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Symphony of Science: The Quantum World!

Featuring Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Cox, Richard Feynman, and Frank Close, the latest installment of the Symphony of Science is educational and fun -- it's about quantum physics, and offers a cursory introduction to the topic. Of course you can only do so much in a three-and-a-half minute auto-tuned song, but I was impressed. The ending (a bit from Feynman) really made me smile. Enjoy:

Lyrics after the jump:

Lyrics:

[Morgan Freeman]
So, what are we really made of?
Dig deep inside the atom
and you'll find tiny particles
Held together by invisible forces

Everything is made up
Of tiny packets of energy
Born in cosmic furnaces

[Frank Close]
The atoms that we're made of have
Negatively charged electrons
Whirling around a big bulky nucleus

[Michio Kaku]
The Quantum Theory
Offers a very different explanation
Of our world

[Brian Cox]
The universe is made of
Twelve particles of matter
Four forces of nature

That's a wonderful and significant story

[Richard Feynman]
Suppose that little things
Behaved very differently
Than anything big

Nothing's really as it seems
It's so wonderfully different
Than anything big

The world is a dynamic mess
Of jiggling things
It's hard to believe

[Kaku]
The quantum theory
Is so strange and bizarre
Even Einstein couldn't get his head around it

[Cox]
In the quantum world
The world of particles
Nothing is certain
It's a world of probabilities

(refrain)

[Feynman]
It's very hard to imagine
All the crazy things
That things really are like

Electrons act like waves
No they don't exactly
They act like particles
No they don't exactly

[Stephen Hawking]
We need a theory of everything
Which is still just beyond our grasp
We need a theory of everything, perhaps
The ultimate triumph of science

(refrain)

[Feynman]
I gotta stop somewhere
I'll leave you something to imagine

For a bit more on quantum physics, consult Wikipedia or look up those Brian Cox TED Talks. For previous of the Symphony of Science, use our site search.

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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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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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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