Launchedintoorbit in 1973,Skylabwasthefirst US spacestation. It carried a laboratoryforstudyingthehumanbody’sadaptation to weightlessnessand a powerfulsolartelescope.ThreesuccessiveastronautcrewsconductedresearchaboardSkylabfor a total of 171days in 1973–74.ThoughSkylabwasintended to be reused,increasedsolaractivitycauseditsorbit to degradefasterthanexpected. In 1979,the75-tonnestationreenteredEarth’satmosphereandbrokeup.Wheredidthedebrisland?More…Discuss
One of history’sgreatpolymaths,Kircherwas a Germanarcheologist,mathematician,biologist,astronomer,musicologist,andphysicistwhoknewHebrew,Aramaic,Coptic,Persian,Latin,Greek,andvariousmodernlanguages. He tried to decipherone of themostancientwritingsystems—Egyptianhieroglyphics—butmost of histhoughts on thesubjectprovedincorrect. An avidinventor, he builtplayfuldevicesincluding a talkingandeavesdroppingstatuethatused a primitiveintercom,andwhatelse?More…Discuss
English: A classification chart of sedimentary rocks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
grains of sand have been cemented together by a material such as silica, iron oxide, or calcium carbonate. It usually consists mainly of quartz and can vary in color from yellow or red to gray or brown. Sandstone’s porous nature makes it ideal for aquifers, and it is also widely used in construction and industry. Why is sandstone commonly used for decorative features in buildings? More…Discuss
The genome of the bowhead whale was released this week by scientists who say that it may hold the key to longer and healthier lives for humans. The bowhead whale is the largest animal whose genome has been sequenced. It lives longer than any other mammal, with a lifespan of up to 200 years. Scientists studying its genome found significant differences in genes related to cell cycle, DNA repair, and aging process compared to other mammals. Although it has about 1,000 times as many cells as a human, its cells have a far more efficient anti-tumor response. More…Discuss
Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to be put into orbit. It was launched by the Soviet Union in October 1957 and acted as the starting gun for the Space Race. The first Sputnik, Russian for “fellow traveler,” was able to transmit radio signals for 22 days, emitting a beeping sound heard around the world. The US created NASA in October 1958, largely in response to this momentous occasion. How did US President Dwight Eisenhower react when he got word of Sputnik? More…Discuss
Researchers exploring the depths of the Mariana Trench recently set the record for deepest fish ever filmed—and then broke the record during the same study. The two newly discovered species of snailfish were filmed by a team from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland using several remotely controlled submersibles. The second fish was filmed more than five miles below the surface—a depth of 8,145 meters. Researchers say the fish is very fragile and does not like look like any known species. More…Discuss
Redwoods are the tallest living trees, often exceeding 300 ft (90 m) in height. Nearly exterminated by the ice sheets of the glacial ages, redwoods are found only in a narrow strip near the Pacific coast of the northwest US. They take up to 500 years to reach maturity, and some are known to be more than 1,500 years old. As redwoods age, their lower limbs fall away, leaving a columnar trunk that can reach a diameter of more than 20 ft (6 m). What is the largest tree in the world? More…Discuss
The saguaro is a large, candelabra-shaped cactus that can grow up to 50 feet (15 m). Native to the deserts of Mexico and the southwestern US, it takes up to 75 years to develop but can live more than 200 years and can weigh up to 10 tons (9,000 kg). This mammoth typically dies by being uprooted by wind or washouts. It produces edible red fruits and white flowers that bloom at night but remain open into the next day. What are “saguaro boots,” and how have they been used by Native Americans? More…Discuss
A Japanese construction firm with a penchant for pie-in-the-sky projects has a new plan: an underwater city. The Shimizu Corporation, a prominent builder that once pitched a space hotel, has proposed an undersea spiral off the coast of Japan that would stretch 2.8 miles (4.5 km) down to the sea floor. A habitable zone would be situated in a massive sphere just below the surface, and energy would be generated by thermal energy conversion and by using micro-organisms to turn carbon dioxide into methane. However, the company says the required technology won’t be ready for another 15 years. More…Discuss
In April, astronomers discovered the first Earth-size planet within a star’s habitable zone, the region where liquid water can exist. This artist’s concept shows the planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, which is 1.1 times the size of Earth. The ultimate goal is to find another planet just like Earth, and this one—although more like a cousin than a twin—is close. NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
Scientists discovered some pretty amazing things in space this year. There were yet more planets, including the first Earth-like one in a star’s habitable zone. Astronomers found what might be a black-hole triplet, stars in the midst of merging into one giant one, and a star made of diamond.
