News for Nerds - The Shooting Star Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 8/9/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Shooting Star Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds. This week we look back at a year on Mars, we meet 'Astronaut Barbie', and we learn what getting arrested has to do with starting your own business. But first, here are your headlines.

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Make a wish and find a comfortable spot to watch the skies -- the Perseid meteor shower is coming our way, bringing with it about 70 shooting stars per hour.

The meteors take their name from their apparent origin in the constellation Perseus, which is named for a Greek mythological hero born from a shower of heavenly gold. The Perseid meteor shower appears every August, and peaks this year on August 11 and 12.

"The Perseids are the good ones," says one NASA expert. Why? Well, there are two reasons: size and speed. Tiny dust grains come from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which circles the sun once every 133 years, leaving a substantial trail of debris behind. Cruising at a cool 134,000 miles per hour, they bang straight into the Earth's upper atmosphere, producing fireballs that might streak across a third of the night sky.

If you want to see the Perseid shower, here are some tips. First, be prepared to stay up late. The best time to catch the action is between midnight and dawn. Next, get out of the city, where bright lights will obscure your view of the night sky. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to see all seven stars that comprise the Big Dipper. Also, give yourself enough time. Experts recommend allowing about one hour for your eyes to adjust. Finally, even though the meteors originate near Perseus, don't look there. Your best bet is to look about one-third of the sky down and away from the constellation, where they will be easier to pick out.

If you're still a little fuzzy on what causes meteor showers in the first place -- it's okay, they are easy to confuse with other astronomical phenomena -- here's a nice primer on the subject.

Enjoy the show!

- from USA Weekend and Geology.com

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Pop quiz: where is the safest place to live? Is it in the city, or in the country?

In general, most people believe that our nation's crime rates are going up, when in fact they have been headed consistently downward since the 1990s. Even so, surely it's safer to live in a rural area than it is to live in a metropolitan area?

Not so fast. Recent studies have shown that just the opposite is true. The risk of injury-related death, which includes violent crimes and accidents, is more than 20% higher in the countryside than it is in large urban areas. The caveat here is that the risk of homicide is greater for city-dwellers . . . but then again, the risk of dying from an unintentional injury is more than 15 times greater than that of homicide. In other words, you may be more likely to be murdered living in a highly populated area, but you're much more likely to die in a fall, or a car accident, or in some other unanticipated way regardless. And even more so if you live in the country.

A few other interesting statistics here. The risk of firearm-related death is about the same overall in cities and rural areas (though there are large variations depending on your age). Also, cars are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to kill a rural resident than guns are. As Bryan Walsh from Time points out, people drive more, longer, faster, and drunker in rural areas than they do in cities, where public transportation is available. Also, there are health benefits to living in a place where you can walk to and from destinations. New Yorkers, who live in the densest urban area in the U.S., live more than two years longer than the national average.

Of course it's worth pointing out that not all cities are equal. Chicago and Detroit are definitely riskier places to live than a place like Denver, and let's face it: there has been no shortage of crime in Gotham City over the years. There's also a quality-of-life element that some people get from living in the country, and that's not without value. You may well be happier living out in the country . . . it just doesn't mean you're any safer.

- from Time

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Here are a few other cool science stories that you might enjoy:

  • What qualities do you associate with successful entrepreneurs? Boldness? Fearlessness? Risk-taking? A disruptive mindset? Well, would it surprise you to learn that many entrepreneurs were rebellious teenagers, more prone to truancy, cheating, shoplifting, and generally ignoring their parents' rules? (Bonus credit to this story for including a great Bill Gates mugshot, circa 1977.)
  • Earlier this week, the Mars rover Curiosity celebrated its one-year anniversary on the Red Planet. In honor of all the great (and important) work that Curiosity is doing, Yahoo pulled together six of its most breathtaking photos. And that couldn't have been easy work. Since landing on Mars last August, the busybody rover has snapped more than 71,000 images!
  • And finally, forget Chatty Cathy and American Girl. There's a new doll on the block: Astronaut Barbie! Actually, she's called Mars Explorer Barbie, and according to toy-maker Mattel, she is "ready to add her signature pink splash to the Red Planet!" You go, Barbie.

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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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