Without considering class, bike-friendly city is impossible

by Anne Lusk

Designing for bikes has become a hallmark of forward-looking modern cities worldwide. Bike-friendly city ratings abound, and advocates promote cycling as a way to reduce problems ranging from air pollution to traffic deaths.

But urban cycling investments tend to focus on the needs of wealthy riders and neglect lower-income residents and people of color. This happens even though the single biggest group of Americans who bike to work live in households that earn less than $10,000 yearly, and studies in lower-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Boston have found that the majority of bicyclists were non-white.Read More »

Cotton Seed Germinates on China’s Moon Probe, Becomes First Off-World Plant

The Wire | January 15, 2019

New Delhi: Cotton seeds that were carried in a bucket-like tin to the far side of the Moon by a Chinese spacecraft sprouted, marking the first time that humans have grown plants in off-world conditions.


Update, January 16, 9:30 pm: The plant has died. The Guardian reported that as the temperature on the Moon’s far side dropped below -170º C, “its short life came to an end”. The scientists who had setup the experiment (details below) had apparently anticipated this outcome.


The Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the Moon on January 3. It carried with it a seven-inch tall bucket-like can that contained air, water, soil and seeds of potato, cotton and Arabidopsis (the mustard family) plants. On January 15, China’s state-owned television network tweeted that the cotton seeds had sprouted.

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Indian Scientists Unearth First Evidence of Ape Presence South of Himalaya

by Vrushal Pendharkar

The Wire | November 23, 2018

For the first time, Indian palaeontologists have unearthed hominoid ape fossils from localities in Gujarat.

The researchers consider the finding to be important because it is the first proof of the presence of apes outside the Himalayas. “Such localities are globally rare and every new locality brings a lot of excitement,” says Ansuya Bhandari, a palaeontologist at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, who found the fossil and led the study.

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Here’s How the ‘Brightest’ Object in the Universe Formed

by Andrew Blain

The Wire | November 21, 2018

Active galaxies are some of the most luminous and impressive objects in the sky. They tend to be massive, distant and emit extraordinary amounts of energy as material falls into the supermassive black hole that lurks at their centre. Astronomers have recently discovered that some of them are also hidden from plain view by huge amounts of gas and smoke-like dust. But it is unclear how these rare objects form and feed.

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Farewell to Kepler, the First Great Planet-Hunter

by Prakash Chandra

The Wire | November 19, 2018

NASA has called time on its iconic Kepler Space Telescope. It was the most prolific planet-hunter ever engineered by humans, and it out of fuel after nearly a decade of amazing discoveries. The timing of NASA’s bidding Kepler goodbye – November 15, 2018 – coincides with the 388th death anniversary of Johannes Kepler, the German mathematician discovered the laws of planetary motion. It was after him that the doughty little spacecraft was named.

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Earth Has Many Natural Satellites – but How Many Can Be Called ‘Moons’?

by Vasudevan Mukunth

The Wire | October 09, 2018

National Geographic article published on November 6 carried a surprising headline:

Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’

The lede followed through:

Earth’s moon may not be alone. After more than half a century of speculation and controversy, Hungarian astronomers and physicists say they have finally confirmed the existence of two Earth-orbiting “moons” entirely made of dust.

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Science: Found and Lost: An Indian Fossil Hunter’s Chase for Dinosaur Relics

by Anupama Chandrasekaran

The WireOctober 21, 2018

Found and Lost: An Indian Fossil Hunter’s Chase for Dinosaur Relics

The fossil of the cidaris looked like a self-embroidered Christmas ornament. It was the relic of a slate-pencil sea urchin, or cidaris, a punk-styled marine critter. Alive, it looks like a golf ball with spikes, or a comic-book version of an exploding firecracker.

Vishal Verma, a 48-year-old fossil-hunter and conservationist, was rummaging through an overcrowded closet, sifting through a wobbly pile of electrical-fan cartons. They were now stuffed with fossils of ancient life, some wrapped in plastic, others in old newspapers.

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