TIME Chemistry

Scientists’ Finding May Help Restore Fragrance to Roses

Sweet Smell of Roses
Matt Rourke—AP This file photo shows roses during preparations for the Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia

A study of roses that do have a strong scent revealed a previously unknown chemical process in their petals

(NEW YORK) — Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In fact, many kinds of roses today have little fragrance. But a new discovery might change that.

A study of roses that do have a strong scent revealed a previously unknown chemical process in their petals. It’s key to their alluring odor.

Experts said the finding might let scientists restore a pleasing scent to rose varieties that have lost it because of breeding for traits like color or longevity.

French scientists identified a gene that’s far more active in a heavily scented kind of rose than in a type with little odor. This gene, which produces an enzyme, revealed the odor-producing process.

Results are reported in a study released Thursday by the journal Science.

TIME Science

Mysterious Spots on Pluto Intrigue Scientists

Just-released images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is approaching Pluto, show the two hemispheres of the planet along with its moon, Charon. The right image shows the ring of spots that have mystified scientists.
NASA Just-released images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is approaching Pluto, show the two hemispheres of the planet along with its moon, Charon. The right image shows the ring of spots that have mystified scientists.

Scientists are baffled

Newly released images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show an unusual streak of spots on the dwarf planet Pluto.

Scientists aren’t quite sure what to make of the spots, particularly because they are perfectly spaced apart along the equator and seem nearly identical in width.

“It’s a real puzzle—we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,” said Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

To get the images, scientists merged black-and-white pictures of Pluto and Charon, its largest moon, from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager with color data. The resulting image shows Pluto and Charon in true color.

The spots aren’t the only mystery, however.

“Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon,” Stern said.

Scientists are hoping that these questions might be answered as New Horizons approaches Pluto.

TIME Science

Explore the Science Behind Fireworks — and the Galaxy

How do fireworks work? The same way the universe does

To you and me, watching fireworks is an age-old pastime best spent with people you love. But to astronomers, seeing those beautiful colors light up the night sky means something entirely different.

The chemistry that enables people to see the array of colors during a fireworks show, is the same chemistry that allows astronomers to see stars and planets hundreds of light years away.

Watch materials scientist Ainissa Ramirez explain how this is possible.


TIME space

See the Asteroid That Came Close to Earth

Don't worry—NASA's on it.

Astronauts and scientists kicked off the inaugural celebration of Asteroid Day with a talk on asteroid hunting and a live telescope view of the asteroid that passed within 5 million miles of Earth two weeks ago.

Journalist Will Gater, astronomer Bob Berman, astronaut Richard Garriott, and documentary producer Duncan Copp all took part in the talk—a debate on whether or not the Earth is prepared to defend itself against the potential hazard of a major asteroid. The discussion, hosted by Slooh Community Observatory, also included live footage of the most recent near Earth object: Icarus, an asteroid slightly over a half-a-mile long that passed by June 16.

According to Berman, asteroids are worth the hype. “Planets can’t hit us, while comet debris doesn’t survive to strike our surface. But asteroids — chunks of stone or metal — ­­arrive by the thousands every day, and are responsible for nearly all of the 50,000 catalogued meteorites,” he said in a statement to the press. “The largest asteroids are fascinating to observe, while the hazardous ones need to be watched while defenses are being conceived.”

U.S. agencies are already onto this concern—NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration announced a new deal on June 17 to cooperate in tracking and defending against asteroids.


John Oliver: Here’s How to Make Use of Your Spare ‘Leap Second’ Tomorrow

The comedian weighs in on the addition of one second to the world's calendar

Everyone’s day will be a second longer on Tuesday, thanks to the “leap second” added to our clocks to compensate for the gradual slowing in the Earth’s rotation.

With 86,401 seconds in your day instead of 86,400 seconds, what are you going to do with all that extra time?

John Oliver shared some ideas on Sunday on Last Week Tonight.


TIME Environment

Scientists Warn ‘Sixth Extinction’ May Be Underway

Science Advances

The paper used conservative premises and still arrived what scientists said was a concerning conclusion

A new paper warns that a major extinction event, one that would be the sixth in our planet’s history, may be underway. The authors of the paper, published in Science Advances, sought to determine whether recent loss in biodiversity has been caused by human activity; the conclusion they reach is that “a sixth mass extinction is already under way.”

The scientists’ abstract concludes:

Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

As Kaleigh Rogers points out at Vice, this paper hardly breaks ground in its premise; the idea that Earth is undergoing the sixth extinction has been written about by scientists before. What differs, here, are the criteria; the scientists estimated very conservatively when it came to how many species have recently gone extinct, and still found that conservative estimate showing the likelihood of an environmental cataclysm.

TIME Natural Disasters

This Is What It’s Like to Get Caught in an Avalanche

A helmet cam video shows what it's like to get buried by snow

It’s every skier’s worst nightmare, but one that can indeed be survived.

