Friday, March 13, 2020

By analyzing a fossilized mollusk shell, scientists have been able to determine that some 70 million years ago, an Earth day lasted for 23.5 hours

Back then, there were 372 days to a year, instead of 365, researchers say in a new study. To reach that conclusion, they analyzed a shell that contains growth rings – just like the annual growth rings in trees, only that these mollusks produce growth rings on a daily basis. The researchers were able to match the daily rings to the Earth’s seasons and also determined that the mollusk lived for nine years. That’s how they were able to conclude that for every four seasons, the mollusk produced 372 growth rings. Although the length of a year has been steady through time, it has long been known that days are becoming longer due to the moon’s gravitational pull. (Science Alert)


The United States has one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world

The gap between 18- to 29-year-olds and those over 60, a common measuring stick, is more than twice as large here than it is in comparable democracies, like Canada and Germany. And early evidence from the 2020 presidential race suggests that isn’t going to change this year. Youth turnout in the first states to hold primaries and caucuses has ranged from 10% in Alabama to 24% in Iowa. Fewer than 1 in 5 young people cast ballots in all Super Tuesday states. Compared to primaries and caucuses in the past, fewer young people are voting in 2020, while older citizens are voting at higher rates. Overall, the share of Americans who vote appears to be rising. Recent research indicates that these patterns have fundamentally shaped the nomination process. Many people argue that younger Americans fail to vote because they are apathetic about politics. Even claiming that millennials (people between the ages of 24 and 39) are generally too cynical, too disinterested and too self-absorbed to cast a ballot. Though young people who intend to vote are much more likely than people over 30 to be derailed by obstacles. In interviews with dozens of young people, it was found that many of them lacked confidence in themselves and their ability to navigate the voting process for the first time. Many told us that in their busy, hectic, and ever-changing schedules, voting often simply falls by the wayside. Many young people want to participate, care about what happens in the political arena, and plan to participate. But they find doing so too big of a hassle to actually follow through on their good intentions. (The Conversation)


Newborn babies weigh less today

The decline in U.S. birth weight has been somewhat of a puzzle for public health researchers. Between 1990 and 2017, average birth weight declined from 7.36 pounds to 7.19 pounds. There was some speculation about what might explain the decline in birth weight. Some thought it might be the fact that the average U.S. mother is now older. Other research suggested that the decline in average length of pregnancies might play a role. Researchers used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Systems data to examine single U.S. births between 1990 and 2013. The study revealed the rate of cesarean deliveries increased from 25% to 31% and that labor induction increased from 12% to 29%. The data show that physicians are intervening more in births than they did in years past, most frequently between weeks 37 and 39 of pregnancy. Weeks 37 to 38 are typically considered “early full term,” while weeks 39 and 40 are considered full term. Research shows that there are substantive differences in the weight of infants born between 37 and 41 weeks. So interventions are increasingly occurring at a key time in gestation, when a substantial amount of fetal growth occurs. (Springer Link)


Service workers get brunt of virus

As more companies tell workers to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak, service workers from retail to restaurants remain on the frontlines, often lacking paid sick leave, good health benefits, and an ability to work from home. Around 33 million American workers are without sick leave. A similar problem faces those who cannot work from home. Although some companies have improved sick leave and work-from-home policies, millions are left with few options. (The Wall Street Journal)


Company will pay you $4,500 to be infected with coronavirus

As researchers race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, volunteers could be paid a large sum of money to help with the process. A company in London is paying people approximately $4,500 to be infected with the new coronavirus. The Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre is recruiting 24 people to be injected with weaker strains of the virus, which has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide. Patients with the respiratory symptoms will remain under quarantine for two weeks. Despite many efforts from scientists across the world, experts have said its unlikely a vaccine will be approved in time to stop it from spreading. More than 115,000 people have contracted the virus globally. (Daily Mail)


This is the tiniest dinosaur in history

Inside a tiny piece of amber from Myanmar (about 99 million years old) is the skull of what a team of scientists say is the smallest known bird and, therefore, dinosaur, ever discovered. The creature has more teeth in its mouth than any other known bird species, suggesting it was a predator that hunted other creatures, and raising questions about bird evolution. But the discovery isn’t without controversy. A growing number of scientists want to boycott research involving amber from Myanmar over the Rohingya genocide and the sourcing of the stone from mines in conflict zones. (The New York Times)


US restricts travel from Europe

The U.S. will suspend travel from 26 European countries for 30 days starting today in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic. The ban applies to foreigners but exempts American citizens, permanent residents and their families. EU Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the move in a joint statement. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory for Americans to “reconsider travel” to all countries. The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The designation means the virus has spread globally, but the leader of the health organization said countries can still turn the tide. More than 124,000 people around the world have been sick due to the virus and there have been more than 4,600 deaths. (CNBC)


The National Basketball Association announced that it is suspending its season

That decision came after a Utah Jazz player (identified by multiple media outlets as All-Star center Rudy Gobert) tested positive for COVID-19. The NCAA announced Wednesday (3/11) that they intend to ban college basketball fans from attending the upcoming men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments. Only essential staff and “limited family attendance” will be permitted at any of the March Madness games. The decision is sweeping and unprecedented. This year, 68 teams are playing in the men’s tournament in 14 cities from coast-to-coast. The tournament begins on March 17 and wraps up April 6 in Atlanta, Ga. The women’s tournament will have 64 teams and starts March 20 and the national championship is April 5 in New Orleans. (NPR)


