R2D2 on God, 42, the Universe and everything else


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An array of mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. (Image: AP)

Last year, renewable energy accounted for more than half of all new forms of power generation produced worldwide. It’s an unprecedented milestone for our civilization—one that points to a bright future for solar and wind power.

A new report put out by the International Energy Agency shows that renewable electricity capacity growth reached an all-time high in 2015, hitting the 153 gigawatt (GW) mark. That’s a 15 percent increase from 2014. To put this figure into perspective, the total in renewables growth is equivalent to… Continue reading

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How things will hopefully go down for the Schiaparelli lander on October 19th. Image: ESA

A joint mission led by the European Space Agency and Roscosmos arrives at Mars next week, and its first order of business will be to make history. If all goes well, NASA is about to lose its bragging rights as the only space agency to successfully land probes on the Red Planet.

ExoMars, an astrobiology mission designed to hunt for signs of geologic and biological activity on Mars, is on track to reach orbit on October 19th. When it arrives, the mission’s… Continue reading

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Google Coder Analyzes a Billion Files to Find a Winner in Tabs vs Spaces Debate
Image: HBO

It’s one of the greatest battles ever fought among coders: Should you use the tab button or five spaces when you’re indenting in source-code?

The debate ultimately boils down to how source-code is displayed in editing software. The reason people get angry is because the code doesn’t display nicely if the same method isn’t used throughout the file. This can get especially tricky when multiple people are working on the same project. The debate has gone on for so long that coders are now referred to as “tab people or “space people.” It was even referenced… Continue reading

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Parasitic Wasps Genetically Enslave Butterflies

It’s official: Parasitic wasps are the slave drivers of the insect kingdom. But if you’re thinking whips and chains, you’re not giving evolution nearly enough credit. Wasps enslave with biological warfare, genetically programming caterpillars to be the perfect hosts.

Tens of thousands of parasitic wasp species, called braconids, lay their eggs inside the caterpillars of virtually all lepidopterans, the insect order that includes moths and butterflies. It’s the textbook example of a host-parasite relationship. And it’s a partnership that runs far deeper than we imagined, according to a study published today in PLOS Genetics.

Analyzing the genomes of… Continue reading

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There’s Too Much Gender Variation for Our Brains to (Easily) Deal With 

We think in binaries: plant/animal, day/night, edible/disgusting, safe/dangerous. Breaking the world into discrete chunks helps us make rapid decisions about how to behave, but can also make us uneasy when we’re faced with things that don’t easily fit into one of our mental boxes.

In a new article at Nautilus, Stanford neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky explains how human gender can vary from the male/female binary, and why our brains are at a loss to intuitively make sense of the differences.

The biological processes that determine gender in mammals–including humans–are actually complex and multi-layered, and work in waves during… Continue reading

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