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Triceratops vs. Torosaurus: The Dinopocalypse

So you may recall that back in 2010, Jack Horner, the famous paleontologist who partly inspired Jurassic Park, co-authored a paper arguing that the dinosaur Torosaurus didn't exist -- that in fact, it was the adult version of Triceratops. Even weirder, Horner and colleagues later argued that there is a sort of teen version of that sad dinosaur, adorably known as Nedoceratops (though only one specimen of Ned has been found). Their debate is summarized in this amazing New York Times article, which includes this delicious section (emphasis added):

...Dr. Longrich devised three tests to determine whether the two animals could be younger and older versions of the same species. The results, published on Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, suggest that the dinosaurs are separate animals.

The distinction may seem trivial, but it has generated much discussion in paleontology circles. It is the latest battle in what is sometimes called the war between “lumpers,” who tend to consolidate species, and “splitters,” who are more likely to tease them apart. Dr. Horner is known as one of the field’s most ardent lumpers.

“Horner’s got an agenda,” Dr. Longrich, 35, said in an interview. “He has this hit list of dinosaurs that he’s trying to get rid of.” Sitting in his lab at a desk littered with snake skeletons and empty Coke cans, he added, “Sometimes it’s fun to kind of pick a fight.”

Snake skeletons and empty Coke cans, eh? I think good Dr. Longrich is one of my people. Anyhoo, if you buy the Horner hypothesis, here's a video from CalAcademy and the University of California Museum of Paleontology. It likens the demotion of Torosaurus to the demotion of Pluto -- a topic I know you guys all love to discuss. If you enjoy weirdly chipper voiceovers, you'll love this (honestly, I mainly enjoy this video for the tonal dissonance between the narrator and Mark Goodwin, co-author of the Horner paper, soberly explaining his research):

But the more urgent issue is the effect this reclassification will have on Dino-Riders toys. In this video, Torosaurus and Triceratops are clearly two separate toys. We're gonna have to break some kids' hearts, folks.

If you want more science and fewer jokes, check out this Huffington Post story summarizing the Longrich argument. It fails to mention Dino-Riders. For more on that Dino-Riders thing, check out this amazing blog post in which the truth is revealed: Torosaurus had "walking" action. And laser cannons, if the box art is to be believed. And some human friends named Gunnur and Magnus. Oh, fine, cancel the dinosaur, I give up.

(Via The Kid Should See This and my overindulgent Googling.)

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science
Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics
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iStock

Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

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Space
Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour
NASA/JPL, YouTube
NASA/JPL, YouTube

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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