outer space
August 7, 2014

Astronomers believe that, using the Hubble Space Telescope, they have spotted a rare zombie star 110 million light years away.

When a Type Ia supernova takes place, it usually destroys the exploding white star, but in the case of the smaller and dimmer Type Iax supernova, a small portion of the dwarf star isn't obliterated, leaving behind the zombie star.

"Astronomers have been searching for decades for the star systems that produce Type Ia supernova explosions," Rutgers scientist Saurabh Jha said in a NASA statement:

Type Ia's are important because they're used to measure vast cosmic distances and the expansion of the universe.... The similarities between Type Iax's and normal Type Ia's make understanding Type Iax progenitors important, especially because no Type Ia progenitor has been conclusively identified. This discovery shows us one way that you can get a white dwarf explosion. [NASA]

The astronomers would like their findings to lead to understanding of the relationship between Type Iax and Type Ia supernovae and their star systems. Catherine Garcia

beating the drought
7:31 p.m. ET
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

In California, residential water use dropped a whopping 28.9 percent in May, the State Resource Control Board said Wednesday.

That was a major increase over the 13.6 percent water savings in April, compared to April 2013. "My first response is almost disbelief," Mark Gold of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability told the Los Angeles Times. "It is such an incredible number. These results are beyond encouraging; they're heartening. They make you realize that as a whole, people in urban areas are making the sacrifices necessary to get through this unprecedented drought."

On April 1, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) ordered a mandatory 25 percent cut in urban water use due to the drought. "The numbers tell us that more Californians are stepping up to help us make their communities more water secure, which is welcome news in the face of this dire drought," State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said in a statement. "That said, we need all Californians to step up — and keep it up — as if we don’t know when it will rain and snow again, because we don't. If the drought continues beyond this year, we'll all be glad we did." Catherine Garcia

scary
6:44 p.m. ET
Facebook.com/CapeHatterasNS

A man swimming off Ocracoke Island in North Carolina was pulled underwater by a gray shark on Wednesday and bit several times, authorities said.

The 68-year-old was in waist-deep water about 30 feet from the beach when a gray shark between 6 to 7 feet long pulled him under and bit his rib cage, hands, lower left leg, and hip, Reuters reports. The man was with his adult son, who was not injured. He was able to swim to shore, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park Service said on Facebook, and was stabilized on the beach before being flown to a hospital.

The incident follows two attacks Saturday off North Carolina's Outer Banks, and back to back attacks June 14 within two miles of each other on Oak Island. Catherine Garcia

smoke weed every day?
5:01 p.m. ET

"Smoke weed every Wednesday" could become a new mantra for members of Indiana's First Church of Cannabis, which held its first formal service today.

Indiana made waves a few months ago when it passed a controversial version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), banning state and local laws that could "substantially burden" religious freedom. Critics of RFRA were concerned it would permit discrimination against the LGBT community, using religion as justification. Though the legislation was later amended to prevent such occurrences, Bill Levin, founder and "Grand Poobah and Minister of Love," created the First Church of Cannabis as a way to test the law.

"Of course I'm going to test this law," said Levin, a religious smoker himself, in an interview with U.S. News. "We're building a church with the cornerstone of love, the way religions are supposed to be built.”

In the middle of Wednesday afternoon, when plenty of attendees apparently had time on their hands, the church held its first-ever service. The proceedings had many things a regular church-goer would expect — including a performance of "Amazing Grace", a collection, and even a sermon — though there were, of course, some eccentric flourishes (church leaders took shots of "Kool Aid" at one point).

Though there were no illegal substances permitted during the service, I think it's safe to say they were there in spirit. Read more at Mashable. Stephanie Talmadge

Guacpocalypse Now
3:36 p.m. ET

Some things in this life are unforgivable. Peas in guacamole is one of them.

Um... how about no?

Following the offending tweet from The New York Times, the internet has responded in the only way it knows how: with collective outrage.

Even the Texas GOP weighed in, calling The New York Times' suggestion a "war on Texas" (never mind that pretty much everything is a war on Texas):

Many others, however, were similarly offended.

Uh, Minnesotan grape salad instead, anyone? Jeva Lange

what's in a name
3:20 p.m. ET
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sorry, Redskins: No name change, no new stadium. The Obama administration is really putting its foot down, and plans to block Washington, D.C. authorities from building a new stadium for the city's football team because of the controversy surrounding the racist origins of its name. And because the land where city leaders and Redskins officials want to move the new stadium is the property of the National Park Service (NPS), they're in a bit of a pickle.

Right now, the team plays out in suburban Maryland, but officials have been discussing the possibility of bringing the team back into D.C. to play at the 54-year-old Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, which is two miles east of the Capitol. Officials were hoping to demolish the old stadium, where the Redskins played from 1991 to 1996, and replace it with a brand new one.

Obama has previously said that he wishes the team's name were changed, and the Patent and Trademark office has canceled the team's trademark. However, the Redskins might once again scrape by unchanged and get their stadium. While NPS explicitly said it would not support the stadium's construction, it did say that those in favor of the stadium are "nonetheless free to pursue legislation that would authorize the construction." Moreover, with Obama's limited time left in office, blocking a pass on the football stadium likely isn't a top priority. Becca Stanek

knew you were trouble
2:39 p.m. ET
Phil Inglis/Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the possibility that airlines have been colluding to keep ticket prices high, The Associated Press has learned. Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce confirmed the report, saying that the antitrust investigation seeks to uncover any "unlawful coordination" among some airlines. Although Pierce would not name the companies under investigation, some airline stocks have already begun to drop in the wake of the report.

Mergers have left American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines in control of 80 percent of the seats available in the United States, AP says. Tactics like eliminating unprofitable flights and filling higher seat percentages are allegedly used to keep the supply of tickets down, thus boosting prices. Jeva Lange

uber drama
2:32 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

Talk about some global issues. After last week's protests in Paris led to the indictment of two Uber executives in France, the ride-sharing company has already hit another roadblock — on the other side of the world.

In Brasilia, Brazil's capital, the city council voted to ban ride-sharing apps. And now Sao Paolo, the country's biggest city, is on its way to doing the same, voting 48-1 on Tuesday to prohibit its 12 million citizens from using smartphone-based ride-sharing apps. While Sao Paolo's ban still needs another vote and then approval from its mayor, and Brasilia's needs a final sign-off from its governor, Uber has remained defiant, posting on its Facebook page that the company "defends the right of users to choose the way they want to move about the city."

Uber has assumed a similarly flippant attitude in response to similar allegations in France, which a spokesperson for Uber called a "piece of pure calumny," The Wall Street Journal reports. The two Uber executives in France are facing charges including the illicit storage of personal data and the enabling of illegal taxi services. Becca Stanek

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