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More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Sleeping Patterns of Hummingbirds

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There are some topics you probably never thought you'd be interested in, including the nocturnal habits of hummingbirds. But there exists a YouTube video that is so fascinating (read: adorable), it begs exploration of this topic. In the video, a green female hummingbird slumbers, and with every one of its tiny breaths, the bird lets out a high-pitched sigh, making it appear as though it is ... snoring.

So, what exactly is going on here? Do hummingbirds actually snore?

"Maybe … sort of … but not for the same reasons we do," says Joe Hanson at his (awesomely named) blog, It's Okay to be Smart. We humans snore when our airways are obstructed during sleep. The story behind this bird is much cooler.

The video was taken at a Peru research facility while the hummingbird slept in a special container meant to measure its oxygen intake. The goal of this experiment was to examine the metabolism of hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds beat their wings between 12 and 80 times per second, depending on the species. To make up for all that lost energy, the creatures consume the human equivalent of a refrigerator full of food every day. Unlike other birds, hummingbirds don't have insulating feathers to keep them warm, thus they are incredibly vulnerable when cold weather strikes. To keep themselves from freezing, at night, hummingbirds slip into a kind of hibernation, called torpor. This state allows them to lower their internal temperature and consume up to 50 times less energy. "This way, they aren’t burning calories on cold nights when they aren’t able to eat and recharge," Hanson says. The birds' brains power down, and their breathing becomes so shallow as to be almost undetectable. Torpid hummingbirds are sleeping so deeply, it looks like they're dead.

To awaken from such a deep state of hibernation takes some time—about 20 minutes, actually. The heartbeat increases, normal breathing patterns resume, and the birds begin to shiver, which helps warm their muscles and increase bloodflow. Hanson hypothesizes the bird in this video is in a state of awakening, "starting to breathe in more oxygen to raise its body temperature," and making a "snoring" noise in the process.

Enough science! For your entertainment, here are some other snoring animals.

A pig:

A bunny:

A doormouse:

A duck:

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science
Why a Howling Wind Sounds So Spooky, According to Science
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Halloween is swiftly approaching, meaning you'll likely soon hear creepy soundtracks—replete with screams, clanking chains, and howling winds—blaring from haunted houses and home displays. While the sound of human suffering is frightful for obvious reasons, what is it, exactly, about a brisk fall gust that sends shivers up our spines? In horror movie scenes and ghost stories, these spooky gales are always presented as blowing through dead trees. Do bare branches actually make the natural wailing noises louder, or is this detail added simply for atmospheric purposes?

As the SciShow's Hank Green explains in the video below, wind howls because it curves around obstacles like trees or buildings. When fast-moving air goes around, say, a tree, it splits up as it whips past, before coming back together on the other side. Due to factors such as natural randomness, air speed, and the tree's surface, one side's wind is going to be slightly stronger when the two currents rejoin, pushing the other side's gust out of the way. The two continue to interact back-and-forth in what could be likened to an invisible wrestling match, as high-pressure airwaves and whirlpools mix together and vibrate the air. If the wind is fast enough, this phenomenon will produce the eerie noise we've all come to recognize in horror films.

Leafy trees "will absorb some of the vibrations in the air and dull the sound, but without leaves—like if it's the middle of the winter or the entire forest is dead—the howling will travel a lot farther," Green explains. That's why a dead forest on a windy night sounds so much like the undead.

Learn more by watching SciShow's video below.

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Space
SpaceX's Landing Blooper Reel Shows That Even Rocket Scientists Make Mistakes
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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches.
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On March 30, 2017, SpaceX did something no space program had done before: They relaunched an orbital class rocket from Earth that had successfully achieved lift-off just a year earlier. It wasn't the first time Elon Musk's company broke new ground: In December 2015, it nailed the landing on a reusable rocket—the first time that had been done—and five months later landed a rocket on a droneship in the middle of the ocean, which was also unprecedented. These feats marked significant moments in the history of space travel, but they were just a few of the steps in the long, messy journey to achieve them. In SpaceX's new blooper reel, spotted by Ars Technica, you can see just some of the many failures the company has had along the way.

The video demonstrates that failure is an important part of the scientific process. Of course when the science you're working in deals with launching and landing rockets, failure can be a lot more dramatic than it is in a lab. SpaceX has filmed their rockets blowing up in the air, disintegrating in the ocean, and smashing against landing pads, often because of something small like a radar glitch or lack of propellant.

While explosions—or "rapid unscheduled disassemblies," as the video calls them—are never ideal, some are preferable to others. The Falcon 9 explosion that shook buildings for miles last year, for instance, ended up destroying the $200 million Facebook satellite onboard. But even costly hiccups such as that one are important to future successes. As Musk once said, "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."

You can watch the fiery compilation below.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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