It was only a matter of time.
[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]
Today, researchers at NASA pinpointed the best candidate for life elsewhere in the universe: an Earth-sized planet — Kepler-186f, orbiting a dwarf star. The star, Kepler 18, is 6,500 lightyears from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
The planet is closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, but because Kepler 186 is a smaller star, the habitable zone — where water on its surface would be liquid — is closer in.
[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]
Scientists don't yet know its composition, and so can't answer key questions like whether its surface is rocky, or whether it possesses liquid water— and, of course, the big question of whether or not it harbors any form of life.
This is likely to be the first of many. The planet was discovered using the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009 with the specific aim of seeking out extrasolar planets. Kepler has found dozens of exoplanets, most of them gaseous giants like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. Large planets — particularly ones very close to their star — are easier to identify, because of the larger gravitational and dimming effects they have on their stars' light emissions. Smaller Earth-sized planets — and particularly ones relatively further away from their star, like Earth — have smaller effects, making them harder for scientists to detect.
So this is a pretty historic day in the history of astronomy, and the history of human civilization. Whether or not the planet contains life at present, at the very least that we have detected a good candidate outside our solar system to visit, and maybe one day colonize. John Aziz
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the Republican presidential race during a Friday appearance on a conservative talk radio show. "I'm not against anyone, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz," Pence said, though he first went out of his way to commend Donald Trump for giving a voice to "the frustration of millions of Americans."
Pence's endorsement comes just four days ahead of Indiana's Tuesday primary, which is critical for Cruz to win if he wants to prevent frontrunner Donald Trump from locking up the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. Becca Stanek
With her sights set on the general election, Hillary Clinton sent out a series of Snapchat attacks on Donald Trump on Thursday, using the app's face-swap feature to overlay Trump's orange visage with the features of presidents past.
— Emma Grundhauser (@emgrundy) April 29, 2016
As Politico explains — and it seems like some explanation might be needed, given the nature of Clinton's references and the age of the average Snapchat user — each one pairs a relevant president with a comment or policy of Trump's which Clinton wanted to critique. These combos range from the obvious (Lincoln plus Trump's KKK gaffe) to the more obscure (the first President Bush, who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, plus Trump's mocking of a disabled reporter). Bonnie Kristian
The modern global economy is structured more around mega-cities than national borders, says Parag Khanna, author of a new book called Connectography — and the good news for the United States is that we have a lot of them. While other countries often rely on a single city to drive their economy (like Lagos for Nigeria, Istanbul for Turkey, or Moscow for Russia) America has a lot of big, productive metro areas.
That's the basis for Khanna's design of a re-mapped America organized around city-states instead of the 50 states we have today.
Khanna argues that such a reorganization (which includes a high-speed rail scheme to facilitate inter-regional mobility) would be an economic boon, and it would cut back on unfair pork barrel spending that benefits one district at the expense of others. "And if you do that," he concludes, "the laws of economics will take over, and people will more freely engage in commerce." Bonnie Kristian
Fox News host Megyn Kelly pushed North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) Thursday night on The Kelly File to clear up her confusion over the state's controversial anti-LGBT law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender given on their birth certificates. Namely, Kelly wanted to know whether McCrory knew how women's bathrooms were set up.
"I want to ask you about bathrooms because I've been in women's bathrooms my whole life," Kelly said. "We don't have the urinal situation. We've got like the stalls. And we get to go in, we do our business and like we don't — it's not — we don't see each other. So why are you concerned about young girls exposing themselves or seeing somebody else exposed in a women's bathroom?"
McCrory's responded by calling the law "common sense" relating to an "expectation of privacy."
"I can't believe we're talking about this," he said, adding that the issue in particular was started by the left, not the right. "I'm not doing it — I don't like the rhetoric that's often used on the right saying what the fear is," McCrory said. "It's a basic expectation of privacy that I hear from mom and dad and families that when their daughter or son goes into a facility, a restroom, they expect people of that gender, of that biological sex or gender, to be the only other ones in that room."
Watch the exchange below. Becca Stanek
A resolution to make an official "John Wayne Day" in California has imploded as the state assembly defeated the movement on Thursday, citing the movie star's history of racist remarks and his support for the anti-communist House of Un-American Activities Committee, The Associated Press reports. Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper had sought to make May 26 John Wayne Day, saying later in a statement that, "Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system, and the Fourth of July!"
Others don't agree, citing comments such as those Wayne made to Playboy in 1971 when he said, "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility." The Searchers and Green Berets actor also once asserted that American Indians were "selfishly trying to keep [America] for themselves."
"He had disturbing views towards race," Assemblyman Luis Alejo protested.
Others pushed back and defended Harper's view, pointing out that California's major airport also shares a name with the movie star. Another Republican assemblyman, Donald Wagner, noted that President Franklin Roosevelt is honored across the country despite his putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. "Every one of us is imperfect," Wagner said.
The resolution failed on a 35-20 vote. Jeva Lange
The Zika virus has been found in 42 countries and territories for the first time since last year, but Brazil is the hardest hit. And what doctors and researchers are finding from Brazil's outbreak is troubling. The mosquito-borne virus has been definitively linked to microcephaly, a condition in which children are born with abnormally small heads when a pregnant woman is infected, but "the scale and severity of prenatal damage by the Zika virus are far worse than past birth defects associated with microcephaly," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Scans, imaging, and autopsies show that Zika eats away at the fetal brain. It shrinks or destroys lobes that control thought, vision, and other basic functions. It prevents parts of the brain not yet formed from developing."
Public health experts have started calling the effects of the virus Congenital Zika Syndrome, to differentiate it from regular microcephaly — which typically affects 6 out of 10,000 infants in the U.S. — with the more severe problems being found in Zika babies. Some of the infected babies died during or soon after delivery, and nobody is sure about the prognosis for the children who survive. "We do anticipate there would be a spectrum of outcomes," epidemiologist Margaret Honein, part of the CDC Zika response team's pregnancy-and-birth-defects task force, tells WSJ. But long-term care for these children is expected to take significant time, energy, and heartache. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber
Dole company officials were aware a salad plant was contaminated with Listeria for a year and a half before they closed the facility, and did so only after the U.S. and Canada traced a deadly outbreak back to the plant, Food Safety News reports. The Listeria outbreak hospitalized 33 people in 2015 and early 2016; four of those patients died.
According to an inspection report, Dole swab-tested its Springfield salad plant in 2014 and found positive results for Listeria, but continued to ship salads to dozens of states as well as at least five Canadian provinces. Internal tests at Dole showed Listeria contamination five more times in 2014 and three times in 2015, but the plant was only shuttered in January 2016.
The plant later reopened on April 21. Company officials did not tell Food Safety News what precautions had been taken to prevent future contamination. Jeva Lange