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ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Bally/H. Drass et al.

See Baby Stars Explode in Orion

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ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Bally/H. Drass et al.

It must be nice to be a star; even their accidents are spectacular. Astronomers have shared new images of the dazzling collision of two newly formed stars. They described the pyrotechnic wreck in The Astrophysical Journal [PDF].

The constellation Orion lies about 1350 light-years from your screen.

ASA/JPL-Caltech/D. Barrado y Navascués via Wikimedia Commons// Public Domain

It’s a bustling stellar metropolis, home to both the Orion nebula and the Orion Molecular Cloud 1 (OMC1), which brews up baby stars and rolls them out into the cosmos. Like any factory, the OMC1 occasionally gets backed up. That’s what happened about 100,000 years ago, when the cloud produced a passel of little stars at once. The forces of gravity began pushing the stars toward each other, faster and faster, and eventually, about 500 years ago, two of them smashed right into one another.

Paper author John Bally first spotted the glowing wreckage on a telescope in Hawaii, then in Chile. The new images, which provide the fullest picture yet, were captured by Bally and his team at Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

ESO/C. Malin // Public Domain

“The OMC1 explosive outflow and stellar ejection poses many puzzles,” they write. “Are there additional ejected stars…? How were the hundreds of CO streamers produced? How much do such events contribute to feedback and self-regulation of star formation?”

Dr. Bally, we will let you figure that out. You just keep those lovely images coming.

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iStock
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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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iStock

Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images
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Pop Culture
LeVar Burton Is Legally Allowed to Say His Reading Rainbow Catchphrase
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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine the original Reading Rainbow without LeVar Burton, but in August, the New York public broadcasting network WNED made it very clear who owned the rights to the program. By saying his old catchphrase from his hosting days, “but you don’t have to take my word for it” on his current podcast, WNED claimed Burton was infringing on their intellectual property. Now, Vulture reports that the case has been settled and Burton is now allowed to drop the phrase when and wherever he pleases.

The news came out in an recent interview with the actor and TV personality. “All settled, but you don’t have to take my word for it,” he told Vulture. “It’s all good. It’s all good. I can say it.”

The conflict dates back to 2014, when Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show without WNED’s consent. Prior to that, the network and Burton’s digital reading company RRKidz had made a licensing deal where they agreed to split the profits down the middle if a new show was ever produced. Burton’s unauthorized crowdfunding undid those negotiations, and tensions between the two parties have been high ever since. The situation came to a head when Burton started using his famous catchphrase on his LeVar Burton Reads podcast, which centers around him reading short fiction in the same vein as his Reading Rainbow role. By doing this, WNED alleged he was aiming to “control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill.”

Though he’s no longer a collaborator with WNED, Burton can at least continue to say “but you don’t have to take my word for it” without fearing legal retribution. WNED is meanwhile "working on the next chapter of Reading Rainbow" without their original star, and Burton tells Vulture he looks “forward to seeing what they do with the brand next."

[h/t Vulture]

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