Name the biggest extinction event in history. Done? There’s a good chance you rattled off something in the vein of, “Uhhh…asteroid, ice age, one of those.” But according to scientists, you’re waaaaay off.
What caused the biggest die-off in Earth’s history wasn’t a celestial missile, or the frosty weather shift that followed, but something far more innocuous by today’s standards. Something we can’t live without, actually: oxygen.
A boon to evolutionary science, geologists have discovered what they believe to be the moment that photosynthesis broke onto the scene among cyanobacteria, freeing oxygen from water molecules and essentially poisoning the anaerobic microorganisms that made up Earth’s population before then. The advent of “air,” as we know it, would eradicate many living groups on a microscopic scale before advanced life crawled from the goo.
You can read more here about how scientists used South African rock samples to support their exciting theory. At billions of years in the making, it’s a fascinating story. —MN
Inky cap mushrooms are popular items in the Tumblr rounds lately, and not without reason. They look like something out of a stop-motion Tim Burton fairytale. But what first strikes as fancy is a very real phenomenon; the “ink” produced by coprinoid mushrooms is in fact the liquefaction of the gills. They begin white, then turn black, sometimes oozing down as a means of distributing spores more effectively.
Rumor has it that this ominous goo also makes a neat writing ink, but I’d stick to your ballpoint.
Better yet, some inky caps are edible. Though, again, never pick and eat wild plants or fungi—like so many others, coprinoid mushrooms are notoriously hard to differentiate, and unless you’re a renowned mycologist, you could end up noshing on a fatal dose. Even those species that are edible have the potential to land you in the emergency room, owing to a funny (not so funny) phenomenon responsible for the mushroom’s alter ego: tippler’s bane.
Scarf an inky cap on a belly full of booze and you’ll run into a full stop of miserable reactions, up to and including a heart attack in rare cases. The more you’ve imbibed or plan to drink, the worse off you’ll be. Isn’t mycology fun? —MN
I feel the need to post something incredibly cheery in order to combat this crazy dreary morning. Here’s a reminder that in just four short months (give or take) the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden will be springing back to life, full of happy bees and happy New Yorkers! (at Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden At The New York Botanical Garden) ~AR
From Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012, one of 14 photos. Grand-Prize Winner: The Explosion! The subject’s name is Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand. I had taken many portraits of Busaba previously and it was becoming more and more difficult to come up with an image that appeared any different to the others. Which is why I took to observing her more carefully during my visits in the hope of capturing something of a behavioral shot. The opportunity finally presented itself while watching Busaba enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. In all humility I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favorably on me that day! (© Ashley Vincent/National Geographic Photo Contest)
Nate Silver has brought his trademark data analysis to the newfound gun control discussion today, breaking down what gun ownership in this country looks like numerically. Using data from a 2008 national exit poll—the question was not included, he explains, on 2012 exit polls—some of the details in his chart will likely strike you as obvious: for instance, that Republicans own more guns than Democrats and that there are far more guns in rural areas. What might be more interesting, as Silver points out, is that gun ownership is not necessarily tied to being religiously devout, despite Presdident Obama’s 2008 suggestion about communities that “cling to guns or religion.” Also, the chart reveals that gun ownership is “highest among the middle class,” as Silver writes, with people making $50,000 to $100,000 per year more likely to own guns than their counterparts in other wage groups.
One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You’ll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, is going to change the world.
One of the clearest regional differences in the U.S. can found by tracking the words people use to refer to soft drinks, which is in fact the map you saw at the top of this story. Pop or soda, or even Coke, these small linguistic differences are not as small as we might think. While “soda” commands the Northeast and West Coast (green) and “pop” is in between (black), “Coke” reigns in the south (turquoise). These small distinctions can often act as touchstones for larger cultural differences.
Read more. [Image: Samuel Arbesman]