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  • VD_BR_illo

    Divorce Rates for Different Groups

    We know when people usually get married. We know who never marries. Finally, it’s time to look at the other side: divorce and remarriage. The chart below shows cumulative rates for different groups of people in the United States, based on 2014 American Community Survey, 1-year estimates. For example, by age 60, among the employed in 2014 […]

  • Big Bangs

    Where do we start? Often, with a bang. Take our modern universe. It didn’t grow slowly and linearly, but was instead a violent departure from what came before. Big Bangs like this aren’t exclusive to cosmology: There are the sudden appearance of language and tool use, the Cambrian explosion in the diversity of life on […]

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    How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment

    During the Cold War, the USSR and U.S. had programs to harness the power of nuclear explosions, demonstrated here in the “Baker” test, for peaceful purposes.U.S. DOD via Wikipedia In the late spring of 2010, the world watched, often in real time, a new kind of environmental disaster unfold: An oil rig operating deep under the […]

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    What If the Universe Didn’t Start With the Big Bang?

    Last week, researchers using the Planck spacecraft to study the skies announced that the polarization of light spotted by the BICEP2 experiment could be entirely explained by dust swirling around the Milky Way. This news was a bucket of cold water on the theories of many cosmologists: It meant that BICEP2 might not have been […]

  • Lastword_HERO

    The Last Word with Diane Ackerman

    Magnifying our mutant, turbulent, symmetrical natures.

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    The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

    A lithograph of the massive 1883 eruption of KrakatoaThe eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena, 1888; Parker & Coward; via Wikipedia On 27 August 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since. It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits […]

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    Excitement Over Gravity Waves Comes Crashing Down

    The Dark Sector Lab includes the BICEP2 telescope, seen on the left.BICEP Keck Science giveth, and science taketh away. What appeared earlier this year to be a long-sought glimpse of ancient ripples in spacetime now seems to have been schmutz in astronomers’ eyes. In March, sky-gazers using a telescope at the South Pole called BICEP2 […]

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    Earth’s Stash of Gold Comes From Colliders Fit for Gods

    Ron Dale via Shutterstock One of science’s greatest feats is having described where we came from—not as individual people, or as a species, or even as a planet, but as stuff, the very material we’re made of. The Big Bang forged all of the basic particles of our lives—electrons and the quarks that make up […]

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    The Unusual Language That Linguists Thought Couldn’t Exist

    In most languages, sounds can be re-arranged into any number of combinations. Not so in Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language.Brian Goodman via Shutterstock Languages, like human bodies, come in a variety of shapes—but only to a point. Just as people don’t sprout multiple heads, languages tend to veer away from certain forms that might spring from […]

  • Piore_HERO_1280x376

    Why We Keep Playing the Lottery

    Blind to the mathematical odds, we fall to the marketing gods.