This Unusual Bird Superpower Goes Back to the Dinosaur Extinction

The ibis and the kiwi are dogged diggers, probing in sand and soil for worms and other buried prey. Sandpipers, too, can be seen along the shore excavating small creatures with their beaks. It was long thought that these birds were using trial and error to find their prey.

But then scientists discovered something far more peculiar: Their beaks are threaded with cells that can detect vibrations traveling through the ground. Some birds can feel the movements of their distant quarry directly, while others pick up on waves bouncing off buried shells — echolocating like a dolphin or a bat, in essence, through the earth.

There’s one more odd detail in this story of birds’ unusual senses: Ostriches and emus, birds that most definitely do not hunt this way, have beaks with a similar interior structure. They are honeycombed with pits for these cells, though the cells themselves are missing.

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‘For All Mankind’ patches depict space history changes in Apple TV+ series’ season 2

A new set of mission patches hints at how space history will change in the second season of “For All Mankind.”

Icon Heroes, a pop culture collectibles company, has begun selling embroidered patches styled after the designs that will be seen in the next installment of “For All Mankind.” The alternate history series is set to return to the Apple TV+ streaming service with the first of 10 new episodes on Feb. 19, 2021.

“As a bonus, each collectible tin is personally autographed from series creator and writer Ronald D. Moore!” Icon Heroes announced Thursday (Dec. 3). The officially licensed patches are limited to 100 sets for $100 each.

Related: Astronaut-led video tour reveals details in ‘For All Mankind’ moon base

Icon Heroes' new "For All Mankind" Season 2 patch limited edition set includes 19 embroidered emblems from the next 10 episodes of the Apple TV+ alternate space history series.

Icon Heroes’ new “For All Mankind” Season 2 patch limited edition set includes 19 embroidered emblems from the next 10 episodes of the Apple TV+ alternate space
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Rocket Report: Billionaire backs Scottish spaceport, Relativity bags a bundle

Images of Electron rocket.
Enlarge / Rocket Lab’s Catch of the Day recovery vessel nears the Electron rocket’s first stage.

Welcome to Edition 3.24 of the Rocket Report! It’s December, and we could see a number of big smallsat launches this month, including from Virgin Orbit and Astra. But in the immediate future, our eyes are on South Texas, where a Starship prototype is due to make a high leap early next week.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Aevum unveils its Ravn X launch system. Until now, Aevum has largely operated in the background. But now, it’s ready to show off

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China turns on nuclear-powered ‘artificial sun’

The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China's largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device and can reach tempera
The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius

China successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time, state media reported Friday, marking a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities.


The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device, and scientists hope that the device can potentially unlock a powerful clean energy source.

It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius, according to the People’s Daily—approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun.

Located in southwestern Sichuan province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an “artificial sun” on account of the enormous heat and power it produces.

“The development of nuclear fusion

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Readers ask about life on Venus and high-energy cosmic rays

Venusian recollection

Phosphine gas detected in the clouds of Venus could be a sign of life or some strange unknown chemistry, Lisa Grossman reported in “Possible sign of life is found on Venus” (SN: 10/10/20 & 10/24/20, p. 6).

The story brought back memories for reader Bruce Hapke, a professor of planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh.

“In 1975, my colleague Robert M. Nelson and I published the first high-quality, broadband spectrum of the clouds of Venus … which we obtained using the 106-inch telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas,” Hapke wrote. “This spectrum turned out to be identical to that of a form of elemental sulfur, and we suggested that tiny particles of sulfur in the clouds are responsible for their yellowish color. The sulfur comes from volcanic eruptions.”

By then, “Russia had launched several unmanned spacecraft that had successfully landed on the surface of

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Jupiter and Saturn will come close enough to form first ‘double planet’ visible in nearly 800 years

In the complex dance of the solar system, two celestial bodies about to partner up.



a star filled sky with Gallery Arcturus in the background: Jupiter and Saturn have been appearing increasingly closer in the night sky, and they will appear to overlap as a “double planet” on Dec. 21.


Jupiter and Saturn have been appearing increasingly closer in the night sky, and they will appear to overlap as a “double planet” on Dec. 21.

Jupiter and Saturn often look far apart — two separate specks puncturing different parts of the night sky. But later this month, the two largest planets in the solar system will come so close to each other that they may appear to be overlapping, according to NASA, creating a kind of “double planet” that has not been visible since the Middle Ages.

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Skywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in December

The once-in-a-lifetime sight is the product of an astronomical event known as a “conjunction,” in which two objects line up with each other in the sky. When it involves Jupiter and Saturn catching up to each other, it’s

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For the Second Time Ever, an Asteroid Sample Returns to Earth

Early on Sunday morning, the skies above a secluded military complex in central Australia will be brightened by a fireball plummeting to Earth. It will be a flamboyant homecoming for the sample return capsule from Hayabusa2, a Japanese spacecraft launched almost exactly six years ago on a mission to shoot an ancient asteroid and steal some of its dirt. If the capsule survives its fiery descent, its payload of pristine space rock will help scientists understand the earliest days of our solar system, shed light on the mysterious origins of meteorites, and may even provide clues about the emergence of life on Earth.

By the time it lands under parachute in the Australian outback, the sample will have traveled more than 180 million miles from Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. Scientists believe that Ryugu broke off from a larger parent body only a few

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Global soils underpin life but future looks ‘bleak’, warns UN report

Global soils are the source of all life on land but their future looks “bleak” without action to halt degradation, according to the authors of a UN report.



a truck traveling down a dirt road: Photograph: Zsolt Czeglédi/EPA


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Zsolt Czeglédi/EPA

A quarter of all the animal species on Earth live beneath our feet and provide the nutrients for all food. Soils also store as much carbon as all plants above ground and are therefore critical in tackling the climate emergency. But there also are major gaps in knowledge, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report, which is the first on the global state of biodiversity in soils.

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The report was compiled by 300 scientists, who describe the worsening state of soils as at least as important as the climate crisis and destruction of the natural world above ground. Crucially, it takes thousands of years for soils to form, meaning

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A Window Into The Future Of Work

Upwork, the globe’s largest remote talent platform, posts three million jobs and transacts $1 billion of work each year. It recently released Freelance Forward 2020: The U.S. Independent Workforce Reportbased on insights from 6,000 U.S. workers about the impact of COVID-19. It shows that 12% of the workforce started freelancing during the pandemic for the first time.

All up, 59 million people are freelancing – that’s more than a third of our total workforce. Some 36% of them freelance full time, which is eight percent up on last year. For those who left a job to freelance, only a quarter are making less income than previously. Half of freelancers are highly skilled, offering services such as in computer programming, marketing, IT and business consulting, etc. And it’s not just Millennials who freelance. Half

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Tapping overlooked marketing data to drive business growth

marketing
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers from University of Houston, Columbia University, Emory University, and University of Connecticut published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that reviews factors that contribute to the disconnect between the data companies create and the productive use of that data.


The study, forthcoming in the the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Capturing Marketing Information to Fuel Growth” and is authored by Rex Du, Oded Netzer, David Schweidel, and Debanjan Mitra.

Digital home assistants and wearables have become more popular than ever, collecting detailed information from consumers. In addition to the data explosion, the public offerings of Palantir and Snowflake highlight the rise of companies focused on big data analytics. Yet, despite enterprise leaders’ and researchers’ optimism in the potential that data holds, there is still a disconnect between the volume of data created and the ability of organizations to harness that potential to

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