More Best of 2014:
The Best and Worst of Science in 2014
These Are Our Favorite Maps of the Year
The Best Science Visualizations of 2014
But some of the most exciting things were found right in our own solar system. These discoveries include the first rings ever seen around an asteroid, plumes of water vapor spewing out from the dwarf planet Ceres, a disintegrating asteroid, and what appears to be a new dwarf planet billions of miles away. Oh, and we landed on a comet for the first time. Here are some of the most fantastic
The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the Web and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic’s mission of inspiring people to care about the planet. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of the National Geographic Society.
Know of a great short film that should be part of our Showcase? Email SFS at ngs dot org to submit a video for consideration.
The world’s oceans are clogged with 269,000 tons of plastic objects, according to a new report by a group of marine researchers. The estimate is based on data from 24 expeditions over six years, during which they studied gyres—regions with extremely strong currents—in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. When a large plastic object is introduced into the ocean, it often gets sucked into the whirling currents of a gyre. These objects are then eroded into “microplastics.” According to the researchers, these particles account for more than 90 percent of the plastic in the ocean. More…Discuss
Future generations of iPhones might have cat-like reflexes—and fewer cracked screens—thanks to a newly patented system by Apple that would allow the devices to land harmlessly when dropped. The proposed technology would employ the iPhone’s GPS, gyroscope, and accelerometer to detect the speed and angle at which it is falling and then reorient the device to land on its back or side, rather than on its screen. Apple is not alone in developing protection methods for smartphone accidents. In 2012, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos patented a system of tiny airbags that would deploy from a dropped phone. More…Discuss
Human activities have dramatically altered the balance of life on Earth, according to a report by the Zoological Society of London. Wildlife populations around the globe have plummeted by more than half over just the past four decades, and the decline shows no signs of letting up any time soon. When broken down by habitat type, the data show that terrestrial and marine species both declined by 39 percent between 1970 and 2010, while freshwater species suffered a staggering 76 percent drop. The report calls “unsustainable human consumption” leading to habitat loss and degradation the greatest threat to biodiversity on our planet. More…Discuss
English: The Earth at the start of the 4 (astronomical) seasons as seen from the north and ignoring the atmosphere (no clouds, no twilight). Português: A Terra no início das 4 estações (astronômicas) como vista do norte e ignorando a atmosfera (sem nuvens, sem crepúsculo). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator twice a year: on or about March 21 (Vernal Equinox) and again six months later, on or about September 22 or 23 (Autumnal Equinox). On these two occasions, night and day are of equal length all over the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, September 22 or 23 is the first day of autumn. Autumnal Equinox Day is a national holiday in Japan, observed on either September 23 or 24 to celebrate the arrival of autumn and to honor family ancestors. More…Discuss
Once teetering on the brink of extinction, the California blue whale has recovered in an unprecedented way—reaching about 97 percent of historic population levels. Researchers estimate that there are now 2,200 of these whales in existence. It is the only population of blue whale known to have rebounded from the ravages of whaling. The blue whale is the largest known animal on Earth, growing to nearly 100 feet (30 meters) in length and weighing in at 190 tons (172 tonnes), twice as much as the largest known dinosaur. More…Discuss
Cuvier was a renowned French naturalist and zoologist considered the founder of comparative anatomy. He rejected the theory of evolution and instead embraced catastrophism, which proposes that geological changes on Earth have been caused by sudden upheaval rather than by gradual and continuing processes. He also greatly advanced the science of paleontology by reconstructing the soft parts of fossils deduced from their skeletal remains. What extinct flying reptile did Cuvier identify and name? More…Discuss
