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Chris Drudge

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    A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature—Ball Lightning

    Explanations for how ball lightning is formed are even more diverse than its physical characteristics. Just a sampling of the theories out there suggest the ball is a cloud of hot silicon particles, a natural nuclear reaction, a lightning-induced epileptic hallucination, a miniature black hole, an aggregate of cellulose and other natural polymers, and a […]

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    Is Obesity Thrifty or Drifty?

    Over 72 million Americans are obese—a condition associated with a plethora of negative health outcomes including diabetes, cancer, and heart problems. But Americans’ eating habits aren’t obesity’s only cause, and we’ve suspected as much for a long time now. In 1932, the California Medical Association noted that “the inborn disposition to obesity may be very […]

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    How Outer Space Dulls an Astronaut’s Mind

    On a wet Wednesday in June, 1783, the first hot air balloon lifted into the sky in the French city of Annonay. It travelled three thousand feet into the air and was carried aloft for nearly two miles, eventually touching down in a vineyard. It flew empty; safety wasn’t a guarantee. A couple of months […]

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    Rooting for the Favorite Is a Sign of Social Dominance

    Over the first week of the Rio Olympics, an ancient narrative played out in the men’s rugby sevens tournament. Rising through a field of 12, the Fiji national team dispatched powerhouses New Zealand and Great Britain on its way to a gold medal, the first of any kind for the small South Pacific nation. Having […]

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    Distraction Can Make You a Faster Cyclist

    In the slightly surreal yet decidedly wonderful 2003 animated film The Triplets of Belleville, three drugged cyclists pedal stationary bikes on-stage in a theatre while French mafia types bet on which of them will win their “race”—as they pedal, they gaze at film of a road course projected onto a screen in front of them, […]

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    To Measure the Power of Lightning, Get a Shovel

    It was a rainy, early summer day in the Hamptons, a few years before the First World War. Robert W. Wood, a physicist (and later a science fiction writer) engaged in optics research at Johns Hopkins University, was out on his lawn spending time with his family when he had a close encounter with a […]

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    A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature: Ball Lightning

    Every so often, given the proper conditions, a small and roughly spherical piece of the atmosphere around us will briefly catch fire. As they are best viewed late into the night and have no obvious natural explanation, it’s perhaps no wonder they’ve inspired a rich mythology. Names for balls of fire include ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp, […]

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    These Clumps of Undigested Food Used To Be Medicinal Charms

    Digestive Tract Bling: A bezoar mounted in gold filigree, from late-17th century India—now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. When you get right down to it, a body like ours is basically a bony scaffold that a strange collection of organs, interconnected by a complex entanglement of piping, hangs on. In some of these pipes, […]

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    Here Are 5 Ways Lightning Shapes Life on Earth

    Lightning is the flash and rumble of an electron swarm leaping across the sky. With extravagant swiftness it moves through a cloud, from one cloud to another, or between a cloud and the ground, millions of times every day. The role of lightning in the world’s affairs is much more substantial than its ephemerality might […]