Wonder on the Web

Issue 41: Links to amazing stuff.

Pluto’s (Possible) Ice Volcano

It’s amazing to think that just a little over 100 years since the Wright brothers took to the skies in a spruce biplane, we’ve got spacecraft capable of charting the topography of Pluto. As of last July, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft had picked up evidence of two possible cryovolcanoes—volcanoes that that spew ice instead of lava. One of these sites, informally dubbed “Wright Mons” in honor of the Wright brothers, could be the largest cryovolcano discovered in the outer solar system so far.

To Lions, Zebras Are Mostly Gray

Why are zebras striped? Camouflage, right? They break up the zebra’s outline, or let them hide among the shadows of trees. At least that has been the main theory so far. But it turns out that to most predators, the black and white stripes show up as muddled gray at any real distance, which means camouflage isn’t all that necessary. The Atlantic’s Ed Yong summarizes new research on what zebras really look like to lions and the reasons it still might behoove zebras to wear such flashy coats. One of them has to do with a much smaller threat: blood-sucking flies.

Frozen Soap Bubbles

Here’s a lovely video inspired by a preschool girl who apparently did not want to put on her winter coat one day. “But it is very cold outside,” her daddy said. How cold? “So cold that even soap bubbles freeze and it looks really beautiful, you know?” Our thanks to Pawel Zaluska for braving the cold (5˚F) and filming this phenomenon for the sake of whimsy and wonder.

Space Archaeologist

Egyptologist Sarah Parcak is what you get when you cross Indiana Jones and Chris Hadfield. Using infrared images and data collected from NASA satellites, she searches for (and finds) lost archaeological sites. In this short TED talk, Parcak explains the role of space archaeology in her discovery of the long-lost capital city of ancient Egypt’s Middle Kingdom—an era known as a cultural renaissance in Egypt’s history. Excavation of the site is still in progress. But Parcak’s team has already found some promising clues, like pottery and precious stones (maybe from a ritzy jewelry shop).

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Also in this Issue

Issue 41 / February 4, 2016
  1. Editor's Note from February 04, 2016

    Issue 41: Crow funerals, the strangeness of light, wonder at the Renwick, and asking God rightly. /

  2. Funeral for a Feathered Friend

    Researchers are discovering why crows gather when one of them dies. Are they mourning or just learning? /

  3. How Light Changed the Rules of Opposites

    North couldn’t be south. An odd number couldn’t be even. And a particle couldn’t be a wave. Then we saw the light. /

  4. Wonder in Washington

    The newly renovated Renwick Gallery reopens with massive, immersive installations. /

  5. You’re Praying Wrong

    Ask, and it will be given you, Jesus promised. Crave, and you’ll kill for it, James warned. /

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