May 10, 2019

The bottom of the ocean is dark. Like, really dark. So dark that some marine species have evolved ways of life that don't depend on light. There are microorganisms that live off of heat vents at the ocean floor, creatures that produce their own light in a phenomenon known as bioluminescence — and now, new research has found, fish that can see color even in the dark.

Until now, we've thought that all vision works more or less the same way: The cones in any animal's eye may allow for color vision in light, but vision in darkness is regulated by the rods in the eye, which means it's all monochrome. But a new study published in Science on Thursday found several species of deep-sea fish that have additional rods in their eyes, allowing for multicolored vision in darkness.

Even more interesting is the fact that not all of this type of vision seems to have come from the same place. Rather, there's evidence that it evolved "several times independently of each other," explained study co-author Walter Salzburger. This is a good sign that it's genuinely useful for deep-sea fish to "detect bioluminescent signals," he explained.

This newly discovered dark-vision may enable the fish that use it to see some colors at depths of up to 5,000 feet below sea level, Gizmodo reports. Light from the surface world can barely reach that deep, so it's impressive that anything can see at all down there, rather than relying on other senses to detect surroundings. Further research will be needed in order to determine exactly what deep-sea fish are using this extraordinary capability for, but it's clearly an advantage down in the depths. Learn more at Gizmodo. Shivani Ishwar

April 9, 2019

Students at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland made a surprising discovery during their gross anatomy class last spring.

As part of the class, students opened up cadavers in order to get a closer look at the organs. When students opened the chest cavity of Rose Marie Bentley, a woman who died at age 99 of natural causes, they noticed the blood vessels looked odd. When the time came to examine her abdominal cavity, they discovered the "organs of the digestive tract ... were transposed entirely right to left," Prof. Cameron Walker told USA Today. "I'd never seen this before and the students were every bit as fascinated."

Bentley, it turned out, had a rare condition called situs inversus with levocardia. Her heart was in the correct spot, but other organs, including her liver and spleen, were in the opposite locations from where they should have been. It's believed that Bentley is the oldest person to ever have had the condition, which happens in roughly 1 in every 22,000 births.

There are only two documented cases of people with situs inversus making it to their 70s, and Walker estimates only 1 in 50 million people born with the condition live to see adulthood. Bentley's family said when she had her appendix removed, the doctor noted that it was in the wrong spot but didn't actually tell her that. Bentley's daughter, Louise Allee, told USA Today her mom "would think this was so cool. She would be tickled pink that she could teach something like this. She would probably get a big smile on her face, knowing that she was different, but made it through." Catherine Garcia

April 2, 2019

In major space news, the first-ever photograph of a black hole is expected to be unveiled next Wednesday.

Six international space agencies will hold simultaneous press conferences to "present a groundbreaking result from the Event Horizon Telescope," the European Southern Observatory announced on Monday. It's widely believed that a photo showing Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way, will be revealed.

A black hole is an area in space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape. Black holes are invisible, and it's likely the photo will show the "event horizon," which is the edge of the black hole, USA Today reports. Capturing any image of Sagittarius A would have been enormously difficult, as Science Alert says it is "shrouded in a thick cloud of dust and gas." Catherine Garcia

March 20, 2019

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter made a most triumphant announcement on Wednesday, revealing that they will start filming a third Bill & Ted movie, Bill & Ted Face the Music, this summer.

Reeves and Winter will reprise their roles as Ted Logan and Bill S. Preston Esq., respectively. Entertainment Weekly reports that the movie will follow the best friends as they encounter a "visitor from the future [who] warns them that only their song can save life as we know it and bring harmony to the universe." After Reeves and Winter shared the big news, Orion Pictures announced the release date: Aug. 21, 2020.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is set to be directed by Dean Parisot, with Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, writers who worked on the earlier films, penning the screenplay. Catherine Garcia

February 7, 2019

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on Thursday that the National Enquirer threatened to publish private photos of him and his mistress, Lauren Sanchez, if he didn't stop an investigation into how the publication was earlier able to obtain intimate text messages and photos between the two.

In a Medium post, Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, shared emails sent from top executives with the National Enquirer's parent company, AMI. AMI is led by David Pecker, a longtime friend of President Trump's who would pay for stories about Trump, then never publish them. Bezos said an AMI representative relayed that Pecker was "apoplectic" about his investigation, and soon after, he was verbally told the Enquirer had nude photos of him, and would release those pictures and texts if the investigation continued.

Bezos then started to receive emails, including one that requested he release a statement saying the company's reporting was not politically motivated. Bezos refused. "Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten," he said. Read Bezos' post and the emails with AMI at Medium. Catherine Garcia

January 28, 2019

From June 2014 to December 2017, equipment owned by the three largest utilities in California sparked more than 2,000 fires across the state, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric must file annual reports with state regulators, listing any fires that broke out due to their electrical equipment. Most of the fires from June 2014 to December 2017 burned less than 10 acres, with PG&E the worst offender, reporting 1,552 equipment-related fires. The report did not include any of the state's most destructive wildfires, because the companies do not want their equipment linked to devastating blazes before investigations are finished, the Times reports. During this time period, the companies were cited and fined nine times for electrical safety violations.

There are more than 250,000 miles of power lines and 4.2 million utility poles in California, and the utilities are responsible for making sure that trees and vegetation are trimmed so they aren't touching equipment. The California Public Utilities Commission has just 19 employees dedicated to checking on equipment, teaching preventative safety, and conducting investigations. Lawmakers are now trying to come up with a way to improve regulatory oversight and hold the companies accountable for starting fires, with ideas including forming a new state department to enforce safety and investing in new technology so regulators have better access to equipment data. Catherine Garcia

July 5, 2018

The Kilauea volcano erupted on May 3, and since then, it has caused more than 4,000 earthquakes and spewed enough lava to cover 10.2 square miles of land.

On Friday, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey saw another spectacular event — a whirlwind at the volcano's fissure 8, caused by hot gases punching through the cooler air above, creating a vertical column of hot air. The USGS said the lava was strewn about, flying across several meters, and scientists kept a safe distance, using a telephoto lens to capture stunning footage. The whirlwind started and stopped without warning, lasting about 10 minutes.

Kilauea is on the Big Island, and, not surprisingly, the state's most active volcano. Watch the incredible video below. Catherine Garcia

July 2, 2018

Harvey Weinstein was just hit with several new sexual assault charges.

The Manhattan district attorney announced three new counts against the disgraced Hollywood executive Monday, per a press release. Weinstein is now charged with carrying out a first-degree criminal sexual act in 2006, as well as two felony counts of predatory sexual assault. If convicted, each of those latter two felony charges could land Weinstein in jail anywhere from 10 years to life.

These charges add to the first-degree rape, third-degree rape, and first-degree criminal sexual act counts previously levied against Weinstein on May 30. The previous counts stemming from two women's allegations carried a maximum of 25 years in prison, Variety reports. The new charges relate to allegations from a third woman.

Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance told other potential victims "there is still time to pursue justice" as the investigation continues.

Weinstein surrendered to authorities after the first charges were announced, and is now free on $1 million bail. He has pleaded not guilty. Kathryn Krawczyk

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