Kristoffer Carlsson survived an avalanche while skiing in 2011, and brought back helmet-cam video of the snow burying him. Experts say that the best way to survive in Carlsson’s scary situation is to do exactly what he did: Use your hands to create a pocket of air as the snow falls.

TIME space

Check Out These Beautiful NASA Photos From Across the Solar System

The Deep Space Network beams back images from space

It’s one of the most mysterious aspects of the universe—what, exactly, is out there? NASA’s Deep Space Network has for decades been helping us get closer to understanding, sending back images from across our solar system. It’s a glimpse into just how vastly different, and how strangely lovely, our neighboring yet still far-off planets are.

Read Next: TIME is following astronaut Scott Kelly’s yearlong mission to the International Space Station in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer for the series here.

TIME Science

Calling Tim Hunt Sexist Won’t Help Women in Science

English biochemist Tim Hunt speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions at Dalian international conference center on September 12, 2013 in Dalian, China.
ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images English biochemist Tim Hunt speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions at Dalian international conference center on September 12, 2013 in Dalian, China.

Athene Donald is a professor of physics at the University of Cambridge.

There's been a failure to test the hypothesis of his misogyny

Since Sir Tim Hunt made a few off-the-cuff remarks at a lunch in South Korea last week, there has been an increased focus on the lot of women in science. Yes, there are problems for women in science—problems that are well-documented, with often obvious solutions. Yet we don’t seem to be making much progress.

Hunt’s comments about women working in research have been interpreted as proving he is a deep-rooted misogynist whose subsequent downfall is no more than he deserved. He has been quoted as saying, “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry.” He has since resigned from his position at University College London.

What worries me about the public backlash to his comments is the failure to test that hypothesis of misogyny. His remarks are indubitably offensive and totally inappropriate, even if he meant them as a (badly misjudged) attempt at humor. But as has since become clear, what he said about “girls” falling in love referred to his own life. His most recent apology sounds heartfelt enough to satisfy.

Yet the media storm has simply analyzed the remarks at face value and not looked at the totality of his lifetime contributions and the evidence of how he has treated women over five decades of research activity. There still seems to be a lack of hard evidence of long-term sexism in his behavior. On the contrary, from my own knowledge—I have sat with him on several committees—he has actively championed women for appointments and promotions and offered support where he could. He has expended much of his life since winning the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his work on cell cycle regulation in traveling the world to enthuse young scientists, men and women, something he will likely no longer be able to do.

The cause of women in science is dear to my heart, and despite arguments that his remarks are damaging, I remain unconvinced that this cultural challenge is well-served by destroying a man’s reputation for three crass sentences. His resignation from his honorary position at University College London was made with such rapidity that it’s hard to imagine any thorough investigation had been made. His departure from the European Research Council Scientific Council, a committee on which I have served with him, followed swiftly after. (The Scientific Council itself was not party to that decision.)

My plea is that we now move on from attempting to analyze this ghastly episode. Maybe my view is colored because I know and admire Sir Tim for his lifetime contributions to science and his work inspiring future generations. My generation may be more forgiving of him than some of my younger colleagues because I knew people of my father’s and grandfather’s generations who said sexist things yet who could still accept that times were changing and go on to encourage the girls in their family to follow their dreams.

It’s too late to save Hunt’s reputation. But it’s not too late to use the energy gained in this debate to renew efforts to root out the ills that make life difficult for women in science. We can ensure that families and schools do not deter young girls who love science and math from pursuing careers in those fields. We can ask Google to make its image gallery of professors showcase women in their top 10 images—a suggestion that came via Twitter in response to the list of #just1action4WIS I put on my personal blog. We can choose a range of toys that do not stereotype children by gender, demand that the media represent women in the workplace fairly and without sexual objectification, and ensure that women who appear to be being disadvantaged are supported. That way, the future for women in science may genuinely be better.

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 climate change

The Surprising Reason Dinosaurs Avoided One Area for Over 30 Million Years

The climate was inhospitable

Scientists have long wondered why the dinosaurs that spread across the globe 230 million years ago largely avoided living near the equator—and now the mystery has finally been solved.

A group of scientists at the University of Utah found that the tropical climate around the equator vacillated between long dry spells and fiery heat that set vegetation ablaze, according to the study, released on Monday. With no consistent source of vegetative food, large plant-eating dinosaurs were unable to live in the region. Instead, only a few small meat-eating dinosaurs were able to find a food source near the equator.

The study is the first to provide a detailed look at Earth’s climate and ecology during the time when dinosaurs were emerging. Researchers found that the carbon dioxide levels during this period were four to six times the current levels—which the scientists say should provide a warning for the future.

“If we continue along our present course, similar conditions in a high-CO2 world may develop, and suppress low-latitude ecosystems,” said Randal Irmis, a co-author of the study.

The study’s findings came as an Italian magazine leaked Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on climate change and months before the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a record high for modern times in 2013.


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