Quirks & Quarks

Feb 12: The doomsday glacier, why we love, neanderthals and humans cave-swapping and more…

Mosquitoes see red and astronomers vs. satellite constellations.

Mosquitoes see red and astronomers vs. satellite constellations.

Climate and ice researcher David Holland at his research camp on the Dotson ice shelf, adjacent to the Thwaites glacier. Weather forced Holland to cut short his planned six week study of the so-called doomsday glacier (David Holland)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:

The Antarctic's doomsday glacier is in danger of living up to its name

Canadian researcher David Holland, a professor of mathematics, atmosphere and ocean science and director of the Center for Sea Level Change at New York University was standing on an ice shelf in the Antarctic when we caught up with him this week. That shelf is cracking due to the warming Pacific, and it's protecting the Thwaites glacier, a mass of ice the size of England, from collapsing and causing potentially catastrophic sea level rise. 

Why we love – A new book surveys the science of love in all its forms

Evolutionary anthropologist Anna Machin thinks human love is as critical as food and water, and she's not being poetic. In a new book Why We Love: the New Science Behind our Closest Relationships, she surveys what we've learned about love in all its forms — romantic and parental love, the love of friends and religious devotion and more. And she explores the fundamental neurobiology of what she characterizes as the 'bribe' nature has evolved to reward us for propagating our social species.

Why We Love by Anna Machin (Pegasus Books)

Neanderthals and humans swapped a cave in France over millennia

The oft-told story of how modern humans swept into Europe, where they swiftly replaced the Neanderthals, is being challenged by exciting new evidence. Tom Higham, an anthropologist at the University of Vienna, was part of a team that examined a cave dwelling in France, finding that it was alternately occupied by Neanderthals and humans over thousands of years. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, shed new light on the story of early humans in Europe. 

Mosquitos see red to find humans to feed on

Mosquitoes know we are in the vicinity because they can smell the carbon dioxide we exhale. But new research by Dr. Jeffrey Riffell, a biologist from the University of Washington in Seattle has found that they home in on our location because that scent stimulates them to look for anything in the red-orange colour spectrum, which includes human skin, regardless of pigmentation. His research was published in Nature Communications.

More than a dozen trails left by Starlink satellites can be seen in this six-minute exposure of the southern sky, taken by astronomers using the 4-meter Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile in 2019. (DELVE Survey/CTIO/AURA/NSF)

Astronomers are fighting back against satellite constellations

The International Astronomical Union has formed a new centre to engage with the growing problem of satellite constellations interfering with their observations. Tens of thousands of new mini-satellites, deployed in low-Earth orbit, will bring Internet access to people around the globe — but they also clutter up the sky, photo-bombing the images of the cosmos that astronomers are trying to capture, and hampering research. Piero Benvenuti of the University of Padua, who will direct the new centre, explains how they'll work to mitigate the harm caused by these satellites. 

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