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The Late Movies: 3-2-1 Contact!

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3-2-1 Contact was an educational TV show that aired from 1980 to 1988. Produced by the Children's Television Workshop, it aired on PBS in the US, and I used to love the heck out of it -- it featured science as well as my favorite crimefighters, "the Bloodhound Gang," who used science to solve crimes. I had no idea that, so many years later, I could easily sing along with the theme song. Can you?

Theme Song/Intro

This brings back lots of memories. The shots of the frog, the cat, and the baby? Classics, all.

Suzanna Ciani Demonstrating Music Synthesis

Like, whoa. She makes music with a computer! There's even an oscilloscope involved. I love it when the host asks, "So what is sound, anyway?" Ciani's answer is actually quite good.

Mark Can't Find His Library Book

The crew learns an important lesson about entropy. "Well, excuse me!" That joke was totally kinda recent at the time!!

Ultrasound

A pregnant mother gets an ultrasound, to see whether she's going to have twins. I note that this was recorded from OPB, my home PBS station!

Arctic/Antarctic Song

A song explaining the differences between the Arctic and Antarctic. This is actually kinda useful.

Jeepers Creepers Song

Your classic quasi-educational Stock Footage Montage.

The Very First Episode - Intro

The rousing 1980 intro from the first episode of the series, showing the creation of the theme song. My favorite part? Around 40 seconds in, "a talking computer!!!" Also, showing the awesome dudes recording the theme song is pretty intense. Big hair everywhere!

The Bloodhound Gang - The Case of the Thing in the Trunk Part 1

Oh man, this theme song is also completely still with me! In this case, a stolen mummy has to be tracked down, and the gang gets abducted. I remember seeing this and making plans in case I was ever abducted myself -- I'd make a pinhole camera, using the power of science!!

By the way, did you know that these segments were written by Sid Fleischman, author of The Whipping Boy?

The Bloodhound Gang - The Case of the Thing in the Trunk Part 2

The exciting conclusion! I remember being really frustrated by how short these segments were -- I always wanted more Bloodhound Gang!

Post Your Favorites

Search YouTube for 3-2-1 contact and you'll find plenty of classic clips. Post your favorites in the comments!

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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iStock
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science
Scientists May Have Found the Real Cause of Dyslexia—And a Way to Treat It
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iStock

Dyslexia is often described as trying to read letters as they jump around the page. Because of its connections to reading difficulties and trouble in school, the condition is often blamed on the brain. But according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the so-called learning disability may actually start in the eyes.

As The Guardian reports, a team of French scientists say they've discovered a key physiological difference between the eyes of those with dyslexia and those without it. Our eyes have tiny light-receptor cells called rods and cones. The center of a region called the fovea is dominated by cones, which are also responsible for color perception.

Just as most of us have a dominant hand, most have a dominant eye too, which has more neural connections to the brain. The study of 60 people, divided evenly between those with dyslexia and those without, found that in the eyes of non-dyslexic people, the arrangement of the cones is asymmetrical: The dominant eye has a round, cone-free hole, while the other eye has an unevenly shaped hole. However, in people with dyslexia, both eyes have the same round hole. So when they're looking at something in front of them, such as a page in a book, their eyes perceive exact mirror images, which end up fighting for visual domination in the brain. This could explain why it's sometimes impossible for a dyslexic person to distinguish a "b" from a "d" or an "E" from a "3".

These results challenge previous research that connects dyslexia to cognitive abilities. In a study published earlier this year, people with the condition were found to have a harder time remembering musical notes, faces, and spoken words. In light of the new findings, it's unclear whether this is at the root of dyslexia or if growing up with vision-related reading difficulties affects brain plasticity.

If dyslexia does come down to some misarranged light-receptors in the eye, diagnosing the disorder could be as simple as giving an eye exam. The explanation could also make it easy to treat without invasive surgery. In the study, the authors describe using an LED lamp that blinks faster than the human eye can perceive to "cancel out" one of the mirror images perceived by dyslexic readers, leaving only one true image. The volunteers who read with it called it a "magic lamp." The researchers hope to further experiment with it to see see if it's a viable treatment option for the millions of people living with dyslexia.

[h/t The Guardian]

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