Conquering Olympic Swimming, with Math!In 2014, an Emory student majoring in physics and math was also a walk-on member of the school's swim team. Andrew Wilson got interested in using math to improve his swimming, and won the national collegiate swimming championship in 2016, and went on to earn a gold medal at the 2021 Olympics. His math professor who collaborated on Wilson's project, Ken Ono, is a technical consultant for the 2024 US Olympic swimming team. Ono is now with the University of Virginia, which sent a record number of swimmers to the US women's swimming team in both 2021 and 2024. Ono studies the data on talented swimmers, and applies Newton’s laws of motion to calculate acceleration, deceleration, and drag, and designs ways to improve all three to optimize a swimmer's speed through the water. Ono talked with Quanta magazine to explain how this project began, what data they analyze, and how physics can be used to improve a swimmer's performance. Read it, and then when the Paris Olympics swimming competitions begin on July 27, we'll see how UVA swimmers fare against the rest of the world. -via Real Clear Science​(Image credit: Jorge mello ej)
New Species of Pterosaur Decribed as "Demon Pelican"A recently discovered species of prehistoric pterosaur had a 24-inch jaw full of sharp teeth and a wingspan of up to 40 feet. The fossils of this pterosaur were found in the outback of western Queensland, Australia. It is the most complete set of pterosaur bones ever found in Australia, and the species has been dubbed Haliskia peterseni. PhD candidate Adele Pentland and her team from Curtin University described H. peterseni as a sort of "demonic pelican" in the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports/Springer Nature. You can imagine the prey this reptile could hold in those jaws. Pterosaurs are the first vertebrates to fly, before birds ever existed. The specimen of H. peterseni under study lived around 100 million years ago. Read more about this new discovery at ABC.-via Strange Company ​(Image credit: Gabriel Ugueto)
Fireworks Require Quantum Physics to WorkThe fireworks we set off on the Fourth of July are, yes, dangerous, but they are highly engineered pyrotechnic displays that have quite a bit of science behind them. The big bursts you see in the night sky are engineered in several stages. The lift charge, main fuse, and launch tube together are a rocket that gets the firework up in the sky. The largest displays can have shells three feet wide and fly as high as 1000 feet! Once it get up there, the fuse is crucial, for the timing of the explosion. The burst charge stage then explodes at the specified height, and throw stars. These stars can be any color, depending on the chemicals used. But they may actually burn in a color different from what the human eye sees! There's more going on inside a fireworks shell than meets the eye, and you can read the science behind our Fourth of July fireworks at Big Think.(Imagecredit: Jeffrey Pang) 
Egg-Laying vs. Live Birth ...or Maybe BothMammals gestate their babies until they are ready, and then give birth. Birds lay eggs. Fish and reptiles can do either, depending on the species. But one animal has been found that can do both! An Australian three-toed skink laid eggs and then pretty quickly produced another offspring by live birth! But when you take a close look at a lot of species, you'll find that egg-laying and live births exist on a spectrum instead of a binary divide. Some creatures keep the babies inside until birth, but use a yolk to feed them. Some even have a shell and keep them inside until they're ready. Others use a combination of a yolk and a system that may remind you of a placenta for some materials exchange. Nature has developed a lot of different ways to produce offspring, and SciShow is here to give us a glimpse of that variety. This video has a one-minute skippable ad at 2:40. -via Damn Interesting
How the Island of Teonimenu Slid Into the SeaAmong the people of the Solomon Islands, some trace their heritage to the island of Teonimenu. But there is no island there, just a spot in the Pacific called Lark Shoal. The people tell of how Teonimenu disappeared into the ocean sometime between 1568 and 1768, due to a curse purchased by a betrayed husband, who sent eight waves to destroy the island and the hundreds of people who lived there. Some survived the sinking, and were blown by ocean currents to other nearby islands where their families have lived for hundreds of years. The story, handed down by oral tradition, was discounted by scientists as a myth until fairly recently. But there is evidence that Teonimenu once existed, and the geological state of the land under the ocean makes it quite plausible that the island indeed slid into the ocean suddenly. The explanation they lay out is terrifying, and there is no wonder that the tale has been retold for generations. Read about the disappearance of Teonimenu at ABC. -via Metafilter​(Image credit: Patrick Nunn)
The Volcanic Effect That Makes Mount Rainier FrighteningMount Rainier in Washington State is an active volcano that hasn't erupted in hundreds of years, although volcanic activity has been detected occasionally. Its listed as the third most dangerous volcano in the US, after Kīlauea in Hawaii and Mount St. Helens. Mount Rainier is dangerous because there are highly populated communities nearby: Tacoma, South Seattle, and many various smaller towns. But scientists aren't as concerned with pyroclastic flow or lava or ash as they are with flooding. Flooding from a volcano isn't just water, though. Mount Rainier is very tall (14,411 feet) and is covered with snow and glaciers. In the event of an eruption, lava and hot gasses would melt that ice quickly, causing a flood called a lahar. The water may be hot or cold, and would be filled with mud, rocks, lava, and debris. The amount of water tumbling down from Mount Rainier would be massive and unstoppable. Communities built in valleys and along rivers would be affected faster than they could evacuate. Around Mount Rainier, that's hundreds of thousands of people. In the Nisqually River Valley, a lahar could wreck the Alder Dam, causing further sudden flooding in a wider area. Read about the potential for a lahar disaster at Mount Rainier at CNN. -via Real Clear Science​(Image credit: Mount Rainier National Park)