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What We Can Learn From the Earth's Tiniest Fossils

When it comes to fossils, size doesn't matter; you can learn a lot even from really, really small ones. Among the tiniest fossils on Earth are single-celled, shelled marine organisms called foraminifera, which go back about 650 million years and are only about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Scientists use foram fossils to analyze how Earth's climate has changed over time. "They're very sensitive indicators of environmental change," Neil Landman, curator in the Division of Palentology at the American Museum of Natural History, says in the latest episode of the museum's Shelf Life series.

"One way in which foraminifera can tell us something is by chemical analysis of the shells," research associate Ellen Thomas says. "You can look at the isotopic composition of the oxygen and the carbon and trace element concentrations in the shell. That means that we can say things about direct temperature of the past."

This analysis can tell scientists all kinds of things, from the size of the polar ice caps at the time the foram was fossilized to how much photosynthesis was happening in the ocean—and, therefore, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "If you look at reconstructions of climate ... in Wikipedia, for instance, then you'll see wiggly lines that tell you something about the climate of, say, the last 70 to 100 million years or so," Thomas says. "Those wiggly lines are all derived from from the analysis of foraminifera."

Back in the mid-20th century, Landman says, "the American Museum was the focus of foram study ... we have a very important collection here." Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, the museum is rehousing the specimen slides and creating a digital catalog of the organisms, complete with photographs and 50 3D CT scans. "Forams are so cool because they're such tiny objects, yet they have so many complex features," says Shaun Mahmood, one of the interns working on the project. The CT scans show that "something the size of a grain of rice suddenly has 100 chambers that you didn't even know where there." Scientists can use those models to take measurements and even 3D print them—much, much bigger than the real creatures—to study. 

The project is important, Thomas says, because scientists "can use Earth's history and foraminifera in Earth's history to learn how life on Earth reacted to those events in the past and to help to predict how we are dealing with the future."

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Afternoon Map
The Most Searched Shows on Netflix in 2017, By State

Orange is the New Black is the new black, at least as far as Netflix viewers are concerned. The women-in-prison dramedy may have premiered in 2013, but it’s still got viewers hooked. Just as they did in 2017, HighSpeedInternet.com took a deep dive into Netflix analytics using Google Trends to find out which shows people in each state were searching Netflix for throughout the year. While there was a little bit of crossover between 2016 and 2017, new series like American Vandal and Mindhunter gave viewers a host of new content. But that didn’t stop Orange is the New Black from dominating the map; it was the most searched show in 15 states.

Coming in at a faraway second place was American Vandal, a new true crime satire that captured the attention of five states (Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). Even more impressive is the fact that the series premiered in mid-September, meaning that it found a large and rabid audience in a very short amount of time.

Folks in Alaska, Colorado, and Oregon were all destined to be disappointed; Star Trek: Discovery was the most searched-for series in each of these states, but it’s not yet available on Netflix in America (you’ve got to get CBS All Access for that, folks). Fourteen states broke the mold a bit with shows that were unique to their state only; this included Big Mouth in Delaware, The Keepers in Maryland, The OA in Pennsylvania, GLOW in Rhode Island, and Black Mirror in Hawaii.

Check out the map above to see if your favorite Netflix binge-watch matches up with your neighbors'. For more detailed findings, visit HighSpeedInternet.com.

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Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

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