Blaze Star Expected to Appear as a Nova This SummerA binary star system named T Coronae Borealis, or T CrB to astronomers (also called the Blaze Star), is predicted to produce a nova visible to the naked eye sometime this summer. T CrB is composed of a white dwarf star and a red giant that are relatively near to each other, and 3,000 light years from earth. The nova has been called a "once in a lifetime event." This is not a supernova, which is when a dying star explodes. A nova occurs when the white dwarf star, a star that has exhausted its nuclear fuel, builds up material it collects from the red giant. At a critical point, the white dwarf suddenly ejects that excess material with a huge burst of light. There's probably a lot of noise involved, too, but we won't get that. The nova does not destroy either star, and this ejection has been occurring every 80 years on average. It was first recorded in 1217, and the last burst was in 1946. Astronomers predict the nova this summer because their observations of the stars' behavior resembles the data that accompanied the beginning of the last nova. The T CrB nova will be visible for less than a week.
Viral Memes vs. Real Viruses: How They Spread VirallyStudying viruses is called virology, a branch of microbiology. Studying memes that spread on the internet is more like sociology. But what they have in common is mathematics. Well, there are other similarities, which is how we came up with the term "viral" for content that spreads wildly on the internet in the first place. When your sister shoves a phone in front of you and insists that you look at a goofy picture or watch a certain video, that's analogous to sneezing in your presence and sharing her flu germs. Whether you catch the disease depends on how susceptible you are. Epidemiologists have noticed similarities in the way both memes and viruses take over the world and then die back. Knowing that, I guess I've been some kind of superspreader for the past twenty years. But only of memes, not viruses.
Unearthing the Hidden Death Camps of PolandDuring World War II, the three Nazi death camps called the Operation Reinhard camps did not have to be big, like Auschwitz, because they had few barracks. Train loads of Jews arrived at Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, and the vast majority were taken straight to the gas chambers- 1.7 million of them. There were hardly any survivors after the war, just a few escapees. Before the Red Army arrived at these camps, the Nazis destroyed their records, bulldozed the facilities, and planted pine trees on top of the mass graves. The sites became forests, with some memorials built later. You could hardly tell there was any history at all in those sites. In the 21st century, we have forensic archaeology tools to explore these sites and better document what happened there. Investigators use aerial photography, aerial laser scanning technology lidar, and ground-penetrating radar to see what is underground. They have also excavated small areas. Forensic archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls expected to find the foundations of the camp buildings, but her research has also unearthed personal items like jewelry, fences, and even recognizable floor tiles that were traced to their manufacturer. But the work has met with resistance, both from Holocaust deniers, and from Jewish authorities who are torn between wanting to document the sites and the prohibition against disturbing grave sites. Complicating matters, one site is completely covered with an asphalt memorial. But what happened at these sites deserved to be preserved. The discovery of a metal identification tag bearing the name Lea Judith de la Penha led to a Dutch documentary about the de la Penha family. Who knows what other secrets will be revealed by these excavations? Read about the project to unearth the truth of the Operation Reinhard camps at Sapiens. -via Damn Interesting(Image credit: Tajchman Maria) 
What's Going On When Babies Learn to Say "Hi"One of the great joys of raising children is watching them learn what the world is about with no context to begin with. The acquisition of language is a very complex task for which they must integrate observation and experience, experimentation and feedback, with some assumptions and leaps of faith thrown in as well. One of the first words a child learns is "hi" and it's a delight to hear and know that he understands its meaning. When you look under the hood, the process of learning this one word entails more than you might think. Babies learn the proper context for "hi," in that it is used when you first see someone you know. It is a greeting, which is a specific kind of action. While adults only use it for people, children will often greet inanimate objects, possibly as practice, or possibly because of a funny quirk in our language in which we greet a chair- you know, the high chair. The ways that children get language wrong tells us about their learning process, because if you look hard enough, you can see that they are using language rules; they just haven't got them down yet. Read about the magic that goes on behind learning the word "hi" at MIT Press. -via Real Clear Science ​(Image credit: Andrew Bardwell) 
The Nuts and Bolts of How Birth Control WorksThere are lots of different ways to prevent pregnancy, and the variety of methods are rarely covered in school, from what I hear. When I attended school, there was no sex education whatsoever. Later on, schools were caught up in "abstinence only" education, and today it varies from place to place at the whims of state and local politics. So I should not be surprised at how many people do not know the mechanics of how birth controls methods work, even if they use those methods. Minute Earth takes an overview of the most common modern birth controlmethods and explains what they do to interrupt the process of beginning a pregnancy. Here's the chart from the video.
Science Journals Shuttering from the Flood of Fake PapersOnce upon a time, scientists built their reputation by publishing papers on their research. These papers were submitted to prestigious science journals, where they underwent scrutiny by other scientists, known as peer review. Once a paper was published, other scientists would cite the author in their own research, which also boosted the author's prestige. That was then.As scientists fell under the pressure of "publish or perish" and new technology and the sheer number of journals made it more tempting to cut corners, science papers with lower standards started getting published. Real scientists saw a shortcut to getting more citations, which added to their reputation and job security. Then non-scientists found the value of getting published. Then even non-people. You can buy a citation to be included in a paper, and your company can publish findings in favor of whatever you are selling. Now the flood of fake science and AI-generated papers is causing publishers to rethink their entire business model. The 217-year-old publisher Wiley announced this week they are shutting down 19 of their journals. They aren't the first, and certainly won't be the last.There are scientists investigating the massive numbers of papers for fraudulent research and fake citations, rooting out the worst of the worst and exposing paper mills who submit science papers for profit. One of the ways they do this is by scanning for "tortured phrases."Cabanac and his colleagues realized that researchers who wanted to avoid plagiarism detectors had swapped out key scientific terms for synonyms from automatic text generators, leading to comically misfit phrases. “Breast cancer” became “bosom peril”; “fluid dynamics” became “gooey stream”; “artificial intelligence” became “counterfeit consciousness.” The tool is publicly available.But scammers are constantly finding new ways to work around the system. Read about the never-ending war against fake science. -via Metafilter​(Image credit: Vmenkov)