A Habitable Exoplanet – For Real This Time [via Wired]
Astronomers announced yesterday the discovery of the first planet outside our solar system that lies within its star’s habitable zone, the orbital area where the temperature would make water liquid rather than ice or vapor. Gliese 581g orbits a red dwarf 20 light-years away, is three times the mass of Earth and orbits its sun every 36.6 Earth days. Its year is much shorter because its star is only 1 percent as bright as the Sun, and its rotational period indicates one side likely faces the sun at all times, leading to a frigid half, a boiling half and a ring of perpetual twilight where life may be able to form.
Monkeys can recognize themselves in mirrors [via MSNBC]
Scientists have discovered that rhesus macaques, a South Asian monkey, can recognize themselves in mirrors, a critical test for cognitive science in determining self-recognition and ultimately self-awareness. Mirror recognition is a skill adults humans have but babies do not, indicating the ability develops with the brain. Some primates, including chimpanzees and bonobos, as well as dolphins, elephants and magpies, have also passed the mirror recognition test. Notably, the macaques that recognized themselves had been implanted with electrodes to monitor their brain activity; macaques lacking the implant failed the test.
Rare pink hippo spotted [via The Daily Telegraph]
British photographers Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas were hunting wildebeest in Kenya when they stumbled across a pink hippopotamus, a rare sighting. The creature is leucitic, not albino, meaning it has some spots of pigmentation. Leucitic animals rarely survive in the wild, however, as they are more easily visible to predators. Hippos, however, are strong enough to fight off most attackers.
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Sex, the Saudis and selling out [via Foreign Policy]
Dov Zakheim provides an interesting take on the recent request by a Saudi diplomat for asylum in the U.S. He claimed he would face certain execution because the authorities had discovered he is gay and has Jewish friends. Zakheim argues that, unlike when Churchill sided with Stalin against Hitler, this is not a simple case of choosing the lesser of two evils. “If it sends Asseri home, and he is killed, there will be outrage, not only in the United States but especially in Western Europe. On the other hand, if it grants him asylum, it will be opening the door for diplomats representing the majority of the world’s states who may declare themselves gay and then seek asylum in America. That may not be a precedent that the United States wishes to set for itself, especially in light of the strong feelings over an issue that continues to divide the American electorate.”
Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions That Are No Less Accurate [via ScienceDaily]
Bad news for mothers out there: cognitive scientists at the University of Rochester have found that playing video games helps people process and execute decisions faster. “People make decisions based on probabilities that they are constantly calculating and refining in their heads, researcher Daphne Bavelier explains. The process is called probabilistic inference. The brain continuously accumulates small pieces of visual or auditory information as a person surveys a scene, eventually gathering enough for the person to make what they perceive to be an accurate decision.”
Armenia Produces World’s Biggest Chocolate Bar [via the AP via NPR]
Today in Things That Look Delicious: a 9,702-pound chocolate bar. Certified by the Guinness Book of World Records, the bar was created by an Armenian candy company to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Most companies just throw a crappy party with gift bags; these guys felt a flatbed-sized chocolate bar was appropriate. To each his own.
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