Water, Weather, New Worlds: Cassini Mission Revealed Saturn's Secrets

Image 20170118 26582 13bc183

Saturn and its rings backlit by the sun, which is blocked by the planet in this view. Encircling the planet and inner rings is the much more extended E-ring. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute, CC BY

Dan Reisenfeld, The University of Montana

Cassini is the most sophisticated space probe ever built. Launched in 1997 as a joint NASA/European Space Agency mission, it took seven years to journey to Saturn. It’s been orbiting the sixth planet from the sun ever since, sending back data of immense scientific value and images of magnificent beauty. The Conversation

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Why It's So Important To Understand How Elephants Sleep

Could this be the world’s largest Fitbit? Supplied

Paul Manger, University of the Witwatersrand

Humans and animals need to do several things to pass on their genes: eat, avoid being eaten, reproduce and sleep. Missing any of these biological imperatives leads to death. But when we’re asleep we can’t perform those other functions. One of modern science’s big mysteries, then, is: why do we sleep? The Conversation

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The Unknown Crocodiles

Vladimir Dinets, University of Tennessee

Just a few years ago, crocodilians – crocodiles, alligators and their less-known relatives – were mostly thought of as slow, lazy, and outright stupid animals. You may have thought something like that yourself the last time you were in a zoo and saw them lying still for hours, making people wonder if they were alive or made of plastic.

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Galapagos Giant Tortoises Make A Comeback, Thanks To Innovative Conservation Strategies

James P. Gibbs, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

The Galapagos Islands are world-famous as a laboratory of biological evolution. Some 30 percent of the plants, 80 percent of the land birds and 97 percent of the reptiles on this remote archipelago are found nowhere else on Earth. Perhaps the most striking example is the islands’ iconic giant tortoises, which often live to ages over 100 years in the wild. Multiple species of these mega-herbivores have evolved in response to conditions on the island or volcano where each lives, generating wide variation in shell shape and size.

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The Oceans Are Full Of Plastic, But Why Do Seabirds Eat It?

Matthew Savoca, University of California, Davis

Imagine that you are constantly eating, but slowly starving to death. Hundreds of species of marine mammals, fish, birds, and sea turtles face this risk every day when they mistake plastic debris for food.

Plastic debris can be found in oceans around the world. Scientists have estimated that there are over five trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than a quarter of a million tons floating at sea globally. Most of this plastic debris comes from sources on land and ends up in oceans and bays due largely to poor waste management.

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