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Help Map the World’s Auroras With the Aurorasaurus

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The spectacular visual phenomenon that is an aurora is hard to predict. Known as aurora borealis in the northern latitudes and aurora australis in the southern, auroras are the light-filled result of an interaction between charged particles from the Sun and the Earth’s magnetic field. But finding them takes some luck. 

Now, scientists are trying to create a real-time map of all the aurora sightings in the world to help track them across the globe. Researchers associated with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Institute set up the Aurorasaurus, a website and app that maps where auroras have been sighted across the world using geotagged tweets. The solar storms that cause auroras can interfere with communication networks and power grids, so scientists have good reason to track and study where they’re happening. (It doesn't hurt that they're awe-inspiringly beautiful, either.)

Here's how they tracked a major geomagnetic storm in March. A lot of the tweets culled by Aurorasaurus mentioned an aurora but weren't referring to the night sky. Instead they referenced Seattle’s Aurora Bridge, the town in Colorado, or a person named Aurora. So the project used crowdsourcing to separate legitimate recent sightings from random references. Users can approve tweets or mark them as unrelated. See the video below.

Aurorasaurus participants catalogued more than 160 aurora sightings during that storm. The data will be used to improve scientific modeling and prediction of the lights. That means you'll have a better chance of catching the amazing sight yourself. 

[h/t: Wired]

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From Crab Cakes to Pepperoni Rolls: The Most Iconic Dish in Every State
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Each state has a particular dish or dishes that residents hold especially dear to their hearts. West Virginians are evangelical about pepperoni rolls. Residents of Maine and Connecticut are territorial about their lobster rolls. Colorado makes license plates featuring the pueblo chile. Regional foods inspire incredible loyalty, and though you may be able to find the same chain restaurants in every state, certain foods are indelibly linked to their birthplace.

The team behind Flavored Nation—an event devoted to dishes from all 50 states that’s debuting in Columbus, Ohio in August 2018—put together the map below showing every state’s most iconic food. The dishes were chosen based on independent research, input from social media, and discussions with state tourism boards. Come August, Flavored Nation will bring chefs from all over the country to Columbus to make these dishes during the two-day event.

A map of the U.S. with a photo of a regional food placed within each state
Flavored Nation

On the map you’ll see familiar foods like deep dish pizza, Nashville hot chicken, and Philly cheese steaks alongside less-popular dishes like knoephla (a type of dumpling) in North Dakota, Idaho's finger steaks (battered and deep-fried strips of steak), and Kansas's sour cream and raisin pie.

Some picks may surprise you, like the Coney dog—which isn’t native to Coney Island in New York, but is a Michigan delicacy that involves hot dogs smothered in ground beef. Others are disappointingly mainstream, like Missouri’s barbecue or Iowa’s corn dogs.

The longer you look at the map, the hungrier you’ll get, so you might as well just start planning a road trip so you can try all these snacks for yourself.

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Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
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Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

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