with data from a previous study, which included seven wild pandas. Both studies indicated that the bears do not have plant-degrading bacteria like Ruminococcaceae and Bacteroides.

“This result is unexpected and quite interesting, because it implies the giant panda’s gut microbiota may not have well adapted to its unique diet, and places pandas at an evolutionary dilemma,” said Xiaoyan Pang, a co-author of the study in a press release.

The scientists also discovered that gut bacteria in late Autumn is quite different from spring and summer — which they hypothesize may be a result of the lack of bamboo shoots in the fall.

Pandas spend up to 14 hours per day consuming bamboo but only digest about 17% of their meal.

China’s most famous animal evolved from a species that ate both meat and plants and began to consume almost exclusively bamboo around 2 million years ago.

TIME animals

Scientists Discover the First Fully Warm-Blooded Fish

The opah lives hundreds of feet deep below the surface

Scientists have discovered another apparent first, according to new research published in Science: a fully warm-blooded fish.

The opah, which researchers say dwells in the cold, dark depths of the ocean, is able to produce heat by constantly flapping its fins like wings as it moves about, keeping its blood warm as it circulates throughout its body. The opah’s warm-bloodedness is advantageous for the fish, as it’s able to keep itself at least 5 degrees Celsius warmer than its surrounding water and move about quickly to prey on other fish.

The researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said the fish is the first known one to be identified as fully warm-blooded, a characteristic typical to mammals and birds; tuna and shark are only partially endothermic, meaning warm blood pumps to only select organs.

Researchers told the Washington Post on Thursday they were curious about the fish given its large size, big eyes, and agility in cold water.

TIME Research

Giving Antibiotics to Infants is Strongly Related to Illness In Adulthood

Many red and transparent medical capsules, filled with yellow medicine, pouring out of a brown bottle, displayed on a white table n Wuerzburg, Bavaria, Germany in December 2014.
Getty Images

By altering infant gut bacteria, the antibiotics make us more vulnerable to disease

Illness may appear in adulthood because of antibiotic resistance we develop when doctors prescribe us antibiotics as newborns and infants, researchers say.

The antibiotics may alter infant gut bacteria, which are tied to everything from allergies and obesity to infectious diseases, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that antibiotics eliminated bacteria in the gut that enabled the growth of allergen-fighting immune cells. Antibiotics were also found to alter critical gut microbiota that determine our vulnerability to a number of infectious diseases.

“Over the past year we synthesized hundreds of studies and found evidence of strong correlations between antibiotic use, changes in gut bacteria, and disease in adulthood,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Dan Knights.

Antibiotics remain the most prevalent drug prescribed to children, accounting for approximately a quarter of all childhood medications. However, around 30% of prescriptions are deemed unnecessary.

“We think these findings help develop a roadmap for future research to determine the health consequences of antibiotic use and for recommendations for prescribing them,” Knights added.

TIME neuroscience

You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish

No longer can we boast about 12 seconds of coherent thought

The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.

Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.

“Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli — they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media,” the report read.

On the positive side, the report says our ability to multitask has drastically improved in the mobile age.

Microsoft theorized that the changes were a result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time and a weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet.

The survey also confirmed generational differences for mobile use; for example, 77% of people aged 18 to 24 responded “yes” when asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” compared with only 10% of those over the age of 65.

And now congratulate yourself for concentrating long enough to make it through this article.

TIME Obesity

‘Thrifty’ Metabolisms May Make It Harder to Lose Weight

File photo dated Thursday October 16, 2014. of a young girl using a set of weighing scales as slimmers should forget what they have been told about avoiding rapid weight loss in favour of slow but sure dieting, according to new research.
Chris Radburn—PA Wire/Press Association Images File photo dated Thursday October 16, 2014. of a young girl using a set of weighing scales as slimmers should forget what they have been told about avoiding rapid weight loss in favour of slow but sure dieting, according to new research.

The study marks the first time lab results have confirmed the widely held belief

Losing those love handles may be easier for some people than for others, says a new study that confirmed the theory that physiology plays a role in a person’s ability to lose weight.

According to a press release, researchers at the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch studied the metabolisms of 12 obese men and women undergoing a six-week 50% calorie-reduction experiment. After measuring participants’ energy expenditure after a day of fasting and then re-examining them during the caloric-reduction period, researchers found that the slower the metabolism works during a diet, the less weight the person loses.

Coining the terms “thrifty” vs. “spendthrift” metabolisms, the experiment marks first time lab results have confirmed a widely held belief that a speedy metabolism plays a role in weight loss.

“While behavioral factors such as adherence to diet affect weight loss to an extent, our study suggests we should consider a larger picture that includes individual physiology — and that weight loss is one situation where being thrifty doesn’t pay,” said lead author Dr. Susanne Votruba, Ph.D.

Researchers have yet to figure out if the differences in metabolic speeds are innate traits or develop over time. Also, the study was only focused on weight loss, and the team does not know if the body’s response to caloric reduction can be used to prevent weight gain.

Over one-third of Americans are obese, and it leads to some of the most common forms of preventable deaths in the country.

TIME Science

One Astronaut’s Stunning Vine Shows a Huge Lightning Storm From Space

"A majestic performance that inspires awe and respect"

American astronaut Terry Virts posted a breathtaking Vine recently that showed a huge lightning storm as seen from the International Space Station. It’s the latest Vine that astronauts have been posting since they started using the app. “Massive lightning storm over India,” Virts wrote on Twitter. “A majestic performance that inspires awe and respect.”

Astronauts have recorded tons of fun footage during their time in space, including this fascinating video from Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who explained how exactly they use the bathroom in zero gravity.

Now that Virts, Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov will be in a space longer than anticipated, perhaps we’ll see more of these short clips soon.

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