News for Nerds - October 26, 2012

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 10/26/2012 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - October 26, 2012

Welcome back to News for Nerds. This week we take a look at an unusual space shuttle journey, we get important lessons from James Tiberius Kirk, and we give you a good reason to fire up the stovetop. But first: bling bling!

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You know how the old saying goes -- planets are a girl’s best friend.

A research team comprised of American and French scientists has discovered a planet which is likely covered in graphite and diamond.

The planet is called 55 Cancri e, and it orbits a star that is close enough to be visible to the naked eye. 55 Cancri e has a radius that is twice the size of Earth, and a mass more than eight times greater. It’s also very hot -- surface temperatures can reach 3,900 degrees -- and moving very fast -- a year there lasts just 18 hours.

Diamond planets have been spotted before, but this is the first time we’ve found one that orbits a sun-like star. Says one Princeton astronomer involved with the finding, this is “likely just one example of the rich sets of discoveries that await us as we begin to explore planets around nearby stars.”

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Speaking of distant space, the shuttle Endeavour, which is among the most accomplished NASA vehicles of all time, made one final journey earlier this month. But this time it wasn’t gliding across the cosmos. It was hitching a ride aboard a jumbo jet taxi, bound for its final home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

The customized 747 transported Endeavour from the Bay area to Orange County to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), along the way giving millions of people an opportunity to get a glimpse of a pretty singular sight.

Here's a very cool time-lapse video that shows how the shuttle was 'mated' with the airplane. Impressive.

A few fun facts about Endeavour: it was named after the first ship commanded by 18th century British explorer James Cook; it spent a total of 299 days in space, and orbited Earth roughly 4,700 times (racking up 123 million miles on the odometer); and it transported the very first African-American woman into space.

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There are a lot of things that contribute to the human species' superior brainpower: sleep and evolution, among others.

Well, you can another item to that list. Cooked food.

A recent study shows that raw food doesn't cut it when it comes to boosting a species' brainpower. In fact, humans would have to spend 9 hours a day doing nothing but eating in order to get enough energy to power our large brains. And that's just to support the brain -- it doesn't even account for the energy you'd need to knock out that P90X workout you've been promising to get to.

Humans have more brain neurons than any other primate -- roughly 86 billion on average, which is more than twice as many as gorillas and more than three times as many as chimps. And while that's a good thing, it also comes with a cost, in the form of energy consumption. Our brains consume 20 percent of our body's energy supply when resting.

Since the 1990s, it's been widely accepted that our brains really kicked into overdrive between 1.6 million and 1.8 million years ago. No one knew exactly why, but at least one man, a Harvard primatologist named Richard Wrangham, proposed that it was because this was the time when our ancestors learned how to roast meat and vegetables.

This latest study seems to confirm that belief. Read the full story for the full details, then make plans to grill up some stir-fry for dinner.

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And finally, I bring you five leadership lessons from Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the most successful starship ever to be cancelled prematurely from network TV.

The list comes courtesy of Forbes writer Alex Knapp:

  1. Never Stop Learning -- Once you've experienced the love of a green-skinned alien, take that knowledge and build on it.
  2. Have Advisors with Different Worldviews -- Lincoln's team of rivals gets a lot of praise, but did Honest Abe have a vulcan in his cabinet?
  3. Be Part of the Away Team -- Don't be afraid to beam yourself down to a dangerous planet. Just make sure and bring an anonymous crew member in a red shirt to take the fall for you.
  4. Play Poker, Not Chess --Know your opponent, play the odds. Taking a risk -- like, say, booking a cheap hotel on Priceline -- is sometimes the most prudent option.
  5. Blow Up the Enterprise -- Change what isn't working and embark on a new path... even if that means literally blowing up your own spaceship, or merely singing when you don't have the talent for it.

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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