The eastern US and central Asia had a significantly cooler-than-average July, but they were the only two regions on Earth that did. For the globe as a whole, it was the fourth-hottest month on record—surpassed only by the Julys of 1998, 2005, and 2010—and the 353rd consecutive month with an above average global temperature. The blistering July temperatures came hot on the heels of both the hottest May and hottest June ever recorded. More…Discuss
Seismology is the scientific study of earthquakes—their origins, geographic distribution, and effects. Much of what we now know about the composition of the Earth and its internal structure comes from seismologic research. In recent years, seismologists have focused intense efforts on developing ways to predict earthquakes in hopes of minimizing casualties caused by seismic events. Unfortunately, a reliable method has yet to be developed. Why were six seismologists recently indicted in Italy? More…Discuss
The genetic adaptation that allows Tibetans to survive and live comfortably at altitudes that would make most other humans on Earth terribly sick came from an extinct species of human. The variant of the EPAS-1 gene carried by nearly 90 percent of Tibetans closely matches that of the extinct Denisovan people. This gene is involved in regulating hemoglobin production and helps the body produce enough red blood cells to cope with low oxygen levels but not so many as to dangerously thicken the blood. The findings suggest that at some point in the history of the Tibetan people, their ancestors mated with Denisovans, thereby acquiring this adaptation. More…Discuss
Encumbered not, poetic thought by George-B (The smudge and other poems)
Unnoticed, silence breathed its way in:
can you watch now the growing grass, the snowflakes parachutes landing and, dust settling on top of dusty old, furniture tops?
almost instantaneously night had moved over everything:
can you see now the shadows, and the listless moon in owe, eyeing the blue, as if…its dust, were not to remain undisturbed eons ahead, except for a few boot prints… cold of course, and odorless, and sterile… encumbered not…
Launched in 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and to make up-close observations of Jupiter, capturing images that were later sent back to Earth. It passed the orbit of Neptune in 1983 and became by some definitions the first artificial object to leave our solar system. By February 1998, the probe was over 7.5 billion miles from Earth but lost its title as the most distant man-made object to what craft? More…Discuss
The first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970, to draw public attention to the need for cleaning up the Earth’s air and water and for conserving our natural resources. Earth Day is now observed regularly throughout the United States and in many other countries. Typical ways of celebrating Earth Day includeplanting trees, picking up roadside trash, and conducting various programs for recycling and conservation. Schoolchildren may be asked to use only recyclable containers for their snacks and lunches, and families often try to give up wasteful habits. More…Discuss
Gagarin was a Russiancosmonaut who, in 1961, became the first human being to successfully travel into space. Gagarin circled the Earth once during his 1-hour-and-48-minute flight aboard the Vostok 1. His success is believed to have ushered in the modern era of man in space, and Gagarin toured widely to promote the Soviet achievement. Ironically, he died in a plane crash seven years later. What factors did Soviet officials consider when choosing Gagarin for the historic space flight? More…Discuss
Biomass is the total amount of living organisms in a given area, expressed in terms of living weight per unit area. It can include microorganisms, plants, and animals. An amazing amount of biomass is created by the approximately 10 quintillion insects living at any one time. In fact, the almost one million known insect species comprise 300 times the total weight of Earth’shuman population. What other single class of organisms makes up a staggering 25% of the global biomass? More…Discuss
An astronomical transit is the passage of a celestial body or satellite across the face of a relatively larger body. Transits are not the same thing as the familiar solar or lunar eclipse. In an eclipse, a large celestial body hides a major part of a smaller body. In an astronomical transit, a small body crosses in front of a larger one. An astronomical transit can involve two planets, but this has not been observed on Earth since 1818. When will the next planetary transit be visible from Earth? More…Discuss
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