November 30, 2012

Ice Found On Mercury’s Polar Crater Rims – The Daily Orbit

MegaUpload, minor impact?

What isn’t adding up for U.S. college students…

And no money, no babies?

All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit.  I’m Emerald Robinson.

Mercury is hot, but apparently not so hot that it doesn’t have ice. Researchers from UCLA have identified water ice and organic material on Mercury using data taken by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft. Although the closest planet to the sun, Mercury has areas cold enough to freeze and preserve water ice for billions of years. These “natural freezers” exist within shadowed areas of polar-crater rims that never receive direct sunlight due to the low angle of the sun at such high latitudes. Scientists say Mercury is the least explored planet, and its surface exhibits the most extreme range of temperatures of any known body in our solar system. For the water ice and black organic layers to remain exposed on the surface, scientists believe the deposits must have formed recently in Mercury’s geological history. They say that understanding the origin of the material is essential to finding out about the potential habitability of planetary systems around other stars.

And piracy might actually pay off for studios. A new study looked at the now-forced-to-shut-down site and the effects it had on big films in a report entitled “Piracy and Movie Revenues: Evidence from MegaUpload.” The researchers looked at weekly data from more than 1,300 movies in 49 countries spanning from mid-2007 to mid-2012, the periods slightly before and slightly after MegaUpload was forced out-of-business. Researchers say that sites which allow users to upload and download movies at no cost have little effect on large movie franchises, and may actually help them! The report shows that the social aspect of file sharing may be good for Hollywood, and the information-sharing aspect of piracy could be a good thing for smaller movies who may not have such a large advertising budget. Now I don’t feel so bad….I mean not that I would ever do that anyway.

And 1 plus 1 =  math is not fun. Well that’s obviously how American college students feel because a new study indicates that they suck at math. Researchers presented a group of U.S. college students with different math formulas and situations. For example, students were shown a number line from -2 to 2 and asked to draw a line marking the approximate location of two numbers: -0.7 and 13/8. And the percentage who answered correctly: 21%. Even when they did answer correctly, they couldn’t explain how they arrived at the answer. The researchers say that these findings suggest that U.S. students rely mostly on memorization for doing math and that they lack the “conceptual understanding” that students in other countries exhibit. I bet if they’d ask them to add up how many times Lindsay Lohan had been to jail, they would have gotten that right. They were just asking the wrong math questions!

Here’s a question. What effect does light pollution have on wildlife? Well a new study is shedding some light on how the bright lights affect the foraging habits of a particular species of bird. Satellite images show that every continent but Antarctica is adorned with a halo from the brightly lit human development that rapidly develops at the coasts. Researchers looked at the common redshank bird to see their response to the light pollution. Typically these birds need to forage day and night to find enough food… with daylight allowing for easier foraging.  The study found that the artificial light is allowing them to forage more efficiently and for longer periods at night, actually helping this particular bird. Scientists say these findings are not typical as other studies have found adverse effects of light pollution on wildlife. Well, at least one little bird is making the best of it!

Besides dodging the mall and eating out less, what else are people avoiding in the midst of the recession? Making babies! A new study found that from 2007 to 2010, the overall birth rate dropped by 9%. The preliminary 2011 overall birth rate was the lowest level since 1920.  And what group saw the biggest decline? That would be Latino women. Researchers explained that Hispanics were hit the hardest by a loss of wealth and jobs, leading to an increase in poverty. Researchers say this drop in birth rate could be bad news for Medicare and Social Security, with fewer workers to replace baby boomers who will be leaving the work force and relying on the social-insurance programs. Researchers say “a low birth rate could be a recipe for mass poverty and isolation.” So in summary, go make babies…just kidding…just kidding…(wink, wink)

And that’s it for the Daily Orbit! Have a great weekend!

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