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Science!
August 28, 2014

Yale astronomers have at last gotten a first look at the formation of "the universe's monster galaxies," Phys.org reports, and the results are fascinating.

The research, which used data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, was published Wednesday in the journal Nature. It marks the first time astronomers have seen the earliest stages of a massive galaxy's formation.

The Keck II telescope's Near Infrared Spectograph allowed the astronomers to watch the galaxy — officially called GOODS-N-774 but nicknamed "Sparky" — produce massive amounts of stars. Witnessing this formation gave them new insight into how ancient galaxies may have formed 11 billion years ago — only 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

The scientists found that Sparky's formation is unique to the early universe that it developed in: its rapid gas movement was often violent, and it produced as many as 300 stars per year — an astounding amount of stars, especially considering its relatively tiny size (it measured roughly 6,000 light-years across). The Milky Way, by contrast, only produces roughly 10 stars annually, but spans 100,000 light-years.

"I think our discovery settles the question of whether this mode of building galaxies actually happened or not," said Pieter van Dokkum, one of the Yale astronomers. "The question now is, 'How often did this occur?' We suspect there are other galaxies like this that are even fainter in near-infrared wavelengths. We had been searching for this galaxy for years, and it's very exciting that we finally found it." --Meghan DeMaria

General Lee
11:31 a.m. ET
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

You can't erase history, but maybe you can paint it over? Golf champ Bubba Watson announced on Thursday that he'll swap the Confederate flag atop his General Lee, the iconic car from the TV show Dukes of Hazzard, for an American one. In 2012, he purchased the car used in the first episode of the TV show.

Watson's tweet comes on the heels of TV Land's announcement that it would stop airing Dukes of Hazzard reruns because of the prominence of the flag in the show. After the murders at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina — allegedly by Dylann Roof, who has a history of white supremacy — the Confederate flag has been increasingly shunned. Nico Lauricella

Awkward
10:49 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Per the calculations of economist Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute, the Obama White House maintains a 15.8 percent wage gap, with women earning 84.2 cents for every dollar male staffers take home. Perry used the White House's self-reported salary data to tabulate this gap, which marks a slight decrease compared to last year's 17.9 percent. Still, it translates to an average of $12,350 less for female employees each year.

Perry argues that the disparity can be explained either by alleging the president participates in the wage discrimination he has so often decried — or by admitting that other factors, like "age, years of continuous work experience, education, differences in positions, hours worked, marital status, number of children, workplace environment and safety, industry differences, etc." may tend to give women lower average salaries than men.

A number of recent surveys have found that many women value flexible schedules and work-life balance more than high salaries, and women are also more likely to take significant time off work or even turn down promotions for child-rearing activities. Women gravitate toward low-paying college majors as well, while men dominate the more remunerative hard sciences. Bonnie Kristian

survey says
10:24 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that fully one third of likely voters say states should be able to ignore federal court decisions. A bare majority — 52 percent — disagrees, with 15 percent undecided. As recently as February, fewer than a quarter of likely voters said states should be able to disregard federal courts.

Not surprisingly — given conservative uproar over the recent Supreme Court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage and the president's health care program — Republicans were significantly more likely than average to endorse state overrides, offering 50 percent support. However, defiance of Washington rose among Democrats and independents as well in recent months. Bonnie Kristian

jeb!
10:22 a.m. ET

For some reason, 2016 GOP candidate Jeb Bush wants you to know he likes Katy Perry better than Miley Cyrus, mustard better than ketchup, and Bud Light better than just plain old Bud.

That's from his "4th of July favorites list" posted to his YouTube channel. In it, you can watch a bewildered Bush respond decisively to all manner of pointless questions lobbed at him by staffers.

Oh, and just in case you thought that Bush was able to shake his patrician family legacy by moving to low-key Florida, he says he prefers boat shoes to flip-flops. Jeb! Nico Lauricella

dear leader
9:16 a.m. ET
Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

A North Korean biological weapons scientist has reportedly defected to Finland, taking with him 15 gigabytes of data detailing experiments on human.

The 47 year old — identified only by his surname Lee — fled a research facility near North Korea's border with China in June, The Independent reports. Citing a humans rights group, South Korean newspaper Yonhap says he plans to present his data to the EU in July. There is reason for caution, however: Neither his defection nor his planned presentation have been confirmed by European authorities.

Greg Scarlatoiun, director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, reportedly told a Finnish newspaper that the story is at least plausible.

“We have been told similar stories in the past that human experiments are carried out in prison camps,” he said, adding that the experiments in question likely involved chemical weapons testing on humans. Nico Lauricella

Terror in Tunisia
7:51 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowksi/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. officials said Thursday that Tunisia's most wanted jihadist — Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh — was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Libya last month. The strike targeted another al Qaeda leader. Ben Hassine's death, if confirmed, would mark a major success for Tunisia, which has been battling insurgents in its western border region. Last Friday militants massacred 38 people, most of them British, in an attack on a beach resort. Ben Hassine was suspected of masterminding several terrorist attacks and assassinations. Harold Maass

This just in
7:47 a.m. ET

Health insurer Aetna said Friday that it would buy smaller rival Humana for $37 billion in the insurance industry's biggest deal ever. Antitrust regulators will have to review how the acquisition would affect competition. If the deal goes through, the combined company will have about $115 billion and 33 million members, nearly as many as No. 2 carrier Anthem. The deal could be the start of a wave of consolidation that was on hold before last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding ObamaCare subsidies nationwide. Harold Maass

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