How to Console Your Very Obese Planet

In one of the stranger headlines I've read today, New Scientist is reporting that several planets struggle with obesity issues. According to the report, a number of planets referred to as "hot Jupiters" go through an overweight stage. What's weirder is that for years, scientists couldn't figure out why planets that should measure a certain width were 30% larger than predicted. But apparently, Princeton's Laurent Ibgui has a new theory about it. According to Ibgui's model, it's the very gassy planets with highly elliptical orbits that are most prone to this "superpuffed" phenomenon. Here's how New Scientist explains it:

"These planets are alternately squeezed and stretched as they circle their stars, resulting in "tidal heating" that warms the gas inside the planet. This counteracts the cooling effect, inflating the planet - an effect that can last for a billion years or more."

It's tough news for obese planets that they'll have to do a billion or more laps before they start losing weight, but here's hoping they stick to their routine.  More at New Scientist.

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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