Discovered: Crazy weather has a lot to do with climate change, why we like sad movies, another invisibility cloak (sort of), what made humans start walking less like apes and more like humans and black holes are rude.
- Confirmed: Crazy weather has a lot to do with climate change. We knew this beautiful, freaky weather was far too good to be true. "The question is whether these weather extremes are coincidental or a result of climate change," explains researcher Dim Coumou. That is the question. But what is the answer? It's bad. "Global warming can generally not be proven to cause individual extreme events -- but in the sum of events the link to climate change becomes clear," he explains. "It´s like a game with loaded dice," says Coumou. "A six can appear every now and then, and you never know when it happens. But now it appears much more often, because we have changed the dice." And, more scary news, looks like dice might stay changed forever. Scientists say we're nearing the point of no return for climate change. "We are on the cusp of some big changes," said researcher Will Steffen. "We can ... cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state." Um, anyway, enjoy the beautiful spring weather while it lasts. [Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Reuters]
- Why we like sad movies. Another day, another study that shows the selfishness of humanity. This crying thing has nothing to do with catharsis. Seeing others in pain reminds us of how good we have it, finds research. "People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life, to count their blessings," said researcher Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick. "That can help explain why tragedies are so popular with audiences, despite the sadness they induce." This indeed justifies the whole "needing a good cry" thing, which generally happens when one is down in the deepest of dumps and needs to feel better about life. Guess watching people who are worse off does the trick. [Ohio State]
- Another invisibility cloak. This will be the third time this year science has promised us an invisibility cloak. (Excuse us if we're a bit bitter, ours still hasn't arrived in the mail, yet.) This time researchers have gone thermal, though. "We can design a cloak so that heat diffuses around an invisibility region, which is then protected from heat. Or we can force heat to concentrate in a small volume, which will then heat up very rapidly," explains researcher Sebastien Guenneau. It's not exactly our Harry Potter inspired dream cloak, but we'll take it. [Optical Society of America]
- What made humans start walking less like apes and more like humans. Pretty simple, actually. We evolved to carry things we needed for survival. "Something as simple as carrying -- an activity we engage in every day -- may have, under the right conditions, led to upright walking and set our ancestors on a path apart from other apes that ultimately led to the origin of our kind," explains researcher Brian Richmond. At least that's the theory from studying chimps, the animal we came from. [George Washington University]
- Black holes are rude. Trying to figure out why black holes have gotten so big, astronomers have settled on the theory they have no "table manners." Black holes grow by sucking in gas, explains researcher Chris Nixon. To get as big as they did, these fat black holes had to suck in more than their shares worth of gas. Researchers think a sort of chaos between two gas discs allowed these holes to eat double the amount of gas. "We don't know exactly how gas flows inside galaxies in the early universe," said King, "but I think it is very promising that if the flows are chaotic it is very easy for the black hole to feed." Pigs. [University of Leicester]