Chelsea Manning Attempted Suicide In Jail

Imprisoned Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning is recovering in a hospital after attempting to kill herself Wednesday. The revelation comes two days before Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, is scheduled to appear before a judge ruling on a motion to terminate the sanctions she’s facing for refusing to testify in an investigation into WikiLeaks. Manning, who was held in a military prison from 2010 to 2017 for leaking classified information about the Iraq and Afghan wars to WikiLeaks, has been held in custody for the past year for refusing to testify before a grand jury about the WikiLeaks site, saying she thought the judicial process did not have enough transparency. (Huffington Post)


Deer spotted wearing hunter’s orange vest

When you think of blaze orange vests, you probably think of hunters. But there’s a deer in the Mishawaka, Indianna area rocking that same look. The video posted shows the deer and his bright orange vest snacking in the woods with some other deer. The Department of Natural Resources spokesperson said that’s probably how the deer got his fashionable look, someone adopted a fawn as a pet. “Obviously a deer grows at a pretty rapid rate, so within the scope of about six to nine months, the deer will become so large that it’s unmanageable,” he said. When that happens, people usually release their now-massive pet back into the wild. He thinks this deer’s human family hoped to make him more visible. The DNR said it located the deer’s previous owner and that person will remove the vest from the animal sometime next week. They seemingly did it to protect the deer from getting shot, but the problem is the deer will grow around the vest, eventually becoming crippled. (WSBT)


Astronomers discover ‘teardrop’ star

Amateur astronomers were the first to spot a unique star that’s never been seen before. The astronomers spotted “HD74423” in data that was collected by NASA’s space satellite Tess. The star is about roughly 1,500 light years away from Earth. HD74423 is a “chemically peculiar star” that’s metal poor, according to a researcher from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney. The star is nearly twice the mass of our sun and is pulsating on one side, which gives it that teardrop shape. (University of Sydney)


There’s plenty of toilet paper in the US – so why are people hoarding it?

The new coronavirus is inspiring panic buying of a variety of household products such as toilet paper in cities across the U.S. and world. While it makes sense to some that masks and hand sanitizer would be in short supply because of the outbreak, experts are confused as why people would be hoarding toilet paper, a product that is widely produced and doesn’t help protect from a respiratory virus like COVID-19. Toilet paper is becoming so valuable there’s even been at least one armed robbery. This wouldn’t be the first panic over toilet paper. In 1973, U.S. consumers cleared store shelves of the rolls for a month based on little more than rumors, fears and a joke from then late night talk show host, Johnny Carson. Some interesting facts about Toilet Paper include:

  • The average person in the U.S. uses about 100 rolls of toilet paper each year. If most of it came from China, this could be a huge problem because supply chains from that country have been severely disrupted as a result of COVID-19.
  • The U.S. imports very little toilet paper – less than 10% in 2017. And most of that comes from Canada and Mexico.
  • The U.S. has been mass producing toilet paper since the late 1800s. And while other industries like shoe manufacturing have fled the country, toilet paper manufacturing has not. Today there are almost 150 U.S. companies making this product.

(The Conversation)


Major Sports Leagues Postponing

  • Major League Soccer is shutting Down for 30 Days Due to Coronavirus, delaying the home opener for the expansion team co-owned by former England captain David Beckham. “Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season — based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Agency of Canada and other public health authorities,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. In addition, the U.S. Soccer Federation canceled exhibitions in March and April for its men’s and women’s national teams as a precaution. (US News)


  • The National Hockey League has become the latest North American sports league to shut down following a call with its board of governors on Thursday, the league suspended its season in the wake of the ongoing spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). “In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games,” said league commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement. “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy.” Teams on the road have been told to return to their home bases. (Forbes)


  • PGA Tour to carry on without spectators for the next month. Commissioner Jay Monahan said that fans will not be allowed at the final three days of The Players Championship or three other tournaments (one in Florida, two in Texas) leading up to the Masters. Even as other leagues were canceling tournaments and events for a month or more, Monahan leaned on golf not being a contact sport and being played outdoors across sprawling acreage as a reason not to shut down entirely. “Our players are making their way over 400 acres,” Monahan said. “Because of the nature of that … and over the course of a round our players generally do socially distance themselves, we felt like by taking this step to address the problem with our fans, we’re in a position where we can continue to operate the events as of right now. We’re comfortable having our players continue to play at this time.” (Baltimore Sun)


  • The NCAA Tournament has been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Several leagues on Thursday (3/12) cancelled their conference tournaments, including the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Big 12. The NBA suspended its play Wednesday (3/11) after a player tested positive. The annual March Madness event was scheduled to tip off with First Four games Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, and run through the Final Four in Atlanta on April 4 and 6. The cancellation likely will cause major financial ramifications in several site cities expected to host the tournament. (NCAA Twitter)


  • Major League Baseball is delaying the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic. MLB had been scheduled to open its season March 26, with all 30 teams in action. Players had been awaiting a decision. Multiple teams had already pulled scouts off the road and sent them home because of coronavirus concerns. Others have canceled all travel. The major leagues have not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a 7½-month strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening Day was pushed back from April 2 to April 26. (ESPN)


  • NASCAR says it will hold its next two race weekends without fans in attendance but is still planning to contest the events amid numerous cancellations throughout the sports world over the coronavirus. Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the March 22 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway are among the events that will be “restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race”, according to a statement. (NASCAR)

Friday (The 13th) Shrieks In With:

  • Blame Someone Else Day (First Friday the 13th of the Year)
  • Donald Duck Day
  • Earmuffs Day
  • Good Samaritan Involvement Day
  • Itra-Uterine Growth Awareness Restriction (IUGAR) Day
  • K-9 Veterans Day
  • Ken Day (Doll)
  • L. Ron Hubbard Day
  • National Open An Umbrella Indoors Day
  • Smart & Sexy Day
  • World Sleep Day (Friday of 2nd Full Week)

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