Volcano vs. Asteroid; NASA’s Supernova Timelapse; Perishable chemicals

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Material from a 20,000-year-old supernova is hurtling toward space at half a million miles per hour. Credit: NASA, ESA, Ravi Sankrit (STScI)

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Material from a 20,000-year-old supernova is hurtling toward space at half a million miles per hour. Credit: NASA, ESA, Ravi Sankrit (STScI)

This week, we highlight one study involving toxic chemical contaminants and, just for fun, a second study involving other toxic chemical contaminants. But NASA made a cool time-lapse video using the good old Hubble Space Telescope, and a team of Italian demographers has a lot to say about the population-wide effects of lying.

Impartial decision

Did massive volcanic eruptions wipe out the dinosaurs? Or a giant asteroid impact? Scientists have been debating this issue for decades, and now, a group of Dartmouth researchers are tired of all the bickering and have decided to let an unbiased group of computers take a dispassionate, Spock-like approach to deciding which of these apocalyptic scenarios is most likely.

The researchers developed a Bayesian inversion modeling method that analyzed a huge corpus of geological and climate data in reverse chronological order to find a possible cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The computer’s processors used Markov Chain Monte Carlo machine learning to generate a scenario that matched the fossil record, independently compared and recalculated the results.

The result? Without the distorting influence of human biases, the model determined that the release of gases from the massive Deccan Traps shield volcano in 300,000 years was sufficient to trigger the extinction event.

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Unintended consequences

Bisphenol A, the chemical compound and endocrine disrupting effects associated with purely crystalline plastic water bottles, is used in the manufacture of polycarbonates, epoxy resins, thermal paper and PVC. The first time I read about the PBA was in 2007—the only memory of that era was that a lot of people wore boot-cut jeans. Without boots.

Since then, there’s been a lot of BPA-contaminated water under the bridge, and now, A new study Reports suggest that children with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have reduced ability to clear BPA from their systems; Diagnoses for both conditions have increased over the decades, although this is unlikely to be for one reason.

Disinfection noise

Speaking of toxic „forever chemicals,” Ohio State University researchers report a new technique capable of treating PFAS toxins in contaminated groundwater. In the 20th century, these sturdy, durable compounds gave us nonstick cookware, industrial foams, stain-resistant carpeting, and more testicular, bladder, and kidney cancers, impaired reactions to vaccines, and birth defects.

And they hang around in the environment undamaged, basically forever, milky roots of chemical pollution. The researchers used ultrasound disintegration over a three-hour period to weaken the chemical bonds in compounds called fluortelomer sulfonates, which are commonly used in firefighting foams. They note that the same technique could degrade drugs in municipal taps and wastewater.

The explosion is underway

This week, NASA released time-lapse footage of stellar debris blasting into space after a star exploded 20,000 years ago. Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to zoom in on a small portion of the Cygnus Loop Nebula, observing part of the expanding leading edge of the supernova bubble.

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Over 19 years, from 2001 to 2020, they collected the timing of the continuous explosion by capturing a series of images of this tiny region, revealing fragments of the star hurtling through space at half a million miles per hour.

Leardown is corrupt

Social science researchers have reported a new phenomenon called the „honesty drain,” in which honest people tend to migrate from areas where fraud is prevalent. This creates a kind of duplicity doom loop in which regions experiencing severe integrity drain experience a lower-quality political class, lower income growth, and lower labor productivity.

Demographers use inaccurate birth records as a measure of territorial integrity; In Italy, many parents of children born in December falsify birth certificates, creating a surge in January birth registrations. Citizens who move from a high-fraud area to a low-fraud area are less likely to receive a false birth certificate.

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