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Be Smart: A Partial Eclipse Can Fry Your Naked Eyes

Enlarge this image Left: A partial solar eclipse, as viewed from the Cotswolds, United Kingdom, March 2015. Right: A total solar eclipse, as viewed from Longyearbyen, Norway, March 2015. Tim Graham/Getty Images/Haakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Tim Graham/Getty Images/Haakon Mosvold Larsen/AFP/Getty Images The day of the long-awaited coast-to-coast solar eclipse has all but arrived — and if history is any guide, it’s likely that somebody’s eyes are going to get hurt. “The ones we’re really concerned about are the people who have never seen an eclipse before…

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Is AI More Threatening Than North Korean Missiles?

Enlarge this image In this April 30, 2015, file photo, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk unveils the company’s newest products, in Hawthorne, Calif. Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP hide caption toggle caption Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP One of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s companies, the nonprofit start-up OpenAI, manufactures a device that last week was victorious in defeating some of the world’s top gamers in an international video game (e-sport) tournament with a multi-million-dollar pot of prize money. We’re getting very good, it seems, at making machines that can outplay us at our favorite…

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A First Look: Inside The Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA In Human Embryos

Enlarge this image This sequence of images shows the development of embryos formed after eggs were injected with both CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, and sperm from a donor with a genetic mutation known to cause cardiomyopathy. OHSU hide caption toggle caption OHSU From the thirteenth floor of a glass tower at the Oregon Health & Science University, you get a panoramic view of downtown Portland and the majestic mountains in the distance. But it’s what’s happening inside the building that’s brought me here. “Should we go do this thing?” lab…

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California Prepares For An Eclipse Of Its Solar Power

Enlarge this image Solar cells sit in the sun at the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in Desert Center, Calif. The people who run California’s electric grid expect the solar power output to be cut roughly in half during the eclipse. Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images Spectators around the country are gearing up, eclipse glasses at the ready, for the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. But another group — perhaps more anxious than eager — is preparing as well: the…

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Will The Eclipse Make Crops And Animals Flip Out? Scientists Ask (Really)

Enlarge this image During the day on Aug. 21, large swaths of farmland will be plunged into darkness and temperatures will drop about 10 degrees. Scientists are waiting to see how crops and animals will react. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images On Aug. 21, a 70 mile-wide ribbon from Oregon to South Carolina called the “path of totality” will experience a total solar eclipse. Large swaths of farmland in the Great Plains and Midwest will be plunged into darkness for two and a half minutes…

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Bears Can Face Summer Challenges In Roadside Zoos

Enlarge this image Getty Images/iStockphoto All this summer, bears have been on my mind. Last month, Undark Magazine published an essay I wrote about the time I thought I was a bear. It happened one long night four years ago, immediately following extensive surgery for cancer, a night that preceded months to come of chemotherapy and radiation. Hooked up to a catheter, I felt an unexpected and profound sense of connection with bears I had been reading about for my work: the “bile bears” in Asia so cruelly confined, sometimes…

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Chemists Say You Should Add A Little Water To Your Whiskey. Here’s Why

Enlarge this image Single malt Scotch whisky produced at the Auchentoshan Distillery near Glasgow, Scotland. Andy Buchanan /AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Andy Buchanan /AFP/Getty Images It’s a common refrain from whiskey enthusiasts: Add a few drops of water to a glass to open up the flavors of the drink. For example, hard-liquor expert Alice Lascelles said in a demonstration for the Sunday Times that “if you’re tasting with a master blender, they will always add some water at some stage.” But the science behind this claim has been…

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Rituals To Sprinkle A Little Magic Into Your Eclipse Experience

Enlarge this image There are dozens of different eclipse rituals someone can perform, such as taking a ritual bath, but astrologer Sarolta DeFaltay says the most important aspect of any given ritual is that it’s personal to the one performing it. Clive Mason/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Clive Mason/Getty Images During the full moon in my small border town in Arizona, my mom and I would pack into her car, drive up towards the mountains, and hike to a boulder she called Full Moon Rock. We’d set out jars…

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Make Your Own Eclipse Viewer

[embedded content] NPR’s Skunk Bear YouTube Hundreds of years before solar viewing glasses were readily available, scientists and casual spectators could still enjoy these rare celestial events without frying their eyeballs. They’d use a combination of pinholes and mirrors to redirect the sun’s rays onto a screen. Enlarge this image An 18th century engraving depicts a camera obscura. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Bettmann Archive/Getty Images It took a while to figure out how to build the so-called camera obscura. Ancient Chinese and Greek scholars puzzled over pinholes…

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Probiotic Bacteria Could Protect Newborns From Deadly Infection

Enlarge this image Matt Twombly for NPR If you’re in desperate need for some good news, look no further. Scientists in the U.S. and India have found an inexpensive treatment that could possibly save hundreds of thousands of newborns each year. And it turns out, the secret weapon was sitting in Asian kitchens all along: probiotic bacteria that are common in kimchi, pickles and other fermented vegetables. Feeding babies the microbes dramatically reduces the risk newborns will develop sepsis, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature. Sepsis is the top…

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